The Order was instituted by King William I in 1815 and is the highest military Order in the Netherlands. It is awarded to military personnel of all ranks and services as well as to civilians for 'most conspicious acts of bravery, leadership and extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy'. The badge is an eight-pointed Maltese cross of white enamel, each point being tipped by a golden pearl. On the arms, the words 'Voor moed, beleid en trouw' (For Courage, Conduct and Loyalty). The cross rests on a saltire of laurels. The reverse shows a medaillion of blue enamel with the letter 'W' on it and a laurel wreath.
The badge is suspended from the Royal Crown with a ring on top through which the ribbon passes. The ribbon is yellow with two broad stripes of purple.
A Knight Third Class wears a badge in gold and enamel on the left breast with a rosette on the ribbon.