Instituted in 1852, the Order was awarded in five classes, with the First Class being the highest. The Order was issued in considerable numbers by Sultan Abd-ul-Mejid I as a reward for distinguished service to members of the British Army and the Royal Navy and the French Army who came to the aid of the Turkish Empire and who fought in the Crimean War of 1854-56 against Russia. In Britain it was worn after any British gallantry and campaign medals awarded, but before the Turkish Crimean War medal. The Order was usually conferred on officers but a few private soldiers also received it in a low Class. During World War I it was also awarded to a number of German and other Central Powers officers.
The Order was often conferred on non-Turkish nationals.