In the first chapter of Theodor Fontane's Effi Briest, which I've started reading online, we are introduced to the character of Baron Geert von Innstetten as follows (emphasis mine):
"Yes, compose yourself and I'll begin. We were speaking of Baron von Innstetten. Before he had reached the age of twenty he was living over in Rathenow, but spent much of his time on the seignioral estates of this region, and liked best of all to visit in Schwantikow, at my grandfather Belling's. [...]
But he didn't care to remain here in the neighborhood any longer, and he must have lost all taste for the soldier's career, generally speaking. Besides, it was an era of peace, you know. In short, he asked for his discharge and took up the study of the law, as papa would say, with a 'true beer zeal.' But when the war of seventy broke out he returned to the army, with the Perleberg troops, instead of his old regiment, and he now wears the cross. Naturally, for he is a smart fellow. Right after the war he returned to his documents, and it is said that Bismarck thinks very highly of him, and so does the Emperor. Thus it came about that he was made district-councillor in the district of Kessin."
What would it mean for him to "wear the cross"? I'd guess this is some kind of military honour or medal, akin to the British Victoria Cross, but I'm not even sure which state he would be representing in the military at this time! The mention of Bismarck and the Emperor suggests the German Empire, but I included enough quotes to fix him in a more specific region of Germany if that's relevant. Or is it another kind of "cross", something related to religion or politics? Why should being a "smart fellow" (rather than a brave one, for a military honour) make it natural for him to wear the cross?