On June 6, 1740, the Ordre de la Generosité was renamed the Orden Pour le Mérite by Friedrich II, who was also known as Friedrich the Great. The new Orden was to serve as a reward to loyal subjects for meritorious service in the pending war over the territories of Silesia. It was during Friedrich's first year of reign that he planned an ambitious plan to expand his small kingdom. He chose the rich province of Silesia to expand into which was counter to what Austria wanted. Austria fought to keep Silesia and was defeated at the Battle of Mollwitz in April 1741.

By the end of 1742 the list of Pour le Mérite knights had grown to 170 of which 38 of these men were also holders of the cross of the Ordre de la Generosité. This cross was also known as the "Gracecross." The first three Pour le Mérite awards were granted to Leutnant Colonel Friedrich Wilhelm Marquis de Varenne, Colonel Hans von Hacke, and Samual von Marschall.