Friday, 21 September 2012

Papanicolaou and the so-called "Ecumenical Order" lose in the Court of Appeals

The self-styled "Priory of Florida of the Knights Hospitallers of the Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta, The Ecumenical Order" run by Mr Nicholas Papanicolaou (who in the late 1990s purchased the Scottish feudal barony of Finlaystone Maxwell and incorrectly styles himself "Baron Nicholas Papanicolaou") was sued in the Florida Federal Disrict Court over the misuse of the registered marks of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, in a case brought by the SMOM. The Order of Malta challenged Papanicolaou on the grounds that his organisation's name mimicked that of the SMOM, causing confusion, and that the Arms and Cross he used infringed the registered marks of the SMOM.

The initial judgement, which dismissed the SMOM suit and accepted Papanicolaou's version of history - although he is not an historian and was contradicted by an expert historical witness who gave evidence to the court - has now been reversed and the judge criticised, by the Federal Appeal Court. Although this judgement was published on September 11, 2012, as of today Mr Papanicolaou makes no reference to it on his web site, but continues to include only the original judgement. But then Papanicolaou also ignores the letter from HM King Michael of Romania to the Prince Grand Master of the genuine Order of Malta, affirming that he only recognises the latter as a genuine Order of Malta, and instead reproduces a letter from the King which HM sent having believed at the time he was dealing with the genuine Order. Papanicolaou knows full well that the King wants nothing to do with his organisation.

Equally outrageous is his use of a "Papal Blessing" - a document which anyone can obtain from vendors around the Basilica of St Peter's and use whatever name they please - as supposed evidence of Papal support for his "Order". Since Papanicolaou is outspokenly hostile to the Roman Catholic Church, this is a particularly egregious claim.

Here is a link to the full text of the Florida decision in pdf format:

Monday, 27 August 2012

The Savoy Succession

Reproduced by permission of (c) Guy Stair Sainty

Although the Royal House of Savoy was governed by certain laws on marriages, both reflecting the traditions of the House and specific statutes, it was necessary for the King to act specifically under the provisions of these laws to insure their enforcement. Until the recent publication of certain letters, I was unaware that the late King, Umberto II, had indeed taken the actions that would follow his son making an unequal marriage clear and explicit, that this had been accepted by Prince Victor Emmanuel, and the consequent threat by the King duly carried out.  

In considering the traditions of the house, it must be noted that in the early 18th century King Victor Amedeus II of Sardinia, Duke of Savoy, considered that his second marriage, to a lady of noble but not exalted birth, should be secret, so she would not be accorded any of the courtesies that a publicly acknowledged wife of equal birth would expect. One year later the King declared the marriage public, and following protests by his own family and the court was immediately forced to accept that his wife’s status should not be that of equal consort, but of lower rank. There is little doubt that had issue been born of this marriage they would not have been accorded dynastic rights. 

The marriage of Prince Eugenio Ilarione of Savoy-Carignano in 1779 led to the promulgation of two royal patents, in 1780 and 1782, which made it clear that his marriage did not confer dynastic rights and that this prince would forfeit his own rights. It would seem that Prince Eugenio was already aware that his marriage would not have been recognized when he contracted it, before the promulgation of the two royal patents. He was then given, in a separate act, the titles and royal rank he had enjoyed earlier but without the right to transmit them to his descendants.  In 1834 his grandson, born of his son’s marriage to a lady of high noble rank (the daughter of a French duke), was restored to the titles and position he would have enjoyed had his grandfather’s marriage been dynastic. The reason for this may have been the fact that King Carlo Alberto’s sons were as yet unmarried and, should they have died without male heirs, the dynasty would have become extinct. This same prince later married his mistress, the mother of his children, and the then King, Umberto I (by now of Italy) declared this marriage invalid for dynastic purposes and gave the issue a new name and title. 

I had earlier questioned whether a dynastic law governing the succession to a state of the Empire could be enforced without Imperial approval (and sanction by the Imperial Diet). Since 1742 such a necessity was much diminished following the Emperor’s decision to give way to the demands of the sovereign princes of the Empire not to ennoble a “notoriously unequal” spouse. Meanwhile the Imperial courts came to rely on family precedent as well as any house laws promulgated by these families. Furthermore, these restrictions on sovereign authority only extended to the German states, and did not as I have now been informed, extend to families ruling “neighbouring territory of the Empire” (Nebenland des deutschen Reiches, as opposed to the eigentliche Reichsland). Hence my earlier notion that the status of Savoy as an Imperial Duchy might have imposed a restriction on the right of Victor Amedeus III to enact the Patents of 1780 / 1782 was mistaken.

In 1848 the Albertine Statute, which became the new constitution of unified Italy, neither repealed nor amended the law. It has been claimed that the omission from this act of any claim by the king to regulate the marriages of his family consequently invalidated the laws of 1780 and 1782. Yet both Victor Emmanuel II and Umberto I acted to apply these laws in excluding the second wife of Victor Emmanuel from the privileges and rank that would have accrued to her as equal consort of the King (and deprived the issue of any rights or titles they might have otherwise enjoyed as such), and Umberto I did the same in respect of the marriage of Prince Eugenio of Savoy-Carignano (the object of the re-dynasticisation of 1834). These acts were not considered void or invalid by virtue of the Albertine statute. One may consider that the dynastic law of the House was entirely separate from that of the state and continued to apply, irrespective of the Constitutional nature of the Albertine Statute. This is what in fact happened in Spain, where the Pragmatic Decree regulating royal marriages, of 1776, continued to be applied against Infantes and Infantas marrying unequally, with or without permission (in the latter case excluding also the prince or princess contracting the unauthorised marriage), even though successive Constitutions introduced separate requirements regarding royal marriages. I am not persuaded by the argument that the Albertine Statute revoked the 1780 decrees, and it is clear from the exchange of letters from 1960 to 1963 that at the time neither did King Umberto II or his son.  

The 1865 Italian Civil Code, amended in 1942 (and still valid), by article 65 (92 in the later version) required that the King give his authorisation for all marriages of princes and princesses of the royal family. This article, unlike article 91 which forbid interracial marriages, has not been abrogated but has merely been omitted from the present version of the code (the title of the article is still listed); despite the fact that Italy is now a republic this article may be regarded as legally in force.  

In 1960 King Umberto II wrote to his son clearly laying out his view that in order to succeed his father Prince Victor Emmanuel must marry in accordance with the laws of the oHouse. In this letter the King describes the consequences of an unequal marriage contracted without his permission (exclusion from the succession) and that should his son make such a marriage he, the King, would divide his estate in four equal parts and not leave anything special to his son, as heir. This letter also stated that if Prince Victor Emmanuel married unequally, the heir of King Umberto would be Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta. This letter had previously been unknown to me.

Prince Victor Emmanuel, it has now been shown, signed his acceptance of this letter and its terms. I was unaware of this fact. I am informed that it has been claimed this letter and the affirmation of Prince Victor Emmanuel are forgeries; the problem with this challenge (no longer maintained by the supporters of Victor Emmanuel) is that it is a challenge to the authenticity of the act and not the validity of the King’s statement and his son’s acceptance of it.  

In 1963, following an interview in Oggi magazine, Prince Victor Emmanuel was reported as having stated that he intended to marry Marina Doria; in this interview he evidently recognized that the status of his future wife was important by stating (inaccurately) that her grandfather was a Marquess. He had evidently been misinformed on this point, but the fact that he claimed it suggests he recognized the traditions of the House which had permitted princes to marry into the higher nobility, with the authorisation of the King. Following this interview, the King wrote once again to his son, confirming that everything he had stated in his 1960 letter was still binding. I did not previously know of this article or the King’s letter following its publication.  

On 16 December 1969, in an act that may be considered the treasonable deposition of his father, Prince Victor Emmanuel, as “Vittorio Emanuele IV, Re d’Italia” declared that he had created his future wife c “Duchess of S. Ana di Valdieri,” presumably so that he might claim she qualified for a dynastic marriage.

Before he died, King Umberto II is not known to have made any further written statement on the matter. It is known that he forbade his family to participate in Prince Victor Emmanuel’s marriage ceremony in Teheran or the celebration following the marriage; only the Queen attended the wedding ceremony. The King later conferred the Collar of the Annunziata on the only son and heir of Prince Amedeo, the then fifteen year old Prince Aimone di Savoia-Aosta, Duca delle Puglie and, notably, did not confer the same honour upon his grandson Emanuele Filiberto, Prince Victor Emmanuel’s only child. He did however attend the baptism of his grandson and is stated as having conferred, viva voce, the title of Prince of Venice, a title new to the dynasty (as had been that of Naples a century earlier), and clearly of higher rank than the title of Count conferred on the issue of earlier unequal marriages. Unlike the title of Duca delle Puglie conferred upon Prince Aimone by letters patent, This conferral was never followed by letters patent or by any written decree, even though the King during his exile conferred or confirmed several hundred other titles. It is difficult to conclude precisely what the King intended from this act, although he is reported at the time as having stated “Italians will understand,” presumably referring to the fact that this was not a title of the Savoy dynasty but a new creation unknown in Italian history (other than the similar title conferred by Napoleon I on his step-son, Eugène de Beauharnais).

In 1983 King Umberto II died, his succession was divided between his four children equally (as he had stated he would do in 1960 if his son married unequally, and was consequently excluded). Prince Victor Emmanuel proclaimed himself his father’s heir and Head of the House; his mother, Queen Maria José, urged her daughters to acknowledge him as head of the Savoy Orders by virtue of his position as “head of the House of Savoy”, which they did in a notarised letter, in which they were joined by King Simeon II of the Bulgarians and Prince and Landgraf Moritz of Hesse, nephews of the late King. This statement did not enjoy any legal authority, however, and must be considered purely private familial support for their son, brother and cousin. Furthermore, since then two of the Princesses, King Simeon and the Markgraf of Hese have all signed letters saying that their letter was not intended to be recognition of Vittorio Emanuele as head of the dynasty.  

Prince Victor Emmanuel’s succession was not publicly challenged, however, and since that date he has been treated as head of the Royal House by the Italian Republic, by the heads of other reigning and non-reigning houses and by many Italians as well as by the editors of every genealogical reference work. 

 Prince Amedeo at the time said nothing publicly, although when he remarried following the annulment of his first marriage,[1] he apparently made a statement before a notary that he declared this marriage to be authorised. Prince Victor Emmanuel’s awards of the Savoy Orders have been accepted by many, as have those of the Annunziata (the Prince Grand Master of the SMOM and two former Cardinal Secretaries of State of the Holy See are among those who have accepted this Order). Prince Victor Emmanuel subsequently published an act combining the grand chancelleries of the Royal Orders, although their statutes and traditions for sound historic reasons had always had separate administrations and officers. On 13 December 2006 he declared the Duke and Duchess of Aosta and the Duke of Apulia deprived of their membership of the Savoy Orders and the Duchess of Aosta of her title of Royal Highness.

Prince Amedeo’s failure to claim the dignity which Prince Victor Emmanuel’s presumed exclusion would entitle him is a significant weakness in the case for the junior line. This decision may have been made to protect him and his young family (of whom he had been given custody following his divorce from Princess Claude of Orléans) from the possibility of expulsion from Italy.[2] It may also have been done to prevent the public squabble which would have inevitably resulted. In either case it left a situation with a de facto head of the House whose acts as such are only now being called into question, following allegations of serious criminal acts by the Italian magistrature, his arrest, and temporary imprisonment before release during the ongoing inquiries.

The question remains whether Prince Amedeo’s failure to claim the succession in 1983 would prevent him from doing so subsequently. If he is considered to have abandoned his own rights thereby, then the succession would pass to the next heir in line. If Prince Vittorio Emanuele is indeed excluded, then that person is Prince Aimone, Duca delle Puglie. If he did not enjoy any such rights and Prince Vittorio Emanuele has duly succeeded, then the deprivation of membership of the Royal Orders of the members of the Aosta family by Prince Vittorio Emanuele must be considered valid.

Prince Aimone has since married Princess Olga of Greece who has given birth to their first child, a son, Umberto, and subsequently a daughter. Prince Umberto. Prince Emanuele Filiberto and his wife presently only have two daughters.

[1] To a lady from the Paternò family, of commensurate rank with that of his ancestress, the first duchess of Aosta, sometime Queen of Spain, born dal Pozzo della Cisterna, whose marriage to the first duke of Aosta had been authorised by the King.

[2] It is unclear whether the Transitory Provision XIII of the Italian Constitution, which excludes the descendants of the ex-kings of the House of Savoy from Italy, also applied to the Duke of Aosta; most of the scholarly texts have considered this extended to all the princes of the House of Savoy but in fact no action was ever taken against Prince Amedeo.

Sale of False Papal Honours in forged documents

An ongoing scandal in which the diplomas of Papal Orders have been falsified (easily done using digital technology) for individuals who have been led to believe that for the payment of a fee to someone claiming to be an intermediary acting on behalf of some unnamed Cardinal, they can receive a high Papal honour.

These forgeries are in fact easily detected - the signatures of the Cardinal Secretary of State have small errors and the seal is clearly not an original seal, neither is the paper original nor the recording number on the reverse. Most telling is the fatc that the names of none of these recipients are included in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, which publishes the names of those who have been honoured by His Holiness.

There are even organisation for the recipients of these worthless "honours", called the Royal College of Papal Knights in the Americas otherwise more modestly styled the College of Papal Knights (see which lists the officers, all of whom bear invented titles. One of the members of this so-called College has been accused of allegedly selling fraudulent stem-cell treatments - see

Below some fake diplomas:



Inviitation to the Infante D. Carlos, Duke of Calabria, to participate in the cermeony of the Military Order of Saint Hermengildo

Issue in the Name of HM the King:

Letter from King Michael of Romania making it clear he did not recongize any other so-called Order using the style knights of Malta

Letter from the Head of the Royal Household of the King of Spain affirming the succesion of HRH Don Carlos, Duke of Calabria

Appointment of HRH Don Carlos de Borbon-Dos Sicilias, Duke of Calabria, as president of the Patronato of the Royal Naval Museum

Decree appointing HRH D. Carlos de Borbon, Duke of Calabria, as Infante de Espana

Boletín Oficial del Estado 17 diciembre 1994


27905           REAL DECRETO 2412/1994, de 16 de

                        diciembre, por el que se concede la

                        Dignidad de Infante de España a don Carlos                         de Borbón-Dos Sicilias y Borbón-Parma.

          La circunstancias excepcionales que concurren en

Su Alteza Real don Carlos de Borbón-Dos Sicilias y Borbón-Parma, como representante de una línea dinás-

tica vinculada históricamente a la Corona española, cons-

tituyen razones por las que Le juzgo digno de la merced y Dignidad de Infante de España, por lo que, de con-formidad con lo establecido en el artículo 3.o, 2, del Real Decreto 1368/1687, de 6 de noviembre.


                       Artículo único.


            Se concede la Dignidad de Infante de España a Su Alteza Real don Carlos de Borbón-Dos Sicilias y Borbón-Parma con los honores y tratamientos anejos a la citada Dignidad.

            Dado en Madrid a 16 de diciembre de 1994.

                                                            JUAN CARLOS R.

      El Presidente del Govierno,




Sunday, 26 August 2012

Brief survey of the Bourbon-Two Sicilies Succession Dispute

The succession law of the Two Sicilies is laid down in the Pragmatic Decree of Charles III of 1759, the laws on dynastic marriages of 1829 and 1836, re-enforced in the Constitutions of 1848 and 1860. The 1759 decree required that the Two Sicilies Crown pass by male primogeniture among the descendants of Charles VII (III of Spain), being ceded first to his 3rd (2nd surviving) son Infante D. Ferdinand, and failing his male heirs, to the descendants of each of his other sons (all Infants of Spain) in order of birth, and failing them to the nearest female heiress of the last king. This act was required under the treaties of Vienna of 1736 and Naples of 1759, designed to preserve the European balance of power by separating the Spanish and Italian sovereignties. If the Sovereignty of the Two Sicilies should be combined with the Crown of Spain, the former was to be ceded to the next line immediately after the Prince of the Asturias. Under the Pragmatic Decree of 1759, the entire male line descendants of Charles III remained both Spanish and Two Sicilies dynasts.  

In 1830/33 mixed male priority succession was reintroduced in Spain; under the terms of the 1834 and 1876 Constitutions, all the descendants born of equal marriages of Francis I of the Two Sicilies and Infanta Isabel, his 2nd wife, enjoyed a right of succession to the Spanish Crown (thus including all the existing branches of the Two Sicilies royal house descended from dynastic marriage). Renunciations of future succession were prohibited by the Two Sicilies civil code (particular any renunciation made as part of a contract of marriage), as well as the civil codes of Italy and France. The Two Sicilies Crown could only be alienated in the event of the combination of the Spanish and Two Sicilies sovereignties. In 1868 when Prince Gaetano of the Two Sicilies (a younger brother of Francis II) married Infanta Isabel (who was herself princess of Asturias following her brother, Alfonso XII’s accession) in very similar circumstances to 1900, he was not required to renounce, although a renunciation was drawn up for him to sign in the event that his wife became Queen of Spain and he also inherited the headship of the royal house.  

The succession to the Grand Magistery of the Constantinian Order, an ecclesiastical office hereditary in the House of Farnese (and its heirs) by the Papal Brief Sincerae Fidei of 1699, and the Bull Militantis Ecclesiae of 1718, must pass by male primogeniture. The inheritance in 1731 by the immediate Farnese heir, Carlos de Borbón (later Charles VII of Naples and III of Spain) was confirmed by the Pope in 1739. By a separate act of 16 October 1759, Charles III declared his son Ferdinand “first born legitimate Farnese” heir and as such Constantinian grand master (evidence of the separate nature of the grand mastership); this was confirmed by the Pope in 1763. An addition to the statutes of 1796 confirmed that in the person of the King were two “distinct qualities” of King and Grand Master each governed by their own laws.  Hereditary primogeniture succession in “the House of Bourbon as heirs of the Farnese” was reconfirmed in the Statutes of 1934, with no mention of any exclusion or renunciation.

On 7 January 1901 Prince Carlo of the Two Sicilies, 2nd son of the Count of Caserta, Head of the Royal House of the Two Sicilies, married Infanta Maria de las Mercedes, then heiress presumptive to the Spanish Crown. The groom’s father, the Count of Caserta, wrote to the Spanish Queen Regent (6 December 1900) that a renunciation of future succession rights was not necessary and that only a renunciation of nationality, under Spanish nationality law, was required; the Queen Regent confirmed this in her reply of 10 December. Nonetheless, on 14 Dec 1900, he required his son, Carlo, to sign the “Act of Cannes” in which he renounced the “eventual succession” to the Crown of the Two Sicilies, promising to obey the laws of the House in “execution of the Pragmatic Decree” of 1759. This Decree did not in fact require a renunciation in the circumstances of 1900. The Spanish government announced in the Cortes on 18 December 1900, and advised the Queen Regent, that a renunciation of dynastic rights was unnecessary and would in any case be illegal [there is no evidence that the government or queen regent was even informed about the act of Cannes, of which there is no copy in any official archives in Spain]. The concern that Carlo’s wife could become Queen in the event of the death of her brother and the successions combined was obviated by the birth of several children to King Alfonso XIII (the first in 1907). Prince Carlo and his descendants appeared in every addition of the Almanach de Gotha (until it ceased publication in 1944) under both Spain and the Two Sicilies, with no mention of any renunciation or exclusion; these entries were all approved by the head of the House.

In 1960, with the death of Prince Carlo’s elder brother, Ferdinand, who had indicated his preference that his fourth brother, Ranieri, succeed him, the succession was disputed between Carlo’s son Infante Alfonso, and his uncle Ranieri. The former asserted that as primogeniture male heir he succeeded under Two Sicilies law, the latter, Prince Ranieri, claimed that the act of Cannes was a legal and valid complete and final dynastic renunciation. Infante Alfonso was supported in his claim by the Count of Barcelona, successor to Alfonso XIII, Infante D. Jaime, then head of the House of Bourbon, by the then Duke of Parma and by the Duke of Braganza among other Heads of Royal Houses. Prince Ranieri’s marriage to Carolina Zamoyska was recognized as dynastic by his father but Alfonso XIII had refused to do so; their son Ferdinand’s marriage was only recognized subsequently by the then head of the House. Prince Charles of Bourbon is married to someone born of parents who were not capable of making a valid canonical mariage at the time; his wife's latefather was a convicted felon. His claimed titles are not recognized by the King of Spain and his Order is not authorized to be worn in Spain.
Following  an official investigation commanded by the present King of Spain, as heir of Charles III who as King of Spain and the Two Sicilies had established the succession laws of both countries on 6 October 1759, it was announced in a communication from the Head of the Spanish Royal Household dated 8 March 1984 that the Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs, the Royal Academy of Jurisprudence and Legislation, the Institute Salazar y Castro and the Council of State had reported unanimously after investigating this dispute that the legitimate heir is HRH D. Carlos, Duke of Calabria. No other official body of any state has investigated this succession. On 16 December 1994, HRH D. Carlos de Borbón-Dos Sicilias y Borbón-Parma was created an Infante of Spain “as representative of a dynastic line historically linked to the Spanish Crown” (“como representante de una línea dinástica vinculada históricamente a la Corona española”).

The Constantinian Order - Defender of Christianity

The Order has entered the twenty-first century, some one thousand seven hundred years after its legendary foundation, with renewed vigour and sense of purpose. Its real birth occurred at a time of extraordinary tension across Europe, fomented by the loss of Constantinople and the Protestant reformation; yet what inspired the Order’s founders and early supporters was a commitment to free Christendom from the shackles of oppression. Today in a world dominated by secular concerns, a deeply anti-religious spirit has developed in the western democracies. This may, in part, be attributed to the actions of extremists who have provided a justification for those whose real agenda is to suppress the public exercise of all religious practices by eliminating religion entirely from the school room and workplace. Christians are forced to put their religious beliefs and conscience aside in order to conform to modern laws that deny freedom of speech on grounds of equality – yet this same equality is denied to that large Christian minority whose beliefs are rooted in ancient teachings and doctrines that Catholics in particular consider immutable.

In many parts of the world Christians face danger on a daily basis. In Egypt the Coptic Christians who make up some ten per cent of the population live in increasing fear of Islam extremist violence; a car bomb was placed outside an Alexandria church following the 2010-11 New Year’s Eve Mass killing twenty-three of the faithful and injuring another one hundred. When Pope Benedict XVI expressed his concerns the apostolic nuncio was informed that he was no longer welcome and the Egyptian ambassador to the Holy See was withdrawn. Pakistani Christians have limited employment opportunities and are regularly targeted with accusations of apostasy or purported insults to the Koran justifying murder and assaults; refusals to reconvert to Islam may be met with extreme violence or murder. At Easter 2011 the Catholic church of the Sacred Heart in Baghdad was damaged by a bomb while the Syrian Catholic cathedral in the same city was attacked in 2010, killing fifty-three worshippers. Iran, now dominated by a militant theocracy, has imprisoned Christians accused of spreading Christianity and being linked to Christian organisations outside the country. In Bethlehem, the very cradle of Christianity, indigenous Christians have almost been entirely driven out by hostile activists even though one of the principal sources of revenue for the small city comes from tourists paying homage to the birthplace of Jesus Christ. These latter day pilgrims are rarely aware of the real hostility to their faith and the daily discrimination against Palestinian Christians. Kazakhstan, which once gave equality to Christians, has now introduced discriminatory laws whose ultimate aim is intended to force the Christian community into exile. Nigeria where the Christian and Moslem populations for long lived in peace together is now suffering from the brutal excesses of a Moslem fundamentalist insurgency that is ultimately intended to permanently divide the two communities. In much of the Moslem world history is deliberately mis-represented in schools and colleges to justify such assaults while newspapers and blogs claim that a Christian dominated west is engaged in a campaign to impose Christianity by force.   

The active persecution of Christians is found most commonly where governments pay only lip service to constitutional or legal requirements to allow freedom of religion and sometimes actively assist anti-Christian conspiracies. While adherents of any faith are permitted to build places of worship to celebrate their faith in the western democracies, in parts of the Middle East no public expression of Christianity is permitted; even in Kuwait, to whose rescue from invasion the western powers expended much treasure, is now proposing to prohibit the construction of new churches. Meanwhile, in the Christian or nominally Christian west, Moslems and other religious minorities may be accorded protection for their particular religious practices that are not extended to Christians on racial equality grounds. This lack of toleration for Christian beliefs, celebrations and customs has been condemned by moderate Moslem leaders as well as by leaders of the Jewish and other religious communities. The rights of both Jews and Moslems are also under attack by the new secularists who are equally hostile to all faiths but less strident in their criticism of those of ethnic minorities as they are keen to avoid accusations of racism. In Great Britain a cross-party group of members of parliament (Christians in Parliament) has concluded that a lack of religious literacy among judges, politicians and officials has placed the rights of Christians below those attributed on the basis of sexual orientation. The United Kingdom “Equality and Human Rights Commission” according to this report is so infiltrated by those with a strong anti-Christian bias that its rulings can almost always be relied upon to be discriminatory when the rights of Christians are in question. Doctors and other medical personnel are now required to carry out procedures and offer services which directly contravene the teachings of their faith – any who decline to do so are struck off and forfeit their careers. A similar pattern has begun to evolve in other western democracies, particularly those of northern Europe, and in the United States the first amendment to the constitution has failed to prevent the government from forcing Catholic and other Christian bodies to pay for contraception and abortifacients for their employees.  

Constantine the Great’s edict of Milan, which followed the great victory and the vision that inspired him and the founders of this Order, provided for liberty of conscience for Christians living within the Roman empire; the governments of the states that once composed that empire have feebly given in to the vocal demands of minorities to deny modrn day Christians those same liberties. These noisy agitators claim that there should be no freedom of religion for those who deny their demands, and instead insist that their rights supersede those of the adherents of Catholicism or indeed any other mainstream religious body. Hence Christians may be prevented from wearing even the smallest outward sign of their faith (a privilege not yet denied to adherents of other faiths) and may be forced to abjure traditional teachings on marriage, the sacredness of each individual and the defence of the lives of the unborn, the elderly and handicapped. Meanwhile in many parts of the world Christians are actively persecuted for their faith and converts punished with execution, while the leaders of western democracies mumble half-hearted condemnations that carry no sanction for the states that perpetrate these injustices. European governments are reluctant to intervene on behalf of persecuted Christians living in states with which they have profitable trading or strategic relationships, even where national leaders pay token tribute to their countries’ Christian heritage.

The Constantinian Order is committed to defending the rights and liberties of Christians and in particular Catholics, whether they suffer from physical assaults intended to prevent them from practicing their religion or from the insidious hostility of state officials and fanatical atheists that may cause them to lose their jobs or lead to prosecution for publicly enunciating their beliefs. Today the Order is ready to challenge those who encourage or ignore such betrayal of religious liberty and encourage and support those religious leaders who selflessly contribute to society by manifesting their faith without fear of public or media censure. 

The Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George

The Constantinian Order’s modern mission, in the face of an increasingly hostile secular world, is to affirm its historic aims – glorification of the Cross, propaganda of the Faith and defence of the Holy Roman Church – in a practical fashion. The Order must exemplify the faith that first inspired Constantine the Great to grant toleration and then convert to Christianity and which provided encouragement during centuries of persecution. The Order does not have a specific Hospitaller mission but instead supports the training of seminarians and help for Christians who, like those both before and after the time of Constantine, suffer for their faith. The Constantinian knights are bound to particular obedience to the Supreme Pontiff and to the maintenance of traditional Catholic Church teachings and liturgical practices.

The Order was confirmed and approved as a lay religious Order in the Bull Militantis Ecclesiae  in 1718 by Pope Clement XI and has been given numerous confirmations of its privileges by successive Popes from Julius III to Benedict XV, as well as by Emperors Ferdinand III and Leopold I, Kings Philip II, III and V of Spain, Kings Ferdinand I and II and Francis I and II of the Two Sicilies, King Jan Sobieski of Poland, the Elector Ferdinand of Bavaria and the Palatinate and Duke Francesco I of Parma.

The Constantinian Order has sometimes been mistakenly described as a “dynastic Order” but it was never formally united with any crown or dynasty and the exercise of the grand mastership by the sometime sovereigns of Parma and the kingdom of the Two Sicilies made it neither a Parmesan nor Neapolitan institution. The grand mastership was held by the head of a sovereign state for a mere one hundred and sixty-one of the half-millennium since the Order’s first appearance in sixteenth century Italy. The Order is no longer engaged in military activities but is nonetheless committed to the same aims, through peaceful means, exemplified in a practical fashion by the commitment to challenge those who persecute Christians whether physically or through legal restrictions on the exercise of conscience or religious practice.  

Since 1731 the ecclesiastical office of Grand Master has been the legacy of the Bourbon family, descended from Philip V of Spain and his wife Elisabeth Farnese (1692-1766). Before 1698, its administrative headquarters was based in Rome and Venice, the residence of its grand masters, or travelled with them. From 1698 until 1768 it was based in Parma, even though the grand master himself took up residence in Naples in 1734. The first Bourbon grand master, the Infante Charles de Borbón y Farnese (later Charles III of Spain), whose succession was confirmed by the Pope in 1739, transferred his Neapolitan and Sicilian crowns to his third son Ferdinand by an act of 6 October 1759. The Constantinian grand mastership, however, was invested separately when the young King Ferdinand IV and III of Naples and Sicilies was declared “legitimate primogeniture male heir of the Farnese” ten days later (his succession received Papal confirmation in 1763). In 1768 a second grand prioral church was established in Naples and the separate administration of its Parmesan properties was terminated in 1797, following the seizure of the Order’s properties by the French.  

Its administration only remained in Naples until the downfall of the Two Sicilies Monarchy in 1860-61. Forced into involuntary exile from his homeland the grand master moved to the Palazzo Farnese in Rome until the city fell to Sardinian troops in 1870, but maintained a diplomatic mission to the Holy See until 1902. The revival of the Order’s fortunes in the early twentieth century with the appointment by Popes Pius X and Benedict XV of three successive cardinal protectors and the grant of several churches heralded a period of international expansion. The nominal administration of the Order has remained in Rome, even though the grand masters themselves were resident in Munich, Cannes and Madrid. The Constantinian chapel in the Roman basilica of Santa Croce al Flaminio dedicated by Pope Benedict XV is still the principal ecclesiastical seat of the Order.  

The Order’s modern mission, in the face of an increasingly hostile secular world, is to affirm its historic aims in a practical fashion. These, as stated in its statutes, are glorification of the Cross, propaganda of the Faith and defence of the Holy Roman Church, its special legacy through service in the Orient and the many proofs of the recognition and regard of the Supreme Pontiffs. The Order must exemplify the faith that first inspired Constantine the Great to grant toleration and then convert to Christianity and which provided encouragement during centuries of persecution. The Constantinian knights are bound to particular obedience to the supreme pontiff and to the maintenance of Catholic teachings and traditions, and in its ceremonies the maintenance of the solemnity of liturgical practice. It is an exclusively Roman Catholic Order, confirmed and approved as such by the Holy See, although the Order’s cross has been also given to a handful of Orthodox princes, reflecting the traditional affiliation with Byzantium.  

Its hereditary Grand Masters are the successors of the Angeli, Farnese and Bourbon princes by virtue of the statutes which, with Papal approval, made it a subject of canon law; the present Grand Master, HRH Infante of Spain don Carlos of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Duke of Calabria, is the heir of the Farnese Grand Masters, head of the Royal House of the Two Sicilies and doyen of the Knights of the Golden Fleece. The Grand Magistery is based in Madrid but the Order’s seat is at the Basilica of Santa Croce al Flaminio in Rome, whose Constantinian Chapel was dedicated by Pope Benedict XV in 1915.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Letter from Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia disassociating this Royal House from the pretended Order of St John claiming King Peter's support

26 October 2009

Archivist, Senior Researcher Nils G. Bartholdy, M.A.
The Danish National Archives
Rigsdagsgården 9
DK-1218 Copenhagen K

Dear Mr Bartholdy

It has been brought to my attention that an organisation claiming the protection of my Royal House has established a branch in Denmark.

As Head of the Royal House of Yugoslavia I wish to make it absolutely clear that I have never given my protection to any organisation claiming to be an Order of St John or to any organisation that styles itself “Sovereign Order”, “Ecumenical Order” or any other combination of such names associated with Malta or St John.

No member of my Royal House is authorised to represent him or herself as being able to act in the name of the Royal House of Yugoslavia and I have not authorised Prince Karl-Vladimir of Yugoslavia or any other member of my Royal House to give their protection or to be associated in any other way with an organisation calling itself an Order of St John, or for that matter any other Order. The laws of my Royal House do not permit a junior member of the House to assume the authority of the Head of the House so Prince Karl-Vladimir’s actions have no legal basis and are an abuse of his position.

I authorise you to place this letter in the Danish National Archives and other such official archives in which it should be retained.

I remain, Sir

Yours sincerely

Alexander, Crown Prince of Yugoslavia

The Russian Grand Priory of the Order of St John and its purported "Survival"

The alleged survival of an independent Russian Order of Saint John is based on several misunderstandings of the nature of the Order itself, and of the nature of the commanderies of the Order. Rev Hartline has argued (using notably insulting language while doing so), that the SMOM did not in fact survive this period and was a later 19th century Papal invention.

The Order owes its existence as such to one instrument, the Papal Bull Pie Postulatio Voluntatis of 15 February 1113. This established it as a religious Order of the Roman Catholic Church, subject to its laws and disciplines and governed by canon law. Over the succeeding centuries this original constitution was augmented by various Bulls conferring privileges and rights, and these are preserved today in the only body which has continuous admitted members under the statutes authorized by canon law, and which has survived without interruption. The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, is based at 68 Via Condotti, Rome, Italy, has reciprocal diplomatic relations with 86 sovereign states and enjoys permanent observer status at the United Nations.

The association with Russia had had its origins in the formation of the Grand Priory of Poland (formed by the amalgamation of a group of Polish commanderies ) in 1774, which, by the absorption of Poland into the Russian Empire, made the concordat of 15 June 1797, between the Czar and the Order, a necessity. This had transformed the Polish Grand Priory into the Grand Priory of Russia and, following the ratification of the Convention by the new Grand Master on 7 August 1797, enabled the Czar to assume the title of Protector of the Order, a title that was entirely inappropriate for a non-Catholic Monarch and properly pertained to the Holy Roman Emperor and the King of the Two Sicilies. The Order, however, welcomed Paul’s support as he seemed to have the best interests of the Order as a priority. On 10 September 1798, Paul had declared that he had taken the Order under his "supreme direction" and, with the assistance of Bailiff (Count) Fra' Giulio Litta-Visconti-Arese, the Order's Minister at Saint Petersburg, he was "elected" as "Grand Master" by the members of the Grand Priory of Russia and certain knights, mainly French exiles, resident in the Russian Empire at the time. Since Paul was neither a Roman Catholic, nor celibate, nor a professed knight of the Order, he was disqualified from holding the position of Grand Master.

That for a brief period the Grand Magistery was held de facto by a disqualified person is entirely irrelevant to its survival, since neither the institution nor the sovereignty of the Order resides in the person of the Grand Master.

Paul was assassinated on the night of 23/24 March 1801 by officers concerned about his continuing mental decline. Four days later, his son and successor, Czar Alexander I, proclaimed himself "Protector" of the Order and commanded the Lieutenant of the Grand Master, Bailiff Nicholas Soltykoff, who had been nominated in succession to the disgraced Litta on 10 April 1799, to continue in his post. Alexander did not maintain this position for long and, on 1 August 1801, he acknowledged in a written communication the authority of the Pope over the Order and the process of selecting a new Grand Master began. On 9 September 1801 the Imperial Russian Government transmitted an official note to all the Foreign Ministers accredited to Saint Petersburg, announcing that the Order “ .. not having a legitimate Head ... the members must (follow) the forms and usages to proceed legally to the election of a Grand Master ... His Imperial Majesty is to give this to all the Courts that could be interested in re-establishing this Sovereign Order in its ancient Constitution.” The Czar and his government evidently recognized that during the past three years the Order had not been governed according to its ancient Constitution.

The recognition of the right of the Order to restoration of sovereignty over Malta in the Treaty of Amiens accelerated the gradual disassociation of the Czar with the Order and, by a decree of 25 April 1803, the Council in Saint Petersburg resigned its powers to the new Grand Master, Tommasi. The Chapter in Russia later recognized Tommasi's successor, Lieutenant of the Grand Master Guevara-Suardo, as Head of the Order on 5 April 1806 and, by an Imperial Act of 10 March 1810, the Grand Priories of Russia were effectively rendered inoperative by a termination of Imperial financial support. Eighteen months later, on 2 December 1811, the commanderies in Russia were dissolved by the Czar and the holders permitted to convert them to private property (following payment of a fee to the Imperial Treasury). That all admissions to the Russian Grand Priories had definitively ceased is affirmed in an Imperial Resolution of 1 February 1817 in which a Russian citizen was forbidden to accept the Cross. Existing members retained their decorations and rank in the Order, and continued to be listed in the Imperial Almanachs as members of the Order of Saint John, but no further nominations were made. An attempt was made subsequently to revive the Grand Priory of Poland but it came to nothing. Catholic subjects of the Czar admitted to the Order were permitted to wear the decoration with official permission and all the Czars since Paul I (except Alexander II), and several Grand Dukes, were Bailiffs Grand Cross of the SMHOM, and various other senior members of the Russian Court received the Cross of Honor and Devotion, which was occasionally conferred on non-Catholics as a particular honor (this practice has now ceased and the Order per Merito Melitense is conferred on non-Catholcis). The late claimant to the Imperial Throne, the Grand Duke Wladimir Kyrillovich was nominated a Bailiff Grand Cross on 18 November 1961; the latter's daughter has received the Grand Cross of Merit with Gold Star.

The death of Paul led Hompesch to revive his claims to the Grand Magistery, in which he was first encouraged by Murat as the French hoped that by supporting the rights of the Order to the islands they could force out the British, whose position there gave them domination of the Mediterranean. The strong opposition to Hompesch's claim on the part of the Holy See, while not at first discouraging the former Grand Master, persuaded the French (who wished to initiate a rapprochement with the Papacy) to drop their support. By then he had lost the allegiance of most of the knights and the Papal nomination of Bailiff Ruspoli as Grand Master on 16 September 1802 made Hompesch realize that his cause was hopeless. Living on an inadequate and infrequently paid pension from the French, Hompesch moved from Trieste to Portschach in Carniola, thence to Porto di Fermo and finally to Montpellier where he died in penury on 12 May 1805. Only three knights attended his funeral at the church of the blue penitents (today the parish of Sainte-Eulalie).

The war between France and Great Britain had been terminated by the Treaty of Amiens of 25 March 1802, ratified on 18 April, and the signatories (France, Great Britain, Austria, Spain, Russia and Prussia) had agreed, by Article 10, that the Island of Malta should be restored to the knights in full sovereignty, while the British solemnly undertook to withdraw from the island and hand it over to the Order within three months of the ratification of the Treaty. It is probable that the British never had any intention of fulfilling this undertaking as they were very suspicious of French intentions and did not trust them to adhere to the agreement not to intervene in the Order's affairs. After carefully orchestrating popular demonstrations demanding the continuation of British rule, the Maltese Assembly formulated a new Constitution, which recognized King George III as Sovereign Lord, on 15 June 1802. Unfortunately the French had failed to abide by the terms of the Treaty in annexing substantial Italian territories to the French Republic and war broke out once more between the Great Powers. Any hope that the knights might recover the islands was finally lost by article VII of the Treaty of Paris of 30 March 1814, by which the islands were permanently attributed to Great Britain ("en toute proprieté et souveraineté à S.M. Britannique"). Although the Order made representations at the Congress of Vienna for their return, the allies ignored it and Britain was confirmed in possession.

Thanks to the generosity of the government of Sweden, the Order had another opportunity to be restored to temporal sovereignty, when it was offered perpetual sovereignty of the Island of Gottland in the Baltic, by a letter of Swedish Minister Baron Armfelt dated 19 September 1806. However, to have accepted the Swedish offer would have meant surrendering their claim to Malta, which had been acknowledged by all the powers in the Treaty of Amiens and, after taking the advice of the Holy See, the offer was rejected. The Holy See's decision may have been influenced by the fact that the Order would be indebted to a Lutheran Sovereign and the Pope may have considered that the status of the Order as an exclusively Roman Catholic institution could have been endangered once again. Had the Order recovered Malta, or installed itself on Gottland, the inevitable consequence would have been future political problems, when the citizens of those islands demanded self-determination and representation in government.

The non-Catholic Grand Priory of Russia of the Order established during the Grand Magistery of Tsar Paul was by the terms of its own constitution a part of the larger, Catholic Order. It was never given an independent constitution as a separate Order, and there is no primary source evidence to show that any person, Russian or non-Russian, was admitted to membership in this Grand Priory after (at the latest date) 1817. There is no Imperial decree, no Russian law (despite the extraordinarily large Russian bureaucracy which produced a mountain of archives) to show that in the eyes of the Tsar, or the Russian State, such a Grand Priory continued to survive independently. There is no surviving patent or diploma of admission to membership in this Grand Priory. There is no communication from the Tsar to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta to suggest that there was an intention to maintain the existence of the Russian Grand Priory. There is no official list of persons supposedly admitted to membership of this alleged survival. There is no document surviving to demonstrate that in the eyes of either Tsar or Government, the Russian Grand Priory survived independently of the Catholic Order in Russia, or that an independent existence was conferred upon it.

The “hereditary commanderies” depended for their existence not simply on the diploma creating this status, but on possession of the properties that had been invested as the original endowment of the commandery. A Commandery was a property of an Order to which was attached the title of Commander. In the entire history of the Order of Saint John these titles have never been honorifics, unlike those of Prior or Bailiff which implied administrative rank (both priors and bailiffs usually held one or more commanderies). It is impossible to disassociate the title of commander from that of tenant of the property of the commandery – hence in the modern Order the only commanders are those knights who are members of Grand Priories where such properties continue to exist (Italy and Austria).  No law was ever passed in Russia to accord the title of commander as a separate dignity from possession of the commandery to the descendants of those whose ancestors had endowed property as a commandery of the Order in either the Catholic or non-Catholic Grand Priories.

Hence those persons who styled themselves “hereditary commanders”, by virtue of their descent from a person who had originally endowed such a commandery and had received a diploma entitling them to pass that commandery to their descendants (provided always they were first received into membership), did so as a purely private initiative. That such titles were included in the entries of various persons in the Imperial Almanacs was a decision of the editor, made at the request of the person who submitted the information, and in no way implied Imperial sanction. The use of that title in public acts did not mean that the title of hereditary commander was legally recognized as conferring any official title, privilege or status, as for example membership in the Imperial Orders of Knighthood.

That a group of descendants of those persons who had endowed such commanderies decided to form a private association is totally irrelevant to the alleged survival of any Russian Grand Priory of the Order of Saint John. These persons were indeed entitled to describe themselves as “descendants of hereditary commanders” of the Order of Saint John, but this conferred no right to revive the original Russian non-Catholic Grand Priory of the Order of Saint John.

Most of the so-called "Orders of St John, Knights of Malta" that thrive today claim their legitimacy on the basis of a supposed meeting that allegedly took place in New York in 1908 (another date given for this purported meeting is 1916). The legitimacy ascribed to this meeting is based on the purported presence of HIH Grand Duke Alexander Mihailovich of Russia, a member of the most junior line of the Russian Imperial House, who was married to the sister of the Emperor Nicholas II. The evidence that HIH could not have present on this occasion is provided by his memoirs - these make it clear that in 1908 he was involved in establishing the first training academy for pilots in the Russian Navy (there was as yet no separate air force) and in 1916 he was fully engaged as a senior Russian officer serving in the First World War.

As for the claims of the late King Peter II of Yugoslavia, the last Royal Constitution of the Kingdom specifically forbade him to confer titles. Furthermore, the Constitution required that any royal decree or act be countersigned by the “responsible minister” for it to be valid in Yugoslavian law. In exile the King did not somehow acquire more powers than he would have enjoyed had he continued reigning, hence it is impossible for him to have legally conferred legitimacy on any self-styled Order of Chivalry.

Finally, the claim that the Order is under the protection of the late Prince Michael of Russia is self-evidently impossible, since there is no such person (the two living male line descendants of the Tsars named Michael are themselves descendants of marriages which, having been contracted with persons not of equal rank, automatically exclude them from the right to use the titles of dynasty).

Other Orders which have maintained, or abandoned Noble Proofs.

The historical nobiliary character of the Order distinguishes the SMOM from, for example, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre which, while also limited to Catholics in good standing, does not enjoy the influence or prestige of the SMOM. The Holy Sepulchre is the largest of the Catholic Orders but is closely under the direction of the Church and hierarchy, particularly outside Italy. As a relatively recent foundation (as an Order, its juridical existence dates only back to 1847), the Order emerged at the same time as the middle classes were achieving significant political and financial power and the old elites were losing their influence; hence there was no direct attempt to link this Order with the nobility.

The Dutch and Swedish Orders of St John, whose charitable and hospitaller efforts are relatively modest, are exclusively noble and male. In recent years the Crowns of the Netherlands and Sweden, neither of which have maintained their traditional links with their national nobilities, have somewhat distanced themselves from these Orders. Both Orders are considering reforms, including admitting women and/or non nobles. Such a reform would ultimately change the character of these Orders; since the nobility in neither country provides members of the political or financial elites it may make them more dynamic. This would, however, be a gradual process as it will be many years before non nobles could be a majority of the membership if the existing requirements are modified or abandoned. It may be decided that the noble character must remain a priority and so the admission of non-nobles will be to some extent limited.

The Four Spanish Military Orders, whose history is closely tied to that of Spain and whose head is a member of the royal family, require a strict proof of nobility. They are not particularly effective in the charitable and hospitaller field but are small and certainly exclusive – they are more likely to attract members of the higher Spanish nobility than the SMOM. They do have a considerable prestige because of their history and exclusivity and this would certainly be forfeited if they abandoned the requirement for proof of nobility. There have been several attempts by republican and leftist regimes to suppress these Orders and in the 19th century they were deprived of much of their wealth – a process almost completed in the 1930s but still leaving them a handful of important buildings of historic importance. It is their deep roots in Spanish history which has preserved them today and they do not provide a model for chivalric institutions in other countries.

The German Johanniter Order abandoned the nobiliary requirement in the 1950s. It has retained its ties to the Prussian royal house and to leading Protestant German noble families which have retained their allegiance and still provide many members and the majority of the leadership. The proportion of noble members is in continual decline, however, and there remains a question whether ultimately this will diminish the Order’s considerable prestige. The Johanniter has an extremely effective hospitaller mission in Germany and also well organised outreach organisations, considerably assisted by its connections with the German federal health care system.

The British Most Venerable Order. Until 1926 knights of Justice were required to prove four quarterings or be peers, or to be grand crosses of British Orders of Knighthood. Since 1926 paternal arms are all that is necessary and as these can be obtained for payment of a fee to the College of Arms, this does not mean much – except business for the College. The knights and dames, however, only compose 6% of the membership. For a variety of reasons, not only the dropping of the nobiliary requirement, the Order has gradually detached itself from its position in the counties, where it was led primarily by members of the principal landed families. Promotion or the grant of membership in the Order in most priories is much more closely linked to direct participation in the Ambulance Brigade than the past and the award of membership in the higher ranks of the Order to members of country families who have given it their support has almost ceased. Today the senior membership is very different from that of thirty or more years ago. The dropping of the nobiliary requirements may have contributed to this, but there are other factors. The slender connection between the Ambulance brigade and the Order’s Christian heritage has diminished the Order’s Christian character – a process further by the application of statutory changes to comply with Canadian discrimination laws that have been extended to the whole Order.

The Bavarian Order of St George has modified its nobiliary requirements from thirty-two to eight quarterings. It has a de facto maximum of ninety members because of the size of the chapel in Schloss Nymphenburg. But is has been forced to abandon its primary hospitaller activities because of the small size of the Order, the decline in the wealth of the membership and the increasing cost of health care related activities. It has no need to admit non-nobles because it does not have the space in its chapel and there is already a waiting list of candidates.

The Tuscan Order of St Stephen, although never extinguished, was largely dormant until about 20 years ago. The membership is predominately noble; it is small, and largely functions as a historical memorial. The nobiliary requirements have been considerably modified in any case and, for Justice, are generally less demanding than the Order of Malta. While the Order can admit non nobles, these only number a small proportion of the membership, the majority of whom have strong links to the ancient Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Being a small Order it does not maintain a significant hospitaller programme nor an extensive religious or spiritual life.

The Constantinian Order maintains its nobiliary requirements but has substantial proportions of non-nobles. It is probable that the standing of this particular Order, in this respect like that of the SMOM, is dependent on maintaining a strong nobiliary element but the success of its various spiritual programmes requires the support of a wider section of society. The Order (at least the so-called Hispano-Neapolitan branch) has extensive religious activities in Italy in particular, but does not maintain a hospitaller mission. Its leadership is drawn principally from the Italian and Spanish high nobility but it has a substantial membership in the equivalent classes to Grace and Devotion and Magistral Grace.

These latter Orders have not been challenged over the maintenance of their nobiliary requirements because they are not of particular importance in the Catholic world and none of them have significant properties or wealth to sustain them. The Spanish Military Orders and those of St George and St Stephen are constrained by history and circumstance; neither would gain much advantage from abandoning their primarily noble character.

Objections to the Reform of Grace and Devotion

The objections to such reforms comes from both those who believe that the essential nobiliary character of the Order should not in any way be compromised, and those who believe that their particular republican societies should maintain their (superficial veneer of) egalitarianism and that the establishment of a system of nobiliary proofs is elitist and contrary to the ethos of the present times.

Answer to the Critics

The most effective answer is to turn the question on its head and rather than looking at the noble proofs purely in the context of nobility, instead to emphasize that the reasons the Order became a nobiliary body was because membership was firstly confined to the leaders of society, who in the feudal period were necessarily landed and were of course either already nobles, drawn from the ranks of the knightly class or were among the recently ennobled. The system was maintained to perpetuate the commitment of these families to the Order (achieved through the establishment of jus patronatus commanderies) and to attract members of these families to service in the Order’s galleys and hospitals. The possibility that seniority would lead to the grant of a commandery was an incentive to draw in young recruits who were likely to provide an effective fighting force able to undertake the strenuous work in the Order’s hospitals.

It is in this aspect that the argument in favour of maintaining the system that is called noble proofs becomes sustainable in the 21st century. By conferring a particular place in the ranks of the Order to members of those families who provide the leadership of society, they are given an incentive to join the Order. This in turn benefits the Order because the social position and connections of these individuals, even if not as significant as in past generations, may prove useful to the Order in its work. Families which over the generations have provided knights and dames deserve to be marked out and specially recognised. Members of these families then have an additional incentive to join and encourage future generations of their families, particularly younger members, to maintain this same commitment.

Reforming the rank of Grace and Devotion of the 3rd class of the SMOM

The class of Grace and Devotion is a relatively recent innovation; one of the principle reasons for its introduction was to enable individuals who could prove an ancient paternal line but could not provide the necessary additional quarterings to be admitted in a nobiliary grade, rather than Magistral Grace (at a time when several of the principal national associations only permitted proofs of 4, 8 or 16 quarterings).  This was also extended to enable representatives of lesser or more recently ennobled families to be admitted in a nobiliary grade without being accorded Honour and Devotion. More recently, however, the replacement of the quarterings requirement with an alternative proof of ancient paternal nobility has meant that Grace and Devotion has been accorded largely to persons of recent ennoblement and not to representatives of ancient families whose parents or grandparents had married outside the circle of noble families.

It has been questioned whether the Order can or should establish new and different criteria for the class of Grace and Devotion, in addition to the existing criterion, to determine whether families or individuals might be qualified even though they cannot prove nobility (or gentility by possession of hereditary arms for several generations).

The United States, Canada and the States of Central and South America have historic hereditary elites which have for a number of generations been sufficiently established to justifiably claim the equivalent status of gentry in the UK; hitherto there has been no way to recognise their status (although there was a short-lived, but ill-thought out experiment in Canada with such a policy). While in the US such families are predominately Protestant, there are many convert families among them and the old Spanish land grant families still survive in numbers (although rarely associated with the SMOM).

In every Western European state prominent families have emerged in the post-monarchical period which have provided leaders in society, the military, the law, academia and business but who have not been ennobled; the question arises whether these families should be recognised by acceptance into Grace and Devotion? Some of these families have provided several generations of Magistral Grace members of the Order of Malta; a similar question arises as to whether generational family support of the Order should be accorded any special recognition.

Eastern Europe provides different challenges. The nobilities have lost their position, wealth and often nationality and in only small handful of cases have returned and recovered their properties or status. The newly enriched families are still first generation and it would be impossible to make an assessment which could establish any kind of representative nobiliary equivalent class today. There is not much of a case to be made for extending such a reform to these states at present since any families that have achieved prominence in the last 60-90 years can only have done so within the communist system.

It is possible, by considering those offices whose tenure under the ancien regime conferred hereditary nobility, or were limited to hereditary nobles, to draw up definitions of offices that today may be considered their equivalent. If a candidate descends from someone who held such an office more than, for example, 100 years ago and since then his or her family has maintained its social position, then it could be argued that such a candidate might qualify for Grace and Devotion under a revised criteria.

Outside Europe and the Americas it is possible to identify Catholic families in the Middle East who have for generations been among the nation’s leaders, and may by life style and status be considered the equivalent of nobles even though such rank may never have been formally recognised. Many of these families were, under the Ottomans, given life time offices of such standing that they may be considered the equivalent of those offices in Western Europe which conferred hereditary nobility. Japan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia (and in the pre-communist era, China, Vietnam and Laos) each had families which represented the equivalent to European nobilities – many of these today still enjoy particular rank or status, even though few if any have converted to Catholicism.  There are also African Catholics who descend from local tribal chiefs and kings; such individuals may also, perhaps, be candidates for a reformed Grace and Devotion.

Derogeance of Nobility

Should expert genealogical research which resurrects the forgotten ancestry of a once noble family be sufficient to qualify the beneficiary for Honour and Devotion?

 A principle of the French nobiliary system was that nobility could be forfeited if a family’s economic decline, or its occupation of certain types of jobs or activities was considered incompatible with nobiliary status.  There are also many cases where families – often junior lines that lost their property – descended the social scale and ceased to live in what could be recognised by their contemporaries as a noble or gentle life style. One such, the branch of thevColley family that settled in the United States, in Maine, is one such. William Colley, whose brother Sir Henry Colley was the father of the first Lord Mornngton (direct ancestor of the Dukes of Wellington) was obviously a gentleman as the word was nderstood in the 17th century. His grandson was an employee of a shipyard and subsequent descendants stonemasons, carpenters and firemen at a time when their cousin was serving as a Field Marshal, created a British, Spanish and Portuguese Duke and a Netherlandish Prince and later Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Modern research resources have enabled some to discover long forgotten noble roots; should this enable the modern day descendant who has benefited from this research to enter the Order in Honour and Devotion? Should they be allowed Grace and Devotion as a concession? Or should any nobiliary rank be rejected altogether?

Maintaining the rank of Honour and Devotion in the third class of the SMOM

As long as the class of Grace and Devotion is maintained as the secondary nobiliary qualification, there is no good argument to be made for diminishing the requirements for Honour and Devotion. Indeed, there is a strong case to be made for maintaining a strict standard in conformity with the history and traditions of each national nobility. There is an argument to be made for taking greater account of regional differences in those modern states which have been formed through the amalgamation of regions with widely different nobiliary systems. If those families which have traditionally provided candidates for Honour and Devotion are to continue to be recruited then the historic standards need to be maintained and compromises avoided which may be perceived as diminishing those standards. It is important to continue to provide strong incentives to members of those families which historically supported the Order to continue to do so; without such incentives it is unlikely that the decline in the number of professed knights drawn from Honour and Devotion will be reversed.

Problems with the Present System of Noble Proofs in the SMOM

There are several problems that have arisen in the present, largely republican era. The first is that the nobility is frozen in size in almost all of Europe, with a cut off date between 1870 (in France, or as some argue, 1789) and 1918 (most of the rest of Europe). Italy’s nobiliary jurisdiction ended in 1946 although her former king continued to confer and confirm titles and nobility from the 1960s until his death in 1983. Belgium is the only country which has consistently conferred membership in the untitled and titled nobility. The United Kingdom confers life titles, but these are largely political honours; the heralds may affirm what they claim is gentility through the grant or confirmation of arms. Nobility ceased to be conferred in the Americas at the end of the colonial period, although Brazil maintained a system of titled nobility until the end of the Empire in 1883 (most Brazilian titles were only granted for life however). The nobility in Japan was abolished by the post-war constitution of 1946. Since conferrals of nobility have ceased, the number of (genuine) noble families has steadily declined, and will continue to do so. The genuine nobility, therefore, is rapidly diminishing as a percentage of the overall population.

There are many families which have risen to prominence in the modern era and that for several generations have provided notable figures in politics, the military, law, academia and business but which have never been (and never will be) ennobled, although they would probably have been the beneficiary of a grant of nobility during their national monarchies. Such families may often be discouraged from joining the Order of Malta because their eminence in society cannot be recognised by the Order and because in those Associations which restrict offices to nobles, they cannot serve in any official capacity.

The New World countries in which there are associations of the Order, however, have in most cases never had national nobilities or, if they did, it was closely associated with the former colonial power. Thus adjudging qualifications for the higher classes of Honour or Grace and Devotion on the basis of a family’s colonial links may not be widely supported unless there is some means for those families who achieved their status subsequently to independence to be advanced. Furthermore, the representatives of European noble families who settled in the New World may not have any particular standing among the elites of the country in which they now live. There is only the slender argument of European historical links to justify admitting a recent immigrant whose family is of ancient nobility in a New World national association into the noble grades – and such a policy may well contribute to the hostility towards the concept of noble proofs held by the leadership of some of these associations.

The Present System of Noble Proofs in the SMOM

While the histories of the different nobiliary structures varied across Europe, there are certain constants; members of the more ancient noble families are likely to be found in the class of Honour and Devotion while those families more recently ennobled are probably to be found in the class of Grace and Devotion. This division has become clearer since the antiquity of the paternal line as one of the criteria has largely displaced the older proof of four, eight, or sixteen noble quarterings. This reform was introduced because the social gulf between noble and non-noble families in many countries has been eliminated, or substantially diminished, so there is no social penalty for members of the old nobility marrying non-nobles.  The consequence of this has been that fewer individuals are now capable of proving the qualifications by quarterings.

Since official nobiliary jurisdictions have been almost entirely abolished (although occasionally replaced by private bodies that claim to be qualified to determine nobiliary successions), the SMOM officers charged with determining whether a candidate’s noble proofs are sufficient are generally unable to turn to official sources for guidance. Records have been destroyed and in some countries the use of noble titles has been made illegal. In other nobiliary jurisdictions there were considerable differences in status between national, urban and provincial nobilities which co-existed but could not properly be equated. The increasing distance in years from the time when the nobility was regulated, intermarriage with non noble families, and national legislation which has conflated nobility with the name, have served to complicate the determination of nobiliary status.

The SMOM is still primarily nobiliary in character and the statutes of the Order and of many European national associations limit the tenure of the highest offices (Grand Master, Grand Commander or Association President or Vice-President) to nobles. The first class, of Justice, for the professed members is no longer limited to knights admitted into a nobiliary grade and an increasing proportion of members of this class were admitted as knights of Magistral Grace. Meanwhile, as the proportion of members in the class of Honour and Devotion is in an escalating decline, so are the numbers of postulants for Justice. This means that the pool of candidates for those offices limited to knights admitted in Honour and Devotion is also becoming ever smaller. At the same time the non noble members, with their talents, financial power and skills, makes the SMOM more dynamic than – for example – those Orders which are limited exclusively to the nobility. Its nobiliary character, however, provides a constant and essential link with its historical past and traditions.