Monday, 7 September 2015
THE ORDER OF SAINT JOSEPH - AN AUSTRIAN USURPATION OF THE TUSCAN ORDER
The recent appearance of a self-styled Order of Saint Joseph (http://www.josephsorden.org/) that has assumed the name and badge of the Order of Saint Joseph and of Merit of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany is the latest addition to the ranks of self-styled Orders. This Order does not actually pretend to be the Tuscan Order but claims a separate origin as a revival of the Order of Saint Joseph founded for the Burghers of the small imperial city of Friedberg, Hesse which was governed as an immediate state of the Holy Roman Empire with direct representation in the Imperial Diet. This Order was established by Emperor Joseph II as Grand Master on 6 November 1768 with the Burggraf (Imperial governor) as Grand Prior, and the Burgmannen (the equivalent of a patriciate) as knights. It ceased to exist with the dissolution of the Empire and the incorporation of Friedberg into the newly established Grand Duchy of Hesse. The first Grand Prior and Burggraf was Franz Heinrich von Dalberg (1716-1776) whose eldest son Karl Theodor von Dalberg became Prince-Primate of the Holy Roman Empire of the Germans, Grand Duke of Frankfurt and a leading political figure in the Napoleonic period. His second son, Wilhelm-Heribert, was father of Emmerich Joseph von Dalberg, grandfather of the English statesman Lord Acton. Dalberg was succeeded as Grand Prior by Count Johann von Waldbott von und zu Bassenheim (1777-1805) and then by Count Clemens August von Westphalen (1805 until his death in 1818). There were no new appointments to the Order after 1806 and it expired with the death of the last of its members.
The badge of this Order was a gold, eight-pointed cross with a white enamel border and the imperial double-headed eagle with the imperial crown above placed over the cross with the name Saint Joseph on the eagle's breast surrounded by the inscription: Virtutis avitae Aemuli (imitator of ancestral virtue). The reverse of the cross was in blue enamel with a white border and inscribed in the centre in gold letters was Imperatoris auspiciis Lege Imperii conservamur (The imperial laws are protected by the emperor's shield) suspended from a sky blue ribbon with a narrow dark blue border.
It is somewhat surprising, therefore, to learn that in 2011 a group of Austrians, refreshingly for a self-styled Order eschewing any pretension to nobility, decided that they had the authority to autonomously revive this Order and begin conferring it some two centuries after the reception of the last knight. This new body, while stating that its religious ceremonies will be celebrated according to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church, will accept members of any faith. Its aims are modest but worthy, citing support for the Christian tradition, community and dialogue. Nonetheless the Order evidently has greater aspirations conferring the title of "Grand Master" on its head, Mr Jochen Ressel and the grandiose (and rather pretentious) title of "Senator" on the three principal members of the "Grand Chapter" (the other two being the Secretary, Markus Kappel, and the Chamberlain (Kammerer) Reinhold Szakasits. There are three other members of the grand chapter are a lady, Margarete Krits-Zwittkowits, president of the Austrian Association, a Proconsul and the "Vorstand des Senats der Wirtschaft" (Board member of the Economics Senate).
There are apparently four categories of members: knights of Justice, Benefactor knights and Honorary knights and finally Dignitaries. The Order has periodic meetings, an annual investiture ceremony and a requirement to pay dues.
The Order is based in Vienna and makes no pretension to any connection with the city of Friedberg, Hessen, where the original Order was founded, nor the House of Habsburg, other than claiming both as the basis for its historical existence and revival under this name . This body cannot in reality claim to be anything more than a society of individuals dedicated to a common purpose but who have adopted the external symbols of a chivalric Order. Whatever their intentions, these worthy people have no legal authority to found or revive the Order of Saint Joseph and, in particular, none whatsoever in assuming the name and badge of a genuine Order which is part of the patrimony of the Grand Ducal House of Tuscany and is authorised by the Italian government. The badge of the Tuscan Order, which it has illicitly imitated (the only difference, on close examination, being the substitution of the inscription Virtutis avitae Aemuli for the inscription on the Tuscan cross, Ubique similis) bears no resemblance whatsoever to the badge of the original Order founded for the burghers of Friedberg.
These worthies have caused grave offence to the Archduke Sigismund and the officers and members of the Order of Saint Joseph by assuming a name and badge to which they have no right. There will no doubt be legal consequences.