Monday, 7 September 2015

by Guy Stair Sainty (published with the permission of the author)
The claim to historical survival of a body with an international membership styling itself “l’Ordre Militaire et Hospitalier de Saint Lazare de Jérusalem” has been repeatedly challenged by historians and denounced by the Holy See. During the course of the last hundred years supporters of the pretence to antiquity of the several bodies which now claim this name have published numerous books and pamphlets designed to sustain their assertion that their organisation is the historic continuum of the Crusader Order of Saint Lazare. In reality it is a modern foundation dating from the early years of the twentieth century.
The initial reinvention dates from 1910 and was initiated by two lawyers, Paul Watrin (then a supporter of the French legitimist monarchist cause), and Paul Bugnot already associated with another invented Order. Others involved were a certain Fritz Hahn who masqueraded as “Comte Fréderic Guigues de Champvaux” and Jacob Rotschild (no relation to the banking family) who used various aliases including Jacob de Moser, Moser de Veyga and even Count of Monte Cristo! There were others involved including a wine merchant from Alsace called Charles Otzenberger who, after this first effort had withered on the vine during the First World War, was responsible for its second revival, in 1928.  From the early 1930s it began to have greater success in recruiting prominent members, although by the 1950s its French leaders were notable figures in the Orleanist monarchist movement rather than legitimists. The Order rather disastrously for its future recruiting split into two separate groups in the late 1960s and, more recently, a third branch separated from the latter two claiming to represent the Lazarite tradition, while not pretending to an ancient history.
The Order’s cross has been conferred on both distinguished individuals and others with questionable titles, giving it a high profile and making it one of the best-known quasi-chivalric organisations. Its senior officers, dressed in white and green uniforms (imitating the historic uniform of the Order of Malta but with echoes of Steward Granger’s Ruritanian uniform in the Prisoner of Zenda), organise elaborate ceremonies where the cross of the Order is granted to men and women of every branch of Christianity as well as, on occasion, to non-Christians. It has contributed to some worthy causes and the majority of its members probably sincerely believe they are part of an ancient and hallowed chivalric tradition; sadly they have been thoroughly misled by misrepresentations of the historical record.
There are three stages in the historical existence of the original crusader Order: the first ended with the 1489 Papal bull incorporating the Order of Saint Lazarus into the Order of Saint John, which in canon law should have represented the end of the ancient Order’s independent existence. The canonical successor to the historical grand mastership is today the grand master of the Order of Malta. Two groups of knights of the Order resisted this incorporation, however; the priory of Capua and the commandery of Boigny (in France), each ultimately obtaining significant support that enabled them to survive, albeit in new forms.
The Holy See briefly acknowledged the autonomy of the priory of Capua of Saint Lazarus in the early years of the sixteenth century but in 1572 the priory was formally unified with the newly founded Order of Saint Maurice, merging the green Maltese cross of Saint Lazarus with the white cross botonny of Saint Maurice. The Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, under the hereditary grand mastership of the Dukes of Savoy, was a subject of canon law until laicised in the nineteenth century when it became an elite state merit award of the Kingdom of Sardinia and then, after 1860, of Italy. The considerable endowment of this Order is administered today by a body under the direction of the president of the Italian republic which, in 1951, declared awards of the Order permanently suspended. The former king of Italy, Umberto II, ignoring the republic’s 1951 law and considering it to be a dynastic Order of the House of Savoy, awarded the cross of this Order until his death in 1983. Since then his only son, Vittorio Emanuele, as claimant to the headship of the Royal House of Savoy (a claim denied by the Duke of Aosta, who has challenged his cousin but has declined to award the Order), has made a considerable number of awards of the Order.
The third manifestation of the Order’s survival was the commandery of Boigny, its only surviving French benefice at the time of its incorporation into the new Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which was treated differently to the priory of Capua and never received formal Papal confirmation of its autonomy. The grand master of the Order of St John’s authority had been somewhat diminished with the struggle to retain and then ultimately lose possession of the island of Rhodes but, nonetheless, the handful of knights at Boigny attempted a compromise with the grand master and Pope by electing successive knights of St John as their “master generals.” Thus they notionally obeyed the requirements of the 1489 Bull, while avoiding being incorporated into the Langue of France of the Order of St John. After 1572, by claiming the support of the latter Order they were able to resist the authority of the Duke of Savoy and the newly founded Order of St Maurice and Lazarus. Since canon law made it impossible for a professed religious (as were the knights of St John) to make profession in another Order, it is quite clear that the commandery of Boigny, far from being an independent Order was at this time merely a quasi-autonomous commandery of the Order of Malta. Its modest revenues remained separate from those of the langue of France of St John, even though the knights who governed it as “masters-general” were themselves members of the langue and ultimately subject to the authority of the grand master in Malta.
The religious wars of the sixteenth century had diminished Papal authority in France and the commandery’s autonomy was intermittently supported by the crown and parliament of Paris. The end of the wars of religion with the conversion of Henri IV in 1594 made an accord with the Holy See over Saint Lazarus and similar contentious issues a priority. Henry negotiated a new settlement over the commandery of Boigny with the foundation of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and its combination with the commandery of Boigny, as the Royal Military Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem united, by the Papal Bull Romanus Pontifex of 16 February 1608, expanded upon in Militantium ordinum of 28 February of the same year. This allowed the existing knights to retain their titles while putting the “master-general” under the immediate authority of the French king. The new institution could reasonably claim the enhanced status that continuity with the ancient Crusader Order of Saint Lazarus conferred and, as an Order closely linked to the French crown, some kind of parity with the knights of St John. The proofs of nobility were not as strict as those required by the latter Order (which, with the grant of Malta and Gozo in 1530, was more commonly known as the Order of Malta) and the promises of profession in the Order required neither poverty nor chastity. These fatures made it more attractive to young noblemen who neither wanted to embrace chastity not serve a sometimes arduous caravan on Malta. Since the election of the “Grand Master” of the new Order was now subject to the confirmation of its protector, the French king, claims by the grand master of the Order of Malta and the Duke of Savoy to the commandery of Boigny could be more easily rebutted.
Henri IV in his decree of 1609 gave the new foundation the full name “Ordres de Nostre Dame du Mont Carmel et de Saint-Lazare de Jérusalem, Bethléem et Nazareth, tant deçà que delà des mers” then continued by giving it the short name “dudit [said] Ordre de Saint Lazare”. Louis XIV referred in 1664 to the united Orders as the “Ordre et Chevalerie de Saint Lazare de Jérusalem” while also stating that Pope Paul V had instituted “un autre Ordre militaire dédié à la Saint-Vierge sous le titre de Notre-Dame du Mont Carmel; lequel il auroit joint et unt à celui de Saint-Lazare de Jérusalem.”  A 1668 bull promulgated by Cardinal Legate de Vendôme served to confirm the union of the commandery of Boigny with the recently founded Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, acknowledging the united body as a single subject of canon law but under the protection of the French crown. Vendôme gave it an even fuller title, as the “Ordres Royaux, Hospitaliers et Militaires de Notre-Dame du Mont Carmel et de Saint-Lazare de Jérusalem, tant deçà que delà les mers”. The interchangeability of the name Order of St Lazarus for the full name of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Lazarus of Jerusalem demonstrates that these two institutions were not in any sense merely temporarily united but were one, single body.
The 1693 prohibition against the enjoyment of ecclesiastical benefices did not affect those benefices already aggregated to the Order, but was intended to prevent other benefices subject to the jurisdiction of the local Ordinaries or other ecclesiastical authorities from being added to its endowment. There had been conflicts over the amalgamation of benefices since the middle of the seventeenth century when there was an attempt to acquire the properties of the defunct priory of Cluny. The attempts to increase the Order’s wealth by removing benefices from one canonical foundation and granting them to St Lazarus was challenged in part on the grounds that the knights did not make the full religious promises and in 1693 some concession to the Order made in the previous three decades were cancelled.  Conflicts over benefices continued to dog the Order, however, culminating in a struggle for possession of the benefices (and the debts and obligations) of the extinct Order of St Anthony Abbot in 1777. These were ultimately conceded to the Order of Malta although in the Kingdoms of Naples and Sicily they were granted to the Constantinian Order. The loss of aggregated ecclesiastical benefices and extraordinary financial mismanagement had led to many financial claims against the Order, which is why in 1783 the Pope confirmed that the “… biens de l’Ordre sont sous la protection du Saint Siège” thus preventing them from being seized to pay the Order’s debts. The Popes never surrendered their ultimate authority over the Order, even though, as with the appointment of the French bishops, de facto authority rested with the crown. 
The proponents of survival have misrepresented the award of the cross of Our Lady of Mont Carmel to graduates of the école militaire as recognition of the separation of the two Orders.  This essentially bogus argument did nothing of the sort - it had originated with article fifteen of the 1757 statutes designed to encourage future recruits to the École by giving them probationary membership in the united Order, to which no-one could be admitted before the age of thirty. In 1779 this rule was amended so that by article one “L’Ordre de Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel faisant partie de ceux qui sont réunis sous la même Grande Maîtrise, sera destiné à l’avenir aux seuls élèves de l’École royal militaire, qui seront jugés dignes d’être admis dans cet Ordre.” Six students at the school were to be chosen on the basis of their morals, their progress and their “happy disposition” and of those six three would be made knights of the said Order with a pension of one hundred livres. This, however, was purely an honorific and merely a stage that would permit those chevaliers who later distinguished themselves on the field of battle to be admitted to full membership of the combined Orders. To be admitted to the École militaire one had to prove four paternal quarterings of nobility and in a further decree the grand master declared that these would be sufficient to qualify the École students who had received the cross of Our Lady of Mont Carmel. By granting them the cross of Mont Carmel before they joined the united Order, they were effectively exempted from presenting the full proofs of four paternal and four maternal quarterings.
Supporters of continuity consistently argue their case in a manner designed to support their thesis  but, when it come to the period after 1815,  an altogether more fanciful history has to be imagined which ignores the extensive documentation that contradicts it.  What should give rise to immediate questions is why, when the Order’s history is so thoroughly documented from 1608-1788, the alleged survival in the 19th century – even closer to our time – should rest on such flimsy foundations. Why can no publication dedicated to the supposedly surviving Order be found prior to its early twentieth century revival? Why are there no diplomas, no contemporary rolls of knights, and no notarial record of any officers of the suppose continuum of the Order?
The united Orders were abolished along with the other Royal Orders by an edict of the National Assembly of 30 July 1791, promulgated in the name of the “King of the French” and signed by the minister of Justice, who sealed it with the Great Seal. This abolition was unrecognised by the exiled Count of Provence, the unfortunate Louis XVI’s next brother and the Order’s last grand master and had no effect on the canonical institution established in the bulls of 1608, even though for the next twenty-three years it ceased to exist as a French institution.  The handful of conferrals of the cross of the Order by the Count of Provence, later Louis XVIII, while in exile, did not follow the statutory requirements or forms of reception and do not provide evidence that its constitution had been reformed.
When rumours of the miserable fate of Louis XVII, who had died on 8 June 1795 after some fifteen months of solitary confinement in a small cell with no human contact, reached the exiled Count of Provence he was at first unwilling to assume the royal prerogatives as claimant to the crown. He did not begin awarding the Order of Saint Louis until 1807 and prior to the Restoration only made three awards of the Order of the Holy Spirit, the first in 1810. The Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem was a different case, however, as it had never been awarded directly by the king but by a grand master whose authority derived ultimately from Papal approval. Once his succession as king was confirmed and he was proclaimed publicly as king, Louis XVIII became legal protector of the Order, automatically relinquishing the grand mastership; there are no records of any awards being made by him while in exile after 1803. Provence was proud of his historic title of grand master of the United Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem (a splendid portrait from the 1780s attesting to this may be seen in the Musée de la Légion d’Honneur), however, and he continued to wear the breast cross of the Order until his death.
After 1815 the Order had no property to sustain it and most of the historic grand magistral insignia was lost, while the officers of the Order required to examine the proofs of candidates and carry out the protocol of investiture were unavailable during Provence’s long exile. Louis was fully aware of this but seems to have used the Order as an award of merit until he felt able to publicly assume the title of king. It was by virtue of the Order’s statutes that he had enjoyed his grand magistral authority and even as grand master he could not unilaterally amend them to abolish the fundamental requirements for entry - Catholicism, eight quarterings of nobility and a particular set of procedures for admission. Articles one, three, eight, nine, and twelve of the 1757 statutes clearly lay out the requirements for membership and admission, while article five expressly prohibited the grand master from admitting knights of grace, founders of commanderies (who previously were exempted from full proofs) and Servans [Serving Brothers]. Article six abolished the “family commanderies” restricting their enjoyment to the founder at whose demise the commandery would be dissolved and the property returned to the family which had endowed it. One of the more ridiculous claims made by some “historians” of the survival was that the descendants of the founders of such commanderies could claim to have inherited some right to admission.
A decree by the Count of Provence of 1778 confirmed the minimum age of thirty for admission and that all the one hundred (the maximum number of members), must profess the Roman Catholic Apostolic faith, be born legitimate and able to prove eight quarterings of nobility (article three of this decree). Furthermore, aside from the ecclesiastical commanders, the members had to be serving or have served in the military and reached the rank of army captain or ensign of vessel. This decree created two classes of knights with additions to the decorations of the higher rank - those who had reached the rank of colonel or ship’s captain were given or promoted to the higher of the two classes. Commanderies would be awarded according to rank and length of service, but anyone who gave up his military career would no longer qualify for a commandery or any further promotion in the Order. Aside from the privileges granted to students at the École militaire this was the last legal decree concerning the united Orders and since then there have been no legal amendments. Even if the Order had survived it is clear that none of those presently claiming to be members could qualify as such under these rules.
The purported admission of non-Catholics by the Count of Provence in exile directly offended a founding principle of the Order. This is why the only recipient of the cross in exile listed in the post Restoration Almanach Royal, a Baron Dreisen  (apparently granted the cross at Mittau, where the grand master was living in exile in 1800), is described as a “knight of Honour”, the only one in this invented category. There was no provision for knights of honour in the statutes so the grand master must have devised this distinction as a way to honour individuals who had helped him during his exile. The only other possible chivalric award for non-Catholics in the gift of the crown was the “Institution of Military Merit”, but this had also been abolished in the Revolution and, unlike Saint Louis, was not awarded in exile.  The purported award of Mount Carmel and Saint Lazarus to the Russian Emperor Alexander by the exiled Provence was never included in any contemporary official or unofficial lists of members of the united Orders nor, aside from Baron Dreisen, were the names of any other non-Catholic knights allegedly given the cross (the only record of these admissions can be found in secondary sources). After the Restoration Alexander was accorded the Order of the Holy Spirit, as were other European sovereigns.
No documents have been located in the French national archives that support the claims that the Order maintained some quasi-clandestine existence after 1830. Indeed it is hard to understand how any reputable historian could ignore the documentation which proves beyond any doubt the decision to allow the Order to be extinguished with the deaths of the remaining members. The Order’s statutes directly conflicted with the Charter of 1814, effectively the French Restoration constitution, as this prohibited any state institution from giving preference on the basis of birth. Aside from Catholicity the most notable qualification for admission to the Orders of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Lazarus of Jerusalem was ancient nobility, so to have appointed new members would have breached an important clause of the Charter unless the nobiliary requirements were reformed. If an attempt had been made after 1815 to restore the Order’s original properties this would have given its many creditors an opportunity to claim against it, aside from the legal complications that would have resulted from disputes with the post Restoration ecclesiastical authorities and others who may have acquired some of the Order’s benefices legally. There would have been a risk that disputes over the Order’s indebtedness, which had caused considerable difficulties in the 1780s, would have been a further problem facing a revived Order, even if the nobiliary requirements had been eliminated. The king had a sentimental attachment to the Order but his long exile had taught him the benefit of pragmatism and with his restoration he had proved willing to accept most of the changes that had transformed France in the previous quarter century. Most notably he had had failed to appoint as successor to himself as Grand Master, a post which the Almanach Royal listed as vacant.
No final decision concerning the Order’s future was made during the first restoration in 1814; it was already clear the difficulties its revival would have entailed were considerable but there were more pressing matters for the crown to deal with. After postponing any decision and declining all requests for admission, the king came to realise that the only sensible course of action was to allow it to become permanently extinct. Confusion has been caused by the inclusion in the list of members published in the post-Restoration Almanach Royal of names indicated by an interlaced ML who had not been admitted to membership before 1788. The individuals listed probably submitted these names to the editor themselves and only appeared in one or two editions of the Almanach before being removed. Meanwhile the names of some members who had survived the revolution and Napoleonic wars and who had been admitted as knights before 1788 were omitted. The Almanach cannot therefore be considered a reliable indicator of the surviving membership after 1814. Similar errors were also made in rolls of the Legion of Honour and Saint Louis; the Almanach was a private publication licensed by the crown and not of itself an official record.
Petitions by two French Catholic knights given the cross by Louis XVIII in exile have been located in the national archives and letters from the grand marshal of the court survive according them permission to wear the cross; both letters date before the hundred days. A series of requests for admission in the period from 1815 to 1820, however, were met with explicit refusals and the response that “the King has not made known his intentions relative to the two Orders” (9 April 1816), to “the King has postponed any nominations” (27 May 1817).  When a knight of the Order, Charles de Valory (received in 1767), wrote asking to be promoted to commander, he received the reply “the King has not until now manifested the intention of making any nomination or promotion in this Order”. In 1822 when a request was directed to the minister of the King, the minister referred the matter to the grand chancellor of the Legion of Honour as to the Order’s status; the latter responded that it was not his responsibility. A subsequent note from the minister of the King dated 31 October 1822 stated that “HM since re-entering his states has done nothing regarding this Order”. By the following year a clearer policy had been devised, the Minister stating on 31 August 1823 that “the Order in which you wish to enter is no longer conferred”.
On 5 May 1824, the Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honour issued a statement on Orders, which could be worn and which were to be suppressed, including a list of “pretended” Orders. Of the French Royal Orders, each was listed in a brief mini-paragraph identifying the government department which dealt with it. The paragraph on the “Orders of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem and Our Lady of Mount Carmel united” came last among the recognised Orders, with the statement that “this last has not been awarded since 1788 and is to be allowed to become extinct”. The suggestion that “this last” meant just Our Lady of Mount Carmel and not Saint Lazarus only makes sense if one ignores the fact that each Royal Order had its own separate paragraph. Saint Lazarus and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, however, were included as one institution, in the same section and paragraph. This supposed separation of the two Orders is the shallow foundation on which some have proposed that the Grand Chancellor intended to allow Saint Lazarus to survive, while bringing the life of the Mount Carmel to an end, as if they were separate institutions.
This was not the end of the matter, however, and further official statements regarding the fate of these Orders make it clear that there was no surviving rump. On 31 August 1824 a letter from the royal household in answer to a further enquiry states “The Order of Saint Lazarus is no longer conferred” while on 12 March 1825 the minister of the royal household wrote “The Order of St Lazarus although tolerated by the ordonnance of the 16 April 1824, is designated in the instructions that followed, as an Order that has not been conferred since 1788 and is to be left to become extinct.”
Louis XVIII died on 16 September 1824, when he was succeeded as king by his brother, the Count of Artois, as Charles X, whose style of “Protector” of the Order was included among his grand titles and in the listing in the Almanach Royal. The instructions given by the Marquis de Dreux-Brézé, grand master of ceremonies of France in the protocols for the King’s funeral required that the collar of St Lazarus be placed among the King’s other decorations, with the notation “This Order of which the late King, when Monsieur, was grand master has not been preserved.” The following year in response to yet another request for admission to the Order, the minister of the new King replied on 12 March, 1825, that “the Order of Saint Lazarus…is designated in the instruction that followed (in the 1824 ordinance) as an Order which has not been conferred since 1788 and which will be left to become extinct”. The last such petition in the archives was submitted in 1826, but this time was ignored without any response.
That the various statements regarding the Order written after the Grand Chancellor’s decree make mention specifically of Saint Lazarus, the conventional short form for the united Orders, must put paid to any suggestions that it had been the crown’s intention to allow Saint Lazarus to continue while abolishing Mount Carmel.  There were no secret or unpublished nominations to a separated Order of Saint Lazarus, as the advocates of the modern survival propose. Modern “historians” of the Order would seem to have deliberately ignored the official statements issued after 1824 since they render wholly implausible the proposition that the 1824 decree only referred to Mount Carmel.
Supporters of the “survival” thesis list names of knights supposedly admitted to the Order, citing as authority the book by the late Guy Coutant “de Saisseval” who for long held high office in the Order – he in turn repeated similar claims by Bertrand “de la Grassière” another senior officer of the revived Order. Neither of these gentlemen based their claim on any documents that can be identified in public or private archives. The claim that there were knights admitted either according to the proper forms or by any other means after 1815 must be entirely rejected. This is an invention designed to perpetuate the fiction that the various bodies today styling themselves “Order of St Lazarus” are a legitimate continuation of the Crusader era Order united in 1608 with the Order of our Lady of Mount Carmel and then supposedly separated therefrom after 1815.

There is also no contemporary documentary evidence to support the suggestion that the council of the Order, acting in direct contravention of the wishes of the king and the instructions of the grand chancellor of the Legion of Honour, assumed for itself the right to admit or nominate anyone to membership in either the united Orders, or Saint Lazarus alone. Even had the council attempted to do so, such actions were beyond its authority under the statutes and no such nominations would have been legitimate. Such a suggestion is as improbable as a British body purporting to act as the legitimate continuum of the Order of St Patrick, awarding knighthoods and conferring the Order’s collar after Irish independence.
A prohibition was imposed on wearing the cross by the government of Louis-Philippe in an act of 10 February 1831; although this was a usurpation of the powers of the exiled Charles X, neither he nor his successors as head of the Royal House of France attempted to revive, or approve the revival, of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Lazarus before its canonical extinction. The last surviving member admitted and received before the Revolution, Antoine-François de Charry des Gouttes, Marquis des Gouttes, died in 1856 at the age of one hundred and three. By the provisions of canon law an Order becomes extinct one hundred years after the death of its last member; any possibility of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Lazarus being revived either together or separately under the provisions of canon law ceased on 31 December 1956. French law has been clear on the matter of the Order’s extinction for one hundred and ninety-one years.

The supporters of the modern revival state that in 1841 the surviving knights persuaded Maximos III, then Melchite Patriarch of Antioch, when visiting Paris, to assume the role of protector of the Order. If there is any contemporary documentary evidence of this, it has never been produced. The office of Patriarch Maximos V ignored a request for further elucidation on this point and a letter directed to one of the senior Melchite prelates who specialised in the history of the patriarchate did not even receive an acknowledgement. It has been claimed that the records of the patriarchate concerning the alleged protection given to the Order were destroyed in a fire, but none of the purported nineteenth century members of the Order appear to have left written record of any involvement with the patriarchate. Proponents of the supposed survival of the “Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem” make similar claims to lost archives and secret admissions -  no serious historian can give credence to such arguments. That there should be no surviving record in France or the Lebanon of any diplomas or of meetings of the Order’s officers or council seems to stretch the bounds of credibility. Without such written record these claims must be considered to be unsubstantiated at the very least and more probably as twentieth century inventions. Although the proponents of the modern foundation state that the Patriarch has confirmed the patronage accorded to the Order in 1841, since such affirmation can only be made on the basis of documentary evidence available to the Patriarch one can only speculate why this evidence has never been published?
The Patriarchs are not sovereigns, or even claimants to sovereignty, so lack the authority to found or give their protection to Orders of Chivalry, particularly since the Melchite Church was in communion with Rome and the Patriarch subordinate to the See of Saint Peter. The Patriarch had already been instructed to break off an association with another dubious “chivalric” body in the 1930s so it is evident that the Pope considered the Patriarch’s authority in such matters subordinate to the Holy See. The limited civil jurisdiction granted to certain Patriarchs by the Turkish Sultan did not include the right to found or protect Christian Orders of Chivalry nor were such powers enjoyed by the more powerful Ottoman provincial governors. The recently founded Patriarchal “Orders” awarded by several Patriarchs of the both the Latin and Greek Churches are church awards but nothing more; they are certainly not comparable to other military or state decorations or any Orders of Chivalry, however they were designated by their founders, and no European state recognises them as such.
In 1930 the then Patriarch, Cyrill IX was reported in La Croix as having withdrawn his patronage of Saint Lazarus because it was neither officially recognised by the French Government nor the Holy See. The Melchite Patriarchs were subsequently persuaded to restore their protection and their nominal connection with one of the branches of the present foundation has been preserved – the Patriarchate has benefited from this association as some donations have been made to charities and groups with which it is associated. The Holy See, however, has repeatedly refused to recognise the modern revival, and has not changed its stance since explicitly condemning the Order in a lengthy declaration published in 1935, repeated on 21 March 1953, both of which were published in the Osservatore Romano.[1] The Holy See had taken no interest in the historical Order since its abolition in the revolution, as the kings of France did not attempt its revival. Even though canonical extinction did not actually become final until 1956 the author of the 1935 decree no doubt assumed that an Order whose last legitimate admission was made almost one hundred and fifty years earlier must surely be extinct. The precise date of extinction does not diminish the effect of the Holy See’s condemnation of the Order.

Two recent advocates for survival have proposed that the Emperor Napoleon III may have somehow enjoyed the prerogative to legitimise the Order – but this is no more reasonable than attributing the same authority to President François Hollande. One of the peculiarities of the constitution of the French Republic is that the president still enjoys some of the authority once held by the French kings; but it is ridiculous to suggest that anyone other than a reigning King of France could have exercised the authority delegated by the Pope in 1608. The proposition that the Melchite Patriarch could somehow assume an authority attributed by Papal authority to the French king is likewise baseless – why the Melchite Patriarch and not some other Metropolitan? 
The 1910 revival was the work of enterprising business men joined with some rather pitiful fantasists who went along with the newly invented history. The precise involvement of the Patriarch and what he agreed at this time is hard to determine. In any case this first effort at revival petered out during the First World War and it was not until 1928 that Order of Saint Lazarus was once more brought to life. The “election” of General D. Francisco de Borbón y Borbón, suo uxoris Duke of Seville in 1935 brought some respectability but this otherwise notable figure was neither then nor ever a “Royal Highness.” The general’s request of King Alfonso XIII to allow him this title was explicitly refused, although he was later honoured with the Order of the Golden Fleece. This assumption of the royal style was without merit or legitimacy – the first Duke of Seville and his descendants had been deprived of their titles and prerogatives as members of the Spanish royal house because of his morganatic marriage. The Seville branch, while holding various noble titles had no right to any royal titles or styles nor to the throne. Even if they had not been so deprived, the laws of the Spanish royal house limit the title of Royal Highness and Infante to the children of the sovereign and of the Prince of Asturias; any other descendant had to be individually granted the title. Only after the marriage of Alfonso XIII in 1906 did the King extend the title of Prince and Royal Highness to members of the royal family who were not Infantes; but in each case on an individual basis in a decree countersigned by the president of the council of ministers. The attribution of the title of Royal Highness by the Spanish branch of Saint Lazarus is designed to elevate the status of their former Grand Master - but the members of this line have no more right to this style than the distinguished authors of the article in the journal of the Scottish Heraldry Society which recently advocated the legitimacy of this revival.
As for Lt Colonel (in the education corps) Robert Gayre, the founder of Clan Gayre, his involvement led to one notable change – the definitive abandonment of any pretence that this remained an exclusively Roman Catholic institution. Gayre himself, a member of the Scottish Episcopalian church claimed that as such he was “Catholic” but he would hardly have been recognised as such by the seventeenth and eighteenth century Popes who had granted the historic Order various privileges. In any case the Order’s last legal statutes required that all members profess the “religion catholique, apostolique et romaine” which is irreconcilable with the thirty-nine articles of the Church of England and Scottish Episcopalian church. Having purchased the feudal barony of Lochoreshire, Gayre then established the “commandery of Lochore” and, astonishingly, the then Lyon King matriculated arms for this body as well as other subsidiary organisations of the Order. Since the authority of Lord Lyon does not extend to recognising Orders of Knighthood, a prerogative retained by the Crown and neither delegated to the London nor Edinburgh officers of arms, these matriculations have no value as “recognition” of the legitimacy of the modern revival as an Order of Chivalry.

The recent Vatican statement of 16 October 2012 declaring that only the Orders of Malta and the Holy Sepulchre can hold investitures and ceremonies in Catholic churches has caused some confusion among the Catholic hierarchy as well as the laity. This repeats the text of a statement issued earlier that year by the Italian conference of bishops – the latter, however, had included a very specific exception, excluding from the prohibition those Orders recognised as “Non-National Orders” by law 178 of 1951 (which also established the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic). The latter included those Orders defined as dynastic or family awards of the dynasties formerly ruling in Italy, but not those of the House of Savoy. Since none of the revived Orders of Saint Lazarus are recognised under law 178, the prohibition against the Order celebrating investitures or holding ceremonies in any Catholic Church must be considered definitive even if, in practice, it has been ignored by some senior members of the Catholic hierarchy who have unwisely associated themselves with this body. The Order has also been condemned by successive grand chancellors of the Order of the Legion of Honour who have demanded that members of Saint Lazarus do not wear insignia in France that imitates that of a chivalric Order.
Those who adhere to the Borbón-Seville faction of the revived Order must inevitably deny the legitimacy of a competing Order headed now by a cousin of the Count of Paris, Count Dobrzensky, and formerly under the grand mastership of a junior Orléans prince (styled “Duc d’Anjou”). This group is no more legitimate than the so-called Seville obedience but was assisted in its claim by the imprudent decision of the Count of Paris to accord the Order his “protection”. One might speculate as to what this “protection” is actually worth but those who believe that authority rested with the king of France and his successors may consider that the Count of Paris, as one of the two claimants to the headship of the House of France, could better claim to represent the historic protectors than the Melchite Patriarch. Since the Order had even ceased to exist in canon law, however, one cannot give any more worth to the Count of Paris’s claim to protect it than that of any other person who might feel the urge to found an “Order”. One British based group has done precisely that, using the same nomenclature and insignia but maintaining that their group is indeed a modern revival, with no links other than its name to the historic institution, now as extinct as the dinosaurs.



















[1] Condemnation of the Order of Saint Lazarus by the Holy See, Osservatore Romano of 15/16 April 1935: “Da tempo viene svolta attività intesa a far rivivere e ad introdurre in Italia l'Ordine Militare ed Ospedaliero di San Lazzaro ramo di Boigny, sia con l'offerta di onorificenze dell'Ordine per cavalieri e signore, sia con articoli diretti a sostenere l'esistenza dell'Ordine quale ramo francese dell’ antico Ordine di San Lazzaro di Gerusalemme, il cui ramo italiano venne fuso nel 1572 con l'Ordine di San Maurizio. Poiché l'Ordine di San Lazzaro di Boigny, non soltanto non è riconosciuto in Italia, ma risulta, anzi, definitivamente soppresso, per lo meno sin dal 1608, ad opera del Pontefice Paolo V e del Re Enrico IV, l'azione suindicata deve ritenersi illegale e sono state, pertanto, impartite le necessarie istruzioni perché sia fatta cessare, procedendo, ove occorra, nei confronti dei responsabili, ai sensi di legge. Abbiamo già più volte avuto occasione di accennare alla fioritura di pseudo-Ordini Cavallereschi, che si è notata in questi ultimi tempi in Italia e fuori. Qualunque sia la denominazione assunta da questi cosiddetti Ordini (S. Giorgio di Miolans o del Belgio, S. Maria di Nazareth, S. Maria di Bethlem, S. Lazzaro, e simili), si tratta sempre di riesumazioni di antichi Ordini Cavallereschi, che sono completamente estinti, fatte da persone private le quali svolgono generalmente un'azione intensa, che finisce col sorprendere la buona fede di moltissimi, che non possono valutare al giusto pulito queste iniziative sprovviste di ogni legittimità. Il fenomeno è tanto più grave se si considera che queste iniziative, essendo poste abilmente sotto titoli di Istituzioni religiose storiche, per il più delle persone, anzichè private - come sono in realtà - possono apparire sotto l'egida della Chiesa e della Santa Sede. Non tutti sono tenuti a sapere che gli antichi Ordini Cavallereschi erano dei veri e propri Ordini Religiosi, dipendenti dall'Autorità Ecclesiastica, come ogni altro Ordine religioso, e costituiti da professi che emettevano i voti sacri prescritti dalle Regole, e godevano i redditi dei benefici ecclesiastici di cui erano investiti. Ma questi antichi Ordini non hanno di comune se non il loro antico titolo (quando questo è stato conservato) con le moderne decorazioni Equestri, le quali per una completa trasformazione giuridica del primitivo istituito possono sussistere in quanto un Sovrano o Capo di Stato nei limiti della propria giurisdizione dia ad esse la legittima consistenza civile. Nulla di tutto questo nel preteso Ordine di S. Lazzaro. Sotto tale denominazione canonicamente per la Santa Sede non esiste più alcun Ordine da vari secoli. Lo aveva infatti già soppresso e incorporato all'Ordine di S. Giovanni (attuale Ordine di Malta) sin dal secolo decimo quinto; poi nel secolo decimo sesto, dopo una parziale e temporanea resurrezione, lo soppresse nuovamente come ente a sè, e lo incorporò all'Ordine di S. Maurizio (anno 1572), dando origine così all'attuale Ordine dei Ss. Maurizio e Lazzaro. A causa poi delle ardenti questioni politiche del tempo in Francia, non ostante le tassative disposizioni della Santa Sede, la casa priorale di Boigny, col relativo godimento di benefici ecclesiastici, riuscì a mantenersi in vita in forza esclusiva di decreti dell'autorità regia e civile. Come si vede era una posizione tutt’ altro che canonica e regolare per un Ordine religioso, sia pure, cavalleresco! Ma poi quando nel 1608 il Re di Francia Enrico IV, ad eliminare le continue difficoltà che sorgevano a questo proposito, ottenne dal Pontefice Paolo V il riconoscimento del nuovo Ordine di Nostra Signora del Monte Carmelo, attribuì a questo nuovo Ordine i beni, le case e le persone, che nei confini dei suoi Stati avevano già appartenuto all'Ordine di S. Lazzaro. Da ciò è avvenuto che in Francia sino alla Rivoluzione sia esistito un Ordine Cavalleresco che veniva chiamato cumulativamente di Nostra Signora del Carmela e di S.  Lazzaro; mentre tale Ordine per la Santa Sede e per la Curia Romana era  soltanto l'Ordine di Nostra Signora del Monte Carmelo. Ognuno comprende su quali labili arene sia stato costruito l'edificio del preteso Ordine di S.  Lazzaro, oggetto del comunicato surriferito; e come siano destituiti di fondamento e di realtà i titoli di Cavalieri, Commendatori ecc. (per i laici) di Monsignori (per gli ecclesiastici) che si attribuiscono coloro che vengono ascritti sia ad esso, come a qualunque altro dei pretesi Ordini sopra accennati”.

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