Translating non-European titles into European equivalents

In 1961, King Kigeli was in Kinshasa to meet Secretary General of the United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld when Dominique Mbonyumutwa, with the support of the Belgian government, led a coup d’état that took control of the Rwandan state. The monarchy’s rule was formally overthrown on 28 January 1961. The coup resulted in the 1961 referendum about the fate of the nation’s royal system. The King resided in the Unites States for the rest of his life.

In February 2007, during a discussion on a Google platform devoted to heraldry, the question of titles being awarded by former King Kigeli of Rwanda (1936-2016) was heavely dicussed. Following these discussions, the eminent Dr. Pier Felice degli Uberti, 15th Baron of Cartsburn, president of the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry, an academic body, issued an invitation on 19 February 2007 as follows:

I offer this possibility to those who have something to say against the idea of the King Kigeli to grant “honours” using name of “European nobiliary titles” (but I repeat they are not nobiliary titles but only honours): prepare a true study supported by due documentation, historical precedents, footnotes which quote precedent studies on the matter to be published in one of my reviews or better to participate in the next III International Colloquium of Genealogy organized by Institut International d’Etudes Généalogiques et d’Histoire des Families in San Marino from 28 September to 1 October 2007.

In the Economist of 3 October 2013 (Noble titles. Honours and offers. People still yearn for aristocratic titles, Some buy them), Pier Felice degli Uberti, is cited:

[Felice degli Uberti] finds Kigeli V’s trade in titles “very sad”. He has warned the ex-king that the titles do not form part of his historical tradition and should not be awarded. His majesty declined to comment but his secretary-general responded: “Who has the right to question his authorities but God and his countrymen?”

In the same article, the Economist further states that:

(..) titles can be issued for personal or political motives, as well as pecuniary ones. Prince Davit Bagrationi, pretender to the Georgian throne (vacant since 1801) has revived dormant orders. Some go to fellow-royals, such as the late King of Tonga, others to Georgian public figures.

In order to see if Felice degli Uberti raises fair objections, it might be interesting to find examples of non-European monarchies that copy the European system.

Japanese nobility

The Prussian courtier Ottmar von Mohl from 1887 to 1889 taught Western court etiquette to the members of the Imperial Household Ministry.

Ottmar von Mohl (1846 – 1922) was a German diplomat and government advisor in Meiji period Japan. He was recruited by the Meiji period Japanese government as a foreign advisor from 1887 to 1889. He and his wife, Wanda Countess von der Groeben, served with the Japanese Imperial Household Ministry in Tokyo, Japan to introduce European Court ceremonials and protocols to Japanese Emperor Meiji and his court. In his work Am japanischen Hofe – At the Japanese Court (Berlin, Reimer 1904), Von Mohl describes the way the European noble traditions were incorporated in the ancient, complex Japanese system (Takenobu, Yoshitaro (1863?-1930), The Japan yearbook; complete cyclopaedia of general information and statistics on Japan and Japanese territories), which in turn was based on the Chinese traditions. Von Mohl explains (pp. 70-71) that this mixture (see: Jacques Papinot: Dictionnaire d’histoire et de géographie du Japon illustré de 300 gravures, de plusieurs cartes, et suivi de 18 appendices, Tokyo et Yokohama/Shanghai/Hongkong/Singapore 1906 and (Earl Roy Miner, Robert E. Morrell & Hiroko Odagiri, The Princeton Companion to Classical Japanese Literature) resulted in a kind of Napoleontic nobility with ancient and “modern” titles:

Wie mir erklärt wurde, haben schon von altersher in Japan Rang- und Adelstitel bestanden, welche dem Vorbild in allen Dingen, China, entlehnt worden waren und mit chinesischen Buchstaben ausgedrückt wurden. Von den Europäern lernten sie nun die in England und Frankreich gebräuchlichen Titel Prince, Marquis, Comte, Vicomte, Baron kennen und übersetzten nun die chinesisch-japanische erbliche Rangklassifikation in diese Titel, deren Anerkennung bezw. Verleihung auf kaiserlichem Patente beruhte.

(…)

Die Japaner verbanden mit den europäischen Titeln ganz bestimmte geschichtliche Abstufungen und Anschauungen, und der Wunsch, diese den europäischen Titeln gleichwertig zu machen, veranlasste sie zur Annahme der uns geläufigen Bezeichnungen, was, ich läugne es nicht, auf Europäer zuerst einen komischen Eindruck machte. In neuerer Zeit sind die Kreierungen von Baronen, ja sogar von Marquis und Vicomtes, häufiger geworden, so dass eine Art napoleonischen Adels, eine Mischung von alten und neuen Familientiteln, in Japan entstanden ist.

Conclusions

In the case of Rwanda, the Royal Household officially states that (Guye Pennington, Guidance for Honors Publication):

Titles of nobility in the Kingdom of Rwanda historically consisted of the rank of Chief and Sub-Chief, but this was expanded by His Most Christian Majesty King Mutara III Rudahigwa. H.M. King Mutara III was in the process of revamping the honors system of Rwanda prior to his untimely death in 1959. As the fons honorum of the de jure Kingdom of Rwanda and an anointed King, His Most Christian Majesty King Kigeli V has the full legal right to create new traditions within his Kingdom and also finish the work previously began by his half-brother, Mutara III.

The example of Japan shows that such reforms are not uncommon. The choice of non-western monarchs (like e.g. the monarchs of Vietnam, Georgia, Ethiopia and Rwanda) to copy European nobility-traditions is sometimes criticized.

Nationaal Archief, Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Note the translated title of “Mesfin” to “Duke” of Harar. H.I.H. Prince (Le’ul) Pawlus Wossen Seged Makonnen, Duke of Harar (Mesfin Harar) was born at Addis Ababa on 21 August 1947. He was Imprisoned by the Dergue between 1974-1989 and is the Heir Presumptive since 17th January 1997. He is the son of Prince Makonnen Haile Selassie, Duke of Harar (baptismal name: Araya Yohannes; 16 October 1923 – 13 May 1957), who was the second son, and second youngest child, of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and Empress Menen Asfaw. He was made Mesfin (or Duke) of Harar in 1934.

The case of Rwanda differs from the Japanese situation. If the King had created honours and awards during his very brief period as king (1959 to 1961), there would not have been a problem. They might have been unconventional but, in my opinion, they would have been widely accepted. There is no authority to forbid the King to style his nobility in a Europen manner. I think the King simply wanted to make his titles more attractive to westerners. Given his situation, I cannot disagree with him. Issuing original Rwandan titles to Americans would by unconventional as well.

Interesting comments by Mr Christopher Buyers (FB 11-12 March 2017)

The date of creation by special dispensation of the Crown Council was 9th May 1934. Please see http://gallica.bnf.fr/…/f5.image.r=%22Duc%20de%20Harrar… The installation took place on 19th May 1934 at the Cathedral of Medhane-Alem, Dire-Dawa, 19th May 1934. Please see http://gallica.bnf.fr/…/f3.image.r=%22Duc%20de%20Harrar… [Note that Le Courrier d’Éthiopie should be quite reliable as it was printed in Harrar]. I don’t know if you realise that there were earlier creations, though for Europeans. Duc d’Entotto for the former Governor of Djibouti and sometime French Minister and Envoy to the court of Ethiopia, Comte (Leonce) Legarde by Menelik II.

(…)

Antoine Marie Joseph Léonce Lagarde (b. at Lempdes-sur-Allagnon, Haute-Loire, France, 10th October 1860; d. at l’Hôpital du Val de Grâce, Paris, France, 15th May 1936, bur. Lempdes), educ. LLB (1878), employed by the Holy Sea in Rome 1881-1882, Sec to Governor of Indo-China 1882-1883, Under-Sec of State for Marine & Colonies 1883, Special Cmsnr for the Delimitation of of the Obock Territory 1883-1884, Cdt of Obock 1884-1887, Governor of Obock and its dependencies 1887-1896, and of French Somaliland 1896-1899, Special Envoy and Minister Plenipotentiary to Menelik II 1896-1897, Ambassador to Ethiopia 1897-1907, Officer in Charge of Services to Sailors Killed or Prisoners of War 1907-1914, Dir of Special Mission for Naval Prisoners of War 1914-1918, Permanent Delegate for the Liquidation of Products and Prizes of the Sea 1920, retd 1929, Conductor of the French Negotiating Delegates at Geneva 1920, High Councillor to Ras Tafari Makkonen 1924-1930, General Delegate for Ethiopia at the League of Nations 1934. Author of “Le Comte Arakoff, nouvelle russe” (1880). Granted the papal title of Count Lagarde de Rouffeyroux by Pope Leo XIII in 1881 (after 25th August, apparently by purchase), and Duke of Entotto in March 1897 (on or before 28th March). Rcvd: GC of the Orders of Solomon, and the Star of Ethiopia, Cdr of the Order of the Legion of Honour of France, etc.

(…)

Colonel Nikolai Stepanovitch Leontiev (b. at Novogrudok, Grodno, 30th May 1862; d. at Paris, France, 4th July 1910, bur. there at Montmorency Cemetary, later transferred to Tikhvin Cemetery, St Petersburg, Russia), educ. Nikaievsky Military Sch, St Petersburg, Russia. Cmsnd as Ensign Imperial Life Guards Grodno Hussaars, prom Lieut, Leader Russiaan Overland Riding Expedition from Tiflis to India through Persia 1891, transferred Kuban Cossacks 1892, prom Capt on the Staff 1894, Leader Russian Geographical expedition to Ethiopia 1894-1895, Attached to Ethiopian Mission to St Petersburg 1895, Military Adviser to Menelik II during 1st Italo-Ethiopian War 1895-1896, Special Envoy from Emperor Menelik II to Rome Feb 1896. Invested by Menelik II with the title of Count at Wallo in April 1896. The patent of nobility was subsequently delivered in present of Negus Mikael of Wallo at Dese. Special Envoy from Emperor Menelik II to Istanbul Dec 1896, second for Prince Henri d’Orleans in his duel with the Count of Turin Vaucresson Aug 1897, Governor-General of Equatorial Provinces 1897-1899 & 1901-1902, Colonel of Regt of Senegalese Volunteer Rifles 1899, served in Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905 with Kuban Cossacks, Caucasian Dvsn. Mbr Russian Geographical Soc, Academy of Sciences, Russian Red Cross Society, etc. Leontiev also received at some point the rank of Dejazmatch, probably when placed in charge of the Equatorial Provinces July 1897. Rcvd: GC of the Orders of Solomon, and the Star of Ethiopia (1895), Knt 4th class of the Order of St Vladimir, 4th class Cross of St George of Russia, etc.

(…)

There is no contemporary evidence for such title [Count of Abai], and there is no place in Ethiopia I can find called Abai. Rather it is the name of the father of an Ethiopian who was sent to study in Russia, Piotr Tekle-Hawariate Abai aka Petia Abissinetz. Some Russian writers confused Leontiev to be his father, then reconciled the obvious difference in supposed father’s name by assuming that Abai was Leontiev’s territorial title, and the whole thing appears to have spiralled out of control from there. As far as I can work out, 1) Leontiev was not conferred with the title of Count of Abai, 2) he was not Tekle’s father, 3) neither Tekle nor his actual father Abai received the title of Count, and 4) only one title of Count seems to have been conferred, i.e. Leontiev.

Important sources

  • Stefan Unterstein, website about the Japanese nobility
  • This post was inspired by the article “Granting of Orders and Titles by H.M. King Kigeli V of Rwanda, paper prepared by dr W.H. Jones, Sydney, Australia, BSc (Econ) London, MA, PGCertTESOL, EdD Macquarie, JP NSW, 16 March 2007”. This article was published by me on Nobility News. I have no copy of the original document.

The legitimacy of the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem

Introduction

This weekend, I have had the pleasure of attending a very interesting lecture, given by a good friend, regarding the history of the Knights Templar (1119-1307). The lecture mentioned the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (OSMTH) as a modern successor of the ideology of this ancient and famous Order.

Detail of the Chinon Parchment, with details of the trail of the Knights Templar and the Pope's involvement (Vatican Museum secret archives library)

Detail of the Chinon Parchment, containing details of the trail of the Knights Templar and the Pope’s involvement (Vatican Museum secret archives library, reference number Archivum Arcis Armarium D 218. ASV, Archivum Arcis, Arm. D 217)

The original order of the Knights Templar was founded by Hugh de Payens, a French nobleman from the Champagne region, along with eight of his companions, in Jerusalem around 1119. In 1307, Philip IV of France arrested the Knights Templar on charges of blasphemy, idolatry, and sodomy. The investigation and trial into the alleged misdeeds of the Knights Templar took place in Rome between 1307 and 1312. On 18 March 1314 the Grandmaster and other knights of the Order were burned alive by order of King Philip. In September 2001, Barbara Frale, an Italian paleographer at the Vatican Secret Archives, found a copy of a document, known as the ‘Chinon Parchment’ in the Vatican Secret Archives. The document explicitly confirms that in 1308 Pope Clement V absolved Jacques de Molay and other leaders of the Order including Geoffroi de Charney and Hugues de Pairaud (Barbara Frale 2004, “The Chinon chart – Papal absolution to the last Templar, Master Jacques de Molay”, Journal of Medieval History 30 (2): 109–134). Another Chinon parchment dated 20 August 1308 addressed to Philip IV of France, stated that absolution had been granted to all those Templars that had confessed to heresy “and restored them to the Sacraments and to the unity of the Church” (Pierre Dupuy, Histoire de l’Ordre Militaire des Templiers Foppens, Brusselles 1751; Étienne Baluze, Vitae Paparum Avenionensis, 3 Volumes, Paris 1693. Nonetheless, the Pope suspended the order (see appendix 1, below for the details).

Wikipedia describes the OSMTH as follows:

The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, (Latin: Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani, OSMTH), is a self-styled order founded in 1945 by Antonio Campello Pinto de Sousa Fontes (1878-1960), claiming to be a continuation of the self-styled l’Ordre du Temple founded in France, 1705, officially reconstituted in 1804 by Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat, and recognized as an Order of Chivalry by its patron Napoleon Bonaparte in 1805; Fernando Campello Pinto Pereira de Sousa Fontes succeeded his father as the head of the order in 1960.

It is interesting to see to what extend the current OSMTH can be seen as a successor of the ideology of the ancient Templer Order.

Inspiration

An important personality regarding the revival of Templer history was Andrew Michael Ramsay. Raised a Calvinist, Ramsay converted to Catholicism in 1709. Leaving England for Holland in 1709, he soon moved to Cambrai (France) where he lived with the well-known mystical theologian, François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon (1651-1715), Archbishop of Cambrai.

Chevalier Andrew Michael Ramsay (1686–1743)

Chevalier Andrew Michael Ramsay (1686–1743)

In 1713 or 1714, Ramsay moved to Blois where he was employed as secretary to a co-founder of Quietism (a Christian philosophy), Madame Guyon. In 1716 Ramay moved to Paris, where he spent the rest of his life in and near that city (Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, pp. 280-315 vol 81 (1968). Much of Ramsay’s life is only known from Anecdotes de la vie de Messire André Michel de Ramsay a manuscript dictated by Ramsay, and now in the Bibliotèque Méjanes at Aix-en-Provence. Cited AQC, vol 81 (1968). Cf. Mackey’s Encyclopedia for a 1680 birth date).

It was in Paris where Ramsay met the Duc d’Orleans who admitted Ramsay as a member of the Royal and Military Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem. This entitled him to use the prefix of Chevalier. James, the Old Pretender, granted Ramsay a certificate of nobility in 1723. In 1728 he succeeded in having a diploma of nobility registered by the King of Arms in Edinburgh (Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, pp. 280-315 vol 81, 1968). In his famous  Oration of 1737, Ramsay suggested that Freemasons were closely connected to the Knights Templar (Gould’s History of Freemasonry – Vol. III, page 11, Compiled and Edited by R.’.W.’. Gary L. Heinmiller, Director, Onondaga & Oswego Masonic Districts Historical Societies):

At the time of the Crusades in Palestine many princes, lords and citizens associated themselves and vowed to restore the temple of the Christians in the Holy Land, to employ themselves in bringing back their architecture to its first institution. They agreed upon several ancient signs and symbolic words drawn from the well of religion in order to recognize themselves amongst the heathen and the Saracens. These signs and words were only communicated to those who promised solemnly, even sometimes at the foot of the altar, never to reveal them. This sacred promise was therefore not an execrable oath, as it has been called, but a respectable bond to unite Christians of all nationalities in one confraternity. Some time after our Order formed an intimate union with the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. From that time our Lodges took the name of Lodges of St. John. This union was made after the example set by the Israelites when they erected the second Temple who, whilst they handled the trowel and mortar with one hand, in the other held the sword and buckler.

Ramsay’s statements increased interest in Freemasonry. It also generated a strong desire among Masons to participate in orders with a knightly background. As a result, the Scottish Rite and York Rite branches of Freemasonry incorporated a number of knightly degrees. On 16 July 1782 a Masonic congress was held at Wilhelmsbad, near the city of Hanau in Hesse Cassel. The meeting was chaired by Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, who was at that time the Grandmaster of the Order of the Strict Observance. The meeting lasted for thirty sessions. When the congress was finally closed it concluded that ‘Freemasonry was not essentially connected with Templarism, and that, contrary to the doctrine of the Rite of the Strict Observance, the Freemasons were not the successors of the Knights Templars.” The result of its finding was that very soon many of the other Templars degrees and orders died out (Eugen Lennhoff, Oskar Posner, Dieter A. Binder, Internationales Freimaurerlexikon. 5. überarbeitete und erweiterte Neuauflage der Ausgabe von 1932. Herbig, München 2006; Ferdinand Runkel, Geschichte der Freimaurerei. 3 Bände. Reprint von 1932, Edition Lempertz, Königswinter 2006, Bd. 1, S. 193 ff.). The current Masonic order of Knights Templar derives its name from the medieval Catholic Order. However, it does not claim any direct lineal descent from the original Templar order.

l’Ordre du Temple

These events have been the seeds for a second important rivival of the Templar Order. In 1804 Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat (29 May 1773 – 18 February 1838) founded the l’Ordre du Temple, The Order of the Temple (see the Manuel des Chevaliers de l’Ordre du Temple).

In 1804 two French Freemasons, Philippe Ledru (1754-1832) and Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat (1775-1838) found the Order of the Temple (l’Ordre du Temple). Fabré-Palaprat was made its grandmaster. Fabré-Palaprat was the son of a surgeon in the Cahors, France. He studied at the diocesan seminary and was ordained a priest. He left the priesthood to study medicine. Fabré-Palaprat was awarded the Legion of Honour for his defence of Paris in 1814. He received the July Medal for his actions during the Three Glorious Days of the Revolution of 1830. Napoleon I, who viewed freemasonry favourably, allowed them to carry on their activities, including solemn processions in the streets of Paris with mantles and toques (see Malcolm Barber (ed): The military orders : fighting for the faith and caring for the sick Aldershot, Great Britain, 1994; Variorum and the Manuel des chevaliers de l’Ordre du Temple. Paris, 1817 (2d ed.: 1825); The manual of Palaprat’s French order). This Order was not a continuity of the Knights Templar, although Fabré-Palaprat fabricated the so-called Larmenius Charter. This document, started in Latin in 1324, listed 22 successive Grand Masters of the Knights Templar from 1324 to 1804, with Fabré-Palaprat’s name appearing last on the list.

Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith, GCB, GCTE, KmstkSO, FRS

Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith, GCB, GCTE, KmstkSO, FRS

In 1815, Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith, GCB, GCTE, KmstkSO, FRS (1764–1840) became associated with the French Order of the Temple. Smith was a British naval officer. Serving in the American and French revolutionary wars, he later rose to the rank of admiral. Napoleon Bonaparte said of him: “That man made me miss my destiny” (Thomas Pocock, “A Thirst for Glory: The Life of Admiral Sir Sidney Smith”, p.114, Pimlico 1998).

As admiral of the British navy Smith successfully defended Acre against Napoleon in 1799, and supposedly was given by the Greek archbishop a Templars’ cross (left in Acre by Richard Lionheart) in gratitude. This cross opened the doors for Sir Sydney who became a Templar and tried to create a branch of the Order in England, for which he was made Grand-Prior. His aim was to send the order to participate in the liberation and pacification of Greece and other areas under Ottoman control. He also tried to establish a base in Malta and taking over the old activities of the order of Saint-John (since Malta was then in the hands of the British). He managed to get Augustus-Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843) interested in the project. The duke of Sussex (6th son of George III) became Grand Prior of England. The duke was the Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge of England. In addition the English politician Charles Tennyson d’Eyncourt (uncle of the famous poet Alfred Tennyson) was attracted to the Order. On the death of Fabré-Palaprat, Smith became Regent of the order, but his subsequent death soon followed by that of the duke of Sussex dissipated the order in England. D’Eyncourt himself lost interest and resigned from the order in 1849 (see: François Velde, Heraldica, Revived and Recently Created Orders of Chivalry). The succession of the French branch of the Order is described by Serge Caillet in his important study: Trois siècles de résurgences templières:

Au tout début du XIXe siècle, en France, la légende templière commence à se répandre en marge de la franc-maçonnerie, dans le cadre d’un Ordre d’Orient et de la loge parisienne des chevaliers de la Croix, dirigée par un certain Dr Ledru, qui prétend détenir la succession magistrale du dernier Grand Maître secret de l’Ordre du Temple, le duc Timoléon de Cossé-Brissac (1734-1792) . Élu Grand Maître en 1804 [le 4 nov.], Bernard Raymond Fabré-Palaprat (1773-1838), un ancien séminariste devenu médecin, propage véritablement ce nouvel Ordre du Temple, sous le patronage de l’empereur Napoléon 1er, ce qui lui vaut d’attirer quelques personnages de renom. Fabré-Palaprat revendique en ligne directe la succession de Jacques de Molay, et, pour attester son lignage, produit même une charte, portant la signature de tous les Grands Maîtres depuis le Moyen Âge… C’est un faux, qui sera vite reconnu et dénoncé comme tel. Il n’empêche que l’Ordre eut en France sa période faste, ses notables, son clergé. (…) Peladan passe aussi pour avoir été Grand Maître, de 1892 à 1894 dit-on, de la lignée templière de Fabré-Palaprat. Je ne puis le garantir. (…) Le 19 janvier 1932, des Templiers de la lignée de Fabré-Palaprat (Joseph Cleeremans, Gustave Jonckbloedt et Théodore Covias) fondent à Bruxelles l’Ordre souverain et militaire du Temple, dont l’enregistrement paraît au Moniteur belge, le 20 janvier 1933. (…) En 1934, un Conseil de régence de ce qu’il reste de l’Ordre de Fabré-Palaprat place à sa tête Émile Vandenberg – avec un intermède par un certain Théodore Covias, de 1935 à 1942 – qui, le 23 décembre 1942, transmet ses pouvoirs au Portugais Antonio Campello Pinto de Sousa Fontes (1878-1960). En 1945, celui-ci fonde l’Ordre Souverain et Militaire du Temple de Jérusalem (OSMTJ), qui a son siège à Paris. L’OSMTJ s’est divisé en 1970, quand Fernando Campello Pinto de Sousa Fontes, fils d’Antonio Campello Pinto, a fondé l’Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani (OSMTH), qui a son siège à Porto. Nouvelle scission en 1996 quand naît  l’Ordre Suprême Militaire du Temple de Jérusalem, dont les membres souhaitent servir, tout comme les chevaliers des origines ont servi. La devise de l’ordre Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed Nomini Tuo da Gloriam est tirée du Psaume 115, verset 1 ‘Pas à nous, Seigneur, pas à nous, mais à Ton Nom seul donne la Gloire’

OSMTH

Caillet’s study shows that the OSMTH has its roots in 1804. The formal founding took place in Belgium in 1932 and was recorded in the Government Gazette in 1933. A Belgian priory was founded in 1815 by Albert-Francois marquis du Chasteler. After 1840, this Priory split into “Legitimate” and Masonic priories.

Dom Antonio Campelo Pinto de Sousa Fontes (30-03-1878 / 15-02-1960) 50° Magnus Magister et Princeps Regens 1942-1960

Dom Antonio Campelo Pinto de Sousa Fontes (1878-1960) 50° Magnus Magister et Princeps Regens 1942-1960

The Masonic Trinity of the Tower priory lasted until 1930, when it was abolished. In 1932 several former members established a new Grand Priory of Belgium, restored the Catholic tradition, and adopted the name   Knights of the Sovereign and Military Order of the Temple (Chevaliers de l’Ordre Souverain et Militaire du Temple). Shortly after, a move was made to restore the International Order with a Magisterial Council led by a regent. The second regent, Emile-Isaac Vandenberg was of jewish descent and used the name of his wife “Vandenberg” to protect himself from the Nazis. He played a key role is the further development of the Order. Vandenberg married on 21 November 1921, to Josefina Vandenberg and with his father-in-law and brother-in-law they founded the company of Vandenberg & Isaac, Furniture Manufacturers, based in Mechelen. Vandenberg was one of the eight founding members of the Sovereign and Military Order of the Temple in 1932, and succeeded Theodore Covias as Regent on 8 August, 1935. On 1 October 1935, he was elected 49th Grand Master of the Order although he occupied this post for only a relatively short time. In 1941 Germany invaded Belgium. On 23 December 1942, he issued a Decree transferring the office and the custody of the archive to Antonio de Sousa Fontes, Grand Prior of Portugal.  On 11 April 1943, the day after very heavy bombardments on Martsel, Vanderberg died when the car he was driving left the road and plunged into a small river called “Veste van Berchem,” near Antwerp, but, not being able to swim, he drowned. Vandenberg was buried at Mechelen. Unique documentation regarding his membership of the Order remains in the procession of his descendants.

Vandenberg’s main focus was to re-establish unity, in particular with priories in Italy, Portugal and Switzerland. The International Order became a confederation of Autonomous Grand Priories, known as OSMTH. To ensure Templar survival, Vandenberg made a temporary transfer of the archives to the care of the Portuguese Prior, Antonio Pinto de Sousa Fontes. It is often said that, once the war ended in 1945, de Sousa Fontes refused to return the archives. This cannot be the case, since Vandenberg died in 1943. After the sudden death of Vanderberg, de Sousa Fontes assumed the title of Regent. The International Order (OSMTH) became divided. Some Priories rejected De Sousa Fontes’ leadership. Two years later the Regent issued updated Statutes, in which he described the Order as being “traditionally Catholic, chivalric, cosmopolitan, independent and conservative.” In 1948 De Sousa Fontes designated his son, Dom Fernando de Sousa Fontes as his successor.

Crolian William Edelen (1920 - 2006)

Crolian William Edelen (1920 – 2006)

On 15 February 1960 De Sousa Fontes died. His son, Fernando de Sousa Fontes, succeeded him, assuming the title of Prince Regent. In the meantime, the Grand Prior of Switzerland, Anton Leuprecht, had been receiving Americans into the Swiss Grand Priory. As more Americans joined the Order, an American Grand Priory was formed. One of them was Crolian William Edelen. He was educated at the University of North Carolina, and was with Signal Intelligence in the India-Burma theatre of World War II. His actively pursued memberships numerous Orders. From 1966 until 1976, under the royal protection of the former King Peter II of Yugoslavia, he was Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta. As Emeritus remained a member of the Supreme Council. Formerly he had been Grand Prior of the U.S. Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, and held the Grand Cross from the autonomous Priory of Switzerland and from the Regent in Operto, Portugal. The Corporate Charter for the American Grand Priory was signed on 4 June 1962 by Edelen, William Y. Pryor, Herschel S. Murphy, Warren S. Hall, Jr., John D. Leet, Lawrence Stratton and George J. Deyo. The Grand Priory was incorporated in the State of New Jersey on 29 June. Edelen was chosen the first Grand Prior. The Prince Regent recognized the Autonomous Grand Priory of the United States (SMOTJ-GPUSA). In April 1964 the former king Peter II, became the Royal Patron of the American Grand Priory. He remained in this office until his death on 3 November 1970.

The International Order continued to have problems. In 1970 the De Sousa Fontes called together a Convent General of the Order to meet in three sessions: Paris, Chicago and Tomar, Portugal. Resolutions were passed that recognized the Order as “universal and not limited to any one nationality or Language”, and that the Order “shall be a Christian Order”. These efforts did not bring back unity to OSMTH.

Dom Fernando Pinto Pereira de Sousa Fontes, The Grand Master of the OSMTH

Dom Fernando Pinto Pereira de Sousa Fontes, The Grand Master of the OSMTH

With increasing opposition from European Grand Priories, De Sousa Fontes turned to the American Grand Priory, appointing members to the Grand Magistry. The situation remained calm until 1993 when de Fontes revised the Statutes so that he could become the “Grand Master”, a title his father previously assumed. Again the Prince Regent called a Convent General to meet in three sessions. At the first session in Santiago, Spain, the revised Statutes were presented, but no decisions were made. The final session held in London. In 1995, a proposed agenda, calling for basic reforms, was sent to De Sousa Fontes, now calling himself Grand Master. De Sousa Fontes cancelled the session. In reaction, the British Grand Prior, Major-General Sir Roy RedgraveKBE MC (16 September 1925 – 3 July 2011) called for an International Conclave, to explain his objections and concerns. At its meeting in June 1995 a list of reforms were drawn up to be presented to De Sousa Fontes. The Grand Priors agreed to meet in Salzburg, Austria on 3 November 1995 to receive the response. Besides the fate of De Sousa Fontes, during the Salzburg meetings, the future structure of the Order and its administration was discussed. On 2 November 2 1996, a document, known as the “Coordinated Statutes of the Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani” was adopted, stating the goals and structure of the Order as an international confederation of Autonomous Grand Priories. The separation from De Sousa Fontes was settled in New Orleans in 1999, where the Grand Magistral Council approved a previously drawn up Statement of Separation. A Grand Council of Grand Priors was formed to govern the Order, since the office of Grand Master was considered vacant (Source: personal notes from the archives of Sir Roy Redgrave – June 5, 2003). The current Order is therefore structured as a federation.

Conclusions and recommendations

OSMTH’s charitable works are of great importance to society. Therefore, it is essential to preserve a solid foundation of this internationally operating organisation. Despite OSMTH’s general disclaimer that it does not claim a direct heritage to the medieval Knights Templar, its aims, symbols and rites are obviously patterned after the medieval Order. The OSMTH can therefore best be described as a commemorative order. Nevertheless, in spite of these official disclaimers, other neo-templar groups insist that they have direct Templar origins.

The OSMTH cannot be seen as a self-styled or pseudo-order, as its direct predecessor (the Order of the Temple) was approved by Napoleon Bonaparte, by imperial decree in 1807. On 13 June 1853, it was given recognition by Napoleon III.  In 1918, the Order was re-registered in France in accordance with French law. The Grandmaster De Sousa Fontes was the direct link with the Order that was founded by Fabré-Palaprat. In my opinion, it is therefore a legitimate commemorative order. Wikipedia’s description of the OSMTH is incorrect.

I recommend the following regarding the future development of the OSMTH.

  • OSMTH enjoys the Patronage of HH Princess zu Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg (princess consort to the current Head of the Ducal House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg) and the Religious Protection of His Beatitude the Most Blessed Theodosius, Metropolitan (ret.) of the United States and Canada. The OSMTH could as well seek the patronage of a member of the House of Bonaparte to confirm the continuity with the original Order of the Temple. The headship of this family is in dispute between Charles, Prince Napoléon, (1950) and his son Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon (1986). The only other male member of the family is Prince Jérôme Napoléon (1957). A descendant of Napoleon’s sister Caroline Bonaparte is the American actor and singer René Murat Auberjonois. There are also a number of descendants of Napoleon’s illegitimate, but recognized son Alexandre Colonna-Walewski from his relation with Marie Countess Walewski. DNA studies have also confirmed the existence of descendants (the Clovis family) of Lucien Bonaparte, who was detained at sea by the British when on his way into exile in America. His son, Lucien Louis-Lucien Bonaparte, was a comparative linguist and dialectologist, and was born in England;
  • Electing a Grandmaster is in accordance with the traditions of the Order. Try to find an honorary (or second) Grandmaster with historical connections to the OSMTH. Legitimate honorary Grandmasters sould be related to the persons mentioned in this article.
  • Adequately conserve the archives of the Order, by making a professional description of its content and then make sure the archives are stored in a solid public library, such as the Bibliothèque nationale de France (already containing important documents regarding the Order of the Temple) or the Library of Congress. Interesting documents can be found in city the archives Reims as well;
  • Use only one single website (instead of multiple local websites) to promote coherence and avoid confusion.

Appendix 1: Statement by the Vatican regarding the parchment of Chinon

THE PARCHMENT OF CHINON THE ABSOLUTION OF POPE CLEMENT V OF THE LEADING MEMBERS OF THE TEMPLAR ORDER

Chinon, Diocese of Tours, 1308 August 17th-20th

Original document formed by a large parchment folio (700x580mm), initially provided with the hanging seals of the three papal legates who formed the special Apostolic Commission ad inquirendum appointed by Clement V: Brenger Frdol, Cardinal Priest of the titular church of the Most Holy Nereus and Achilleus and nephew of the pope, tienne de Suisy, cardinal priest of St. Cyriac in Therminis, Landolfo Brancacci, cardinal deacon of St. Angelo. In a reasonable state, even though there are some big violaceous stains, caused by bacterial attack. An authentic copy was enclosed to the original document, which is still kept in the Secret Vatican Archives, with the reference number Archivum Arcis Armarium D 218. ASV, Archivum Arcis, Arm. D 217.

The document contains the absolution Pope Clement V gave to the Grand Master of the Temple, friar Jacques de Molay and to the other heads of the Order, after they had shown to be repented and asked to be forgiven by the Church; after the formal abjuration, which is compelling for all those who were even only suspected of heretical crimes, the leading members of the Templar Order are reinstated in the Catholic Communion and readmitted to receive the sacraments. The document, which belongs to the first phase of the trial against the Templars, when Pope Clement V was still convinced to be able to guarantee the survival of the military-religious order, meets the apostolic need to remove the shame of excommunication from the warrior friars, caused by their previous denial of Jesus Christ when tortured by the French Inquisitor. As several contemporary sources confirm, the pope ascertained that Templars were involved in some serious forms of immorality and he planned a radical reform of the order to subsequently merge it into one body with the other important military-religious order of the Hospitallers. The Act of Chinon, which absolves the Templars, but does not discharge them, was the assumption required to carry out the reform, but it remained dead letter. The French monarchy reacted by triggering a true blackmail mechanism, which then urged Clement V to reach the ambiguous compromise ratified during the Council of Vienne in 1312: unable to oppose himself to the will of the King of France, Phillip the Fair, who imposed the elimination of the Templars, the pope removed the order from the reality of that period, without condemning or abolishing it, but isolating it in a sort of hibernation, thanks to a clever device of the canon law. After explicitly declaring that the trial did not prove the charge of heresy, Clement V suspended the Templar Order by means of a non definitive sentence, imposed by the necessity to avoid a serious danger to the Church that banned them, under penalty of excommunication, to use such name or their distinctive symbols.

Appendix 2: Grandmasters OSMTH

1804-1839  Bernard Fabre-Palaprat (Order of the Temple)
1839-1840  Sir William Smith
1840-1850  Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India – George V., King of Hanover
1850  Narcisse Valleray (Regent)
1866  A.G.M. Vernois (Regent)
1892  Joséphin Péladan (Regent)
1894  Secretariat International des Templiers
1934  Conseil de Regence – Joseph Vandenberg (Ordo Supremus Miltaris Templi Heirosolimytani)
1935  Theodore Covias (Regent)
1935-1942  Emile Isaac (Vandenberg) (Regent)
1942-1960  Antonio de Sousa Fontes (Regent)
1960- 1999 Fernando de Sousa Fontes (Regent)

The current Grandmaster of the Order is Patrick E. Rea, Brigadier General – US Army (Ret.)

The relation between genealogical and judicial truth

At the Rootstech 2016 conference, American genealogist James Ison made an interesting remark regarding direct and indirect genealogical evidence. Ison is currently Manager of Strategy and Planning at the Family History Library, an important genealogical research facility in Salt Lake City. The library is operated by FamilySearch, the genealogical arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ison earned a Master’s Degree from George Washington University. He is recognized as an authority in the field of genealogy. Ison stated:

Direct evidence is awesome. A birth certificate will list the name of parents. It’s direct evidence. It answers a question. A marriage license will say what the bride’s maiden name is. A baptismal record will say the dates and the places of birth—just exactly what we want.

(…)

Indirect evidence is like a puzzle piece. You can’t answer any particular question just based upon this piece of evidence. You have to fit it together.

In cases where only indirect evidence is available, the Genealogical Proof Standard is helpful in establishing credible research. The Standard is based on a book written by mrs Christine Rose; Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case. It includes five essential steps for accurate research:

  1. Reasonably exhaustive research has been completed.
  2. Each statement of fact has a complete and accurate source citation.
  3. The evidence is reliable and has been skillfully correlated and interpreted.
  4. Any contradictory evidence has been resolved.
  5. The conclusion has been soundly reasoned and coherently written.
Sir Roger Charles Doughty Tichborne, original taken by Thomas Helsby in Santiago, January - February 1854

Sir Roger Charles Doughty Tichborne, original taken by Thomas Helsby in Santiago, January – February 1854

Applying the Genealogical Proof Standard does not guarantee that the truth will prevail, but it serves accountability and transparency. In my opinion genealogical proof resembles Lakatos views on the concept of truth. Lakatos’ suggested that in science, a scientific theory should be seen as a succession of slightly different theories and experimental techniques. These theories all share a common hard core, called a research programme. The question of whether a theory is true of false is replaced by the question of whether a research programme is progressive or degenerating. A progressive research programme is characterized by growth and prediction of novel facts and more precise predictions. In contrast, a degenerative program is marked by a lack of growth and does not lead to novel predictions that are later verified (Imre Lakatos, Philosophical papers. Vol I: The methodology of scientific research programmes. I. Science – Philosophy 2. Mathematics – Philosophy. I. Title 11.). Genealogical research can also contain some of these characteristics. After establishing the basic facts (often in the form of a family tree), theories regarding missing facts can be based on indirect evidence. To a certain extend, they can be characterized as a prediction for finding direct evidence (e.g. a marriage certificate). If, for example, someone has lived and worked in England for all his life, it can be predicted that he has married in England and research regarding his marriage should not start in South America. A genealogical progressive research programme elaborates on certain basic findings and develops theories (in the form of predictions) about the missing information.

In some cases, genealogical evidence is used in legal matters. Legal evidence has a totally different character, in particular when court rulings are given. In such cases a progressive research programme can hardly be determined. The case ends in a decision in a relatively short period of time.

Judicial evidence

The judicial process can be seen as a a kind of black box, within which information from all kinds of sources is processed according to defined rules of evidence in order to produce a new form of truth: the ‘judicial truth’. This type of truth becomes, to a certain extent, simply one more competing version of truth. Like other versions, it can be accepted, refuted, celebrated or simply ignored. This is illustrated in two cases where genealogical evidence was essential for establishing judicial truth. In the first case, the evidence is in particular based on witness statements, with some degree of technical evidence. In the second case, conclusive evidence is given by a DNA-test.

The Tichborne case

The Tichborne case was a well-known legal dispute in Victorian England in the 1860s and 1870s. It concerned the claims by a man called Arthur Orton, later Thomas Castro, to be the missing heir to the Tichborne baronetcy. Orton failed to convince the courts, was convicted of perjury and served a long prison sentence.

Roger Charles Tichborne was born in Paris on 5 January 1829. He was raised mainly in France, although the Tichborne lands and fortune were based in Hampshire, England, where his uncle was the 8th baronet. As a result of his upbringing, Roger spoke English with a strong French accent.  At the age of 20, Roger joined the 6th Dragoon Guards in Dublin, but sold his commission three years later in 1852. In 1853, Roger’s father inherited the Tichborne baronetcy after the deaths of his two elder brothers. In the same year, Roger, now the heir to the Tichborne title and fortune, travelled to South America. In 1854, he boarded a ship, the Bella, bound for New York, but less than a week later, the Bella was lost at sea and Roger was declared dead in 1855. The Tichborne baronetcy was passed to Roger’s younger brother Alfred in 1862 when his father died. Alfred died only four years later, just months before the birth of his son, who inherited the title at birth in 1866.

Roger’s mother, Lady Henriette Tichborne, was devastated by the news of her son’s disappearance at sea. She remained hopeful that he had survived the shipwreck and sent out inquiries across the world as to his whereabouts. In November 1865, Australian solicitor William Gibbes sent Lady Tichborne a letter, informing her that a man, claiming to be her son, had contacted him. This man was a butcher from Wagga Wagga, calling himself Tom Castro. Although he was physically larger than Sir Roger, had lighter hair and spoke no French, these discrepancies did not bother Lady Tichborne, who had not seen her lost son for more than ten years.

After Lady Tichborne’s death in 1868, Orton was compelled to continue the pretence, as he needed the Tichborne inheritance to pay off his large debts. This led some of the Tichborne family to take him to court over his claim, beginning one of the most celebrated legal cases of the nineteenth century.

The first trial lasted almost a year, from 11 May 1871 to 5 March 1872. Tichborne v. Lushington was a civil trial to establish Orton’s claim to the Tichborne inheritance. Nearly one hundred people spoke in Orton’s defence, but the holes in his story soon became obvious, particularly his inability to speak French – Sir Roger’s childhood language.

Arthur Orton’s perjury trial, Regina v. Castro, began in 1873 and lasted over six months. This time a jury had to be convinced that Orton’s claim to be the lost Sir Roger Tichborne was false. Again, the evidence against Orton was damning, and in February 1874, he was convicted of two counts of perjury and sentenced to 14 years’ hard labour by Lord Chief Justice Sir Alexander Cockburn (source: State Library New South Wales).

An important issue was the degree of facial resemblance of Orton to the Tichborne family, which fact never has been fully explained. It may suggest that there was some kind of biological relation between Orton and the Tichborne family. In the University College London Galton Papers a document can be found, stating:

2225. [stamped in left margin]University College London Galton Papers 158/2M[end stamp] [underscore]MEMORANDUM We have had submitted to us, for Examination,[end underscore] enlarged authentic [italics]Photographs;[end italics] First, of Mr. Roger Tichborne, (date, 1854): Secondly, of the person claiming to be Sir Roger Tichborne, (date, 1874). [underscore]These Portraits have Geometrically Bisected[end underscore]: and the several divided sections we have ourselves affixed, interchanged, and transferred from one Portrait to another. [underscore]We are of Opinion that the Perfect Combination[end underscore] and Minute Correspondence of the several sections are [italics]bona fide[end italics] and unimpeachable, and fully justify the conclusion that [italics]one and the same person sat for each portrait.[end italics] Fredk. Snary, Photographer, [established, 1856] 26, Castle Street, Bristol. Louis Lowenthall, Photographer, [established, 1858] 14, N. Wine Street, Bristol. John Hayward, Print-Seller, [established, 1840] 1, Corn Street, Bristol. Frederick Bowden, Print-Seller, [established, 1850] 27, U. Arcade, Bristol. H. Gardiner, Ornamental Carver, [30 years] 28, Victoria Place, Clifton. T. Sherwood, Smith, Practical Surveyor and Land Agent [40 years] 30, Corn St. Bristol. [end]

The case however was finally solved by applying classic legal rules of evidence. There was no room for developing a research programme.

The Pringle of Stichill case

The law is a living construct. It develops with society, bringing new challenges and new opportunities into the courtroom. Currently, the law is changing rapidly as a result of the ongoing evolution of digital technology. In one specific field, that of evidence gathering for genealogical purposes, the Pringle of Stichill-case should be seen as a milestone case.

On 5 January 1683 Charles II granted the Baronetcy of Stichill (“the Baronetcy”) to Robert Pringle of Stichill “and the male heirs of his body”. The eighth baronet was Sir Norman Robert Pringle, who lived from 1871 to 1919. He married Florence Vaughan, who gave birth to Norman Hamilton Pringle (“Norman Hamilton”) and subsequently to two more sons, the first of which was Ronald Steuart Pringle (“Ronald Steuart”), who died in 1968. Norman Hamilton was enrolled without opposition as the ninth baronet. When he died in 1961 his son Sir Steuart Robert Pringle (“Sir Steuart”) was enrolled without opposition as the tenth baronet. Sir Steuart died in April 2013.

The two claimants in this matter are Sir Steuart’s son, Simon Robert Pringle (“Simon”), and Norman Murray Pringle (“Murray”), son of Ronald Steuart. Following Sir Steuart’s death, both Simon and Murray registered claims to succeed to the Baronetcy. Simon’s claim is made on the basis that, as Sir Steuart’s male heir, he is entitled to be enrolled as the 11th baronet. Murray, however, claims that Norman Hamilton was not the legitimate son of the eighth baronet and that accordingly the true ninth baronet was his late father, Ronald Steuart. Murray thus claims to be the true tenth baronet.

Murray’s claim relies upon DNA evidence obtained as part of “the Pringle Surname Project”. This was founded by Murray to determine the chieftainship of the clan Pringle, and the late Sir Steuart provided his DNA for the project. Expert opinion on the totality of the DNA evidence was that it provided “very strong support” for the view that the eighth baronet is grandfather to Murray but not Sir Steuart. Simon does not dispute the DNA evidence, but he raises four arguments as to why it should not be admitted on public policy grounds. By this reference the Board is required to advise Her Majesty as to (i) who is entitled to be entered on the Official Roll of the Baronetage as the Baronet of Pringle of Stichill and (ii) whether the DNA evidence should be admitted in order to determine the first question.

The Board finds that there is no legal ground for excluding the DNA evidence, which demonstrates to a high degree of probability that Norman Hamilton was not the son of the eighth baronet. The Board therefore concludes that (i) Simon is not the great grandson of the eighth baronet and is not the heir male of the first baronet; and (ii) Murray is the grandson of the eighth baronet and is, as the heir male of the first baronet, entitled to succeed to the Baronetcy (source: The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Privy Council Reference No 0079 of 2015).

Conclusions

The term ‘evidence’ is widely used in many different ways and in many different contexts. Genealogical evidence is often used for claims regarding the use of titles of nobility. Even when based on so-called ‘direct’ evidence, it is not certain whether these claims are true or not true, as the Pringle case shows. The concept of truth is the core of many philosophical discussions and it is my advice to be careful when claims of nobility or genealogy are either accepted, refuted, celebrated or simply ignored. In numerous cases regarding such claims, truth is no more and no less than a personal choice, often based on the assumption that written statements in official registers correspond with biological facts (see e.g. C.W. Delforterie, Liegen tegen de dominee: drie voorbeelden van het laten dopen van buitenechtelijke kinderen als zijnde tijdens een huwelijk verkregen / door C.W. Delforterie In: Liber Amicorum Jhr. Mr. C.C. van Valkenburg / [met een ten geleide van A. Snethlage en bijdr. van W.J. Kolff … et al.]. – ‘s-Gravenhage: Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie, 1985. – P. 69-80: geneal. tab. Met lit. opg.). One thing is certain. Written statements cannot change biological/genealogical facts but such facts can change written statements.

Advice on buying manorial lordships

Introduction

A very interesting document is available on the internet, called “Manorial Lordships and Statutory Declaration. A Cautionary Description“. On the first page it reads:

The principal interest lies in the paradox he explains – that the much used Statutory Declaration proves not that a vendor owns a manorial lordship, but rather that he probably does not.

Numerous manorial lords rely on a statutory declaration for proving that their manorial title is genuine. Does this mean that most of them actually cannot prove the ownership of the manorial title?

Development

In the feudal system all legal and economic power belonged to the lord of the manor or king, who was supported economically from his land and from labour, goods, or coin from tenants under his authority.

In 1446 King Henry VI obtained parliamentary ratification of the many grants of land he had made to King's College of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Eton by a Consolidation Charter. The illumination of its opening letters, shown above, is a beautiful example of English 15th century art. In it the King kneels to offer his charter on the altar with the Cardinals, Bishops, Lords and Commons behind him.

In 1446 King Henry VI obtained parliamentary ratification of the many grants of land he had made to King’s College of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Eton by a Consolidation Charter. The illumination of its opening letters, shown above, is a beautiful example of English 15th century art. In it the King kneels to offer his charter on the altar with the Cardinals, Bishops, Lords and Commons behind him.

Feudal land tenure is the system by which land was held by tenants from their lords. Tenures were divided into free and unfree. Of the free tenures, the first was tenure in chivalry. The second form of free tenure was the spiritual tenure of bishops or monasteries. Their sole obligation was to pray for the souls of the granter and his heirs. In contrast to the free tenants, who’s services were always predetermined, the unfree tenure they were not. The unfree tenant never knew what he might be called to do for his lord. This uncertainty was later limited in a way that the tenant could not be ejected in breach of existing customs of the manor. The land was thus held according to the custom of the manor (written evidence from Dr Paul Stafford, Submission to the Justice Select Committee Inquiry into Manorial Rights). Court Rolls of the manor came to record the title of the tenants of the manor to their properties and the tenants were given a copy of the entry recording their title. A tenant who held land in this way was known as a copyholder (House of Commons Justice Committee, 2015).

The fundamental characteristic of the manorial system was economic. The peasants held land from the lord (French: seigneur) of an estate in return for fixed dues in kind, money, and services. An interesting question is that of the origin of the manorial organization; Roman or German origin. This question cannot be answered decisively because there is not sufficient evidence. Romanists state that during the decline of the Roman Empire, independent estates emerged. Germanists point to the likenesses of the manor to what can be seen as the ancient German system of landholding. It is now generally accepted that both German and Roman influences contributed to the development of the manorial system.

Manors were also judicial and administrative units with their own manorial courts, where lords were responsible for jurisprudence. Historically, landowners with significant holdings often retained ownership of any mines or minerals on the land even when it was sold on. In such cases they would own the land beneath the surface (known as ‘mines and minerals’) while another owner exercised the rights of the surface land. Landowners may also have specific rights relating to the surface of the land, for example, the rights to hunt, shoot or fish (written evidence from Christopher Jessel, author of “The Law of the Manor”, Submission to the Justice Select Committee Inquiry into Manorial Rights).

The manorial system was slowly replaced by money-based economies and other agricultural agreements. During the Tudor period many of the civil functions of the manor were removed. It led to a decline of the manorial system. Feudal tenures were formally abolished in 1660. In England, this led to the establishment of absolute property rights for big landowners, and to vociferous demands by Levellers (a political movement during the English Civil War; 1642–1651) and other radicals that copyholders — the majority of the peasantry — should receive equal security for their tenure. 

 

During the nineteenth century the holding of manor courts gradually came to an end, and in 1925 copyhold tenure formally ended in accordance with the Law of Property Acts, 1922 and 1924. Since then the holder was personally free and paid rent in lieu of services. The Manorial Documents Register was established in 1926 to record the location of documents and ensure that they could be traced if they were required for legal purposes. Some manorial courts continued to meet in the 20th century and technically courts can still meet, although they would have no real business to transact. Before the Land Registration Act 2002 it was possible for manors to be registered with HM Land Registry. Manorial incidents (the rights that a lord of the manor may exercise over other people’s land) lapsed on 12 October 2013 if they were not registered by then with HM Land Registry. Distinctive feudal remnants remain in the Isle of Man and in the Channel Islands (three distinct systems for Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney). The island of Sark was a remaining example of a feudal fief. Sark gave up being a feudal fife several years ago under EU pressure. Male primogeniture never applied to manorial or seignuer titles, as Sark has had a female Seignuer in its past. (see: Christine Alice Corcos, From Agnatic Succession to Absolute Primogeniture: The Shift to Equal Rights of Succession to Thrones and Titles in the Modern European Constitutional Monarchy, 2012 Mich. St. L. Rev. 1587, 2014).

Characteristics of Manorial Rights

Manorial rights are part of English property law (the law of acquisition, sharing and protection of valuable assets in England and Wales). As such they can be bought and sold as objects. Manorial Lordships can thus be transferred, conveyed or sold to other people. The lordship of the manor is simply the title by which the lord of the manor is known. In many cases the title may no longer have any land or rights attached to it. Because of its origin and lack of physical substance, it is known as an ‘incorporeal hereditament’. Incorporeal hereditament means ‘an interest having no physical existence’ (see: Walker vs Burton 2012, sub 47; UK Government, Practice guide 22, manors).

The brother of the late Princess Diana , Charles, Ninth Earl Spencer offered one of his many titles - that of Lord of Wimbledon - for sale at a public auction on June 26, 1996 as advertised in Financial Times on May 27, 1996:

The brother of the late Princess Diana , Charles, Ninth Earl Spencer offered one of his many titles – that of Lord of Wimbledon – for sale at a public auction on June 26, 1996 as advertised in Financial Times on May 27, 1996:

The Land Registry describes manorial rights as rights which were retained by lords of the manor when land became freehold. They can include rights to mines and some minerals, sporting rights such as hunting, shooting and fishing, and rights to hold fairs and markets. Manorial rights are “overriding rights” which may affect a property even if they had not previously been protected in the register maintained by the Land Registry.

Following the enactment of the 2002 Land Registration Act, which required manorial rights to be registered before 13 October 2013 if they were to be retained, more than 90,000 applications to enter a notice claiming manorial rights on properties in England and Wales had been made to the Land Registry prior to the deadline.

Lord of the Manor

Whoever owns the lordship of the manor is entitled to refer to themselves as lord of that manor, for example, Lord of the manor of Keswick (source: UK Government, Practice guide 22, manors). The right to use the term “Lord of the Manor of Keswick” should, in my opinion,  be seen as a legal custom right (to seek recognition that one is the owner of a specific manorial right) as it meets certain basic requirements in this respect (see e.g.: customary Law in Modern England, W. Jethro Brown, Columbia Law Review Vol. 5, No. 8 (Dec., 1905), pp. 571). The term can be seen as a synonym for ownership with a historical background. The term should not be seen as a titular dignity, but rather as a factual appellation, which – within the feudal social system – was used to describe the relationship between the Lord of the Manor in relation to his own tenants.

The vast majority of lordships belong to an individual or a trustee. A lordship might be held in a limited company, or a ‘corporation sole,’ such as the Lord Mayor and Corporation of the City of London, who are Lords of the King’s Manor, Southwark (source: Manorial Society of Great Britain, Advice on buying a manorial title).

Manorial lord and nobility

It is generally assumed that manorial titles are not titles of nobility. I tend to a more balanced view. In his book, The Constitutional History of England (Cambridge University Press, 1909 [1st Pub. 1908]), Professor F.W. Mailland notes:

Dark as is the early history of the manor, we can see that before the Conquest England is covered by what in all substantial points are manors, though the term manor is brought hither by the Normans. Furthermore, in the interests of peace and justice, the state insists that every landless man shall have a lord, who will produce him in court in case he be accused. Slowly the relation of man and lord extends itself, and everywhere it is connected with land. The king’s thanes then are coming to be the king’s military tenants in chief.

This description characterizes nobility. Shortly after the battle of Hastings in 1066, the invading Normans and their descendants replaced the Anglo-Saxons as the ruling class of England. William the Conqueror divided the land into manors which he gave to his Norman barons. The nobility of England were part of a single Norman culture and many had lands on both sides of the channel. Early Norman kings of England, as Dukes of Normandy, owed homage to the King of France for their land on the continent. The Norman barons were summoned by the king from time to time to a Royal Council where they would advise him. By the mid 13th century, these meetings would form the basis for the House of Lords (professor Marjorie Chibnall, The Normans).

Originally, only a noble could hold a manor (professor Marjorie Chibnall, The Normans).  Later, commoners could also own a manor. The current manorial lords may well be seen as a relic of the ancient Norman noble class.

Conclusions

It is essential to buy a manorial lordship from the legal owner. With Lordships, title is generally traced back 50 years or more (source: Manorial Society of Great Britain, Advice on buying a manorial title). Proof of ownership is sometimes found in family or estate documents like assents, probates, wills, mortgages and settlements. Statutory declarations (a written statement of fact that is signed in the presence of a solicitor) are another common way to prove legal ownership. In my opinion it is not correct to say that when a statutory declaration is used in combination with persuasive exhibits from secondary sources, the use of such a statutory declaration is rebutting evidence of the legal ownership of the manorial lordship. When ownership is disputed however, the presence of all deeds, correctly made up since 1189 is required. The absence of correct and complete sets of deeds requires Court approval to confirm ownership (Burton v Walker).

I therefore recommend to obtain a manorial title from a reputable company and consult a lawyer in advance.

Sources

  • Property Law Journal: 24 January 2011. Paul Stafford explains why those who hold a manorial title, or those who challenge it, must examine the foundations on which the particular title stands.
  • P. G. Vinogradoff, Villainage in England (1892, repr. 1968) and The Growth of the Manor (3d ed. 1920, repr. 1968)
  • N. S. B. Gras and E. C. Gras, The Economic and Social History of an English Village (1930, repr. 1969)
  • H. S. Bennett, Life on the English Manor (1937, repr. 1960)
  • M. Bloch, French Rural History (tr. 1966)
  • J. W. Thompson, Economic and Social History of the Middle Ages (2 vol., new ed. 1959) and Economic and Social History of Europe in the Later Middle Ages (new ed. 1960).
  • Britanica.com

Further reading

Links

Jurisprudence

  • A spectacular example of a dispute over manorial rights comes from the recent and widely reported case of Burton v Walker. There are four decisions in Burton v Walker: the preliminary issue and substantive hearings before Adjudicators to the Land Registry; an appeal to the Chancery Division and a second appeal to the Court of Appeal. The references are REF 2007/1124 (Mr Edward Cousins, 14 May 2009); REF 2007/1124 (Mr Simon Brilliant, 10 Dec 2010); [2012] EWHC 978 (Ch), [2012] All ER (D) 131 (Mr Jeremy Cousins QC); and EWCA [2013] Civ 1228 (Mummery LJ giving the only substantive judgement).
  • Baxendale v Instow Parish Council (1982) Ch 14
  • Crown Estate Commissioners v Roberts (2008) EWHC 1302. The defendant claimed ownership as Lord Marcher of St Davids of historical rights in foreshores in Pembrokeshire. The claimants sought removal of his cautions against first registration.
  • Delacherois v Delacherois (1864) 11 HLC 62
  • Corpus Christi College Oxford -v- Gloucestershire County Council CA ([1983] QB 360)
  • Doe d Clayton Bart. v Williams (1843) 11 M&W 803
  • Re Holliday (1922) 2 Ch 698
  • Merttens v Hill (1901) 1 Ch 842
  • Morris v Smith and Paget (1585) Cro. Eliz. 38
  • Rooke v Lord Kensington (1856) 2 K & J 753
  • Simpson v Attorney General (1904) AC 476

Line of succession to the former throne of Germany

Heraldic Ring of Kaiser Wilhelm II with Royal Crown, Coat of Arms of Hohenzollern and The Prussian Order of The Black Eagle

Heraldic Ring of Kaiser Wilhelm II with Royal Crown, Coat of Arms of Hohenzollern and The Prussian Order of The Black Eagle.

Introduction

The claims to the (combined) thrones of Kingdom of Prussia and the German Empire are related to the Constitution of the German Empire (Verfassung des Deutschen Reiches) of 1871.  According to this constitution, the empire was a federally organised national state of 25 German states. The office of Bundespräsidium was held by the King of Prussia, who had the title of German Emperor.

The Wikipedia article about the line of succession of the former German throne reads:

The German Empire and Kingdom of Prussia were abolished in 1918. The current head of the former ruling House of Hohenzollern is Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia. The Law of Succession used is Agnatic Primogeniture.

The Telegraph of 26 December 2001  reads:

THE man (Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia) who has just won a legal victory to declare himself the head of Germany’s last ruling royal family says he is perfectly happy with life as a citizen of a republic.

Did the courts really rule in favour of Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia as being head of Germany’s last ruling family?

German law of succession to the throne

Wilhelm of Prussia, ex-crown prince, with the participation of former emperor Wilhelm II, named his second son – Louis-Ferdinand prince of Prussia (d. 1994) – as first heir (Vorerb).  After his death his eldest son (unborn in 1938) was to be the next heir (Nacherb), or, should that son not survive Louis Ferdinand, in his stead his eldest male offspring; in the absence of male issue his eldest brother (or in his stead his sons).  The contract, however, made one exception to the rule on the succession of the next heir: any son or grandson of Louis-Ferdinand was ineligible to inherit if he were not the issue of a marriage made in accordance with the house laws of the house of Brandenburg-Prussia, or if he was in a marriage not in accordance with said laws (so called ineligibility clause).

Legal disputes

This clause led to several legal disputes.

Crown of William II, Hohenzollern Castle Collection (photo Wiki Commons)

Crown of William II, Hohenzollern Castle Collection (photo Wiki Commons)

The legal question, which was a question of civil or private law, was whether the designation was valid, and the exclusion of unequally-married or -born offspring was valid. The matter decided was not “headship of the house” but inheritance of a certain estate; indeed, the phrase “head of  house” or some equivalent has not been decided.  The issue was a contract which set up a specific rule of transmission.  The court decided that the clause which Wilhelm had created in his testament was valid, because of the right to dispose of one’s estate. If Wilhelm had decided to impose a religious requirement, or a height requirement, or to leave his estate to his his dog, the court might well have upheld it as well, because of the right to dispose of one’s estate without infringement of the personal rights of one’s offspring (see the important article of F. Velde, The Hohenzollern Succession Dispute, 1994-present).

The succession rules regarding the throne of Germany have ceased to exist when the Constitution of the German Reich (Die Verfassung des Deutschen Reiches), usually known as the Weimar Constitution (Weimarer Verfassung) came into effect. The constitution declared Germany to be a democratic parliamentary republic with a legislature elected under proportional representation and thus abolished the German empire. Therefore, the courts of the German Federal Republic have no jurisdiction regarding the headship of the House of Hohenzollern. In the mentioned cases, the courts therefore never ruled regarding the headship. The media have not quite understood the rulings.

Conclusions

Louis Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia was the third in succession to the throne of the German Empire, after his father, German Crown Prince William and elder brother Prince Wilhelm of Prussia. The monarchy was abolished in 1918. When Louis Ferdinand’s older brother Prince Wilhelm renounced his succession rights to marry a non-royal from the lesser nobility in 1933, Louis Ferdinand took his place as the second in the line of succession to the German throne after the Crown Prince. Louis Ferdinand married the Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna of Russia in 1938. The couple had four sons and three daughter. Their sons are listed below:

1. Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia (9 February 1939 – 29 September 2015). Sons:

  • (a) Philip Kirill Prinz von Preußen (born 23 April 1968).
  • (b) Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Ferdinand Kirill (born 16 August 1979).
  • (c) Joachim Albrecht Bernhard Christian Ernst (born 26 June 1984).

2. Prince Michael of Prussia (22 March 1940 – 3 April 2014).

3. Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia (25 August 1944 – 11 July 1977). Son:

  • (a) Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia (born 10 June 1976 Bremen).

4. Prince Christian-Sigismund of Prussia (born 14 March 1946). Son:

  • (a) Prince Christian Ludwig Michael Friedrich Ferdinand of Prussia (born 16 May 1986).

Louis Ferdinand’s two eldest sons (1) and (2) both renounced their succession rights in order to marry commoners. His third son, and heir-apparent, Prince Louis Ferdinand died in 1977 during military manoeuvrers. It is generally accepted that his one-year-old grandson Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia (3a, son of Prince Louis Ferdinand) became the new heir-apparent to the Prussian and German Imperial throne. According to these lines, Georg Friedrich became the pretender to the thrones and Head of the Hohenzollern family upon Louis Ferdinand’s death in 1994.

Traditionally the Agnatic Primogeniture rules have been used to determine the succession of headship of the House of Hohenzollern. These rules do not have any legal binding since 1919. A “headship of the House of Hohenzollern” does not exist under German law. Renouncing the headship of a family or the claim to a non-existing entity (throne), therefore does not have any legal effect in Germany. The only legal fact that German law can determine is the fact that Philip Kirill Prinz von Preußen (1a) is the oldest living relative of the last German emperor. If the head of the House Hohenzollern is defined as the last living male relative according to German law, then Philip Kirill (1a) is head of the House Hohenzollern. If the head of the House Hohenzollern is defined as the man who is selected by some members of the family (holding a certain authority), then Georg Friedrich (3a) is head of the House. The choice of definition is a personal one, not a legal or historical one. Head of the House cannot mean a person who inherits or has a right of inheritance in the property of a family member following the latter’s death, since this can be anyone.

The legitimacy of modern knightly orders from a theological perspective

An early 14th-century German manuscript depicting a knight and his lady.

An early 14th-century German manuscript depicting a knight and his lady.

Remembering the past is an important theme in both the Old (e.g. Hebrews 13:2-3) and New Testament (e.g. John 14:26). I am working on a research project that will have a historical focus. In particular, I would like to focus on the history of a specific Christian knightly order from a practical theological (therefore empirical) perspective and examine to what extent its Christian traditions have survived the course of time. These religiously-based Catholic societies, originally established during the medieval crusades and mostly made up of confraternities of knights, were formed to protect the Christians against foreign aggression and persecution, especially against the Islamic conquests and Baltic Paganism in Easter Europe. The original features of these societies consisted of a combination of religious and military actions. Some of the Christian knightly order, in particular the Knights Hospitaller, also cared for the sick and poor.

Since 2007, I am working on a study that focuses on the legitimacy of modern Christian knightly orders. Such orders were originally characterized as orders, confraternities or societies of knights, often founded during or in inspiration of the original Roman Catholic military orders of the medieval crusades (circa 1099-1291). They were inspired by medieval notions of chivalry, being an ethos in which martial, aristocratic and Christian elements were fused together (Stair Sainty 2006; Keen: 2005). In modern days similar (mimic) orders have been established by monarchs (or their descendants) and governments with the purpose of bestowing honors on deserving individuals. Examples of ancient knightly orders that survived in modern times are the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George and the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus.

The legitimacy of Christian knightly orders is discussed heavily on the internet and in literature (Stair Sainty’s book of about 2000 pages focusses on the issue). The current study is inspired by a PhD thesis of Hoegen Dijkhof (2006), addressing the legitimacy of a number of knightly orders from a historical and legal perspective. In my study I will address the issue of legitimacy from a Christian perspective. A major and often overlooked problem is the definition of both the terms legitimate and knightly order. This aspect of the problem has been raised by Velde (1996).

Activities of modern knightly orders

Modern knightly orders have abandoned their original military mission and focus on spiritual and charity activities. Normally knightly orders demand of its members that the are living their lives as Christians and remain mindful of their obligations to undertake hospitaller assistance, as well as charitable and other good works. The Spanish Constantinian Order for example stresses that it is important for members to lead a life as “perfect” Christians:

Members of the Order are expected to live their lives as perfect Christians and contribute to the increase of religious principles both by action and example. They must be faithful to the traditional teachings of the Church and regularly participate in the solemn celebration of the Liturgy according to the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms and, when appropriate, the particular local forms (notably the Ambrosian, Latin-Byzantine or Mozarabic Rites).

Henri d'Orléans, aujourd'hui comte de Paris, duc de France et actuel chef de la maison royale de France, pose pour le photographe, le 10 juin 2002 au Sénat à Paris, avant un discours officiel qu'il doit donner au Sénat à l'occasion de la présentation de son livre : "La France à bout de bras". AFP PHOTO MEDHI FEDOUACH

The French branch of the Order of Saint Lazarus enjoys its official Temporal Protection from the Royal House of France. AFP PHOTO MEDHI FEDOUACH. Other branches of the Order enjoy the protection of the Duke de Borbon Parma and the Duke of Sevilla.

The hospitaller mission is also considered of great importance. The biggest and most effective knightly order (the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta or SMOM) has developed numerous projects in 120 countries of the world. The order organizes medical, social and humanitarian projects. The SMOM has 13,500 members, 80,000 permanent volunteers and qualified staff of 25,000 professionals, mostly medical personnel and paramedics (SMOM website, 2016). The SMOM’s relief organisation in South Africa, the Brotherhood of the Blessed Gerard, focusses on AIDS patients (mostly children) and runs a hospice in KwaZulu-Natal.

The historical foundations of the knightly orders and their current activities show that the Christian inspiration is one of the most important aspects and characteristic of Christian knightly orders. This inspiration is manifested by the hospitaller activities that Christian knightly orders promote. It is unthinkable that a modern Christian knightly order lacks Christ-inspired hospitaller activities.

The case study in my research will focus on the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem, also known as Order of Saint Lazarus. The legitimacy of this Order has been heavily disputed by Stair Sainty (2006). Stair Sainty states:

The Order of Saint Lazarus, although it is to be complimented for its considerable charitable efforts (notably in Germany), need not pretend to an historical continuity to which its claims, at the very least, are unsubstantiated. Were it to assume the character of a private association, founded in 1910, to emulate the traditions of the ancient crusader Order, it could deflect much of the hostility it has attracted from those bodies which can be more properly characterized as Orders of Knighthood, founded by Papal Bull or Sovereign act or charter. Without such authority behind it, it is difficult to find any justification for this body’s claim to be considered an Order of Chivalry. Private individuals do not have the authority to form Orders, at least none that will be generally recognized.

It therefore serves as an interesting case study for the legitimacy of a knightly order from a Christian perspective.

Research questions

  • What is the background of the Order of Saint Lazarus and how did its history develop?
  • Which kind of goals are selected by the most well-known Christian knightly orders to help and support people who are in distress and which goals are specified amd implemented by the Order of Saint Lazarus?
  • Can the goals of the Order of Saint Lazarus and their implementations be considered effective?
  • To what extent is the Order of Saint Lazarus’ smart-strategy and its implementation of this strategy, Bible-based and therefore legitimate from a Christian perspective?

Literature Review

Adams, J.E. (1986). A Theology of Christian Counseling, More Than Redemption, Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Anderson, R.S. (2003). Spiritual Caregiving as Secular Sacrament, A Practical Theology for Professional Caregivers, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Baljon, J.M.S. (1900). Commentaar op het Evangelie van Mattheus. Groningen: J.B. Wolters

Bruggen, J. van (1993), Lucas. Het evangelie als voorgeschiedenis. Kampen: Uitgeverij Kok.

Bruggen, J. van (2004), Matteüs, Het evangelie voor Israël, Kampen: Kok.

Brotherhood of the Blessed Gerard (2008). Retrieved 15 January 2008 from http://bbg.org.za/index.htm.

Grossheide, F.W. (1954). Het heilig evangelie volgens Mattheus. Kampen:   Uitgeversmaatschappij J.H. Kok

Hampton Keathley III, J. (1996), One Another’ commands of Scripture. Biblical Studies Press. Retrieved from http://www.bible.org/series.php?series_id=71 .

Heitink, G. (1993). Praktische theologie, geschiedenis, theorie, handelingsvelden. Kok: Kampen

Hoegen Dijkhof, H.J., The legitimacy of Orders of St. John : a historical and legal analysis and case study of a para-religious phenomenon, 2006 Doctoral thesis, Leiden University.

Keen, M.H., Chivalry, Yale University Press, 2005

Klein, H. (2006), Das Lukasevangelium, übersetzt und erklärt, Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 2006

Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem (2016a) website retrieved 10 July 2016 http://www.saintjohn.org/who/Chivalry

Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem (2016b) website retrieved 10 July 2016 http://www.stjohn.org.za/About-Us/What-We-Do

Stair Sainty, G., World Orders of Knighthood and Merit, 2006 Burkes Peerage.

Velde. F., Legitimacy and Orders of Knighthood, (retrieved 14 July 2016) http://www.heraldica.org/topics/orders/legitim.htm

Watke, E. (1992). “Biblical Couseling Seminar Material”. Retreived on 21 July 2008 from http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Books/Biblical%20Counseling.pdf

Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, website https://www.orderofmalta.int/humanitarian-medical-works/ 2016)

Wierzbicka, A. (2001). What did Jesus Mean? Explaining the Sermon on the Mount and the Parables in Simple and Universal Human Concepts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Legal Opinion: To what extend can the Hungarian title of “vitéz” be seen as a designation of nobility?

Order of Vitéz Breast Badge, bronze gilt, 57x36 mm, one side enameled, multipart construction, reverse with two clasps

Order of Vitéz Breast Badge, bronze gilt, 57×36 mm (photo: sixbid.com).

Legal Question

The Order of Vitéz, founded in 1678, revived in 1920 by Hungarian Regent Horthy, and abolished by the Soviet-imposed Communist government of Hungary in 1946, has been an important symbol of Hungary’s historic commitment to independence and territorial integrity. It is often assumed that “the Regent had no powers to grant nobility, nor did he try” (e.g Wikipedia) and that therefore the title of vitéz cannot be seen as a title of nobility. Is this assumption correct?

The Order of Vitéz

This Hungarian Order was initially founded in 1678 by Count Imre Thököly de Késmárk, (1657-1705), a Hungarian nobleman, who lead a rebellion against Leopold I of Austria. This Holy Roman Emperor suspended the Constitution and placed Hungary under a Directorate headed by the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order. Thököly gathered behind him a force of disaffected Hungarians. This group was mainly composed of disbanded soldiers and peasants. Thököly’s followers were known as kuruc (crusaders). This  designation was also given to the followers of another rebel leader, György (George) Dózsa (1470-1514).

The Order of Vitézi was re-established (Prime Ministerial Decree number 6650 of 1920, 6650/1920 M.E. in Hungarian usage, included as paragraph no 77 in the land reform act, Law XXXVI of 1920) by His Serene Highness the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary Miklós vitéz Horthy de Nagybánya. The Hungarian state was legally a kingdom, although it had no king. The Entente powers would not have tolerated any return of the Habsburgs. Horthy’s objective was to form an organization with strong national dedication in order to contribute to the stability of Hungary after the first world war. By 1943 about 14.000 vitéz designations were issued.

The treaty signed between the Soviet Union and Hungarian Government of National Unity in Moscow on 20 January 1945, included a list of organisations that were not allowed to be re-established under Soviet rule. The National Council of Vitéz, governing the Order, was placed on this list (Prime Ministerial Edict no. 1945/529).

The current Order of Vitézi, lead by HIRH Archduke Josef Arpád of Austria, is considered by the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry as the legitimate successor of the founder (HSH Miklós v. Horthy de Nagybánya) of the Knightly Order of Vitéz.

Title of vitéz

The word ‘vitéz’ in late 19th and early 20th century Hungarian usage, meant ‘knight’, or ‘hero’. The word “vitez” literally means knight in the South Slavic languages; Bosnian, Croatian, Slovenian, Serbian and Macedonian. In German the title can be compared to “Ritter von” (Orden und Ehrenzeichen – Das Magazin für Sammler und Forscher, BDOS Jahrbuch 2003, p. 24). Therefore, the term “Vitézi Rend’ can be translated as ‘Order of Knights’. During Horthy’s reign, the title was recorded in official papers, for instance in birth, marriage or death certificates, and was usually written as ‘v.’ in front of the surname. In Hungary, the surname precedes the Christian name. In an honourable discharge document of a officer, the vitéz order is not mentioned as an award but as a title added to the name (Erik Naberhuis, The Hungarian Vitéz Order, 2005). Admission into the Order was accompanied by a land grant of 40 cadastral holds to an officer, 8 cadastral holds to other ranks based on need (1 cadastral hold = c. 1.43 acres). The honour of Vitéz was hereditary, and the grants (title, badge and land grant) were to be passed on by the recipient to his eldest son.

Hungarian law regarding noble titles

1929

The knighting ceremony pictured above took place in 1929 in Székesfehervar, at the ruins of the original church where the early kings of Hungary were crowned and buried. The new vitéz’ were knighted with a sword, especially designed for the ceremony. This sword is now on display in the Military Museum of Hungary in Budapest.

Horthy was internationally recognised as His Serene Highness the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary (and addressed as such by e.g. the United States).  He was head of state and appointed to administer the state because the monarch was absent. There are – next to Horthy’s vitéz order – other examples of regents who founded orders, such the Royal Guelphic Order (also known as the Hanoverian Guelphic Order) by George, Prince Regent in the name of his father King George III in 1815. In France, nobility and hereditary titles were abolished by the Revolutions of 1789 and 1848, but hereditary titles were restored by decree in 1852 and have not been abolished by any subsequent law. In order to grant noble titles it is not necessary to be a royal head of state. Therefore, theoretically, the President of the Republic could, in his capacity as head of state, create titles of nobility. The same counts for Horthy’s Hungary. It is not relevant that Horthy was not a king. He was head of state of a Kingdom.

In Hungarian law, Act IV of 1947 on the abolition of certain titles and ranks has abolished all Hungarian noble ranks and titles and prohibited their future bestowal. Article 1. § (1) of the Act declares annulment of the Hungarian aristocratic and noble ranks, such as duke, marquis, earl, baron, noble, primor, and primipilus (“lófő“). Article 3. § (1) prohibits the use of rank titles mentioned in 1. §. Furthermore, it explicitly forbids the use of the “vitéz” (“valiant”) title. § (2) prohibits the use of nobiliary particles, coats of arms, insignias or the use of any expressions referring to descent from a noble clan (“de genere“). § (3) forbids the use of honorifics referring to ranks or titles abolished by this Act, such as “főméltóságú” (His/Her Serene Highness), “nagyméltóságú” (His/Her Excellency), “kegyelmes” (His/Her Grace), “méltóságos” (The Honourable), “nagyságos” (The Worshipful), “tekintetes“, “nemzetesetc.

The Act of 1947 remains in force today, although it does not contain any explicit sanctions in case the law is not observed. Act I of 2010 on the Civil Registry Procedure prohibits the registration of titles and ranks which would be contrary to Act IV of 1947 [55. § (1a)]. The 1947 Act has survived two challenges before the Hungarian Constitutional Court (HCC) in 2008 [Decision 1161/B/2008] and in 2009 [Decision 988/B/2009]. The Court has held in the 2008 decision that the prohibition of ranks and titles is intended to guarantee the equality of Hungarian citizens, as any discrimination based on hereditary titles and ranks would be contrary to the values of a democratic state and society based on equality; the Act itself is based on a firm set of values that forms an integral part of the values deductible from the Constitution [specifically Article 70/A paragraph (1) of the Constitution of Hungary at that time (Act IV of 1949)]. In the 2009 decision the HCC has found that the 1947 Act is not contrary to human dignity (the petitioner had claimed that the right to bear a name, which is deductible from human dignity, had been infringed by the Act), as nobility titles did not form official parts of a name, and that the state had the right to decide what it accepts as part of name and what it does not. The HCC has also referenced these decisions following the entry into force of the Fundamental Law of Hungary (2011, replacing the previous Constitution) in a recent decision [27/2015 (VII. 21.)] (Ágoston Mohay – Norbert Tóth, What’s in a name? Equal treatment, Union citizens and national rules on names and titles, working paper, University of Pécs, 2016, p. 9).

 

Conclusions

Members of the Vitéz Order are addressed as “nemzetes úr/asszony”, in German: “Edler (-e) Herr/Dame”. Members with non-Hungarian names used to add the nobility suffix “-y” or “-i”.  The characteristics of the vitéz capacity (hereditary, estate-related, the touch on the vitéz‘ shoulders with the sword at the bestowing of his knighthood, the title/suffix, the registration as a title instead of award in official papers and the emblem) are in full accordance with a title of nobility as we know it in for example the United Kingdom. The Act IV of 1947 also places the title on the same level as the noble titles. It is therefore not correct to say that the vitéz title is not a title of nobility. In the context of the mentioned Act, the history of the Order, its characteristics, and the recent Hungarian court decisions, the vitéz title should – from a historical perspective – be seen as a noble title. It is not recognized by the Hungarian state.

Sources

Legal opinion: Lines of succession to the former Russian Empire

Background

The Russian Imperial Romanov family (Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra and their five young children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei) were brutally murdered in Yekaterinburg on 17 July 1918. The Tsar, his family and some servants were shot, bayoneted and stabbed in a room of the “House of Special Purpose of the Ural Soviet Committee” by Bolshevik troops led by Yakov Yurovsky under the orders of the Ural Regional Soviet. Therefore, the last Tsar does not have any living descendants. There exist however, a number of claimants to the former Russian throne. In this article I will examine the legality of these claims.

Branches

St. George's Hall, Grand Kremlin Palace. President Vladimir Putin with Prince Dmitri Romanovich of Russia and his spouse at a state reception devoted to National Unity Day. (Source: Wikipedia)

St. George’s Hall, Grand Kremlin Palace. President Vladimir Putin with Prince Dmitri Romanovich of Russia and his spouse at a state reception devoted to National Unity Day. (Source: Wikipedia)

Since 1992, the Headship of the Imperial House of Russia has been claimed by two branches of the Romanov family: the Vladimirovichi Branch and the Nikolaevichi branch. The Vladimirovichi branch descends of Tsar Alexander II (1818-1881),  the successor son of Tsar Nicholas I. The Nikolaevichi branch descends from Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich of Russia (1831–1891), who was the third son and sixth child of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia and Alexandra Feodorovna.

I. Tsar Nicholas I (1796-1855) x Princess Charlotte of Prussia (1798-1860). Nicholas was born in Alexander Palace, Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire, the eldest son of Emperor Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia (formerly Princess Dagmar of Denmark). Emperor Alexander III was born on 10 March 1845 at the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg and succeeded this father Emperor Alexander II of Russia. Alexander II succeed Tsar Nicolas I, son of Paul I and Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg.

Children:

II a. Tsar Alexander II (1818-1881) x Princess Marie of Hesse (1824-1880). Son: Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich (1847-1909) X Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1854-1920) -> Vladimirovichi branch

II b. Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich (1831-1891) x Princess Alexandra of Oldenburg (1838-1900) -> Nikolaevichi branch

Claimants

Vladimirovichi branch(es)

I. Cyril (Kirill) Vladimirovich, (Кирилл Владимирович Рома́нов), born 12 October [O.S. 30 September] 1876 – deceased 12 October 1938), Grand Duke of Russia (assumed the Headship of the Imperial Family of Russia and, as next in line to the throne in 1924).

HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, Pope Benedict XVI and Grand Duke George Mikhailovich (Source: Paul Gilbert).

HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, Pope Benedict XVI and Grand Duke George Mikhailovich (Source: Paul Gilbert).

II a. Maria Kirillovna (1907–1951), eldest daughter of Kirill Vladimirovich (I). She was born in Coburg when her parents were in exile because their marriage had not been approved by Tsar Nicholas II. The family returned to Russia prior to World War I, but was forced to flee following the Russian Revolution of 1917.

III. Emich, 7th Prince of Leiningen (1926-1991), titular Prince of Leiningen from 1946 until his death, x Eilika of Oldenburg.

IV. Prince Karl Emich of Leiningen.

II b. Vladimir Cyrillovich, (Влади́мир Кири́ллович Рома́нов) born 30 August [O.S. 17 August] 1917 – 21 April 1992), claimed the Headship of the Imperial Family from 1938 to his death, Grand Duke of Russia (1938–1992).

III. Maria Vladimirovna (Мари́я Влади́мировна Рома́нова), born 23 December 1953 in Madrid), has been a claimant to the headship of the Imperial Family since 1992 Grand Duchess of Russia (1992–present).

IV. Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia

Nikolaevichi branch

I. Nicholas Romanov, Prince of Russia (1992–2014)

II. Prince Dimitri Romanovich of Russia (2014–present)

III. Prince Andrew Andreevich (born 1923)

 Applicable law

Karl Emich of Leiningen signs an address to Vladimir Putin aksing permission to assign a land in Ekaterinburg for creation of the Sovereign State Imperial See (Source: Wikipedia).

HSH Karl Emich Prince of Leiningen signs an address to Vladimir Putin aksing permission to assign a land in Ekaterinburg for creation of the Sovereign State Imperial See (Source: Wikipedia).

The Russian laws governing membership in the imperial house, succession to the throne and other dynastic subjects are contained in the Fundamental State Laws of the Russian Empire and the Statute of the Imperial Family (codification of 1906, as amended through 1911). These laws, referred to collectively as “the succession laws” in this essay, are sometimes described as “the Pauline law”, because their original version was promulgated in 1797 by Emperor Paul I.

At the present time, not one of the Emperors or Grand Dukes of Russia has left living descendants with unchallengeable rights to the Throne of Russia. When marrying a foreigner of Equal Rank, or member of a Reigning Family, family members were obliged to renounce their and their issue’s rights to the succession to the Throne of Russia.

Since 1917 the Russian Empire and its laws regarding social classes ceased to exist (Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars, Decree on the Abolition of Social Estates and Civil Ranks, 10 November  1917):

  1. All classes and class divisions of citizens, class privileges and disabilities, class organizations and institutions which have until now existed in Russia, as well as all civil ranks, are abolished.
  2. All designations (as merchant, nobleman, burgher, peasant, etc.), titles (as Prince, Count, etc.), and distinctions of civil ranks (Privy, State, and other Councilors), are abolished, and one common designation is established for all the population of Russia-citizen of the Russian Republic.
  3. The properties of the noblemen’s class institutions are hereby transferred to corresponding Zemstvo self-governing bodies.
  4. The properties of merchants’ and burghers’ associations are hereby placed at the disposal of corresponding municipal bodies.
  5. All class institutions, transactions, and archives are hereby transferred to the jurisdiction of corresponding municipal and Zemstvo bodies.
  6. All corresponding clauses of the laws which have existed until now are abolished.
  7. This decree becomes effective from the day of its publication, and is to be immediately put into effect, by the local Soviets of Workmen’s, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies.

Conclusions

In addition to the abolishment of the public laws regarding social classes, none of the current Romanov family members has unchallengeable rights to the Throne of Russia according to the Pauline Laws. Therefore the headship of the House of Romanov remains a political matter that cannot be determined from a legal perspective. The only authority that can restore the rights to the Russian throne is the Russian Federation. In my opinion, the imperial nobility and the titles it awarded may theoretically remain valid but for the Russian Federation they are quasi foreign.

Sources

Links

Beveiligd: Noble Titles issued in Italy, the Two Sicilies, Parma and Lucca-Piombino by Napoleon I between 1806 and 1813

De inhoud is beveiligd met een wachtwoord. Om deze te kunnen bekijken, vul het wachtwoord hieronder in: