Later, Pope Clement XI, who had been Cardinal Protector of the Order, placed it under the protection of the Holy See in the Bull “Militantis Ecclesiae” on 27 May 1718, granting abbatial privileges to the Grand Prior. Antonio Farnese, last Duke of Parma transferred the Grand Magistry of the Order to Charles of Bourbon, the son of his niece Elisabetta Farnese and Philip V of Spain. When Charles became King of Naples and Sicily, he established there the seat of the Order and later, transferred his rights to his son Ferdinand IV after his succession to the Spanish Throne. Ferdinand was succeeded by Francis I (1825-1830), Ferdinand II (1830-1859), and Francis II (1859-1894), the last King of the united Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The unification of Italy deprived the Constantinian Order of its territorial possessions but the Royal House maintains the Grand Magistry since the Order is a dynastic institution.
There currently exist three separate (generally accepted) branches (also: claimants) of the Order, following a schisma regarding the succession to the succession as head of the House (1960), a subsequent reconciliation (2014) and a new schisma (2016).
- HRH Prince Charles of Bourbon Two Sicilies, Duke of Castro (1963). In 2008, Prince Charles succeeded his father’s claim as head of the House of the Two Sicilies. In this capacity, he is known by the title Duke of Castro. This claim is disputed by the Spanish branch of the House of the Two Sicilies. As claimant to the Headship of the House, he also claims to be Grandmaster of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George as well as the Royal Order of Francis I.
- HRH Prince Pedro of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Duke of Calabria (1968). Claimant since the death on 5 October 2015 of his father, HRH Carlos de Borbón-Dos Sicilias y de Borbón-Parma, Infante of Spain, who was, at his death, the last infante of Spain during the reigns of his cousins King Juan Carlos I and King Felipe VI.
- HRH Prince Carlos Hugo, Duke of Parma and Piacenza (1930-2010). In 1979 Carlos Hugo abandoned his claims and became a naturalised Spanish citizen. The following year he left the political arena. In 2002 he donated the archives of the House of Parma to Spain’s national archives; in my an opinion enormously important gesture. On 28 September 2003 the Duke of Parma suddenly reasserted his claim, with declarations of new titles for his children. He is succeeded by his son Prince Carlos, Duke of Parma (1970). The Parmesan Constantinian Order was a new foundation, instituted by Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma in 1817.
In my opinion, none of the current branches and family members have unchallengeable rights to the headship of the House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. Therefore, the Headship of the House remains a political choice or matter of opinion that cannot be determined decisively from a legal perspective. This issue can be illustrated by a an example of two less popular claimants.
In an article on the internet, mr. Sanchez Ramirez de Arellano, discusses the legitimacy of the fons honorum and the genealogy of mr. De Vigo Paleologo, who claims to be the Sovereign Imperial Prince and heir to the Byzantine Throne with the qualification of Royal and Imperial Highness. His conclusion is:
Finally we can not say that Mr. de Vigo is not what he claims to be as well as nobody can say the opposite, because one thing is the recognition or the ability to recognise of a right, another thing is the existence of the right itself. But I believe I have demonstrated that, until now, there is no convincing proofs of the existence of the jus honorarium in his person, and he does not have the implied recognition by other sovereigns that I consider indispensable and the only one really valid.
These remarks are interesting. They suggest that legitimacy of claims regarding the fons honorum can be measured by the acceptance of other Sovereign Houses (of whom the legitimacy is generally accepted). I like this viewpoint, because it offers some guidance to measure the legitimacy of claims like those of mr. De Vigo. As I understand, no general accepted royal dynasty has recognised his claim. Who ever chooses to recognise the historical correctness of the claims of mr. De Vigo is allowed to do so, based on the freedom of opinion and expressing this opinion we have in the Western World. This freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the UDHR states that “everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice“. The same is true for opponents of other more exotic dynastic claimants, as illustrated by the court decision of the Tribunale di Vicenza on 5 August 2004, in a famous dispute between the well-known nobility expert mr. Guy Stair-Sainty and business man mr. Rosario Poidimani. Another example of an opinion opposing a recent claimant of the Constantinian Order is given below.
In a Facebook post, the well-known royalty expert, mr. Rafe Heydel Mankoo criticises the claim of “S.A.I. e R. P.pe Dott. Luigi Maria Picco di Montenero e Pola Lavarello Lascaris Comneno Paleologo Obrenović di Costantinopoli – Serbia Sovrano Gran Maestro“, to the headship of the Constantinian Order:
This (..) Grand Master (…) Ignoring his blatant usurpation of the insignia of the true Constantinian Order, as well as the riband of the respected Luxembourg Order of Merit, his completely made up surname contains all of the familiar ancient *and extinct* dynastic names we come to associate with self-styled Walter Mittys: Lascaris Comneno Paleologo. For some reason (…) the chivalric underworld have a particular fascination with these three names.
The main problem I have with mr. Picco is the modification of his surname on his webpage on the internet. The public is easily confused by the use of the long and distinguished sounding surname that does not officially (that is registered by a state, in e.g. a passport) appear in public records. It is a peculiar combination of names and hereditary backgrounds that is hard to explain. The court decisions on mr Picco’s website do not relate to him (I cannot find his name in the decisions in the decisions of 1945, 1950 and 1964). They establish a judicial truth regarding the use of titles by mr. Marziano Lavarello (born Rome, 17 March 1921 – died Rome, 17 October 1992). Mr. Lavarello belonged to a wealthy family of Genoese shipowners. Later in life he unfortunately lived in reduced circumstances in a small apartment in the Via Sicilia, Rome, where he tried to maintain his imperial splendour. He had no offspring. The private acts dated 13, 25 and 29 October 1992 (the latter two were signed by mr. Lavarello appearantly after his death on 17 October 1992) transferring the titles of mr. Lavarello to mr. Luigi Mario Picco, do not convince me, since I do not see any family relationship between them and I question the authenticity of these documents. In my view, a family relationship is required to historically continue the legacy.