The common origin of the five Orders of Christ

This article focuses on the Order of Christ, a very prominent and ancient order of knighthood. The article gives special attention to the Kongolese Royal Order of Christ, because of its very compelling history.

The original Order of Christ was a military order, which originates from the famous Order of the Temple (Knights Templar). The 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. The Knights Templar, in their distinctive white mantles with a red cross, became an important charity throughout Christendom, thus growing rapidly and becoming a very powerful Christian institution. The knights were prominent in international finance and were among the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades. Their spread of properties all across Europe and presence in almost every kingdom made them very powerful. The knight were not subjected to the authority or policies of any particular king. They were tax exempt in many jurisdictions across Europe. This unique power concentration attracted the negative attention of the King of France.

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. (source:

Nonetheless, the Pope Clement V suspended the order in 1312, by papal bull Vox in excelso under pressure from King Philip. All of its assets were handed over to Hospitallers across all Christian territories (Barber 1995; Martin 2005). A reliable Italian translation of the bull Vox in excelso, which is important to determine the exact historical events, can be found here (source: OSMTH).

Portugal. A Military Order Of Christ, 1st Class Grand Cross Star, C.1920. A superb, likely of French manufacture, hand filed star with a silver gilt 8 pointed star burst, with gold centre exhibiting a red and white enamelled cross, an enameled flaming heart on silver gilt backing, affixed to star by single rivet, measuring 96.5 mm (w) x 104.7 mm (h), vertical pinback flanked by dual stays, small flake to heart, otherwise near extremely fine. Photo:

This papal bull Vox in excelso was not honored by King Diniz of Portugal (1261-1325), The Portuguese Templars had contributed to the conquest of Algarve from the Muslims. The Order of the Temple had been present in Portuguese territory since
1128, even before the official foundation of the kingdom (1144), and over time had become a military and economic power. They were feudal lords of several cities and owners of land, castles and other properties and were still defending the conquest when their order was suppressed. The Templars of Portugal had been declared innocent by the ecclesiastical court of the Bishop of Lisbon. In order to protect these valuable warriors, King Diniz annexed all the Templar assets to his Crown . He then negotiated with the Pope to create a new religious militia, that was needed to defend Portugal from the threats of Islam. On 19 March 1319, long negotiations, characterized by intensive diplomatic negotiations, tensions and clashes, in and out of the kingdom of Portugal, Pope John XXII granted King Diniz permission to form a new military religious order, based on the original Templars: the Ordo Militae Jesu Christi, or Military Order of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Pope placed the new order under the rule of the Knights of Calatrava (formed around 1164) and put them under the control of the Cistercian Abbot of Alcobaca in Portugal. The Vatican claims that the Pope also reserved to right to appoint members of the Order. While the Bull in itself does not explicitly grant to the Pope the right to issue the Order, successive popes since Pope John XXII (1316-1334) have done so. These appointments had a religious character. The cross was distinctive from the Cross then born by the knights of the Military Order of Christ. Several documents from the archives of the Order or from those of the Mesa da Consciência e Ordens (Court of Conscience and Orders, created by King João III in 1532 to deal with particular matters concerning the discharge of the King´s conscience) show a systematic refusal of the Portuguese Crown to recognize or accept as valid this practice. With Papal Bull of 1323, Pope John XXII authorized King Diniz to turn over the Portuguese estates of the former Templars to the Order of Christ; thus effectively finalizing the incorporation of the Knights Templar in Portugal into the newly formed Order.

Initially this new militia had its base close to the river mouth of Guadiana, in Castro Marim. The new order´s mantle was similar to the one worn by the original Knights Templar – white with a red cross; although it differed slightly in shape. In 1357, the headquarters of the Order of Christ was set up in the former Knights Templar headquarters, – the castle of Tomar. Therefore, it can be concluded that the Knights Templar survived in Portugal in a slightly amended form: the Order of Christ. Contrary to popular belief, the Knights Templar are not extinct.

The five Orders of Christ

Today, there exist five Orders of Christ that all originate from the Knights Templar. Each of them has a relation with the original Order of Christ, that was formed to protect the remaining Knights Templar in Portugal.

Papal Supreme Order of Christ

The papal Supreme Order of Christ is extremely rarely awarded. Currently, there are no living persons who have obtained the Order in a public ceremony. According to the Catholic Church, the Pope is the head of every religious order and may appoint, at his discretion and without the permission of its superior general, any individual he deems worthy. Therefore, it may be the case that there are persons, to whom the Order has been granted by the Pope in a private ceremony.

The Supreme Order of Christ is the highest order of knighthood awarded by the Pope. As part of the re-structuring of papal honours by Pope Pius X, the Order of Christ was made the senior-most Papal honour. Traditionally, it was awarded to senior Catholic Heads of State, but may be awarded to anyone as a personal gift of the Holy Father. The usage of the Supreme Order of Christ was restricted under the pontificate of Pope Paul VI in his 1966 Bull Equestres Ordinis, to Catholic Heads of State to whom it might be given only to commemorate very special occasions at which the Pope himself was present. It is now rarely awarded. The last public award was made by Pope John Paul II in 1987 to Frà Angelo de Mojana, 77th Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. With the death of King Baudouin of the Belgians in 1993 there are no living members of the Order of Christ who were awarded the order publicly. However, there may be members who were awarded the order privately. There are no official records .

Portuguese Royal Order of Christ

Without doubt, the head of the Portuguese Royal Family has the historical and legal right to issue the Order of Christ upon worthy individuals. However, I have not seen recent examples of such grants. Just as the Pope can issue the Order of Christ at his discretion, the head of the Portuguese Royal Family can choose to grant the honor without permission from any other party, since the historically inherited fons honorum is invested in him personally.

It should be noted that there exists a long-going dispute between the Pope and the head of the Portuguese Royal Family regarding the right to issue the Order of Christ.

In late XVIth century, already under the Spanish Dual Monarchy, D. Jorge de Ataíde – president of the «Mesa da Consciência e Ordens», in a report to the King in Madrid, commenting on the fact that the Pope had given in Rome, the “habit” of the Order of Christ to a certain Papirio Picedi, recommended that the King should protest at once and request the Pope to abstain from such practices (1).

Another known example of this controversial papal practice, dates from the XVIIth century, when after a papal brief a habit of Christ was given at Valladolid by the local bishop. The «Mesa da Consciência e Ordens» having heard of it, immediately reacted (February 20th, 1627), considering the fact a very serious one and at once recommended that the King should prohibit the false knight from wearing the insignia within its realms, and that the Bishop should be censured for having carried out a papal brief without the King’s consent (2).

Again in the XVIIIth century, it is also recorded an incident that took place in the reign of King John V, involving an Italian architect named Giovanni Servandoni, who had been called to Portugal, in 1745-1746, for the drawing of the plans for the construction of the Royal Palace and Convent of Necessidades (3), in Lisbon. Servandoni, who had allegedly been made by the Pope a knight of the Order of Christ, unduly bore the insignia of the Order in Lisbon.

However, King John V, considering that the only legitimate “fons honoris” was the king of Portugal, being as he was the Order’s Grand-Master, forbade Servandoni to wear the insignia and had him arrested. As late as 1825, the Portuguese Crown sent its protest to Rome reacting to the Pope’s award of the Order of Christ “motu proprio” to several people, considering it unlawful and requesting the immediate cessation of that practice (4).

(1) cf. Fernanda OLIVAL, Para uma Análise Sociológica das Ordens Militares no Portugal de Antigo Regime (1581-1621), I Vol., (Master’s degree thesis at the University of Lisbon), Lisboa, 1988, unpublished, p. 148, note 72.

(2) in ANTT, Mesa da Consciência, Lº. 29, fl. 99; this information was kindly given by our friend Dra. Fernanda Olival, a scholar in the modern history of the military orders, to whom we wish to express here our gratitude and valuable comments on the subject. Dra. Olival, lecturing at the University of Évora, is presently preparing a doctoral thesis on the military orders, and has written many crucial papers on the subject.

(3) Cf. Marques POLIANO, Ordens Honoríficas do Brasil, Inprensa Nacional, Rio de Janeiro, 1943, pp. 68-69; Ambassador Dr. Miguel H. CORTE-REAL, O Palácio das Necessidades, Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros, Lisboa, 1983, p. 18.

(4) Diplomatic Note by the Count of Funchal, Portuguese Ambassador to the Holy See, addressed to the Cardinal Secretary of State, July 6th, 1825.

José Vicente de Bragança, The Military Order of Christ and the Papal Croce di Cristo

Currently, the Duke of Braganza and the Duke of Loulé are the main claiments to the defunct throne of Portugal. They share a common ancestor: King John VI of Portugal. I concluded earlier, that both have a transparent claim to the headship of the Royal Family of Portugal. I have not seen any indication that the Duke of Braganza executes his fons honorum regarding the Order of Christ. The same is true for the Duke of Loulé. Perhaps, they want to avoid a discussion with the Republic of Portugal, that also issues the Order of Christ (see below).

Brazilian Imperial Order of Christ

The Brazilian Order of Christ is issued extremely rarely. After the formation of the independent Brazilian empire in 1822, the de facto and de jure monarch, Dom Pedro I, exercised the fons honorum which was transmitted by his father, King Dom João VI of Portugal. In addition, the emperor continued to issue titles of nobility and the granting of the three ancient Portuguese orders of chivalry:

The Orders of Christ, Aviz and St. James were awarded in its Brazilian design from September 7, 1822 on. This date marked its independence from Portugal. The orders coexisted and originated in Portugal. The order was awarded to citizens and foreigners under Dom Pedro I and his son Dom Pedro II. until 1889, when Brazil became a republic. Wishing to resolve the question of the Grandmaster ship of the Portuguese Ancient Military Orders in Brazil, Peter I (IV of Portugal) asked the Pope, through the Brazilian Ambassador to the Holy See, to recognize the rights in Brazil, which once belonged to the Kings of Portugal. This gave way to the Bull Praeclara Portugaliiae Algarbiorumque Regum, on May 15 1827, given by Pope Leo XII, by which was created a Brazilian branch of the Order of Christ.

Notwithstanding, the Bull provoked a great political dispute and was never ratified by the Imperial Parliament. From this point one might say, following Marques Poliano, that the Portuguese Orders ceased to exist as such, in the Empire of Brazil. In 1843, under Emperor Dom Pedro II, the Orders of Christ, Aviz and of St. James were recognized in Brazil as National Orders having the Emperor as its Grandmaster. The insignia was basically the same with the addition of the Imperial Crown to the Star and altering the ribbon to distinguish it from the Portuguese Orders of the same name. These Brazilian Orders lasted till the Republican Constitution of 1891 abolished them. Even though the order seam to be awarded over a long period of time, actual decorations are quite rare. Fred Atlmann points out only 2 known knight cross decorations, a star and a grandmaster cross, which seamed to be build on the base of a cross of the Order of the Southern Cross.

Andreas M. Schulze Ising, MedalNet

The current claim to the headship of the Brazilian Imperial Family is disputed between two lines of succession from the original Brazilian emperors: the Petrópolis line and the Vassouras line. The Grand Mastership of the Brazilian Order of Christ is also disputed between these two branches. Prince Pedro Carlos of Orléans-Braganza (born 1945) is the head of the Petrópolis line. He is forest engineer and, according to Spanish newspaper Público (9 Jan. 2008), supports a republican form of government: “Yo soy republicano. La monarquía en Brasil no funcionaría”. Prince Pedro Carlos’ second cousin, Prince Luiz of Orléans-Braganza is the head of the Vassouras branch. He is a claimant to the fons honorum regarding to the Imperial Order of Christ.

Kongolese Royal Order of Christ

In 1483, the Portuguese arrived in Kongo, then a vast kingdom in west-central Africa, located south of the Congo River (now Angola and Democratic Republic of the Congo). Back then, the kingdom was already a powerful and centralised state, which made a strong impression on its visitors. In 1491, the Milanese ambassador in Lisbon compared the capital Mbanza Kongo to the prestigious city of Évora, the royal residence in Portugal. At that time, Nzinga a Nkuwu was the manikongo; ruler of the Kingdom of Kongo. In 1491, both he and his son, Mvemba a Nzinga, were baptized by Portuguese clergymen. Both assumed Christian names; João I Nzinga a Nkuwu and Afonso I Mvemba a Nzinga, respectively. Afonso, who became manikongo around1509, extended Kongo’s borders, centralized administration, and developed sustainable ties between Kongo and Portugal. King João I’s son Afonso was sent to Portugal to study theology and amazed the catholic hierarchy with his intelligence and intense piety.

It seems to me from the way he speaks as though he is not a man but rather an angel, sent by the Lord into this kingdom to convert it; for I assure that is he who instructs us, and that he knows better than we do the Prophets and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and the lives of the saints and all the things concerning out Holy Mother the Church? For he devotes himself entirely to study, so that it often happens that he falls asleep over his books, and often he forgets to eat and drink in talking of the things of Our Lord.

The Franciscan missionary, and Portuguese royal chaplain sent to assist Kongo’s religious development, Rui d’Aguiar, writing to King Manuel of Portugal about the piety of the Mani Kongo, King Afonso of the Kongo, 25 May 1516.

During his reign (1509 to late 1542 or 1543) as Afonso I, he established good relations with the Vatican. In 1513, he sent his son Henrique to the Vatican to become a bishop. Afonso I wanted to make the Kongo church independent and self-sufficient. In 1518, Henrique became bishop, with the status ‘in partibus infidelium’ (‘in infidel areas’). When Henrique returned to the Kongo kingdom, his status enabled him to appoint Kongolese priests and to spread Christianity within the kingdom. Henrique died in 1531. In 1534, the papacy turned the Kongo church into a branch of the Diocese located on the Portuguese island of São Tomé, giving the Portuguese greater political influence.

When King Nzinga of Kongo converted to Christianity in 1491, the Portuguese supplied him with everything necessary for the maintenance of the Catholic faith, including priests, crosses, and devotional panel paintings bearing images of the Virgin Mary and various saints. The same counts for the red cross of the Order of Christ that frequently appeared on the sails of Portuguese vessels, as recorded in the Livro de Lisuarte de Abreu in The Morgan Library and Museum. This striking symbol was soon incorporated into Kongo’s visual culture (source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

The Order of Christ was introduced to central Africa in the first moments of contact with Europe and soon became a staple of the kingdom’s political life. Early modern depictions and archeological evidence placed the Order’s insignia, a cross with hollow branches of equal length, among the most prominent regalia of the central African elite. Precious metal medallions such as the one recovered at the eighteenth century cemetery of Ngongo Mbata or depicted on the chest of the Kongo king Portuguese chronicler Cadornega painted in the 1680s, embroideries on the coats of the rulers as seen in the Missione in Prattica vignettes, wax seals and signatures in the autograph correspondence of the elite, rock painting and engravings all heralded the emblem of the Order. Attached to the cap as lion claws or other badges of prestige, they turned the mpu into an emblem of Christian nobility. Placed on the central African cap, they also became central African metaphors of the power and legitimacy that the cap’s wearer derived from Christianity and its invisible realm. Here again, in successive, cumulative strokes, ideas and motifs linked to both Kongo and European religious and political thought met, blurred and, eventually, redeployed into a single, cohesive object.

Fromont, Cécile. (2017). Foreign Cloth, Local Habits: Clothing, Regalia, and the Art of Conversion in the Early Modern Kingdom of Kongo. Anais do Museu Paulista: História e Cultura Material25(2), 11-31.
Dom Nicolau I Misakai mia Nimi, prince of Kongo (c. 1830-1860), wearing the Order of Christ. Dom Nicolau was the son of King Henry II of Kongo. He protested against Portuguese commercial and political activity and military expansion by publishing a letter published 1 December 1859 in a Portuguese newspaper in Lisbon. The letter stated that he was the only person of royal blood from the kingdom with an education and understanding of both the Kingdom of Kongo and the Portuguese. These two qualities put him in a position to rightfully lead and protect the kingdom rather than bow in fear for the sake of protection.

One of the fundamental laws of the Kingdom of Congo is that the King is not subsequent but elective, that women cannot reign, and the children of the King cannot reign immediately to the father, but they can on other occasions. The election of the King belongs to the Marcheze Manivunda, and to the Councilors of State. The line of succession to kingdom of Kongo was often disputed, especially, in 1509, when, instead of the usual election among the nobles, a hereditary European-style succession was introduced.

In 1568, King Álvaro I came to the throne during one of these disputes. He was not a blood relative of any of the previous kings. Like his predecessors, Álvaro also promoted the westernization of Kongo, for example, by gradually introducing European style titles for his nobles: Manuel Jordão became the Duke of Nsundi; Pedro Nkanga a Mvika became Marquis of Wembo and subsequently Duke of Mbamba; Álvaro’s brother Felix de Espirito Santo became Marquis of Mpemba in 1619, and Daniel da Silva became the Count of Soyo. Álvaro and his son Álvaro II Nimi a Nkanga (crowned in 1587) issued the Order of Christ to prominent and loyal subjects, effectively creating a new Order of Christ, by incorporating the original Portuguese Order into their regional culture. This practice continued well into the nineteenth century. It also included distinct armorial elements:

Even more significant was the award of a coat of arms to King Afonso I of Congo [c. 1456–1542 or 1543], in which all the symbolic and legendary elements relating to Ourique and the ideal of the crusade were boldly transposed to equatorial Africa (Rosa 2006: 19-36). The heraldic acculturation that was started at this time also included the sending of 20 grants of arms to the Congolese sovereign authorizing the setting up (and control) within his kingdom of a heraldic representation of the nobility, together with their respective titles (Seixas 1996: 330-334). It is revealing that the new coat of arms of the Congolese sovereign converted to Christianity was included in the chapters of both Livro do Armeiro-mor and Livro da Nobreza e Perfeiçam das Armas dedicated to the heraldry of all the kingdoms existing in the world. By including such insignia, the compiler incorporated into this list a kingdom that was assumed as a subsidiary of the Portuguese Crown, which, in this way, strengthened its imperial dimension (..).

Miguel Metelo de Seixas, Overseas Elements in Portuguese Armorials from the Modern Era, e-JPH, Vol. 15, number 2, December 2017.
Pedro VII and Elizabeth, pretenders to the throne of Kongo, in 1934; photograph in the collection of the Lisbon Geographic Society. Other pretenders were: Alvaro XV of Kongo, António III of Kongo, Isabel Maria da Gama and Pedro VIII of Kongo.

Catholic paraphernalia functioned within the early modern Kongo as precious rarities alluding to privilege, wealth, and power. According to the Capuchin missionary Raimondo da Dicomano, missionary between 1791 and 1795, knights of the Order of Christ in the Kingdom of Kongo enjoyed “the privilege to put lots of crosses made with pieces of cloth in several colors on their capes or on the cloths made out of straw which they use to cover themselves” (“il privilegio di potere mettere molte croci fatte di ritagli di panno di diversi colori nel ferraiolo ò in quel panno di paglia con che ordinariamente si coprono”). Source: Arlindo, Correa. [1798] 2021. “Informazione sul regno del Congo di Fra Raimondo da Dicomano (1798).” Lisbon, Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino, Diversos, caixa 823, sala 12.

After a revolt (1913–1914), Portugal abolished the title of king of Kongo. The title was restored from 1915 until 1975, as an honorific without material power. Portugal opposed the decolonization of its overseas territories until April 1974. Then, a left-wing military coup in Lisbon, known as the Carnation Revolution, initiated the independence of Portugal’s overseas territories in Africa and Asia, and the restoration of democracy.

Current successors to the defunct throne of Kongo, could legitimately claim the fons honorum regarding this Order of Christ. However, determining a successor is complicated because the traditional customs have to be taken into account. Dr. Mambi Tunga-Bau has examined how these traditional customs are embedded in modern Democratic Republic of Congo law (one of the legal successors of the former Kingdom of Kongo). Although not directly applicable to the past, his findings can analogously serve as a reference to judge current claims. Mambi Tunga-Bau states that birthright is not an absolute right in succession, explaining that in practice, the eldest becomes the person who has the greatest virtues for assuming power. Therefore, it is the noble candidate who socially justifies more assets who assumes power. The election is organized between the right holders, excluding widespread competition in the population, as well as in terms of the eligibility of candidates and the elective population. Dr. Mambi Tunga-Bau adds that it goes without saying that it is not possible for individuals outside of a chieftain family to assume power (Tunga-Bau, Héritier Mambi. Pouvoir Traditionnel Et Pouvoir D’État En R.D. Congo Contemporaine: Esquisse D’une Théorie D’hybridation Des Pouvoirs Politiques. Kinshasa: Médiaspaul, 2010, pp. 26-29).

Coat of Arms (c. 1528–1541) of the Kingdom of Kongo. António Godinho, Livro da Nobreza e Perfeiçam das Armas dos Reis Christãos e Nobres Linhagens dos Reinos e Senhorios de Portugal, Casa Real, Cartório da Nobreza, liv. 20, fl. 7, PT/TT/CR/DA/001/20. Source: Seixas 2007.

To my knowledge, Dom Jose Henrique Da Silva born 1942 or 1944, is a potential claimant. He is said to live in Cabinda, northern enclave of Angola. In addition, an American citizen, originally named Dom Manuel Alvaro Afonso Nzinga, grand-duke of Nzinga and commander in the Order of Leopold, has a legitimate claim. Considering the complicated traditional customary laws, that have to be applied from a historical perspective, and the fact that there is no authoritative institution in this respect, it is impossible to single out one successor to the former Kings of Kongo. However, it is possible to determine transparent claims in this respect, that legitimize new awardings of the Kongolese Order of Christ.

Portuguese Republican Order of Christ

On 1 February 1908, King Carlos I of Portugal and his eldest son and heir, Prince Luís Filipe, Duke of Braganza, were brutally murdered in Lisbon by Portuguese republican revolutionaries. Under the King’s rule, Portugal had been declared bankrupt twice (1892 and 1902). This caused civil unrest and the rise of anti-monarchy sentiment. Dom Carlos’ second and youngest son, Manuel II of Portugal, became the new king, but was overthrown on 5 October 1910 by a revolution, which abolished the monarchy and installed a republican government in Portugal. Dom Manuel and the royal family fled to England.

In 1917, the new republic incorporated (currently: Lei das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas) the Military Order of Christ, together with the Military Orders of Aviz and of St. James of the Sword, into the group of Ancient Military Orders, which became part of the national republican honours system. The Order is still awarded to prominent individuals.


The Order of Christ is the only historical extension of the ancient Knights Templar. Its current manifestations however, cannot be compared to the ancient order of warriors. Throughout history, the Order of Christ has recognized people who have made achievements in public life and committed themselves to serving and helping the Catholic faith. It is one of the most high-ranking orders of knighthood in Christian history. I think it is good that successors to former monarchs who can prove transparently that they possess a legitimate fons honorum, continue to award the Order. The Order of Christ should only awarded, based on the deeds and merits to the benefit of the Holy See and should not be degraded.

The fact that the Republic of Portugal adopted the name and medals of the Order of Christ, does not mean that the Portuguese Royal Family has lost the authority to issue the Order. When a monarch is involuntarily deposed, the monarch and the state are not entwined anymore, but the two are separated. It is in line with longstanding international legal principles that (ex-)rulers continue to possess their sovereign rights (see Hugo Grotius’ De iure belli ac pacis; English: On the Law of War and Peace. Paris 1625), and therefore still hold the fons honorum to create nobiliary titles and issue awards:

That is called Supreme, whose Acts are not subject to another’s Power, so that they cannot be made void by any other human Will. When I say, by any other, I exclude the Sovereign himself, who may change his own Will, as also his Successor, who enjoys the same Right, Cacheranus Decis Pedem. 139. n. 6. and consequently, has the same Power, and no other.

Hugo Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace, edited and with an Introduction by Richard Tuck, from the Edition by Jean Barbeyrac (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005. Vol. 1. 8/16/2020)., Book 1, Chapter 3, paragraph 7

Based on Grotius’ book of authority, the Portuguese Royal family still has the legitimate right to issue the Order of Christ. The Republican version exists separately from the historical, royal version. The latter is based on a centuries old relation between the Order and the Royal Family. The same is true for the successors of the Brazilian and Kongolese Royal families. Their sovereign, dynastic rights regarding the Order of Christ remain in place and are not affected by their constitutional position.


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To what extent do religious organizations have a fons honorum to grant titles and awards?

A fons honorum (English: source of honour) can be defined as the legitimate and legal authority of a person or institution to grant titles and awards to other parties (see e.g.: Versélewel de Witt Hamer, 2017, p. 100).

In earlier articles, I examined the fons honorum of certain historical dynasties, like the former monarchs of Georgia, Rwanda and Hawaii. This article investigates, from a legal perspective, the fons honorum of religious organizations to grant titles and awards. I will demonstrate that this fons honorum is based on religious freedom and the freedom of association. Although international law does not define religion, it does identify religion with conscience, and enumerates a number of manifestations of religion that are to be protected.

The freedom of religious manifestation

European legal perspective

Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), guarantees the freedom of thought, conscience and religion in relation to the State. From a European law perspective, there are three aspects to the aforementioned freedoms: internal, external and collective aspects.

  • Regarding the internal aspect, the aforementioned freedom is absolute. This freedom concerns deeply held ideas and convictions that are forged in a person’s individual conscience and therefore cannot in themselves prejudice public order. Therefore, these ideas and convictions cannot be subject to restrictions by State authorities.
  • With regard to the external aspect, the freedom is not absolute but relative. This freedom to manifest a person’s beliefs is limited, because it can affect or even threaten a country’s public order. While religious freedom is primarily a matter of individual conscience, it also implies, inter alia, freedom to “manifest [one’s] religion” alone and in private or in community with others, in public and within the circle of those whose faith one shares. Article 9 lists a number of forms which manifestation of one’s religion or belief may take, namely worship, teaching, practice and observance (European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia and Others v Moldova, judgment of 13 December 2001, ECHR Reports 2001-XII, § 114 et seq. and case-law cited).
  • Most of the rights recognised under Article 9 are individual rights that cannot be challenged. However, some of these rights may have a collective aspect. Accordingly, the ECtHR has recognised that a Church or ecclesiastical body may, as such, exercise on behalf of its members the rights guaranteed by Article 9 of the Convention (ECtHR, 12 June 2014, Martinez Fernandez v. Spain, Comm. 1104/2002, U.N. Doc. A/60/40, Vol. II, at 150 (HRC 2005).

Freedom of conscience and of religion does not protect each and every act or form of behaviour, motivated or inspired by a religion or a belief. In other words, Article 9 of the ECHR protects a person’s private sphere of conscience, but not always any public conduct inspired by that conscience. It does not allow general laws to be broken (Pichon and Sajous v. France (dec.), no. 49853/99, ECtHR 2001-X).

As religious communities traditionally and universally exist in the form of organized structures, Article 9 ECHR has to be interpreted in the light of Article 11 ECHR which safeguards associative life against unjustified state interference. Seen in this perspective, the believer’s right to freedom of religion includes the right of a religious community to function peacefully; free from arbitrary State intervention. This autonomous existence of religious communities is indispensable
for pluralism in a democratic society and is thus an issue at the very heart of the protection which Article 9 affords (Hasan and Chaush v. Bulgaria [GC], no. 30985/96, § 62, ECtHR 2000-XI; Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia and Others, cited above, § 118; and Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox
Church (Metropolitan Inokentiy) and Others v. Bulgaria, nrs. 412/03 and 35677/04, § 103, 22 January 2009).

There exist a vast number of cases where the ECtHR decided regarding the wearing of religious clothing and the use of symbols. Under Article 9(2) ECHR, the right to freely manifest one’s religion can only be restricted under certain cumulative conditions. These restrictions must (i) be prescribed by law; (ii) be necessary in a democratic society by fulfilling a pressing social need; (iii) have a legitimate aim (these aims are mentioned in Article 9(2) ECHR); and, (iv) the means used to achieve that aim must be proportionate and necessary. The right not to be discriminated against can, according to the ECHR, also be restricted under certain circumstances, where a similar justification test is applied. In addition, article 51(2) Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (EUCFR), is a similar test that also applies to restrictions on the rights in Articles 10 and 21 EUCFR. The bans on the wearing of religious clothing or symbols are justified under Article 9(2) ECHR.

Global legal perspective

The freedom of religion or belief is also guaranteed by article 18 of the (mondial) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Regarding the use of religious expressions, the United Nations issued the following statements:

Art. 6 (c): The right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief includes the freedom, “To make, acquire and use to an adequate extent the necessary articles and materials related to the rites or customs of a religion or belief;”.

Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, Proclaimed by United Nations General Assembly resolution 36/55 of 25 November 1981

4 (b): The Commission on Human Rights urges States, “To exert the utmost efforts, in accordance with their national legislation and in conformity with international human rights law, to ensure that religious places, sites, shrines and religious expressions are fully respected and protected and to take additional measures in cases where they are vulnerable to desecration or destruction;”.

UN Commission on Human Rights, Resolution 2005/40 on Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, 19 April 2005

Para. 4: “The concept of worship extends to […] the display of symbols”.
Para. 4: “The observance and practice of religion or belief may include not only ceremonial acts but also such customs as […] the wearing of distinctive clothing or head coverings […].”

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, General Comment No. 22: The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Art. 18): 30/07/93, CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4, General Comment No. 22. (General Comments), 1996-2001.

The aforementioned legal frameworks show that religious freedom and the liberty to manifest this freedom by symbols is a fundamental human right and protected by international law, that is incorporated by states in national law. In my opinion, religious freedom also includes the freedom to grant titles and awards when issued in the context of religious customs, symbols and honorifics. Therefore, the fundamental human rights of religious freedom combined with the freedom of association are the source of authority of religious groups for legally and legitimately granting such titles and awards.

Case studies

Roman Catholic Church

The so-called “Bologna Mozart” was copied 1777 in Salzburg (Austria) by a now unknown painter from a lost original for Padre Martini in Bologna (Italy), who had ordered it for his gallery of composers. Today it is displayed in the Civico Museo Bibliografico Musicale in Bologna in Italy. Leopold Mozart, W. A. Mozart’s father, wrote about this portrait: „Malerisch hat es wenig wert, aber was die Ähnlichkeit anbetrifft, so versichere ich Ihnen, daß es ihm ganz und gar ähnlich sieht.“ (Letter of Leopold Mozart to Padre Martini in Bologna from Dec 22, 1777, MBA II, pp. 204f, No. 396).

At the age of 14, the famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) left Salzburg to go on tours to Italy, accompanied by his father, the musician Leopold Mozart (1719-1787). Their principal destinations were Verona, Mantua, Cremona, Milan, Parma, Bologna, Florence and finally Rome, which he reached on 10 April 1770. When Pope Clement XIV was informed of the child prodigy, he received Mozart and his father in a private audience on their return from Naples two months later, on 4 July 1770. On that occasion, the Pope conferred the Order of the Golden Spur on young Mozart (Jahn, 1856, pp. 199-205; Cardinale 1983, pp. 35-42), thus making him a Papal Knight of the Golden Spur. The following day, Mozart received his official insignia, consisting of ‘a golden cross on a red sash, sword, and spurs,’ emblematic of honorary knighthood. In 1777, Mozart had his portrait painted with the star-encircled cross of the order on his coat.

The papal patent of 4 July 1770 for the award stated:

Inasmuch as it behoves the beneficence of the Roman Pontiff and the Apostolic See that those who have shown them no small signs of faith and devotion and are graced with the merits of probity and virtue, shall be decorated with the honours and favors of the Roman Pontiff and the said See.’

Vatican secret archives 2009, p. 183

It is interesting to examine the capacity in which the pope issued the diploma. Roman Pontiff refers to the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. An apostolic see is an episcopal see (a bishop’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction) of which the foundation is attributed to one or more of the apostles of Jesus or to one of their close associates. In Roman Catholicism, the apostolic see refers to the See of Rome. Therefore, both references to the fons honorum are of a religious nature. Although the Papal States on the Italian Peninsula were under the direct sovereign rule of the pope at that time, the fons honorum for the diploma is based on religion, instead of public law. It has an internal character within the church structures.

Currently, the Pontifical Orders of Knighthood are secular orders of merit of which the membership is conferred by a direct decision of the Pontiff. The diplomas given to recipients of the most popular Pontifical Orders, the Pontifical Equestrian Order of Saint Sylvester Pope and Martyr (reorganised by Pope Pius X on his own initiative, motu proprio,Multum ad excitandos” on 7 February 1905), and the Pontifical Equestrian Order of Saint Gregory the Great (established on 1 September 1831, by Pope Gregory XVI), are issued in the capacity of pontifex maximus. Although this designation has been used in inscriptions referring to the Popes for some centuries, it has never been included in the official list of papal titles, which is published yearly in the Annuario Pontificio. The official list of titles of the Pope given in the Annuario Pontificio mentions “Supreme Pontiff of the whole Church” (in Latin, Summus Pontifex Ecclesiae Universalis) as the fourth title, the first being “Bishop of Rome“. The title pontifex maximus appears in inscriptions on religious buildings and on coins and medals. Awards are gazetted in Acta Apostolica Sedis, the Gazette of the Holy See. Diplomas of appointment are issued by the Secretariat of State. Papal knighthoods are personal. Perpetual succession is no longer granted.

The Order of Saint Sylvester is intended to honour Roman Catholic lay people who are actively involved in the life of the church, particularly as it is exemplified in the exercise of their professional duties and mastership of the different arts. According to Pope Gregory XVI’s Papal Brief of 1 September 1831, the Order of Saint Gregory is an order of merit to be bestowed on gentlemen of proven loyalty to the Holy See who, by reason of their nobility of birth and the renown of their deeds or the degree of their munificence, are deemed worthy to be honoured by a public expression of esteem by the Holy See (see: appendix 1, underlined sentence).

Clearly, the orders of knighthood focus on religious merit and are issued in a religious capacity. I have not seen an explicit reference to the capacity of the pope as sovereign of the Vatican State. The latter capacity is referred to as the temporal power of the church: the rule of the Church in earthly possessions and the authority of the Pope over civil territories belonging to the Church, as in the former Papal States. This power is an addition to his dominion in spiritual matters and becomes necessary if freedom from civil power is to be assured. The church’s temporal power is presently exercised in relation to the Vatican City State since the Lateran Treaty of 1929. The term may also refer to the exercise of political influence by the bishops formerly through landed estates and currently through financial and other means. The aforementioned orders of knighthood are not issued as part of the Vatican’s temporal power; they are awards, issued for religious merit and therefore have a religious nature.

Considering the foregoing, from both a historical and a legal perspective, for centuries, Popes have exercised their religious fons honorum to grant titles and awards. These awards have an internal effect. They are part of the religious structure of the Roman Catholic faith and are logically recognised as such by the Vatican City State. Other states may choose to either allow their citizens to wear them or to forbid them. The latter could be in breach of religious freedom, as guaranteed by international law.

Abbey-Principality of San Luigi

Since 1970, the Catholic population has nearly doubled, growing from about 650 million in 1970 to about 1.3 billion in 2020. The Church has circa 415.000 priests. As the world’s oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilization. It is interesting to compare this huge organization to a small religious group, like for example the Abbey-Principality of San Luigi, based in the United Kingdom.

The history of the Abbey-Principality, is described on its webpage:

The Abbey-Principality of San Luigi is an international Christian religious organization, originally founded in 1883 as a sovereign theocratic principality in the Fezzan. Within an overall humane and charitable ethos, the Abbey-Principality carries out its mission today through churches, religious orders, nobiliary, chivalric and scholarly institutions.

The Abbey-Principality is a church in its own right, led by the Prince-Abbot who is its Archbishop. In the spirit of ecumenism, it has over the years also absorbed other churches and religious orders leading to an international ministerial outreach, which are organized under the federation of the Catholicate of the West.


The name of the Abbey-Principality commemorates St Louis, King of France (1214-70), and continues several medieval traditions connected with the Knights Templar and the Crown of Thorns. It was established by a group of Catholic Benedictine monks as a self-governing sovereign religious principality in the Fezzan in 1883 and ruled there for eleven months. In 1884, the Abbey was overthrown and the Prince-Abbot murdered. The remaining monks came to the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom (today part of Uganda) where the Abbey-Principality was re-established and the new Prince-Abbot was granted the additional chiefly title of Mukungu (Prince-Governor). After the end of this second establishment in 1888, the title of Prince-Abbot passed to successors in France and the United States.

The designation Abbey-Principality, once prevalent within the Roman Catholic Church along with that of prince-bishop, reflects the fact that in the Fezzan, the Prince-Abbot exercised temporal power as a sovereign prince over its abbey and surrounding area. Today, having been exiled from its former lands (which were subsequently incorporated into present-day Libya), the Abbey-Principality no longer has responsibility for territorial governance, but continues to hold the jus honorum deriving from its former sovereign status as well as preserving for its head the rank of a Prince of the Church.

On 22 March 1962, the then-Prince de San Luigi was the recipient of Letters Patent issued by His late Majesty King Peter II of Yugoslavia. The King’s act recognized the status of the Prince de San Luigi and further appointed the Prince to the ranks of the Royal Yugoslav nobility. The King had in 1960 accepted the High Protectorship of the senior chivalric Order of the Abbey-Principality, the Order of the Crown of Thorns.


Source: Website of The Abbey-Principality of San Luigi, and the Catholicate of the West.

The Abbey-Principality awards decorations, in the tradition of Archbishop Joseph René Vilatte (1854 – 1929). Vilatte, also religiously known as Mar Timotheus I, was a French–American Christian leader active in the United States and in France. He was associated with several Christian denominations before his ordination as a priest by a Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland (CKS) bishop at the request of a Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (PECUSA) bishop for service in a PECUSA diocese. Vilatte’s orders include the Order of the Crown of Thorns (OCT) and the Order of the Lion and the Black Cross (OLBC). 

Bishop René Vilatte was born Paris, 24 January 1854, Île-de-France, and died Versailles, Departement des Yvelines, Île-de-France, 1 July 1929. He was buried Cimetière des Gonards (No. 133540, Canton J, Alley I, Rank 3G, Tomb 15) Versailles, Departement des Yvelines, Île-de-France. He was raised by his paternal grandparents, who were members of the Petite Église (PÉ), an independent church separated from the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) after the Concordat of 1801. The  had about 4,000 adherents.

Vilatte led a hectic religious life. His dealings with the local Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches are well-documented and detailed in many biographies. His conviction and his challenge to the establishment attracted many followers, who were estranged from the established churches. Most Independent Catholic and Old Catholic bishops in the United States trace at least one of their lines of Apostolic Succession through Archbishop Vilatte. His spiritual successors carry on his work in a variety of ministries which serve especially those disenfranchised from their original church. Vilatte was a principal founder of Independent Catholicism.

For over 70 years Vilatte has often been caricatured as a charlatan and religious opportunist. However, modern scientific research by theologist Dr. Alexis Tancibok shows that, based on the discovery of new historical documents, a reevaluation of Vilatte’s reputation is justified. These documents show that – contrary to the traditional narratives – Vilatte was above all a missionary, and a campaigner for his vision of Catholic orthodoxy. In line with other Old Catholics, Vilatte believed that Rome was an advocate for Catholic unity, and that Rome’s centralized ecclesial model blocked Christian liberty, and hindered missions. Rome’s centralization was largely the product of the First Vatican Council (1870) objectors to which formed the Old Catholic movement of which Vilatte would be such a prominent part. The pre-1870 model of the Church is centred upon the bishop as the principal authority, whereas after 1870, that authority was subordinate to a much greater centralized dogma and bureaucracy.

Under the influence of the famous French preacher Hyacinthe Loyson (1827-1912), Vilatte initially believed that Anglo-Catholics could work together with the Old Catholics in the new mission field of America. After 1889, however, Dutch Old Catholics convinced Vilatte to break his relations with the Episcopalians in Wisconsin. This not only forced Vilatte to clarify the differences between Old Catholicism, Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism, but it resulted in the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch authorising his consecration as a missionary metropolitan in Colombo, Ceylon. In 1892, he changed his mission to a national Independent Catholic movement in the United States (source: early Independent Catholicism in Context: A re-examination of the career of Archbishop Joseph René Vilatte (1884-1929)). From the wording of his consecration certificate, he was consecrated there as Metropolitan of the Old Catholics in the United States. That was an integral and initial part of his episcopate and not a later addition. He was never intended to be a bishop in Ceylon or an ordinary bishop of the Syrian patriarchate.

In his 2020 thesis, Tancibok describes some challenges Vilatte faced as a missionary, because he was unsupported by traditional institutions. Tancibok’s thesis examines Vilatte’s view of Christian reunion, which he believed could only happen through Catholic unity, led by the universal episcopate rather than one church or individual. The most puzzling aspect of Vilatte’s career was his relationship with the Roman Catholic Church. On three occasions he negotiated reconciliation, but the available evidence shows that on all three occasions he did not abandon his belief in Catholic reform, nor did he intend to not function as a missionary (source: early Independent Catholicism in Context: A re-examination of the career of Archbishop Joseph René Vilatte (1884-1929)).

These new insights show that Vilatte was a renowned preacher, an inspiring leader, and published books and papers on the subjects of theology, liturgy and church history. Based on his teachings, the Abbey-Principality issues Orders to worthy individuals, of which The Chivalrous and Religious Order of the Crown of Thorns or L’Ordre Souverain, Chevaleresque, Nobilaire et Religieux de la Couronne d’Epines and The Sovereign, Knightly and Noble Order of the Lion and the Black Cross or L’Ordre Souverain, Chevaleresque, et Noble du Lion et de Croix Noire, are the most prominent.

According to its statutes, the Order of the Crown of Thorns, is religiously focussed:

The chief Aims of the Order are: (1) to defend the Christian Ideology, Tradition and Cultural Inheritance; (2) to preserve the best ideals of Knighthood of past centuries and the noble spiritual virtues of the Knights Templar; and (3) to help forward any charitable works under the Patronage of the Order.

The Order also has the aim of rewarding persons who have distinguished themselves in defence of the Church, of humanity, or in philanthropic work initiated by the Order and have shown a Christian spirit, a clean life and a noble example. The Order seeks to encourage in its members a spirit of active Christian charity and service.

Source: Statutes of Order of the Crown of Thorns.

The Order of the Lion and the Black Cross is focussed on merit and charity (statutes sub 6 and 7):

The chief Aims of the Order are (1) to unite together those who accept the ancient standards of Chivalry; (2) to help forward any charitable works under the Patronage of the Order; (3) to reward those who have distinguished themselves in the service of mankind or of the San Luigi Orders, without distinction as to race or creed.

The Order seeks to encourage in its members a spirit of active charity and service. In contrast to the Order of the Crown of Thorns, which is open to Christians only, it is open to members of all religions as well as those who do not profess any religious belief.

Source: Statutes of the Order of the Lion and the Black Cross.

Both orders are at least 130 years old and well-documented. Therefore, they have a respectable history and tradition. Although criticised by some individuals, mostly regarding their foundation narratives, both orders can legitimately claim a historical background in the context of the development of the Independent Catholic churches. The church’s titles, awards and other religious elements do not enjoy state recognition and bestow no privileges, but they remain nonetheless monuments of the church’s history and part of its religious and cultural heritage. Branding them as ‘self-styled’ is a form of religious intolerance. Therefore, the Prince-Abbot processes the legitimate and legal fons honorum to issue religiously-inspired honours. This fons honorum is protected by the freedoms of religion and association, embedded in national and international law.

Royal Brotherhood of Sao Teotonio

HRH Prince Dom Miguel Gabriel Rafael Xavier Teresa Maria Felix de Braganca (Bern, 3 December 1946), Duke of Viseu, Infante of Portugal, in the uniform of Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Another religious organization that issues chivalric-like awards, is the Royal Confraternity of Saint Teotonio (RCST). This group was formed in Portugal on 2 November 2000, under the Royal Protection of Dom Miguel de Bragança, Duke of Viseu, Infante of Portugal (Versélewel de Witt Hamer, 2017, pp. 86-87). Dom Miguel (1946) is a member of the Portuguese Royal Family. He is the second child of Duarte Nuno (1907-1976), Duke of Braganza, and Princess Maria Francisca of Orléans-Braganza (1914-1968). Dom Miguel is fourth in the line of succession to the former Portuguese throne, behind his elder brother, Dom Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza, and his three children. He is a noted patron of the arts and painter. Dom Miguel is the founder and sponsor of the Annual Luso-Brazilian Week of Aldravist Art, held in Portugal and in Brazil. He is also an active member in various orders of chivalry, notably the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George.

From a legal perspective, the RCST is a secular association of the Christian faithful (Latin: consociationes christifidelium); a group of baptized persons, clerics and laity, who, according to Cann. 313-319 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, jointly foster a more perfect life and promote public worship and Christian teaching. The RCST focusses in particular on maintaining and honouring the Portuguese saint Theotonius of Coimbra (c. 1082 – 1162).

       Alberto Sampaio Museum, Object Inventory Number: P 49. Category: Painting. Title / Title: São Teotónio celebrating before D. Afonso Henriques and his entourage. Date: XVII century. Dimensions: 126 x 125 cm. Author / Production: Simão Álvares (?). Technical information: Oil on canvas. Photographer: José Pessoa, 1996. Copyright: © DGPC

Theotonius was the nephew of the Bishop of Coimbra in Portugal and educated at the University of Coimbra. He became a parish priest and was assigned to work in Viseu, Portugal. Theotonius was a trusted advisor of Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques (ruled 1139-85). The king attributed his success at the Battle of Ourique to the prayers of Theotonius, who was thus able to persuade the king to release Mozarabic Christians captured during forays into land held by the Moors.

Theotonius had a great devotion to the poor, and to souls in purgatory. Each Friday, he combined these devotions by singing a Solemn Mass for the dead, leading a large procession to the cemetery to pray for the local dead, collecting alms there, and distributing the money to the local poor. He was twice a pilgrim to the Holy Lands and an Augustinian Canon Regular, which order he helped bring to Portugal in 1131, entering the monastery at Coimbra. Theotonius spent his last 30 years there as monk and prior. He devoted to the daily offices, never allowing the monks to hurry through them. Theotonius is celebrated as the reformer of religious life in Portugal, and is the first Portuguese saint (Bangley, 2005).

Anyone who has an interest in the development of the mission of the Confraternity can be admitted by the Grand Prior. An applicant is required to present a baptism certificate or a parochial certificate. An applicant is required to present a signed Petition for Admission, supported by two sponsors, and a documented Curriculum Vitae.

RCST’s main purposes are recorded in the statutes of the Confraternity (see: Appendix 2):

Help in all possible ways the works of charity and assist the Dioceses of the Universal Church;

Diffuse the cultural and historical aspects that surrounded the figure of Saint Teotonio (first Portuguese Saint);

Lend help and mutual aid between confrères, in case of need and with the necessary discretion;
Relate among themselves holders of Titles of Nobility, members of Confraternities, of Military Orders and of Chivalry and Nobiliary Corporations; those distinguished with Orders and Medals of Merit and Commendation, Civil and Military; Members of Academies and Institutes, National or International.

Statutes of the Confraternity, article 1

The RCST is led by a Grand Prior, Ulisses Pauleta Rolim, Comte de Rolim et Reigada (Peerage of Rwanda, 2007). Its members are designated as Confrades and Confreiras in different grades (knight, commander, grand cross, see article 3 of the statutes).

The RCST is affiliated with several prominent royal dynasties (amongst others):

In addition, several high-ranking religious leaders have supported the Confraternity (amongst others):

  • HH Patriarch Abune Paulos +, former Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
  • HEm Cardinal Don Carlos Amigo Vallejo, OFM, Cardinal Priest and Archbishop Emeritus of Seville in the Roman Catholic Church
  • HEm Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, Luxembourgeois prelate of the Catholic Church, who has served as the Archbishop of Luxembourg since 2011. He has been the president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) since March 2018.

The RCST has chosen to be very transparent about their formation date, statutes, structure and affiliations. This contributes to the legitimacy of the RCST and to its international success.

In light of RCST’s religious foundations and therefore protected by the legal principles of freedom of religion and association, the Grand Prior of the RCST processes the legitimate and legal fons honorum to issue religiously-inspired honours. The fact that these honours look like chivalric honours (knight, commander, grand cross) does not affect their legitimacy and legality, because these honours have been clearly stipulated in RCST’s statutes and are therefore part of RCST’s religious perception.


The fons honorum for issuing honours and decorations of religious organizations is protected by the religious freedom and the liberty to manifest this freedom by symbols. In addition, the freedom of association ensures that every individual is free to organise and to form and participate in (religious) groups, either formally or informally. Both freedoms are embedded in national and international law. They include the freedom to grant titles and awards, issued in the context of religious customs, symbols and honorifics.

Religious ceremonies where titles and awards are issued have meaning and sacred value for the believers if they have been conducted by religious authorities empowered for that purpose in compliance with pre-specified rules. The personality of the religious leaders is undoubtedly of importance to every member of the community. Participation in the life of the community is thus a particular manifestation of one’s religion, which is in itself protected by Article 9 of the Convention (Hasan and Chaush v. Bulgaria [GC], no. 30985/96, and Perry v. Latvia, no. 30273/03, § 55, 8 November 2007).

Defaming or condemning less popular religious orders, like the Order of the Crown of Thorns, is in breach with religious freedom and the freedom of association. It implicates religious intolerance. On an international level, EU law does not preclude a remedy against private parties in case any such remedies would be available as a matter of national law (opinion of Advocate General Bobek, delivered on 25 July 2018, Case C‑193/17, Cresco Investigation GmbH, vs. Markus Achatzi, Paragraph 185). Therefore, the freedoms of religion and association can be upheld against national governments as well as against private parties. The legal principles on which the aforementioned freedoms are based, protect the fons honorum of religious organizations to issue orders, titles and awards to manifest its participants’ thoughts and convictions.

Value of religious titles and awards

In the context of religion, the value of titles and awards, is mostly a matter of personal opinion and religious conviction. However, there are parameters that help determine the value of honours, issued by religious organizations. I suggest the following parameters:

  • Legal structure, financial transparency (Hoegen Dijkhof 2006, pp. 427-432);
  • Contribution to society (inspired by the remarks of Freiherr von Boeselager in the Frankfurter Allgemeine of 14 July 2019);
  • Transparency and honesty regarding their origin and history.


Appendix 1. Papal Bull founding the Pontifical Order of Saint Gregory the Great



AD perpetuam rei memoriam.— Quod summis quibusque Imperatoribus maximae curae est praemia virtutis et insignia honoris et monumenta laudis iis decernere, quos optime de re publica meritos noverint, id et Romani Pontifices Praedecessores Nostri praestare pro personarum, temporum, actuumque ratione consueverunt erga eos, qui Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae imperium ope, armis, consiliis, aliisque recte factis iuvarent. Haec reputantibus Nobis, ac de honore iis habendo deliberantibus, qui fidelem assiduamque asperioribus etiam temporibus operam Principatui navarunt, placuit ex more institutoque maiorum Ordinem Equestrem constituere, in quem homines spectatae in Sedem Apostolicam fidei ex Summorum Pontificum auctoritate cooptentur, quos vel praestantia generis, vel gloria rerum gestarum, vel insignum munerum procuratione, vel demum gravibus aliis ex causis dignos ipsi censuerint qui publico Pontificiae dilectionis testimonio honestentur. Inde enim nedum praemium virtuti conferri, sed et stimulos addi ceteris palam est quibus ad bonum rectumque impensius in dies excitentur. Quare hisce Nostris Apostolicis Literis Equestrem Ordinem constituimus, quem, et ex praecipuo Nostrae in Sanctissimum Praedecessorem Gregorium Magnum venerationis affectu, et ob assumptum ipsius Nomen quando Humilitati Nostrae impositum Pontificatum suscepimus, a Sancto Gregorio Magno volumus nuncupari; reservantes Nobis ac Romano Pontifici pro tempore existenti ius eligendi Equites Equites, quos constet virtutum laude, conditionis honestate, splendore munerum, atque eximia in rebus gerendis sedulitate, communi demum bonorum suffragio commendari. Erit porro peculiare Ordinis Insigne Crux octangula ex auro artificiose elaborata, rubram superficiem habens, in cuius medio, veluti parvo in numismate, extet affabre caelata imago S. Gregorii Magni. Taenia ad eam sustinendam erit serica rubra, cuius extrema ora flavo colore distinguatur. Cum vero stati quidam in Equestribus Ordinibus gradus dignitatem illorum, qui iisdem accensentur, designent, quatuor in Gregoriano Ordine gradus Equitum praefinimus; quorum primi Equites Magnae Crucis primae classis, secundi Equites Magnae Crucis secundae classis, tertii Equites Commendatores, quarti Equites simpliciter nuncupabuntur. Serica fascia praelonga binis Ordinis coloribus picta, dextero humero imposita, transversaque ad latus sinistrum propendens, et magnam Crucem sustinens, Insigne erit Equitum primi generis; qui insuper medio sinistro latere pectoris innexam vestitui gestabunt alteram maiorem Crucem radiis undique ac gemmis circumornatam, opereque magnifico caelatam. Equites secundae classis Crucem magnam, instar Numismatis, latere pectoris sinistro habebunt, praeter Crucem alteram grandem collo ex fascia serica appensam. Equites Commendatores Crucem magnam gerent, quae e fascia collo inserta dependeat; privilegio tamen carebunt ferendi pracdictum numisma seu Crucem alteram in latere pectoris sinistro. Equites quarti ordinis Crucem parvam, iuxta communem Equitum morem, ad pectus apponent in parte vestis sinistra. Ceterum eos omnes, qui publico hoc Pontificiae voluntatis testimonio sint honestati, monitos volumus ut animadvertant sedulo praemia virtutibus addici, nihilque diligentius curandum ipsis esse quam ut rebus praeclare gestis expectationem ac fiduciam quam excitarunt cumulate sustineant, delatoque sibi honore dignos sese in dies magis exhibeant. Haec quidem suscepti huiusce consilii ratio est, haec praecipua muneris ipsius conditio, cui apprime satisfiet constanti erga Deum et Principem fide, prout in aversa Crucis parte scriptum est; atque ita boni omnes et ii praesertim, quorum maxime interest ob Ordinis coniunctionem, de fausto felicique Nostri Instituti progressu gratulabuntur. Haec statuimus ac declaramus non obstantibus in contrarium facientibus, etiam speciali mentione dignis, quibuscumque. Datum Romae apud Sanctam Mariam Maiorem sub Annulo Piscatoris die I Septembris MDCCCXXXI, Pontificatus Nostri anno primo.




AD perpetuam rei memoriam.—Cum amplissima honorum munera iure meritoque parta hominum mentes atque animos ad virtutem amplectendam, gloriamque assequendam vel maxime excitent atque inflamment, tum Romani Pontifices provide sapienterque praecipuos honorum titulos iis tribuere ac decernere semper existimarunt, qui egregiis animi ingeniique dotibus praestantes nihil non aggrediuntur, nihilque intentatum relinquunt, ut de Christiana et Civili Republica quam optime mereri conentur. Hac sane mente in ipso Pontificatus Nostri exordio, ob tantam temporum asperitatem iniucundo ac permolesto, singulare praemium rectefactis impertiri, itemque ad suas cuique partes demandatas impensius oboundas quoddam veluti incitamentum addere in animo habentes illis praesertim viris, qui singulari studio, consilio, fide, integritate Nobis et Romanae Petri Cathedrae omni ope atque opera adhaererent, novum Equestrem Ordinem instituere decrevimus, quem ob praecipuum Nostrae in Sanctissimum Praedecessorem Gregorium Magnum venerationis affectum, et ob assumptum ipsius Nomen quando ad Universae Ecclesiae regimen evecti fuimus, a Sancto Gregorio Magno voluimus nuncupari.
Quapropter Apostolicas dedimus Literas die primo Septembris Anno MDCCCXXXI Annulo Piscatoris obsignatas, quarum vi omnibus notam perspectamque fecimus novi Gregoriani Ordinis institutionem, simulque praescripsimus eius Insigne Crucem esse octogonam exauro affabre elaboratam, rubra superficie imaginem S. Gregorii Magni in medio referentem, tacnia serica rubra, extremis oris flava, sustinendam. Clare insuper significavimus quibus dotibus viros hoc honore decorandos praeditos esse oporteat, Nobisque et Romanis Pontificibus Successoribus Nostris ius reservavimus eiusmodi Equites renuntiandi, quos virtutis et religionis laude, conditionis honestate, muneris splendore, eximia in rebus gerendis sedulitate, communi denique bonorum suffragio pateat esse commendatos. Ad desinandam autem eorum dignitatem, qui huic Ordini sunt adscribendi, Nobis opportunum vide sapienterque praecipuos honorum titulos iis tribuere ac decernere semper existimarunt, qui egregiis animi ingeniique dotibus praestantes nihil non aggrediuntur, nihilque intentatum relinquunt, ut de Christiana et Civili Republica quam optime mereri conentur. Hac sane mente in ipso Pontificatus Nostri exordio, ob tantam temporum asperitatem iniucundo ac permolesto, singulare praemium rectefactis impertiri, itemque ad suas cuique partes demandatas impensius obeundas quoddam veluti incitamentum addere in animo habentes illis praesertim viris, qui singulari studio, consilio, fide, integritate Nobis et Romanae Petri Cathedrae omni ope atque opera adhaererent, novum Equestrem Ordinem instituere decrevimus, quem ob praecipuum Nostrae in Sanctissimum Praedecessorem Gregorium Magnum venerationis affectum, et ob assumptum ipsius Nomen quando ad Universae Ecclesiae regimen evecti foimus, a Sancto Gregorio Magno voluimus nuncupari. Quapropter Apostolicas dedimus Literas die primo Septembris Anno MDCCCXXXI Annulo Piscatoris obsignatas, quarum vi omnibus notam perspectamque fecimus novi Gregoriani Ordinis institutionem, simulque praescripsimus eius Insigne Crucem esse octogonam ex auro affabre elaboratam, rubra superficie imaginem S. Gregorii Magni in medio referentem, taenia serica rubra, extremis oris flava, sustinendam. Clare insuper significavimus quibus dotibus viros hoc honore decorandos praeditos esse oporteat, Nobisque et Romanis Pontificibus Successoribus Nostris ius reservavimus eiusmodi Equites renuntiandi, quos virtutis et religionis laude, conditionis honestate, muneris splendore, eximia in rebus gerendis sedulitate, communi denique bonorum suffragio pateat esse commendatos. Ad designandam autem eorum dignitatem, qui huic Ordini sunt adscribendi, Nobis opportunum visum est eumdem ipsum in quatuor classes dividere; quarum altera Equitibus Magna Crucis primi ordinis, altera Equitibus Magnae Crucis secundi ordinis, tertia Equitibus Commendatoribus, quarta Equitibus tantummodo constat. Praescripsimus idcirco, ut Equites a Magna Cruce primi ordinis magnam Crucem e serica fascia praelonga binis Ordinis coloribus picta, dextero humero imposita, transversaque ad latus sinistrum descendente sustineant, ac praeterea medio sinistro pectoris latere innexam vesti gestent alteram maiorem Crucem radiis undique ac gemmis circumornatam: ut Equites a Magna Cruce secundae classis praeter magnam Crucem, ut supra appensam, medio sinistro pectoris latere alteram Crucem nullis coruscantibus gemmis refulgentem deferant: ut Equitibus Commendatoribus liceat Crucem magnam gerere, quae e fascia collo inserta dependeat, haud tamen Crucem alteram in latere pectoris sinistro: ut Equites demum quarti ordinis Crucem parvam ex communi Equitum more in parte vestis sinistra ad pectus apponant. Quin etiam ac removendum quodcumque discrimen, quod in hoc gestando Insigni posset contingere cuiusque Crucis shema typis excudi mandavimus, novis quibusque Equitibus una cum Di plomate tradendum. Iam vero, cum honoris ac dignitatis splendor eo magis refulgeat quc minor est eorum numerus quibus confertur, Nostris profecto fuisset in votis in Gregorianc Ordine constituendo eorum numerum praefinire, qui in singulas illius classes essent coop tandi. Sed quoniam eo tunc praecipue spectavimus, ut praemium iis potissimum repende remus, qui incorrupta fide et egregio in Nos atque hanc Sanctam Sedem studio et obse quio effervescentes id temporis seditionis impetus propulsarent, et Religionis causam a Civilem Apostolicae Sedis Principatum pro viribus tuerentur, haud potuimus extemple consilia Nostra certis quisbusdam limitibus circumscribere. Nunc vero rebus divini Numinis ope conversis, atque exoptato in Pontificiis Nostris Provinciis ordine restituto, cum fi dis fortibusque viris mercedem proposuerimus, in eam venimus sententiam, aliquid ircommemoratis Nostris Literis immutare, pluraque etiam ab integro decernere, quae ac eiusdem Ordinis splendorem augendum maiestatemque amplificandam pertinere posse vi dentur. Hisce igitur Literis statuimus atque mandamus, ut posthac ex utraque classe Magnae Crucis una tantum constet, cui nomen erit primae classis. Nobis vero et Romanic Pontificibus Successoribus Nostris reservamus Magna Cruce gemmis ornata in peculiaribus quibusdam casibus eos decorare, qui Nostro eorumdemque Successorum Nostrorum iudicio singulari ratione honestandi videantur. Quapropter eos omnes qui Magnam Crucem secundae classis iam fuerint adepti, ad primam classem pertinere omnino volumus et declaramus. Itaque deinceps Gregorianus Ordo tribus tantummodo constabit classibus, nempe Equitibus a Magna Cruce, Commendatoribus et Equitibus. Numerum autem cuiuslibet ex tribus iis classibus praefinire volentes, quemadmodum in pluribus Militiis vel Equestribus Ordinibus provide sapienterque factum est et Nos ipsi vehementer optabamus. plena Auctoritate Nostra edicimus atque praecipimus ut Equites a Magna Cruce numerum triginta non praetergrediantur: Commendatores septuaginta, Equites demum tercenti esse possint. Quem quidem singularum classium Equitum numerum pro iis tantum viris, qui Civili Apostolicae Sedis Principatui subsunt praescriptum volumus; proptereaquod ad Nostrum et Successorum Nostrorum arbitrium semper pertinebit homines etiam exterarum gentium in cuiusque classis coetum praeter hunc numerum adlegere. Praeterea, ut huius Ordinis ratio perpetuo servetur neque temporis lapsu diuturna vetustate ullatenus immutetur, mandamus ut Summus ab Actis Gregoriani Ordinis seu, ut dicitur, Magnus Cancellarius sit S. R. E. Cardinalis a Brevibus Apostolicis Literis; penes quem Equitum nomina, gradus, admissionis dies, ac numerus diligenter servetur. Haec decernimus atque statuimus, non obstantibus editis Nostris Literis, de quibus habitus est sermo, nec etiam speciali mentione dignis in contrarium facientibus quibuscumque. Nobis quidem sperare fas est novam hanc consilii Nostri instaurationem optatum exitum assequuturam, eosque simili honore auctos vel in posterum augendos votis Nostris ac fini, ad quem referentur, quam cumulatissime responsuros, ac Pontificia benevolentia magis magisque dignos futuros, praesertim quod ipso in Insigni inscriptum legant hoc munus eorum potissimum esse, qui PRO DEO ET PRINCIPE vel maxime praestant. Datum Romae apud S. Petrum sub Annulo Piscatoris die xxx Maii MDCCCXXXIV, Pontificatus Nostri anno quarto.



SS.mus Dominus Noster Pius PP. X, animo repetens omnia, quae sive ad homines virtute formandos sive ad praemia eisdem pro rectefactis rependenda ab Apostolica Sede proveniunt, iis legibus iugiter moderanda esse, quibus et decori eiusdem S. Sedis et congrue rationi consultum sit, opportune mentem suam ad Equestres Ordines admovit.
Hinc est quod re acta cum infrascripto Cardinali a Brevibus, magno Equestrium Ordinum Cancellario, praeter ordinationes de ceteris Equestribus Ordinibus hoc ipso die latas, volüit ut quae etiam de Gregoriani Ordinis vestibus et Insignibus propriis illorumque usu adhuc non satis certa et definita viderentur, servata eiusdem Ordinis, quae hactenus usu venit, in Civilem unam et Militarem alteram Classem partitione, omnia forent adamussim statuta per leges quae hic sequuntur:


Vestis e panno viridi nigrante siet in longos post tergum producta limbos.
Opera phrygia, omnia acu picta ex argento, circa collum, extremas manicas et supra peras laciniae sint quernea folia referentes, et dentata tacniola quae extremas totius vestis oras circumeat.
Novem pectori globuli: tres vero sint, minoris moduli, manicis.
Posteriores vestis limbi inter utramque peram duobus maioribus globulis, nec non corona querna decorentur; ipsisque peris tres subsint globuli minores.
Femoralia praelonga sunto e panno viridi nigrante; fascia ornentur ex argento querneis foliis intexta, cuius altitudo quatuor centesimarum metricae mensurae partium siet.
Galero nigro ex sericis coactilibus, duplici transversa utrinque et circum ducta limbos, ut in schemate, nigra undati operis fascia ac parvo argenteo flocco in utraque cuspide distincto, nigra superemineat pluma; eique Insigne Pontificium quatuor ex argento funiculis globulo coniunctis innexum sit.
Globuli, omnes ex argento, Crucem Ordinis caelato opere referent.
Item et ensis argenteo cingulo suffultus Crucem Ordinis, prout a schemate apparel, in capulo caelatam referat; capulus ipse sit e concha albida ornatus auro, cum aureo dependente fimbriato funiculo; vagina e corio nigro aureis fulcro et cuspide terminetur.
Praeter Crucem, non aliter ac serica taenia e collo dependentem, Numisma Ordinis argenteum sinistro pectoris lateri ingestum deferre fas esto.
Crucem corona laurea ex enchausto viridi ut in schemate, parve taenia ex auro inferius vincta, superemineat.
Crux, Numisma, globuli quoad formas et modulos, sic et tacnia quo ad colores et altitudinem a schemate non different.


Appendix 2. Statutes of the Royal Confraternity of Saint Teotonio (English version)

Article 1st


The Royal Confraternity of Saint Teotonio, founded the 2nd of November of 2000, under the Royal Protection of Dom Miguel de Bragança, Duke of Viseu, Infante of Portugal, is a secular organization of the faithful with common ends, a group of men willingly desiring to defend the origins and Christian values, maintain and honor the spirit of and remember and promote devotion to Saint Teotonio;

Help in all possible ways the works of charity and assist the Dioceses of the Universal Church;

Diffuse the cultural and historical aspects that surrounded the figure of Saint Teotonio (first Portuguese Saint);

Lend help and mutual aid between confreres, in case of need and with the necessary discretion;
Relate among themselves holders of Titles of Nobility, members of Confraternities, of Military Orders and of Chivalry and Nobiliary Corporations; those distinguished with Orders and Medals of Merit and Commendation, Civil and Military; Members of Academies and Institutes, National or International.

Article 2nd

Anyone may join who is of age and has an interest in the development of the ends and who are admitted by the Grand Prior.

One is required to present a Baptism Certificate or, in its absence, a Parochial Certificate may take its place. In exceptional cases and based on his own knowledge, the Grand Prior or respective Prior General can excuse such presentation.

One is still required to present a properly signed Petition for Admission with two sponsors, Curriculum Vitae, a photograph of equal kind, and copies of documents judged necessary in support of the statements made.

It is the responsibility of the respective Priors General and/or Commanders to propose to the Grand Prior the Class and Category in which the applicant will be admitted them; they should deliver the documents referred to above and be in the possession of all of the Civil Rights.

Those will not be able to be admitted who have incurred some canonical penalty ferendae or latae sententiae.

Article 3rd

The Royal Confraternity of Saint Teotonio is established with Three Classes of Confrades, as follows:

• Brothers Confreres of Justice (holders of Title or Titles of Nobility)
• Brothers Confreres of Merit
• Brothers Confreres Honorary

The Ladies will be designated Sisters Confreiras in identical Classes.
The categories established under these classes:

• Brother Confrere – Knight
• Brother Confrere – Commander
• Brother Confrere – Grand Cross

Article 4th


The Grand Prior is the delegate of all the Authority and Power.
The Organ of Government is the Grand Priory, presided over obligatorily by the Grand Prior, that will have vote of quality.
The Grand Priory is composed of the Grand Prior, Vice Grand Prior and Grand Chancellor.

The Consultative Organ of the Grand Priory, the Capitulo of Priors General, will be able to be called whenever the Grand Priory understands.

It is competent for the Grand Prior to nominate the Priors General, Priests and Commanders, as well as to create National or International Priories.
For formation of a Priory, there should be a Commandery in operation with a minimum of seven Confrades.
It is competent still for the Grand Prior to nominate Commanders, as well as to create the respective Commanderies, and decide of their eventual passage to Priories.
Each Priory should have a Chaplain, competent for the respective Prior to nominate.

The Grand Prior is nominated “AD VITAM” [for life]. Upon his death he should be replaced by the Vice Grand Prior or Chancellor, who will ascend to the maximum charge, should be confirmed by the Spiritual Protector. The new Grand Prior will nominate a new Vice Grand Prior and Chancellor.
It is mandatory Condition that the Grand Prior be of Portuguese Nationality.

Article 5th


The quality of Brother Confrade or Sister Confreira will be lost:
• By voluntary renunciation.
• By the public conduct of the Confrade, that be judged by the Grand Prior
as being able to bring dishonor upon the Royal Confraternity of Saint
Teotonio, or by actions or offenses against other Confrades.

Article 6th


It is a right of all of the Confrades to watch all of the actions of the Royal Confraternity and to use the respective Insignia inherent to their Class and Category, as well as the cloak Capitular, or another Uniform that be established for internal regulation.

Article 7th


It is required of all of the Confrades to fulfill the statutes and internal regulations, as well as the decrees emitted by the Grand Priory or their respective Priors, to honor the quotas that are established and give maximum contributions to the Royal Confraternity of Saint Teotonio, looking to spread the principles that brought about its foundation.

Any contingency not covered by law will be dealt with in a meeting of the Grand Priory.

Article 8th


These are the official dates of this Royal Confraternity:
• Anniversary of the Birth of Saint Teotonio (unknown date)
• Anniversary of the Death of Saint Teotonio -18th of February
• Anniversary of the Conference of Zamora 1123 – 4th of October
• Anniversary of the Restoration – 1st of December

Article 9th


They must, whenever possible, be commemorated with a Eucharistic Celebration, followed by a Lunch or Gala Dinner.

The Ceremony of reception of new Confrades should be carried out following the Holy Mass whenever possible and be governed by internal regulation.

Article 10th


The Grand Prior is the only legitimate authority for investing new members, rewarding their merits, and promoting their promotion in Class and Category.
He will be able to delegate his prerogatives, when the circumstances so advise him, to the Vice Grand Prior or to the Grand Chancellor.

Article 11th


The Insignia of the Royal Confraternity of Saint Teotonio, by excellence, is a golden, oval shield, within a laureate frame at the center the figure of Saint Teotonio holding the right hand of Dom Afonso Henriques to whom, facing, he genuflects the left knee to the ground, under a background of blue. Above is the golden Royal Portuguese Crown with a cap of red.

Article 12th



(Rise Up My King and Build Your Kingdom)

Article 13th

The colors are the Blue and White of the first Flag of Portugal.

Article 14th

Final authority – To the Spiritual Protector, as provided in the Code of
Canon Law and in the present Statutes, belong the following powers:
• The Right to Visit and Inspect the activities of this Royal Confraternity.
• The approval of statutory modifications.
• The conformation and destitution of the Grand Prior.
• The dissolution of the Confraternity in conformity with the Code of Canon Law.
• Everything else that Canon Law attributes to him.
I confirm as a Secular Organization of the Faithful the Royal Confraternity
of Saint Teotonio, and, according to the Canon 314 of the Code of Canon Law, I
APPROVE the present Statutes by which it is dictated that the Royal
Confraternity be governed.
I exhort all of the Members to fulfill its ends with generosity and the
spirit of Faith, trusting that this will contribute efficiently to their
Christian formation and apostolic action.
Done in Lisbon the 7th day of the Month of May of the year of the Grace of
Our Lord 2005.
The Spiritual Protector

Dom Abílio Rodas de Sousa Ribas
By the Grace of God and of the Holy Apostolic See
Bishop of the Diocese of São Tomé e Príncipe”

What is the legal status of noble titles and knightly orders in modern Italy?

In early 19th-century Italy, members of secret societies (called “the Carboneria“; English: “charcoal makers”) were the main source of opposition to the conservative regimes imposed on Italy by the victorious allies after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815. Following the Congress of Vienna that year, a political and social Italian unification movement, the “Risorgimento“, emerged to unite Italy by consolidating the different states of the peninsula and liberating it from foreign control. Before the unification, Italy did not exist as a state, but consisted of numerous kingdoms and other sovereign entities, each ruled by separate dynasties. The Carbonari were spread across Europe. They all had patriotic and liberal goals and were republican and anticlerical.

The activities of the Italian unification movement eventually lead to the Encounter of Teano (L’Incontro di Teano) on 26 October 1860; the meeting between general, patriot, republican and Freemason Giuseppe Garibaldi and the King of Sardinia, Vittorio Emanuele II, at a bridge in the town of Teano (in the province of Caserta), after the successful Expedition of the Thousand, during which the forces of the Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Naples) were defeated. This meeting paved the way for the union of southern Italy and Sicily with the north of the peninsula. The Expedition of the Thousand was one of the most dramatic events of the unification.

During the meeting, Garibaldi hailed Vittorio Emanuele II as king of Italy, covering the whole Italian peninsula, reaching from the Alps to Sicily. Garibaldi sacrificed his republican aspirations for the Italian unity under a monarchy. On 17 March 1861, the deputies of the first Italian Parliament in Turin, assembled by king Victor Emmanuel, proclaimed the latter King of Italy.

“The Encounter of Teano (L’Incontro di Teano)”, Carlo Ademollo (1825-1911), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Most historians agree that the unification of Italy has commenced with the acquisition of most of Northern Italy by Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia, and subsequently developed over several years as diplomacy and Garibaldi’s conquests extended the new kingdom. Italian unity was finally achieved, largely through the efforts of three Freemasons; the revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini, the soldier Garibaldi and the statesman Camillo Benso, Conte di Cavour, Isolabella e Leri (his godparents were Napoleon’s sister Pauline, and her husband, Prince Camillo Borghese, after whom Camillo was named). It is interesting to note that for Garibaldi, Freemasonry, especially after 1860, was a meeting place which he more than once used to carry out his political and cultural strategies (Gustavo Raffi 2002). By 1870, nationalists had destroyed the Pope’s earthly dominion. In 1871, Rome was made the capital of Italy, being an independent secular nation state. The Papacy was reduced to 109 acres around Saint Peter’s.

To summarize: the birth of the Kingdom of Italy was the result of efforts by Italian nationalists and monarchists loyal to the House of Savoy to establish a united kingdom encompassing the entire Italian peninsula. The new Kingdom of Italy was structured by renaming the old Kingdom of Sardinia and annexing all the ancient dynastic entities into its structures. 

Historical nobility in Italy

Italy has four royal families: Savoy, Bourbon-Sicilies, Bourbon-Parma and Habsburg-Tuscany. Before the Italian Unification, the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (which before 1816 was split into the Kingdoms of Naples and Sicily), the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Duchy of Parma, the Duchy of Modena, the Duchy of Savoy, the Duchy of Milan, the Papal States, various republics and the Austrian dependencies in Northern Italy, all had their own nobiliairy systems with different traditions and rules. The nobility of the Italian Kingdom was expanded into Africa with the creation of the Italian Empire in conquered Ethiopia and East Africa. The structure of the noble titles in Italy is listed below.

Re d’Italia/King of ItalyRegina d’Italia/Queen of Italy
Conte/Count (Earl)Contessa/Countess
Nobile, or Nobiluomo/NoblemanNobile, or Nobildonna/Noblewoman
Cavaliere ereditario/Baronet (hereditary knight)Dama/Dame
Patrizio of certain cities/PatricianPatrizia of certain cities/Patrician
Italian titles of nobility and their English translations

Before the Italian unification, official publications of families with noble titles existed in many states and cities and were often named “Libro d’Oro” (golden book). Examples of golden books were the Libro d’oro of Venice, the Libro d’Oro of Murano, an island in the Venetian Lagoon and the Genoese Libro d’Oro.

Libro d’Oro della Nobiltà Italiana, photo by the Collegio Araldico

In 1869, the Consulta Araldica (College of Arms) was established in the Kingdom of Italy to give advice to the government regarding noble titles, coats of arms and other public honours. The Consulta Araldica was established to avoid abuses and usurpations of noble titles, already existing in the pre-unification states. The Consulta Araldica was instructed to register the nation’s noble titles. In 1896 the Consulta Araldica published the “Libro d’Oro della Nobiltà Italiana“, in which the families were registered that had obtained a noble title from the king or had been recognised by the king as being noble. Currently, members of historical Italian noble families are mainly listed in two publications:

  1. The Annuario della Nobiltà Italiana is a genealogical repertory, containing Italian noble families and Italian notable families. The series was originally created in 1878 in Pisa by writer and scholar Giovan Battista di Crollalanza. The typography of the word was inspired by the nineteenth-century editions of the Almanac of Gotha. The series was published by the Italian Academy of Heraldry, in twenty-seven editions (until 1905), first in Pisa, then in Bari and finally in Mola di Bari. In 1998, the new series of the annuario was established by the well-known scholar Andrea Borella in Milan, in two volumes. From 2000 until her death in 2007, Mrs. Onda di Crollalanza, great-granddaughter of Giovan Battista Crollalanza, accepted patronage of the series. Subsequenbtly, Araldo di Crollalanza, Onda’s half-brother became patron of the series. The current patron is the latter’s son, Goffredo di Crollalanza (* 1974). The latest edition (XXXII) was published in December 2014. The structure of the original work is preserved in its five main sections:
    • Part I: the Royal House of Italy and the sovereign families in the ancient Italian states;
    • Part II: noble families officially registered in the Kingdom of Italy;
    • Part III: noble families divided into papal titleholders after 1870, families ennobled or accepted by the Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta; families ennobled by the king of Italy, Umberto II, after 1947 or persons who obtained recognition from the Corpo della nobiltà italiana; families accepted in knightly orders with evidence of nobility issued after the fall of the Kingdom of Italy;
    • Part IV: families adorned with “nobiltà generosa“, especially from the pre-unification states, which were not recognized by the Kingdom of Italy and therefore are not included in the other sections;
    • Part V: Italian “notable” families, for example families in possession of a coat of arms and with noble customs, but not formally recognized as noble.
  2. The Libro d’Oro della Nobiltà Italiana was first published in 1910. The book brings together the families that were listed in the Golden Book of the Consulta Araldica and those included in the Official Nobles Lists of 1921 and 1933. The Libro d’Oro contains 1.997 noble families. Each entry contains a brief historical note, as well as the updated family status and a black and white image of the coat of arms. For 3.859 families, there is a reference to the previous editions of the Libro d’Oro. The latest edition of the Libro d’Oro della Nobiltà Italiana (XXV edition 2015-2019) was published in 2016 and consists of two volumes (volume XXX (AL) and volume XXXI (MZ) of the series) containing about 2.000 pages in total. The next edition, the XXVI 2020-2024, is in preparation.

Legal status of the Italian nobility

Regarding the legal status of titles of nobility in Italy, Wikipedia states:

In 1946, the Kingdom of Italy was replaced by a republic. Under the Italian Constitution adopted in 1948, titles of nobility, although still used as a courtesy, are not legally recognised.


This statement is inaccurate.

Before the Italian republican constitution entered into force, the noble and knightly
titles (inherited or not) were recognised and regulated by the following laws of the Italian Kingdom:

  1. Article 79 of the ‘Statuto albertino‘ (English: Albertine Statute; the constitution that Charles Albert of Sardinia conceded to the Kingdom of Sardinia in Italy on 4 March 1848) stated that “…the titles of nobility shall be retained by those, who are entitled to them; the King may grant new ones… “;
  2. By Royal Decree No. 313 of 10 October 1869, the ‘Consulta araldica’ of the Italian kingdom was established (a consultative body advising the government on matters of nobility and heraldry, abolished in 1948);
  3. Royal Decrees Nrs. 1489 of 16 August 1926 and 1091 of 16 June 1927 standardised the succession of titles of nobility throughout the Kingdom, and abolished the old rules of succession in accordance with the old legislation;
  4. Royal Decrees Nrs. 651/1943 and 652/1943 regulated the noble titles and the ‘Consulta araldica‘.
Annuario della Nobiltà Italiana. Photo:

The forementioned regulations have been abolished by the Republic of Italy in view of the principle of equality, referred to in Article 3 of the Italian Constitution. Further, provision XIV of ‘‘Disposizioni Transitorie e Finali della Costituzione‘ (additional special provisions set out in the Italian Constitution), explicitly states that “aristocratic titles will not be recognised (…) Noble titles granted before 28 October 1922 will become part of the family name“. Therefore, titles of nobility no longer enjoy any legal protection in Italy, and all legislation concerning their protection has been abolished. The ‘non-recognition’ of noble titles by the Italian State however, does not imply that they are illegal, in a way that someone is in a position even to use these titles illegally and thus to commit a criminal offence. These titles are simply not protected by the law (Cass. 1 July 1957, in Giust. Pen. 1958-11-15; Rep. Gen. Giur It. 1958; Usurp. Tit. no. 5). To summarize; in the Italian legal system that emerged from the Republican Constitution, the noble and chivalrous titles are neither forbidden nor recognised and are, from a legal perspective, totally irrelevant, unless they have become part of the family name, in which case they are subject to legal restrictions and provisions. They then enjoy the protection of Articles 7 and 2 c.c. (Italian Civil Code).

This means that the use of noble titles is not prohibited and that Italian law does not attribute any meaning (value or worthlessness) to such titles. Italian republican law does not prohibit the titles of nobility obtained under the abolished nobiliary laws. Only recently have the forementioned Royal Decrees nrs. 651/1943 and 652/1943, which regulated titles of nobility and the ‘Consulta araldica‘, been explicitly annulled by Italian Provisional Legislative Decree No 112/2008 (later converted into Law 133/2008) and Legislative Decree No 66/2010.

Legal status of knightly orders

Regarding knightly titles awarded in accordance with the now obsolete aristocratic legislation, specific rules apply, which are determined by law 178/1951. This law established the ‘Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana‘ (Order of Merit of the Italian Republic) and gives rules regarding appointments in this Order (Art. 1 – 6). Art. 7 to 9 deal with the other knightly orders that already existed in Italy and with non-national or foreign orders:

  1. The forementioned law explicitly abolishes the orders of the former Italian Royal House of Savoy (Art. 7 to 9) with the following provisions:
  2. The law explicitly deals with orders with a special legal status. These are essentially the secular orders of the Vatican and orders under the protection of the Vatican. Specific legislation guarantees that these provisions remain in force. In particular Article 9. 7(2) and (3), in which:
    • is referred to the provisions regarding the knightly titles and the use of decorations of the Vatican and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem;
    • is stipulated that “the legal provisions in force with regard to the use of knightly titles and the use of decorations, issued by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta remain unchanged“.
  3. Finally, the law addresses the granting and use of knightly titles and decorations by distinguishing between the granting of decorations by national orders and/or private organisations and/or individual citizens on the one hand; and the granting of decorations by non-national orders on the other hand.
    • Legal persons, organisations and/or individuals are not entitled to award knightly titles and decorations in any form and under any denomination (Art. 8.1);
    • Non-national orders are allowed, or at least it is not prohibited (see the clause “except for the provisions of Art. 7“), to award knightly titles and decorations, but the use of such titles is permitted only with the consent of the President of the Republic, on the proposal of the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Art. 7 paragraph 1).

In short, except for the chivalric orders of the House of Savoy, the national orders mentioned in art. 9, and the orders of the Holy See and the Sovereign Order of Malta, the forementioned law is only relevant in the context of two prohibitions (one as a crime, the other as a violation):

  1. The prohibition of the granting of titles by individuals, organizations and or national orders;
  2. The prohibition of the use of titles and decorations (except when they are granted by non-national orders and in a manner as described above).

Italian law therefore regulates (prohibits, or – under certain conditions – allows) the use of knightly titles and the granting and use of decorations. Apart from abolishing the dynastic national orders of the House of Savoy, Italian law does not prohibit nor authorize the establishment or the activities (other than the conduct described above) of national or non-national knightly orders. Italian law regulates the attribution or use of titles and decorations by knightly orders:

  1. The use of titles and decorations conferred by a non-national order is regulated through Italian administrative law;
  2. The use of unlawful titles and decorations (in accordance with current Italian administrative law since the abolition of the original fines imposed by the Artt. 7 and 8 of the law 178/1951) is prohibited;
  3. The awarding of titles and decorations by national orders, citizens and/or private organisations is prohibited.

In all other cases, a chivalric order (national or not) remains irrelevant to the law, not only because a chivalric order operates in a kind of vacuum according to the Italian legal system, but also because there is no law in the republican legislation that prohibits a knightly order or attaches any particular value to it. Regarding the awarding of decorations, it is absolute necessary to distinguish national orders from non-national orders.


Modern Italian law is fully neutral towards titles of nobility. The historical nobility in current Italy is well-documented in the forementioned publications. In 1946, when the Italian monarchy was abolished, a number of titles used by families in the pre-unification states (Two Sicilies, Papal State, et cetera) still had not been matriculated by the Consulta Araldica. Therefore, it cannot be said that the use of certain titles of nobility is incorrect, when they are not documented in the forementioned publications It can simply be the case that they were not registered between 1861 and 1946.

Awarding knightly orders by non-national orders is not prohibited in Italy but their use is only permitted with consent of the President of the Republic.

When studying the Italian nobility, the following considerations by expert on Italian nobility, mr. Louis Mendola, should be kept in mind:

It has become something of an urban legend that most surnames beginning de or di followed by the name of a place are in some way aristocratic in origin, and that certain names are sui generis noble. Such ideas are ridiculous; numerous Italian families having no kinship to Italy’s royal Savoys are named Savoia or di Savoia.


In view of complexities that sometimes arise in ascertaining the veracity of a claim to a title of nobility, the author is occasionally queried about the simplest means of determining this. The most efficient strategy is to identify descent from an ancestor belonging to the feudal nobility (by feudal tenure) or urban patriciate in the direct, legitimate male line or, alternatively, to determine such descent from an ancestor whose name was inscribed in the Libro d’Oro del Regno d’Italia (before 1946) or the official lists of Italy’s predecessor states (before 1861). For the Kingdom of Sicily, for example, there are the works by Mango di Casalgerardo and San Martino de Spucches mentioned in the introduction to the author’s online “Sicilian Armory.” In Piedmont there are works such as Antonio Manno’s Patriziato Subalpino. Although no compilation is complete, the presence of nobiliary-heraldic information in these records, in conjucnction with an accurate, generation-by-generation pedigree, is sufficient to fulfill the researcher’s burden of proof in around ninety percent of the cases likely to be investigated.


There is nothing more ridiculous than a self-styled “expert” who petulantly proclaims that “such-and-such family is not noble because it is not listed in this-or-that book.” In documentary, archival records, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. None of the references cited in the following section is complete. In his research, the author has identified many noble families – some happily flourishing today – omitted from recent compilations, sometimes for what appear to be subjective reasons, such as political motives. Factual history is based on reality, not publication on the internet by a self-appointed “authority.” History, like science, has experts but no authorities.

Louis Mendola, Italian Titles of Nobility




This information is not intended as, and should not be taken as, legal advice. Do not act or refrain from acting based upon information provided in this article without first consulting a lawyer about your particular factual and legal circumstances.

“I have obtained a nobiliary title from a deposed monarch. Do I belong to the nobility of his country?”

As deposed dynasties do not form part of a state any more, it might appear that holders of their nobiliary titles do not belong to the nobility of the region over which the dynasty once ruled. This article examines if this assumption is correct. I will first examine a case where the monarch is the Head of State and subsequently examine three cases where the dynasty is deposed.

British honours

July 2020, Captain Tom Moore knighted by The Queen During Outdoor Ceremony at Windsor Castle. Moore served in India, the Burma campaign and Sumatra during the Second World War, and later became an instructor in armoured warfare. After the war, he worked as managing director of a concrete company and was an avid motorcycle racer. On 6 April 2020, at the age of 99, he began to walk laps of his garden in aid of NHS Charities Together, with the goal of raising £1,000 by his hundredth birthday. On the morning of his hundredth birthday the total raised by his walk passed £30 million, and by the time the campaign closed at the end of that day had increased to over £32.79 million. On 17 July 2020, he was invested as a Knight Bachelor at Windsor Castle.

All modern British honours, including peerage dignities, are created by the Crown (analogous to all intents and purposes to the reigning Sovereign, currently HM Queen Elizabeth II). Therefore, the Crown is the fons honorum for all British honours. Every year, the final list of those nominated for honours is prepared by the Main Honours Committee at 10 Downing Street. The list incudes life peerages and knighthoods. When approved by the Committee, it is submitted, through the Prime Minister, to The Queen. The creations take effect when letters patent are issued, affixed with the Great Seal of the Realm; the chief seal of the Crown as a symbol of the Sovereign’s approval. In today’s constitutional monarchy, the Sovereign acts on the advice of the Government, but the Great Seal of the Realm remains an important symbol of the Sovereign’s role as Head of State:

The Queen is as much the Queen of New South Wales (In re Bateman’s Trust (1873) 15 Eq 355, 361) and Mauritius (R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex p Bhurosah [1968] 1 QB 266, 284) and other territories acknowledging her as head of state as she is of England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom. Thus the Secretary of State as a servant of the Crown exercises executive power on behalf of the Crown in whatever is, for purposes of that exercise of executive power, the relevant capacity of the Crown.

R (Al Rawi and others) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and another [2006] EWCA Civ 1279, paragraph 9.

Along with the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the Crown is an integral part of the institution of Parliament. The Queen plays a constitutional role in opening and dissolving Parliament and approving Bills before they become law. When a bill has been approved by a majority in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, it is formally agreed to by the Crown. This is known as the Royal Assent. It transforms a Bill into an Act of Parliament, allowing it to become law in the United Kingdom.

Because in Britain, the State and its sovereign are entwined, the peers created by the sovereign belong to the peerage of the state. The peerage of the United Kingdom is the legal system comprising both hereditary and lifetime titles, composed of various noble ranks, and forming a constituent part of the British honours system. Therefore, a person who is granted a peerage by The Queen belongs to the British peerage.

Sovereign rights after the monarch is deposed

This situation is different when a monarch is involuntarily deposed: the monarch and the state are not entwined any more, but the two are separated. It is in line with international legal principles that (ex-)rulers continue to possess their sovereign rights (see Hugo Grotius’ De iure belli ac pacis; English: On the Law of War and Peace. Paris 1625), and therefore still hold the fons honorum to create nobiliary titles:

That is called Supreme, whose Acts are not subject to another’s Power, so that they cannot be made void by any other human Will. When I say, by any other, I exclude the Sovereign himself, who may change his own Will, as also his Successor, who enjoys the same Right, Cacheranus Decis Pedem. 139. n. 6. and consequently, has the same Power, and no other.

Hugo Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace, edited and with an Introduction by Richard Tuck, from the Edition by Jean Barbeyrac (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005. Vol. 1. 8/16/2020)., Book 1, Chapter 3, paragraph 7

The character of the holder of this supreme authority is probably the most important dimension of sovereignty (source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

King Kigeli V of Rwanda

Mutara Rudahigwa, King of Rwanda, Knight Commander with Star of the Papal Order of St. Gregory the Great, awaits the arrival of King Baudouin of Belgium. ca. 1955. Scanned postcard. Mutara III Rudahigwa (March 1911 – 25 July 1959) was King (mwami) of Rwanda between 1931 and 1959. He was the first Rwandan king to be baptised. Subsequently, Roman Catholicism took hold in Rwanda during his reign. Mutara’s Christian names were Charles Léon Pierre. He is sometimes referred to as Charles Mutara III Rudahigwa.

It has been stated by some individuals that the last King of Rwanda, King Kigeli V (1936-2016), did not enjoy sovereign powers under the Belgium suppression and that therefore he did not have the competence to create a Western-style nobiliary framework after being deposed.

Rwanda existed long before European colonization. Modern human settlement of what is now Rwanda dates from, at the latest, the last glacial period, either in the Neolithic period around 8000 BC, or in the long humid period which followed, up to around 3000 BC.

Gihanga (“Creator”, “Founder”) (1081-1114) is described in oral histories as an ancient Tutsi king credited with establishing the ancient Kingdom of Rwanda. In the 15th century, the population coalesced first into clans and then into kingdoms. The Kingdom of Rwanda dominated from the mid-eighteenth century, with the Tutsi kings conquering other monarchs militarily, thus centralising power. It had its own political and socio-economic organization, its culture and customs.

The Berlin Conference of 1884 assigned the territory to Germany as part of German East Africa, marking the beginning of Rwanda’s colonial era. The German explorer Gustav Adolf Graf von Goetzen was the first European to significantly explore the country in 1894. He crossed from the south-east to Lake Kivu and met king Kigeli IV Rwabugiri at his palace in Nyanza. The Germans did not significantly alter the social structure of the country, but exerted influence by supporting the king and the existing hierarchy and delegating power to local chiefs.

The Kingdom of Rwanda was a sovereign nation. In the pre-colonial era the King of Rwanda held the supreme authority over a very complex administrative structure of interdependence of political, administration, military, social, economic and religion, based on the clan and lineage which appears behind each ruling structure:

Source: Maquet, J. J. (1954). Le système des relations sociales dans le Ruanda ancien. Tervuren, Belgique: Musée Royal du Congo Belge, p.163.

Contrary to the German occupation, during the suppression by the Belgians (1916-1962), the King of Rwanda’s executive power were limited. The colonizer institutionalized “chefferies” and “sous-chefferies” by regrouping ancient royal political – administrative entities but removed the chiefs of the land, the chiefs of pastures and the chiefs of the army. In the same occasion, the Mortehan Reform of 1926-1931 by the Belgians changed the ethnic power distribution in the new commands by removing average Hutu, Twa and Tutsi and replacing them by people from the major Tutsi lineages (matridynastic or dynastic and princes). Also, the king could no longer choose his chiefs, and he could not dismiss them. His power was weakened while that of the colonizer was reinforced. The King of the Belgians usurped the King of Rwanda’s sovereignty. During the Mortehan Reform, Rwanda was transformed inside out on political, administrative, social and culture levels. In five years time, Belgium destroyed Rwanda’s centuries old civilization.

In view of the forementioned, it is perfectly legitimate for the former King Kigeli V of Rwanda to issue Western-style nobiliary titles. His dynastic rights as a sovereign should be considered the same as in the pre-colonial era, when he had supreme authority. In my opinion, titleholders can state legitimately that they belong to the Rwandan peerage as it is perfectly clear who is the sole legitimate issuer of such titles.

The case of Prince Francesco and Prince Thorbjorn Paternó Castello

Paternò Castle, locally known as Castello di Paternò, lies on a 300 meters high rock, in the city of the same name, in the Catania province on the island of Sicily in Italy. The town of Paternò is probably the site of the Roman settlement of Hibla Gaelatis. It was a stronghold during Roman, Byzantine and Muslim times. Paternò Castle was built in 1072 by the Norman count Roger, the future King of Sicily, to fortify the area around the city of Catania, which was still in the hands of the Muslims, before laying siege. It was probably built on the site of a former Muslim tower. Under Henry VI Hohenstaufen it was made the seat of the Count of Paternò, assigned to his fellow Swabian Bartholomew of Luci. Later the castle housed kings and queens, such as Henry’s son Emperor Frederick IIEleanor of Anjou and Blanche I of Navarre, as the castle had been included in the so-called Camera Reginale estates (“Queen’s Chamber”) by King Frederick III of Sicily. (sources:; Wikipedia). Photo: unknown, early 1960’s.

Paternò Castello is a Sicilian noble family that was very powerful and influential in eastern Sicily, especially in Catania. Between the 17th and 18th centuries, the family acquired numerous possession and titles. The family can be divided into six branches: two princely (Biscari and Valsavoia), two ducal (Carcaci and Paternò Castello Guttadauro), one marquisate (San Giuliano), and two baronial (Bicocca and Sant’Alessio).

Paternò Castello descends from the Royal House of the Counts of Barcelona, later Kings of Aragon. The House of Barcelona was a medieval dynasty that ruled the County of Barcelona continuously from 878 and the Crown of Aragon from 1137 (as kings from 1162) until 1410. They inherited most of the Catalan counties by the thirteenth century and established a territorial Principality of Catalonia. This principality was united with the Kingdom of Aragon through marriage and conquering numerous other lands and kingdoms. In 1410, the last legitimate male of the main branch, Martin the Humanist, died but cadet branches of the house continued to rule Provence from 1112 to 1245, and Sicily from 1282 to 1409. By the Compromise of Caspe of 1412 the Crown of Aragon passed to a branch of the House of Trastámara, descended from the infanta Eleanor of the house of Barcelona.

The Crown of Aragon continued to exist until 1713 when its separate constitutional systems (Catalan Constitutions, Aragon Charters, and Charters of Valencia) were disbanded by the Nueva Planta decrees at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession. The decrees effectively created a Spanish citizenship or nationality, which judicially no longer distinguished between Castilian and Aragonese with respect to both rights and law. Since then, independent Aragonese monarchs seized to exist. Nonetheless, Spanish monarchs up to Felipe VI (1968), continue to use titles that were affiliated to the defunct Crown of Aragon.

The House of Paternò is originally a cadet branch of the House of Barcelona-Aragona. This genealogical relationship is the basis for the dynastic claims of two brothers; prince Francesco Paternò Castello (*1964) and prince Thorbjorn Paternò Castello (*1976).

I have examined the legitimacy of both claims earlier in a 2016 article. At least two individuals are of the opinion that prince Thorbjorn’s claims are not legitimate:

The fons honorum of the House of Paternò is heavily challenged by Guy Stair Sainty, stating that as a junior member of a junior branch of the family don Roberto has no right to claim any prerogative pertaining to its chief, whether or not such prerogative actually exists (Guy Stair Sainty and Rafal Heydel-Mankoo, World Orders of Knighthood and Merit 2006).

In 1973 Lt Col Robert Gayre published a booklet in which he states that “certain observations should be made which, in our opinion, destroy completely these historical claims. The Papal legitimation which is brought forward to allow the desired descent was, in itself, insufficient to transfer any title to the Crown of Aragon. Furthermore, as Aragon did not have the Salic law, the descent of  the crown could pass through a female line. Consequently, even if the legitimization had put Don Pedro Sancho into the line of succession, that succession would have gone through a female line on the extinction of the male descent – and so to the house of Paternò would have been out of succession in any case.”. (…) It is clear that no matter how distinguished is the house Paternò, it cannot claim to be the heirs of the Kingdom of the Balearic Isles or of Aragon.” (Lt Col R. Gayre of Gayre and Nigg, A Glimpse of the Chivalric and Nobiliary Underworld, Lochore Enterprises (Malta) Ltd. Valetta, Malta, pp. 27-28).

R.A.U. Juchter van Bergen Quast, Legal Opinion: The Fons Honorum of the House of Paternò Castello, 2016

The forementioned statements by Sainty and Gayre are incorrect and obsolete. On 12 December 2017, the judicial court of Reggio Emilia in Italy confirmed the legitimacy and legality of prince Thorbjorn to grant titles and honours (his fons honorum). In response to the accusation of the Italian public prosecutor that prince Thorborn is not a descendent of the House of Aragon, nor a legitimate claimant to its dynastic rights, the court ruled very clearly:

  • There is no evidence that the crucial document for the claim, a statement issued by King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies (1810-1859), in whose realm the family resided, is false (as had been stated by the public prosecutor):
Judicial Court of Reggio Emilia, Judgement N. 500/17 of 12 December 2017, pp. 11-12
  • In ancient Sicily, titles could not only be inherited by the firstborn child, but also by other sons and daughters (the public prosecutor stated that succession could only take place through the male line):
Judicial Court of Reggio Emilia, Judgement N. 500/17 of 12 December 2017, p. 12.

The forementioned Paternò Castello-case is fascinating: it is the only case where the fons honorum of a royal claimant is sanctioned by an authoritative legal judgment in a case against the state prosecutor. The case was initiated by the SMOM. The consequence of the judgment is that the legitimacy and legality of the claimed dynastic rights of prince Thorbjorn Paternò Castello are definite.

In my opinion, holders of titles from both brothers should specify clearly that their titles originate from the house of Paternò Castello in the capacity of claimant to the dynastic rights of Aragon and Valencia because otherwise, confusion can arise about their origin as the King of Spain also claims these rights. In addition, Aragon and Valencia do not longer exist as independent regions, which also adds to the confusion. It is more practical to just refer to the House Paternò Castello, for example: Barone di Montichelvo (title issued by the Princely House of Paternò Castello).

The case of King Peter of Yugoslavia

Petar Karađorđevič (1923, Belgrade – 1970, Los Angeles, California), was the last king of Yugoslavia. He ruled the country under the regnal name of Peter II.

During his visit in New York, the King’s wish to see the great Serbian scientist Nikola Tesla came true. He visited him on 8 July at the Hotel “New Yorker”, where Tesla had spent his last days. A joint photo from that meeting was preserved, and it was taken by the King’s photographer.

Peter II was the son of Alexander I, who was assassinated during a visit to France on 9 October 1934. He became titular king at age 11, but the actual rule was in the hands of a regent, his uncle Prince Paul. After Paul was deposed by a coup of officers led by General Dušan Simović on 27 March 1941, Peter II ruled for a few weeks until Fascist troops invaded Yugoslavia. Peter II then fled into exile in London, where he led an émigré government. In 1944, he married Princess Alexandra of Greece, and, after the Yugoslav monarchy was abolished by general Tito in 1945, he settled in the United States. He wrote A King’s HeritageThe Memoirs of King Peter II of Yugoslavia (1955) and worked in the public relations sector in New York (source: Encyclopaedia Britannica).

It was not the first time that the king visited the United States. His first visit to America started on 24 June 1942 with his reception at the White House where he was accorded warm hospitality by President Roosevelt. He was welcomed with full honours that even exceeded the official protocol (source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia).

Addressing King Peter in a very moving speech, President Roosevelt said that as a young man, he read about the 500-year-long Serbian struggle for national liberation and the establishment of its sovereignty, with great interest and deep emotions. In response to this warm welcome, King Peter thanked President Roosevelt and the American people for the understanding and moral support showed for the struggle of his people (source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia). 

Peter II died in Denver, Colorado, on 3 November 1970. He was interred in Saint Sava Monastery Church at Libertyville, Illinois, and was the only European monarch so far to have been buried in the United States. On 22 January 2013, King Peter’s remains were returned to Belgrade. The former King was buried in the Royal Family Mausoleum at Oplenac on 26 May 2013 along with his wife, Queen Alexandra. The Serbian Royal Regalia were placed over the King’s coffin. Present at the ceremonies were: the First Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia, Ivica Dačić; King Peter’s son Alexander with his family; and Serbian Patriarch Irinej, an advocate for the restoration of the Serbian monarchy.

The acts of Peter II during his period in exile (1945 – 1970) are the acts of a sovereign, who was forced by the Communist Josip Broz Tito to give up his position. According to Hugo Grotius’ principles of international law, Peter II still enjoyed sovereignty after he had been deposed. Do recipients of noble titles, issued by King Peter II belong to the Yugoslav nobility?

I will answer this question on the basis of the complicated case of Thomas Shannon Foran (born, 1925, New London, Connecticut, United States – died, 2005, Neuilly-Sur-Seine, Hauts-De-Seine, Île-De-France, France; as Thomas Foran de Saint Bar; France Death Index, 1970-2020). The New York Times reported his obituary:

FORAN–Thomas. Thomas Shannon, Baron Foran, duc de Saint Bar, died October 15, at home in Neuilly-Sur-Seine, France, after a long illness. Baron Foran was born in New Haven, CT. In 1943, he volunteered as a paratrooper and joined the 82nd Airborne division, serving in the African, Sicilian, and Italian campaigns, and parachuted behind German lines at Draguignan, France. He was wounded in France and in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. His medals include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart with two palms, and the Yugoslav War Cross. He was aide-de-camp to King Peter II of Yugoslavia and thereafter championed and published several books on the Yugoslav Karageorges Royal Family. After the war he lived in Paris, where he represented European wines and spirits in the US. He was a Knight Grand-Cross with sash of the Sovereign Order of Malta, an order he served in many capacities for 45 years. In recent years, his commentaries in European journals provided insights on European royalty and the breakup of Yugoslavia. He will be remembered gratefully by family and friends for his unconditional love, loyalty, and friendship; values that shaped his life. He is survived by a sister, Theodora Jones, his niece and adopted daughter, Valerie Knox Carter, their families, and by Marc Gantzer de Saint Bar. A Memorial Mass will be held at 10 am, Friday, November 4th, 2005, at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, 213 Broadway, Norwich, CT. Entombment in the Shannon mausoleum at St. Mary’s Cemetery, 815 Boswell Ave, will follow the Mass.

New York Times, 31 October 2005. Note: Forian was a member of King Peter’s independent Order of Malta, formed by the King on 19 March 1964.

Foran was the son of John Kennedy Foran and Madeleine Valerie. King Peter II issued a diploma, dated 30 March 1941, issuing to him the title of duc de Saint Bar. Obviously, the diploma has been backdated to a period when Peter II ruled over Yugoslavia as a monarch. Is the backdating of the diploma acceptable from a legal perspective?

Clearly, Peter II wanted to explicitly backdate the effects of the diploma in his capacity as ruling monarch of Yugoslavia. The diploma could factually have been issued later in the Common Law jurisdictions of England or the United States (the King’s subsequent main residences after the war), or in France, where the King lived in the 1950’s.

In Common Law, if backdating a document misleads a third party or gives a false impression about when an action was taken, it may be fraudulent. Where both parties consent to the backdating of the document, normally the courts in common law jurisdictions will disregard the backdating of that document, and treat the rights as accruing from the date when the document was actually executed. In exceptional cases – where third party rights are not affected – the courts might treat the stated date as being the effective date. The parties’ intentions are essential when evaluating whether backdating is legal (source: Kwall, Jeffrey L. and Duhl, Stuart, Backdating. Business Lawyer, 2008, Available at SSRN: In this case, the purpose and effect was not to mislead a third party, but to underline the sovereign powers of Peter II, and to oppose the usurpation of his throne by the fascists and communists, by attributing the legal effect of the diploma since 1943. When the diploma was factually created in France, which has a Civil Law jurisdiction, the conclusion is the same, based on the théorie de l’autonomie de la volonté (the principle of party autonomy and will). Therefore, Foran’s diploma is legal and legitimate, from a Common and Civil Law perspective as well as from an international law perspective.

On 4 December 1918, after the end of World War I and the defeat of Austria-Hungary, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was formed. In 1921, the so-called Vidovdan constitution was introduced. Under this new Constitution, the territory of the state was centralized, church authorities did not have the status of state authority, and the Church was only acknowledged the status of an autonomous organization. The Vidovdan Constitution established a constitutional monarchy. It further envisaged that the King did not have any authorities outside the Constitution, and that there were no authorities that could not be taken away from him under the Constitution. The Vidovdan Constitution followed the agreement between the Muslim party and the Serbian radicals to keep Bosnia and Herzegovina a separate administrative unit in this new kingdom. However, this constitution was not legitimate, because the provisions it rested on were not approved by the parliamentary majority of each nation separately but by the parliamentary majority of all nations together, where the three nations had unequal number of representative (source: Aksic, Sava: 2016). The Vidovdan constitution was annulled by King Alexander in 1929 and replaced by a new constitution in 1931. The name of the country was changed to Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The 1931-constitution defined the state as a hereditary and constitutional monarchy. Ministers and other high officials were dependent on the king. In 1946, after World War II, a Communist constitution was adopted (source:

Chapter II, Article 4 of the 1931 Constitution stipulated:

Држављанство је у читавој Краљевини једно. Сви су грађани пред законом једнаки. Сви уживају једнаку заштиту власти. Не признаје се племство ни титуле, нити икаква преимућства по рођењу.

There is but one single nationality in the whole Kingdom. All citizens are equal before the law. All enjoy equal protection from the authorities. Nobility, titles or other hereditary privileges are not recognized.

Did this article prevent King Peter from issuing nobiliary diplomas, after he left the country because it was occupied by Axis powers (since 6 April 1941)?

Art. 29. The King is the guardian of national unity and State integrity. He is the protector of their interests at all times. The King sanctions and promulgates the laws, appoints civil servants, and confers military rank, in accordance with the provisions of the law. The King is the supreme commander of all the military forces. He confers decorations and other distinctions.

Art 29, Chapter V, The Constitution of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia  (1931) 

Art. 29 allows the King to confer decorations and other distinctions. Therefore, although nobiliary titles did not carry privileges, they could still be conferred. The sovereign powers King Peter II had as a monarch were still valid after he was deposed, including his right to confer decorations and other distinctions. In my opinion, this included the right to confer titles of honour, like duc de Saint-Bar.

Considering the date of the diploma, it was King Peter’s intention to issue the title in his capacity as sovereign monarch of Yugoslavia with legal effect from 1943 onwards. It can therefore be said that the recipient of the title and his successors belong to the nobility of Yugoslavia. In this case, there is no confusion, since Yugoslavia ceased to exist as a state in 1992 and it therefore should be understood, that the title has a historical character.


  • In dynastic matters, it is inappropriate to follow the legal system of the usurper. Applying the Belgian colonial laws in the Kigali-case would be like applying the Soviet laws as criteria for judging the dynastic rights of the Russian imperial pretenders.
  • Recognition by a court is rarely achieved. SMOM obviously never expected the outcome of the Paternò Castello-case, when it filed its criminal complaint against prince Thorbjorn Paternò Castello.
  • It depends on the specific circumstances whether one can legitimately state that she/he belongs to the peerage of a country when the honour is issued by a deposed monarch. It is always important to be transparent in these matters.


  • When a title is obtained from a deposed dynasty, I recommend being fully transparent about its origin by specifying the dynasty that issued the title; for example: Comte de Saint-Anselm (Royal House of Rwanda). Although, based on the principle of sovereignty, it is not incorrect to state that a person belongs to the Rwandan nobility, it can cause confusion regarding the issuer’s capacity. The same is true for other titles, issued by dynastic claimants.


  • Hugo Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace, edited and with an Introduction by Richard Tuck, from the Edition by Jean Barbeyrac (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 1. 8/16/2020). <;.
  • Blagojević A., Radonić, B. On the Constitution of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia of 1931, in: Journal of law and social sciences of the Law Faculty of University J.J. Strossmayer in Osijek = Zeitschrift für Rechts-und Sozialwissenschaften der Fakultät für Rehtswissenschaften der Universität J.J. Strossmayer in Osijek = Journal des sciences juridiq, Vol. 28 No. 1, 2012.
  • Ranouil, V. L’Autonomie de la volonté: Naissance et évolution d’un concept, Paris, Presses universitaires de France, coll. « Travaux et recherches de l’Université de droit, d’économie et de sciences sociales de Paris », 1980.
  • Aksic, Sava. (2016). Legitimacy of the Vidovdan Constitution and relationships established thereby. Zbornik radova Pravnog fakulteta, Nis. 55. 105-116. 10.5937/zrpfni1673105A.
  • Saint-Bar, T. F. (1999). Les Karageorges rois de Serbie et de Yougoslavie: De l’assassinat de la monarchie et de la démocratie en Yougoslavie par Tito, avec l’aide de Staline, jusqu’à la guerre du Kosovo. Paris: Christian.
  • Saint-Bar, T. F. (2004). Ordres et décorations du royaume de Yougoslavie: Pierre II, le dernier souverain. Paris: Christian.
  • Saint-Bar, T. F. (2006). Orders and decorations of the kingdom of Yugoslavia: Peter II, the last king. Paris: Christian.
  • Foran, T. D. (1973). Portrait d’un roi: Pierre II de Yougoslavie. Ivry sur Seine: Ed. SERG Société d’études et de réalisations graphiques.
  • Mallet, G. (1994). Étude des titres nobiliaires Baron de Luis XIV, Duc de Saint Bar, portés par le citoyen americain Thomas Foran. París: S.n.
  • Chrétien, J. (1986). Roi, religion, lignages en Afrique Orientale précoloniale – royautés sans Etat et monarchies absolues. Paris: P.U.F.
  • Gahama, J. (1983). Le Burundi sous l’administration belge: La période du mandat, 1919-1939. Paris: C.R.A.
  • Heusch, L. D. (1966). Le Rwanda et la civilisation interlacustre. Université libre de Bruxelles: Institut de sociologie.
  • Maquet, J. J. (1954). Le système des relations sociales dans le Ruanda ancien. Tervuren, Belgique: Musée Royal du Congo Belge.
  • Grimm D.: Cooper B. (2015). Sovereignty: The Origin and Future of a Political and Legal Concept, New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Judicial Court of Reggio Emilia, Judgement N. 500/17 of 12 December 2017.
  • Hoegen Dijkhof, H.J. (2006). The legitimacy of orders of St. John: A historical and legal analysis and case study of a para-religious phenomenon.


Scythian Messengers Meet the Persian King Darius I by Franciszek Smuglewicz. Creation Date: end of the 18th century – beginning of the 19th century. Provided by Lithuanian Art Museum. PD for Public Domain Marka by Franciszek Smuglewicz.

Franciszek Smuglewicz was a Polish-Lithuanian draughtsman and painter. Smuglewicz is considered a progenitor of Lithuanian art in the modern era. He was precursor of historicism in Polish painting. He was also a founder of Vilnius school of art, his most prominent students were Jan Rustem, Jan Krzysztof Damel, Gaspar Borowski and Józef Oleszkiewicz. His father Łukasz Smuglewicz and brother Antoni were also painters;

Franciszek Smuglewicz is one of the most famous Lithuanian Classicism painters, the first professor and the head of the Drawing and Painting Department established in late 18th century in Vilnius University. His artworks and educational activities made significant impact for the development of professional Lithuanian art. His ancient subject paintings were inspired by works of Antique authors, such as Herodotus, Plutarch, Homer, and Vergilius. Depicted scenes were given philosophic and moralising subtext, corresponding with the spirit of the Enlightened Classicism.

The painting “Scythian Messengers Meet the Persian King Darius I” depicts another reception scene. This time Persian king Darius I (550-486 BC) is portrayed after his unsuccessful campaign against the Scythians. Scythian messenger comes to Darius I and hands him a bird, a mouse, a frog, and five arrows. He tells that the Persians themselves must find out the meaning of these presents. King Darius is sitting in his throne, lost in his thoughts, trying to understand the meaning of gifts. His advisers gathered behind him also think intensely. In the opinion of the king, strange gifts mean the Scythians are to surrender to the Persians with soil and water. However, Gobryas, Darius’ lance carrier, one of the seven conspirators who killed the Magian usurper Gaumâta and helped Darius the Great to become the king, interprets the meaning of presents completely differently. According to him, the gifts tell this message: “Oh, the Persians! If you will not fly-away skywards like birds, or will not dig yourselves into the ground line mice, or will not jump into water like frogs, you will not return home, because these arrows will pierce you”.Both “Persian Envoys before the King of Ethiopia” and “Scythian Messengers Meet the Persian King Darius I“ promote the right of nations to be independent and to fight for their freedom. As the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth ceased to exist in the late 18th century after its’ territory was partitioned among Prussia, the Austrian Empire, and the Russian Empire these ideas were very important at the time Franciszek Smuglewicz lived in and during the following years.

Provided by the Lithuanian Art Museum. PD for Public Domain. Photo by Europeana@europeana.

Succession of nobiliary titles: exceptions that became the rule

Salzburg is also known as the German Rome because of its fine ecclesiastical architecture. The city is of post-Roman origin and started developing with the founding of the Abbey of Saint Peter by Saint Rupert of Worms in 696 and with the cathedral by Saint Virgil in 774. In the eighth century, the Pope elevated the bishopric of Salzburg to an archdiocese and the Archbishop of Salzburg was appointed papal legate. This church official, also known as apostolic legate, was the personal representative of the Pope. As papal legate, he was empowered on matters of Catholic faith and for the settlement of ecclesiastical matters.

In 1278, in his capacity of Roman-German King, Rudolf von Habsburg (1218 – 1291), attributed the title of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire to the archbishop of Salzburg and his successors. During centuries of relative peace, except for the Peasants’ War of 1525–6, the power and prestige of Salzburg increased. It became the most important and influential archdiocese and sacred state in German-speaking Europe. In 1700, about 55 years before the birth of Mozart, Salzburg’s boundaries stretched north and west into what is today Bavaria and east and south as far as Wiener Neustadt and Graz. Salzburg was a profoundly conservative state, predicated on a severe Catholic orthodoxy: the Jews were expelled from Salzburg in 1498 and the Protestants in 1731–2 (Eisen: 1989).

However, in the 17th century, the pious archdiocese of Salzburg was the scene of a Romeo and Juliet-like tragedy.

Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg

The Castle of Hofen, birth place of Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, Photo: Friedrich Böhringer.

Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau (1559 – 1617) was Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg from 1587 to 1612. He was born at Hofen Castle in Lochau, Austria, near Lake Constance, at the border to Germany. He was the son of colonel Hans Werner von Raitenau and his wife Helene von Hohenems. The latter was a niece of Pope Pius IV and sister of Mark Sittich von Hohenems Altemps, consecrated Bishop of Constance in 1561. She was also sister-in-law of Cardinal Charles Borromeo.

Salome Alt

Miniature painting of Salome Alt. Anonymous copy, made in the first half of the 19the century, from the original, which is stored at the Kunstsammlungen der Erzabtei St. Peter; Salzburg Museum, Inv. Nr. 1469/2010.

At a wedding party at the Alte Stadttrinkstube, Raitenau spotted the beautiful Salome Alt (1568 – 1633), the daughter of high-profile and wealthy textile merchant and city councillor Wilhelm Alt and the granddaughter of Ludwig Alt, former mayor of Salzburg. The family was of the Lutheran faith. Contemporary sources describe Salome Alt as a tall grown woman and belle of the city. She became Raitenau’s mistress from about 1593 until 1617. Despite the forbidden nature of their love, they were determined to be together. Raitenau petitioned the Pope for permission to marry several times, as it was not unheard of in those times, but the prospect of Salome and the family of 15 inheriting church property prevented that from happening. Raitenau could give up his role as Archbishop, so they could be together, but that would throw away all his plans to modernize Salzburg.

He was facing a choice between his life’s work and his life’s love. Unlike many people facing two unpleasant choices, Dietrich refused to accept the situation and carved out a third way. He built the beautiful palace of Altenau for Salome Alt, which is now called Mirabell (made famous in recent times as a setting in the movie The Sound of Music). They “lived together” in an era when it was scandalous to do so. But Raitenau knew his position was powerful enough and his talents were needed enough to let him continue his irregular private lifestyle. The couple had 15 children together over 20 years and by all accounts had a loving partnership. Because Salome and their children had no privileges or standing without an official marriage, in 1600 Raitenau conferred the noble status in the form of von Altenau on her as a form of economic protection. On 28 August 1609 Alt was ennobled by Emperor Rudolf II. in Prague with the predicate von. Since then, she belonged to the nobility of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.

The same elevation took place regarding her children, who were “born out of the relation with a leading member of the clergy” (“bei einer fürnemben geistlichen Person“) with cleansing of the consequences of being born out of wedlock “aller Makel und Gebrechen ihrer unehelichen Geburt enthoben“.

Sadly, Raitenau’s rule was brought down after, in 1612, he lost a fierce dispute with his mighty neighbour, Duke Maximilian I of Bavaria. Raitenau was captured, deposed and imprisoned for life by his nephew and successor, Mark Sittich von Hohenems, first at Hohenwerfen Castle and later in Hohensalzburg. From this fort-like structure overlooking the city, he was able to see his beloved Salzburg and the former home Mirabell of his love, Salome Alt. He died five years later, never seeing Salome or their children again. He wrote on the wall of one of his rooms at the fort: “Love is suffering in the end“.

Salome rushed her children to safety, and with the money and status conferred upon her by Raitenau, she was able to secure them a safe life in Northern Austria. She died in 1631, never marrying.


Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau and Salome Alt had fifteen children. Five children died young, six children reached adulthood and the names of only eleven children are known. The book Hundert Salzburger Familien (1946) contains a well-documented genealogy of the Alt-family:

  1. Hannibal von Altenau (* 1593, † 1616)
  2. Helena von Altenau
  3. Euphemia von Altenau († 1638) ∞ (1) Mathias Kastner von Sigmundslust; ∞ (2) Max Richtersperger, Gegenschreiber in Wels,
  4. Maria Salome von Altenau (* 1595, † 1605), who was burried at the monastery of Nonnberg.
  5. Eusebia von Altenau († 1624),
  6. Cäcilie von Altenau, † 1620 ∞ Georg Constantin Grundemann von Falkenberg († 1662). Children:
    • Georg Constantin Grundemann von Falkenberg,
    • Adam Anton Grundemann von Falkenberg ∞ Susanna Katharina Grüber von Grübegg,
    • Franz Fortunat Grundemann von Falkenberg (Benedictine monk in Kremsmünster),
    • Johann Erasmus Grundemann von Falkenberg († unmarried in military service),
    • Ferdinand Wilhelm Grundemann von Falkenberg, drowned near Linz at the age of 13.
    • Ferdinand Adam Rudolf Grundemann von Falkenberg († as a child).
  7. Anton von Altenau,
  8. Wolf Dietrich von Altenau,
  9. Viktor von Altenau (* 1604, † 1638 in the Hoffmannsches Freihaus in Wels (also known as Haus der Salome Alt ∞ in 1634 in the Salzburg Cathedral with Katharina Götz, daughter of the kurbayerischer Kanzler in Burghausen, Dr. Johann Götz).
  10. Johann Georg Eberhard von Altenau (* 1605,† 1675) became a Benedictine monk under the name of ‘Ägidius’ in the monestary of Kremsmünster,
  11. Susanna von Altenau.


Apart from its highly romantic aspects, the story of Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau and Salome Alt, illustrates the power of sovereignty in the form of supreme authority. Raitenau’s sovereignty, combined with his willpower to take care of his beloved ones, overruled the traditional laws of succession of nobiliary titles. He refused to accept the laws of clerical celibacy and the prohibition of cohabitation. Raitenau was ahead of his time.

Nobiliary succession rules, for example regarding unmarried couples like Raitenau-Alt, have changed over time due to ever evolving legal principles. They adapted to new realities and to changing cultural and social norms. Exceptions that once proved the rule, have often become the rule in modern times:

  • Ancient Salic law excluded females from dynastic succession. It is still applied in modern times when succession of nobiliary titles is discussed. In contrast, gender equality is a fundamental human right that for the first time was enshrined by the United Nations in the UN Charter in 1945. Based on the principle of gender equality, Prince Carlo of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Duke of Castro (who has no sons), broke with tradition by implementing dynastic succession to his eldest daughter. In 2010, Prince Eduard of Anhalt modified the House of Anhalt-Ascania laws by abolishing the Salic laws and recognising his eldest daughter as his dynastic heir. In addition, Prince Eduard stipulated that gender would be irrelevant in determining the line of descent in the future. In these cases, preserving tradition can only be achieved by adapting modern legal principles.
  • In the United Kingdom, most hereditary peerages descend the male line (known as male primogeniture), which means that the peerage can only be inherited by a male relative. There are some exceptions that enable a woman to inherit. These are: (1) Women may inherit a title which is a barony by writ (rather than the more common letters patent); (2) in Scotland most peerages may pass to a woman in families with daughters but no sons; (3) a ‘special remainder’ may be granted by the Crown to allow a woman to inherit a title; (4) a woman can be given a hereditary peerage by the Crown. The Equality (Titles) Bill, also known as “Downton Law” would end gender discrimination and allow for equal succession of female heirs to hereditary titles and peerages. The law was rejected at committee stage in the Lords and progressed no further. In this case, the exception did not yet become the rule. However, the issue is still under debate.
  • As in most of Europe, Spanish nobility descends to all legitimate descendants, male and female, in the male line (see e.g.: Ms. Munoz-Vargas y Sainz de Vicuna, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women 7/2005, U.N. Doc. A/62/38, at 474, 2007). The Spanish law on equality between men and women on succession to titles of nobility (Law 33/2006 of 30 October 2016) has been published in the official bulletin on 31 October 2006 and entered into force on 20 November 2006. Until 2006, hereditary titles descended by male-preference primogeniture. A woman was eligible to inherit only if she had no brother or if her brothers also inherited titles. Therefore, most of the Spanish nobility is untitled. However, since 2006, all hereditary titles descend by absolute primogeniture. Gender is no longer a criterion.
  • In The Netherlands, children born to unmarried parents still inherit a Dutch nobiliary title (Article 3, Wet op de Adeldom). An example is  the illegitimate son of Prince Carlos de Bourbon de Parme, who has taken his father’s name, the title ‘prince’ and even the predicate ‘Royal Highness’.

Therefore, questions regarding the legitimacy of nobiliary titles cannot be judged by traditional rules only. Modern principles of law, as well as political and practical aspects, have to be taken into account.


I would like to express my very great appreciation to Mr. Ulrich Schullern of the HeraldischGenealogische Gesellschaft „ADLER for sending me genealogical information regarding the Von Altenau family.


  • Thomás de Carranza y Franco, M.S. (2013), La constitucionalidad del derecho nobiliario Universidade de Vigo. 
  • Cusack, Simone, and Lisa Pusey. “CEDAW and the rights to non-discrimination and equality.” Melbourne Journal of International Law, vol. 14, no. 1, 2013, p. 54+Gale Academic OneFile, Accessed 14 Aug. 2020.
  • Rev. Boliv. de Derecho Nº 28, julio 2019, ISSN: 2070-8157, pp. 538-559.
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  • Martin, F. (1946). Hundert Salzburger Familien. Salzburg: Verlag der Gesellschaft für Salzburger Landeskunde (Druck von R. Kiesel).
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  • Von Frank K.F. (1949). Das Stammbuch des Viktor von Altenau. In: Adler Zeitschrift für Genealogie und Heraldik, Adler 1 (=15, 1947-1949), S. 203 f., 248 f.
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The Mirabell Palace dates back to 1606. Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau built it to impress his beloved mistress Salome Alt. The daughter of a Jewish merchant is said to have had 15 kids with the Prince-Archbishop. However, the happy family days came to a sudden end when Wolf Dietrich was overthrown and imprisoned. He died behind bars in 1617. Photograph by Andrew Bossi.

The transfer of nobiliary titles after the monarchy has been replaced by a republic

This article investigates the legal status, under EU-law, of nobiliary titles that have been granted during a monarchy, which was replaced by a republic. It shows that the current use of a title that is not embedded in public law, like Fürst zu Mindelheim, originally issued in Germany to General John Churchill in 1705, can be perfectly in harmony with modern, fundamental legal principles. On the other hand, there are examples of ancient titles, like Fürst von Sayn-Wittgenstein, that are currently well-embedded in public law, but sometimes lack regularity. Based on these two cases, I will derive conclusions regarding the current legal status of ancient titles that are no longer embedded in public law.

Fürst zu Mindelheim

James, S. (1999). Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage 106th edition, p. 1866,

On 28 August 1704, Emperor Leopold I created General John Churchill des heiligen römischen Reichsfürst (roughly translated: Prince of the Holy Roman Empire). Churchill subsequently was created Prince of Mindelheim on 18 November 1705 by Emperor Joseph I. His only son, John Churchill, had died in 1703 and the imperial titles became extinct after the death of his daughters. His descendent trough the female line was the 11th duke of Marlborough, John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill (1926-2014), duke of Marlborough (England 1702), marquess of Blandford (England 1702), earl of Sunderland (England 1643), earl of Marlborough (England 1689), baron Spencer (of Eyemouth, England 1603), and baron Churchill (of Sandridge, England 1685). In addition, Burke’s Peerage describes him as “Prince of Mellenburg“. Noel Cox’ excellent paper “Property law and imperial and British titles: The Dukes of Marlborough and the Principality of Mindelheim“, addresses whether this is correct:

The title of prince of the Holy Roman Empire was conferred in 1704 upon all the children heirs and lawful descendants, male and female, of John Churchill, the first duke of Marlborough. The title of prince of Mindelheim was granted in 1705 to all male descendants and daughters of the first duke. But following the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 and the Treaty of Rastatt in 1714 the principality passed to Bavaria. The right of the dukes of Marlborough to use the style and title was thus lost, and any residual rights would have expired in 1722 on the death of the duke, as they could not pass to a daughter (unlike his British titles). Despite this it is still common practice to describe the Duke of Marlborough as a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire and Prince of Mindelheim. This paper considers the differences in the treatment of the descent of the British and imperial titles


The present duke of Marlborough enjoys his British titles, not because of any special remainders in the patents of creation, but because of an Act of Parliament. This Act had no bearing upon the imperial titles conferred upon the first duke, which thus descended in accordance with their original instruments of creation.

The title of prince of the Holy Roman Empire, conferred in 1704 upon all his children heirs and lawful descendants, male and female, expired in 1751 with the death of his younger daughter, Lady Mary Churchill, duchess of Montagu (who was this also entitled to be known as Princess Mary Churchill). The imperial titular principality was not what would be called in English law an estate in tail general. It is rather a titular honour held by grant which contained a limitation to all male descendants and daughters, or what might be called an estate in tail male general.

Similarly, the title (and principality) of prince of Mindelheim, granted in 1705 to all male descendants and daughters, would have reverted to the emperor in 1722, as it could not pass to a daughter without a special remainder. However, the principality had already passed to Bavaria. The right of the duke of Marlborough to use the style and title was thereupon lost. Even the title of prince of Mellenburg would have expired in 1722.

As recipients of unprecedented imperial honours, it is fitting that the greatest monument to the great duke in England, Blenheim Palace, should be entailed to the dukes of Marlborough for all time. But it is a pity that the imperial honours were not subject to special remainders, so that the current duke might enjoy them too.

Cox, N. (2009). Property law and Imperial and British titles: The Dukes of Marlborough and the Principality of Mindelheim, pp. 1 and 25.
Coat of Arms of the Fürsten zu Mindelheim. Trier, J. W., Feustel, C. J., Krügner, J. G., Brühl, J. B., & Jacobi, K. L. (1744). D. Johann Wolffgang Triers Einleitung zu der Wapen-Kunst Nebst einem Vorbericht von der gesammten Herolds-Wissenschafft. Leipzig: Jacobi.

After the Treaty of Utrecht (1713-1714) led to the loss of his Principality of Mindelheim, it was discussed between England and Germany to create the 1st Duke of Marlborough, Fürst of Nellenburg (not ‘Mellenburg’, see Coxe 1822). Nellenburg was originally a county or landgraviate (German: Landgrafschaft) in southwestern Germany. It passed to Austria in 1465, when the Counts of Nellenburg (House of Tengen) sold the county to the Habsburg’s. Austrian law did not allow for the elevation into a sovereign jurisdiction though, and the plan to compensate Churchill with Nellenburg was dropped in or after 1717. Nellenburg, therefore, never became a sovereign part of the Holy Roman Empire.

Cox thinks that the imperial honour is lost forever: “it is a pity that the imperial honours were not subject to special remainders, so that the current duke might enjoy them too.”. I think, however, that it would be very easy for the family to obtain a ‘declaration of no-objection’ (German: Nichtbeanstandung) from the German Association of Nobiliary Law (German: Deutscher Adelsrechtsausschuß) of the regional German nobility associations. The extinction of a branch, like in the Churchill-case, is a classic occasion for granting such a declaration. This would lead to inclusion of the family with their imperial titles in the German nobiliary handbooks (German: Gothaisches genealogisches Handbuch). I cannot explain why Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough, KG, PC (1706-1758), the second son of Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland and Lady Anne Churchill, the second daughter of forementioned John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough and his wife Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, is mentioned on page 401 in the Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels (GHdA), Fürstliche Häuser Band III (1955) as Fürst of the Holy Roman Empire and Fürst von Mindelheim. On the same page, the GHdA correctly states that the diploma does not provide in a succession of the title in the female line.

The foregoing leads me back to the Cox’ initial question: ‘is it correct to describe the Duke of Marlborough as a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire and Prince of Mindelheim?‘. As mentioned earlier, the extinction of a family branch under German pre-1919 law was a classic example of allowing another branch of the family to continue the use of the title. This is in accordance with the intention of the issuer to create a hereditary title. The Deutscher Adelsrechtsausschuß does not confirm the use of a nobiliary title, but only issues declarations of no-objection. It is therefore perfectly in line with nobiliary traditions (see Heiner Baron v. Hoyningen gen. Huene, Der Deutsche Adelsrechtsausschuss) to continue using – with or without the forementioned declaration – the imperial titles of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire and Prince of Mindelheim. I do not see any objections, especially because the fact that the monarchy was abolished and nobiliary privileges are no longer recognised, are unforeseen circumstances, which are of such a nature that the involved parties, according to criteria of reasonableness and equity, are entitled to use the title in a modified form. They were – and should remain – very closely attached to the family.

A subsequent question is what, according to EU law, the current legal status of such title is. I will therefore examine a second case.

Fürstin von Sayn-Wittgenstein

Leonilla Bariatinskaya Princess of Sayn Wittgenstein Sayn (Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1843), J. Paul Getty MuseumLos Angeles

The Counts of Sayn were first mentioned in the 10th century. Assumedly, they were minor Counts to the Pfaltzgraves (Counts Palatine) in the Auelgau. The proven genealogy of the family starts with the brothers Eberhard and Heinrich, Counts of Sayn in 1139. Currently, four dynastic branches of the House of Sayn have survived. Alexander Konrad Friedrich Heinrich Prince zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn (1943 in Salzburg, Austria), a German businessman, MBA (Harvard Business School 1968), is head of the House Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn. Prince Alexander is the vice-president of Europa Nostra, an NGO focussing on the preservation of Europe’s cultural and natural heritage, and the president of the Deutsche Burgenvereinigung (source:

In 1979, one member of the family, Elisabeth Gertrud Fürstin von Sayn-Wittgenstein (* 1927) married Bruno Lothar Koch, who subsequently started a business selling the name ‘Fürst von Sayn-Wittgenstein‘ through adult-adoption. Currently, through a chain of adoptions, the name has been transferred more than 50 times among unrelated people. The chain started with a morganatic marriage:

Hermann Eugen Adolf Bernhard Franz Ferdinand August Prinz zu Sayn-WittgensteinHohenstein (1845 – 1921), renounced his membership of the House Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein on 23 January 1905, because of his morganatic marriage, but was granted the title Fürst von Sayn-Wittgenstein for himself and his issue on 30 January 1905. He married 25 January 1875 Gertrude Katharina Westenberger (1851 – 1921). Son:

  • Alexander Fürst von Sayn-Wittgenstein (1876 – 1947); married 1926 Albertina Schmalix (1894 – 19–). Daughter:
    • Elisabeth Gertrud Fürstin von Sayn-Wittgenstein (1927), married in 1979 Bruno Lothar Koch, through mediation of the notorious title broker and former window dresser Hans Hermann Weyer.

One of the adoptees in the chain was Ilona Fürstin von Sayn-Wittgenstein, an Austrian national, residing in Germany. After adoption by another German adoptee, Fürst von Sayn-Wittgenstein, her surname became “Fürstin von Sayn-Wittgenstein”. Ilona had lived for almost 15 years under the surname “Fürstin von Sayn-Wittgenstein” in Germany which had left numerous traces of a formal nature in both the public and private sphere, such as driving licences, social security records et cetera. Though in the beginning the Austrian authorities acknowledged her new surname “Fürstin von Sayn-Wittgenstein”, they later amended it as “Sayn-Wittgenstein”, notwithstanding the objection of Ilona Sayn-Wittgenstein). The lawsuit that followed is known as the Sayn-Wittgenstein v Landeshauptmann von Wien case; a landmark case before the European Court of Justice concerning the attribution of nobiliary names in case of adoption.

The Austrian law on the abolition of the nobility has constitutional status according to Art 149(1) of the Austrian Constitution. The legislation on the abolition of the nobility provides that both the use of the nobiliary particle “von” and designations of noble status, such as prince / “Fürst” should be abolished. Ilona Sayn-Wittgenstein argued that the discrepancy in her names is such as to hinder the exercise of the rights enshrined in Art 21 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, since she would be under an obligation to dispel doubts regularly. To force a person to use a surname which differs from the one he/she acquired in a Member State is liable to hamper the exercise of the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.

However, the EU is committed to respect the national identities of its Member States, which include the status of the State as a Republic. The European Court of Justice ruled that it is not disproportionate for Austria to protect the principle of equal treatment by prohibiting any acquisition, possession or use, by its nationals, of titles of nobility or noble elements, which may create the impression that the bearer of the name is the holder of such a rank. In such circumstances, a refusal cannot be regarded as a measure unjustifiably undermining the freedom to move and reside enjoyed by citizens of the Union.

The sale of titles as a form of business as described above, is an example of irregular use of the laws of adoption, because they breach the traditional family values, normally present between parents and their adopted child. When adoption becomes a cold business operation, the principle of family life is neglected. This form of adoption hurts the family members, because they are confronted by non-related persons, who create the appearance of belonging to their family. However, such titles are perfectly embedded within public law, contrary to the previous example. This means that whether ancient titles are embedded within public law cannot be the sole criterium for historical regularity of legitimacy.


In some situations, like in the Mindelheim-case, ancient nobiliary titles cannot regain an official, regulated status, because the monarchy has been replaced by a republic and revival is impossible. The Sayn-Wittgenstein-case shows that even an official status is not always an optimal situation, when it comes to protecting a family’s cultural heritage. The legal concept of ‘private life’ could provide a solution in situations where it becomes necessary to embed an unregulated nobiliary title within the law, for example in cases where others could try to usurp a title.

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. published by John Smith, after Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt, mezzotint, 1705. 7 3/4 in. x 5 3/4 in. (198 mm x 146 mm) trimmed to platemark, Purchased, 1944, Reference Collection, NPG D11948, National Portrait Gallery, London

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) can be accessible in cases where an individual files a complaint against a contracting state. An example could be the prohibition to use a nobiliary title. The ECHR cannot judge cases between individuals. The Court has established that personal choices as to an individual’s desired appearance, whether in public or in private, relate to the expression of his or her personality and thus fall within the notion of private life, protected by art. 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Convention). The ECHR has defined the scope of art. 8 broadly, even when a specific right is not set out in the article. However, its scope is not limitless. The applicability of article 8 has been determined, in some contexts, by a severity test (Denisov v. Ukraine [GC], §§ 111-112 and 115-117 with further references). Once a legal act is found to have seriously affected a person’s private life, his complaint will be admissible and an issue of the “right to respect for private life” will arise.

These insights seem purely academic, but they are not. In 2011, the cantonal judge in Maastricht, The Netherlands, falsely sentenced the legitimate son of Countess Marion Wolff Metternich to a fine of E 300,– for using his mother’s nobiliary title. The mother was the last heiress of the family and the son had obtained a change of name by Royal Decree into Wolff Metternich. The matter was a disgusting example of abuse of power by the Dutch High Council of Nobility (Dutch: Hoge Raad van Adel). I have discussed the case earlier in detail. Another example of infringement of private life was committed by the Austrian government, in 2019, when Archduke Karl von Habsburg was found guilty of illegally using the ‘von’ predicate in the internet domain name The Austrian Constitutional Court rejected the Archduke’s complaints. It is a pity, that the complaint was not based on infringement of private life.

Under certain circumstances, Convention rights may also generate horizontal direct effect, that is, rights and obligations between private parties. This can be of interest when an ancient nobiliary title is usurped or when a person falsely uses another family’s title. In such cases the national courts are competent to deal with the matter and art. 8 of the Convention can be used to substantiate the legal position of the victim. A bizarre example of identity theft by falsely using noble titles can be found here.


  • Use ancient titles on a regular basis, even when – due to unforeseen circumstances – the rules of succession, as stated in the diploma, need to be modified according to criteria of reasonableness and equity. This tightens the connection between the title and the family and therefore, makes it more plausible that the title is part of a person’s or family’s private life.
  • Register the title as an internet domain name and explain on the webpage how the title is connected to the family. This way, the private use of the title is made public and it becomes hard for a person with bad intentions to defend himself by stating he did not know about the infringement of private life.
  • Publishing a declaration stipulating the title transfer in a government gazette is a good instrument for ruling out discussions about the specific date and content of the declaration. Publication is usually considered sufficient to comply with legal requirements for public notice. A list of government gazettes can be found here. An example of a declaration recorded in the London Gazette can be found here.
  • Clarity regarding the transfer of unregulated titles can also be achieved by making provisions in a will. It lets a person determine how (s)he would like the title to be used upon her/his death.
  • Even the German association for nobiliary law does not issue judgements disapproving the transfer of ancient titles within a family, because the association does not consider itself to be the final authority is these matters. Although everybody is entitled to an opinion, in the end, third parties do not have any authority in such matters. It is for the family itself to decide how to transfer its nobiliary titles when there are no regulations present. This also is a matter of private life.
  • I recommend forming a family association, which regulates the transfer in order to avoid arbitrariness and to create a legal substitute for the former, monarchical regulations. It is not strange at all that the use and transfer of titles evolves. There is no reason to stick with the defunct regulations that once applied with respect to the original diploma, when this would lead to extinction of the cultural heritage, embodied by the title. Extinction of the title is certainly not what the issuer would have wanted.


  • James, S. (1999). Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage 106th edition. Edited by Charles Mosley. Burke’s peerage & gentry is available as a fully searchable online database.
  • Cox, N. (2009). Property law and Imperial and British titles: The Dukes of Marlborough and the Principality of Mindelheim. Tijdschrift Voor Rechtsgeschiedenis / Revue D’Histoire Du Droit / The Legal History Review, 77(1-2), 191-210. doi:10.1163/004075809×403433.
  • Coxe, W., Marlborough, J. C., & Hauer, F. A. (1822). Herzogs Johann von Marlborough Leben und Denkwürdigkeiten: Nebst dessen Original-Briefwechsel aus dem Familien-Archive zu Blenheim und andern ächten Quellen gezogen. Wien: Schaumberg.
  • Gerhard Köbler: Historisches Lexikon der deutschen Länder. Die deutschen Territorien vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart. 7., vollständig überarbeitete Auflage. C.H. Beck, München 2007.
  • Barber, Peter. “Marlborough as Imperial Prince, 1704-1717.” The British Library Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, 1982, pp. 46–79. JSTOR, Accessed 1 Aug. 2020.
  • Case C-208/09 Ilonka SaynWittgenstein vLandeshauptmann von Wien, Court of Justice of the European Union (Second Chamber), 22 December 2010.
  • Gerards, J. (2019). Vertical and Horizontal Effect. In General Principles of the European Convention on Human Rights (pp. 136-159). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781108652926.006.
  • Phillipson, Gavin. “The Human Rights Act, ‘Horizontal Effect’ and the Common Law: A Bang or a Whimper?” The Modern Law Review, vol. 62, no. 6, 1999, pp. 824–849. JSTOR, Accessed 1 Aug. 2020.
  • European Court of Human Rights, Guide on Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, p. 51.


Christian Lue, @christianlue, Berlin, Germany, Flag of European Union on top of German Reichstag.

“When one encounters an association which calls itself an order of knighthood, how can one tell if it is legitimate or not?”

On his famous webpage, François Velde develops some interesting thoughts regarding the question: “When one encounters an association which calls itself an order of knighthood, how can one tell if it is legitimate or not?”. What triggered me to investigate the matter further, was Velde’s subsequent rhetorical question:

Should the Red Cross call its executive president “Grand-Master” and have its employees wear badges around their necks, would that make it ipso facto an “order of knighthood”?

F.R. Velde, Legitimacy and Orders of Knighthood

Intuitively, the answer is ‘no’. However, it is interesting to research this issue more thoroughly.

Velde’s framework

Velde suggests a framework for determining if an Order can be called a legitimate ‘Order of Knighthood’.

I will argue the following. Starting from the dictionary definition of “legitimate”, I conclude that an order of knighthood can be “legitimate” in two ways:

1. it is what it claims to be, either:

1.1 a specific, historical order of knighthood: this means that it satisfies some notion of identity with or continuity with some well-defined, commonly recognized historical institution. Few organizations can make such a claims (e.g., Malta)

1.2. an order of knighthood, in the historical but generic sense. Few can make such a claim because orders of knighthood have occurred in specific historical contexts, ait is legally defined to be an order of knighthood. In this case, the legitimacy of an order is strictly a matter of national law, and various countries have, or do not have, laws regulating orders (most do not). The best one can say in such a case is that an order is recognized by a legal government.

1.2.1. as medieval military-monastic orders: but the context has completely disappeared

1.2.2. as knightly/nobiliary associations: but knighthood as a social class has disappeared

1.2.3. as monarchical or princely associations: but they must then have been created by a monarch or prince

2. it is legally defined to be an order of knighthood. In this case, the legitimacy of an order is strictly a matter of national law, and various countries have, or do not have, laws regulating orders (most do not). The best one can say in such a case is that an order is recognized by a legal government.

François Velde, Legitimacy and Orders of Knighthood

I think this framework is too complicated and is not well-suited to derive unambiguous conclusions. In my opinion, legitimately of a Knightly Order should simply be based on its ability to truthfully communicate information to the public. This is a more legal perspective. In order to learn if a self-proclaimed Order of Knighthood is what it claims to be, I will study two cases. The first case study concerns the fictional ‘Knightly Order of the Red Cross’, inspired by Velde’s forementioned question. The second case study concerns seven traditional Orders of Knighthood.

Case study: the ‘Knightly Order of the Red Cross’

Suppose, the president of the Red Cross would be called ‘Grandmaster’, its members ‘knights’, and the organization would reinvent itself as the ‘Knightly Order of the Red Cross’ (KORC). Also, imagine the organization would have membership grades, specials membership categories for persons with a nobiliary background, uniforms and medals. Would that make the KORC an Order of Knighthood? The name sounds very intriguing and the organization surely brings an incredibly high added value to society. Suppose we would add the impressive Red Cross history to the concept:

The Red Cross idea was born in 1859, when Henry Dunant, a young Swiss man, came upon the scene of a bloody battle in Solferino, Italy, between the armies of imperial Austria and the Franco-Sardinian alliance. Some 40,000 men lay dead or dying on the battlefield and the wounded were lacking medical attention. (…)

The Red Cross was born in 1863 when five Geneva men, including Dunant, set up the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded, later to become the International Committee of the Red Cross. (…)

The Federation now numbers 192 National Societies worldwide, operating through some 166,000 branches, and nearly 14 million volunteers. Its sole purpose is to help people in need, without fear or favour. It responds to and prepares for disaster, it brings health services to local communities, it lobbies for best humanitarian practice, it ensures the dignity of people on the move.

Website International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

The KORC does not have a historical knightly heritage. But is this heritage crucial for designating its members as ‘knights’? I do not think so, since knights in the original sense of mounted warriors, ceased to exist half a millennium ago. Knighthood lost its martial purpose and, by the 16th century, had been reduced to an honorific status. Modern British Royal Orders of Knighthood, for example, are a means of rewarding individuals’ personal bravery, achievement, or service to the United Kingdom and the British Overseas Territories. The word ‘knight’ currently has several meanings, one of them being “a member of an order or society” (Merriam-Webster).

If KORC represents itself as an Order, formed as a society in 1863 and operating in the spirit of the modern idea of knighthood, there is no historical or legal misrepresentation and therefore, the Order could legitimately claim to be an Order of Knighthood. Calling the KORC “fake”, “pseudo”, “illegitimate” et cetera could legally be labelled as defamation, because no misrepresentation takes place.

Case study: classic Orders of Knighthood

How does the KORC compare with, for example, the SMOM, the Constantinian Order or the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre? The latter claim to be a continuation of medieval Knightly Orders, although these claims are often incorrect:

  • The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre completely ceased to exist as an Order after the defeat of Acre in 1291. Its website incorrectly states: “Alexander VI declared himself the supreme moderator of the Order in 1496, and delegated to the Franciscans the power to bestow a knighthood upon nobles and gentlemen pilgrims on pilgrimage to the Holy Land (power of investiture). “. After 1342, to be enrolled among the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, it was necessary to apply to the Franciscans, and from this period the itineraries of pilgrims mention frequent receptions into this confraternity. The confraternity is improperly called an ‘Order’, because it had no monastic rule, regular organization, or community of goods (source: NewAdvent). After almost 600 years, the fraternity was transformed into an Order again when it was re-founded and modernized by Pope Pius IX in 1847. These facts are not described truly, correctly and completely on the website of the Order.
  • The Sovereign Military Order of Malta lacks a continuous line of succession from the 12th century Order, with a very questionable period between 1798-1801 (see: Velde), followed by a period where there was no Grand Master between 1805 and 1879. On its website, the SMOM incorrectly claims: “The Sovereign Order of Malta is one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilisation. A lay religious order of the Catholic Church since 1113 (…).“.
  • The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem is a 19th century example of a private revival, that managed to be turned into an official Order in Britain in 1888 (see: Velde). On its website, the Order incorrectly claims: “The Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem originated in a hospice founded around 1070 to care for pilgrims, which was dedicated to St John the Baptist. The brothers and sisters of the Hospital, which was recognised as a religious Order by the Pope in 1113, nursed the poor and sick of any faith.”.
  • The Constantinian Order was formed around 1545 and has a continuous line of succession since its foundation. On its website, the Constantinian Order (Hispano-Neapolitan branch) correctly states : “Reliable documentation regarding the Constantinian Order begins in the 16th century.¨. [Note: in this example, I mention the Hispano-Neapolitan branch only, although there are three claimants to the headship of the Constantinian Orders.]
  • The formation history of the Order of the Saints Maurice and Lazarus is somewhat complex. After the grand mastership of the Order of Saint Lazarus (founded circa 1119) became vacant in 1572 by the death of Giovanni de Castiglione, Pope Gregory XIII united the Order in perpetuity with the Crown of Savoy. On its website, the Order of the Saints Maurice and Lazarus correctly states: “The Order of the Saints Maurice and Lazarus was officially established by the Papal Bulls “Christiani Populi” and “Pro Commissa Nobis” signed by Pope Gregory XIII on respectively 16 September and 13 November 1572; by which the Religious Military Order of Saint Maurice was placed under the Rule of St Benedict of the Cistercian Congregation first and then the one Saint Augustine. I was then merged de jure with the Hospitaller Order of Jerusalem of Saint Lazarus (…).“.
  • The Spanish branch of the Order of Saint Lazarus has a different view on the forementioned 1572 merger: “The French Lazarite knights continued to resist the amalgamation of the Order with the House of Savoy and maintained their own organization supported by the King Henri III. In 1608, King Henri IV combined the administration and holdings of the Order of Saint Lazarus with the newly established Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, both being placed under one Grand Master – Philibert, Marquis de Nérestang de Saint-Didier.“. I do not claim authority to judge which one of the versions is correct: both views could be true. Important is the fact that, on their website, the Order describes itself correctly: “The Order of Saint Lazarus is an ecumenical organization of Christian hospitallers whose spirit goes back to the Holy Land and the Crusades.”. [Note: in this example, I mention the Spanish branch only, although there are two main branches; see Versélewel de Witt Hamer, 2017.]
  • The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (OSMTH) correctly describes itself as a Non-Governmental Organization in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). On its website, OSMTH also narrates its history correctly: “OSMTH (Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem) is a successor organization to the nineteenth century Order of the Temple. This Order was established in Paris in 1804 under the patronage of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Like its nineteenth century predecessor, OSMTH takes inspiration from the traditions and highest ideals of the medieval Christian military and monastic order, the Knights Templar, who were founded by Hugh de Payens around 1118, to protect and support pilgrims, and dissolved by Pope Clement V in 1312. OSMTH does not, however, claim any direct organizational descent from the medieval Templars; nor is OSMTH part of Freemasonry. OSMTH was restructured in its present form pursuant to a decision adopted by its Member Grand Priories in 1995 at a meeting in Salzburg. Today, OSMTH is an international, chivalric, confraternal and inter-denominational/ecumenical Christian Order”.

The foregoing examples show that not all the traditional ‘Orders of Knighthood’ are entirely honest about their history.


Metropolitan Museum of Art. Saint Maurice. Artist: Lucas Cranach the Elder and Workshop (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar). Date: circa 1520–25.

States, private entities (authoritative or not) or other Royal Families can choose to recognise or not, but that does nothing to the inherent quality of an order so-designated. This insight calls into question the purpose of international bodies, focussing on the recognition of Orders of Knighthood. In a broader perspective, the breakdown of Christendom and particularly the monarchies in Europe, have gone hand in hand with the decline of supreme authority and with the upswing of human rights, focussing on the individual.

In this context, legitimacy has another meaning, focussing more on the rights of the individual and the public interest. The economic interests of the public as well as its right to information are important principles in EU-consumer protection law (Articles 4(2)(f), 12, 114 and 169 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Article 38 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union). It is therefore essential, that the information communicated by Orders (nowadays charitable organizations) to the public is true, correct and complete. If this is not the case, these Orders are not ‘legitimate’, because in almost any legal system it is unlawful to solicit money in a deceptive manner. Willingly misrepresenting the historical facts or incorrectly claim state-recognition, in order to artificially create more prestige, could be seen as such deception, making such Orders illegitimate.

Almost none of the organizations that call themselves ‘Orders of Knighthood’ today, even if they are recognised or designated as such by states, by law or private bodies, can honestly claim a continuous line of succession from a genuine medieval Order of Knighthood. Perhaps the only exceptions are the (Spanish) Order of the Golden Fleece and the Order of the Saints Maurice and Lazarus.

Without exception, the current ‘Orders of Knighthood’ are NGO’s, more or less mimicking the Red Cross. There is no material connection with the ancient military Orders of Knighthood. Therefore, I do not see why there are such fierce discussions about who does and who does not have a line of succession from an ancient Order of Chivalry. In my view, they are all modern remakes, although a connection with antiquity gives more prestige. Velde tells it like it is:

The name [of an order of knighthood] has remained, and the badge, but the purpose and function is clearly very different. In a literal sense, ITT (International Telegraph and Telephone) is still the same US company it was 30 years ago, but today it doesn’t sell phone services, it runs hotels, until recently still under the name (ITT-Sheraton). Likewise, Westinghouse used to make nuclear plants, now it makes prime-time broadcasts (CBS). Is it the same company? If Coca-Cola moved to Taiwan and became a car manufacturer, would we think of it has being the same company?

F.R. Velde, Legitimacy and Orders of Knighthood


  • Self-fabricated standards are interesting, but not objective, and therefore unsuitable for determining the legitimacy of privately-run Orders of Knighthood. However, there are alternatives. Both EU consumer protection rules and national civil law offer objective standards to address this issue. National Orders of Knighthood are almost always highly regulated and state-supervised Orders of Merit. They do not charge passage fee to enter. As such, there will be no issues concerning misinformation or questions about their legitimacy.
  • If a National competent authorities for consumer protection has established a violation of the EU consumer protection rules, implemented in national law, it can decide to impose a fine. The authority imposes a fine on the offender and, if necessary, on the individual(s) giving the instructions for the violation or on those who played a leading role in it. Under the relevant EU-consumer protection rules [note 1], ‘consumer’ means any natural person who is acting for purposes which are outside her/his trade, business or profession; ‘seller or supplier’ means any natural or legal person who is acting for purposes relating to his trade, business or profession [note 2]. The person who applies for becoming a member of an Order of Knighthood might be seen as a consumer and the Order that subsequently accepts the application, might be seen as a seller or supplier: applicants are charged a passage fee in return for their membership, for obtaining IP-rights to wear their regalia, for obtaining the regalia itself, the uniform and/or mantle, the diploma, the right to attend meetings and for participating in a ceremony. Additionally, the Order operates in an organized manner; has the relevant expertise and is therefore placed in a more advantageous position; has a legal status which enables it to engage in commercial activities; receives money; engages in a regular, frequent and/or simultaneous activity in comparison with its usual activity; and finally, the awards are all of the same type and more or less of the same value.
  • In accordance with consumer protection laws, these Orders of Knighthood, must give their applicants enough accurate information to enable them to make an informed decision, whether to join. If they fail to provide this information, either through action (giving false information, for example about state-recognition or antiquity) or omission (leaving out important information, for example that the historical headship of the Order is disputed), this may be considered an unfair practice. Victims of such unfair practices can file a complaint with the National competent authorities for consumer protection. In the United States a variety of laws at both the federal and state levels regulate consumer affairs. 
  • EU consumer protection rules may not apply, and therefore National competent authorities for consumer protection are not competent, when, for example, the transaction purely concerns a donation and no profit making is intended. In such cases, civil contract law provides an alternative (but also an additional remedy) to filing a complaint. Apart from filing a complaint relating to (allegedly) violating consumer protection rules, under national civil contract law misrepresentation may give rise to a number of remedies. In such cases the Order fails in the performance of its obligation, and is in breach of contract. This can be the case when, for example, someone is misled by thinking she/he becomes part of an antique Order of Knighthood that enjoys state recognition. In Private International Law, an organization, domiciled in a EU-State may be sued in another EU-State, in matters relating to tort, delict or quasi delict, in the courts for the place where the harmful event occurred or may occur. These should be understood as the place where the damage (for example, reputational of financial) occurs and the place where the event that caused the damage occurred. Therefore, Orders of Knighthood risk to be sued before courts in other jurisdictions than their country of origin, when they make dishonest representations. Using solid membership agreements, made by a professional, is crucial for reducing such risks.
  • In light of the foregoing, consumer protection laws and civil contract law are the standard for determining the legitimacy of Orders of Knighthood. This comes down to making correct representations about the Order. When Orders fail to do so, they risk administrative fines and/or civil legal actions. The answer to Velde’s question therefore is: ‘An Order of Knighthood is legitimate when the organization is what it claims to be‘. Essentially, this is the way legitimate organizations distinguish themselves from illegitimate organizations. Financial and historical honesty are essential indicators to be examined. The term ‘knight’ is too broad to be claimed only by the Orders, listed by the International Commission for Orders of Chivalry and, on closer examination, it could well be that some Orders, mentioned on the ICOC-list, are not entirely legitimate.
  • Heated discussions about the legitimacy of other Orders and personal attacks on the people running them, are not uncommon. Wikipedia’s definition of illegitimate Orders fuels such discussions. It states: “A self-styled order or pseudo-chivalric order is an organisation which claims to be a chivalric order, but is not recognised as legitimate by countries or international bodies.“. This definition is erroneous. Recognition is not a constitutive legal act, but a declaratory legal act. A lack of ‘recognition’ does not mean anything. Even without any recognition, an Order of Knighthood can be perfectly legitimate. Orders become illegitimate when they knowingly make misrepresentations. Recognition is irrelevant in this respect.
  • Orders of Knighthood should send a signal to donors that they are credible recipients of funding, instead of triggering the image of being a medal mill. Modern aid work is technical and complex and needs to be resourced accordingly. There are challenges to fraud prevention and detection to address. Financial reporting practices should make a clear distinction between ‘operations’ and ‘overheads’. Such transparent financial reporting should be a major focus of legitimate Orders of Knighthood. In addition, branches of legitimate Orders of Knighthood should combine forces and work together. Who the ‘legitimate grandmaster’ is, should be less important than saving lives.
  • As mentioned, Orders of Knighthood should be perfectly honest and transparent about their history. In general, the sources of historical knowledge can be separated into three categories: what is written, what is said, and what is physically preserved. Sometimes, the only evidence relating to a historical event or person was written or copied decades or centuries later. Generally, historians remain cautious when working with evidence recorded years, or even decades or centuries, after the event has taken place. This category of evidence reduces the reliability of historical accounts. Therefore, hardly any historical evidence can be seen as objective. It is always a product of particular individuals, times, and dominant ideas. It is therefore important to find as many records of an event as possible. Subsequently, these documents should be cited and the relevance to the event should be clearly mentioned. Like in legal matters, it is not unusual to find contra-evidence during the investigation. It is important to specify this, instead of camouflaging the truth. In light of the foregoing, I advise Orders of Knighthood to be more honest in their internet presentations about their history and to point out the weaknesses in their historic evidence. This makes them more legitimate and shields them from legal claims.


  1. Directive (EU) 2019/2161 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 November 2019 amending Council Directive 93/13/EEC and Directives 98/6/EC, 2005/29/EC and 2011/83/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the better enforcement and modernisation of Union consumer protection rules.
  2. In its judgment of 4 October 2018, Case C-105/17, the European Court of Justice provides  a set of criteria to determine whether a person falls within the concept of a “trader” under the Consumer Rights Directive (Directive 2011/83/EU) and the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (Directive 2005/29/EC).


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Schloss Ambras, Innsbruck, Austria. Photograph by Hugo L. Casanova@hlcasan.

Archduke Ferdinand II (1529–1595) systematically collected armour from famous personalities of his time. He presented this armour “to the eternal memory” of these – mostly military commanders – in the “Heldenrüstkammer” (Heroes’ Armoury). Some pieces still are on display in their original 16th century showcases. His “Rüstkammern” (Armouries) contain very rare examples of arms and armour from the 15th century which originally came from the collections of Emperor Maximilian I and Archduke Sigismund. Armour for tournaments like the German joust or the German course, and the armour of the court’s Italian giant Bartlmä Bon, who took part in the tournament in Vienna in 1560, are part of the collection. The “Leibrüstkammer” (Court Armoury) includes the archduke’s private armour and the armour of the court of Innsbruck. Ferdinand’s collection of armour is one of the most important of its kind, not only because of the collection idea, but also because of the quality and quantity of his objects. Selected objects are exhibited at the Hofjagd- und Rüstkammer (Imperial Armoury) of the Kusthistorisches Museum, Vienna (Source: Wikipedia).

Exotic nobiliary titles, issued by European monarchs

In 1662, the French King Louis XIV issued the nobiliary title of Baron of Tobago to the slave traders and merchants Cornelius Lampsins (pictured here) and his brother Adrian Lampsins. The Order of Saint Michael was added years after the painting was finished. Their passage fee was paid with money from their slave trade.

In February 2007, a conversation on a Google platform devoted to heraldry developed into a discussion about the titles that were awarded by former King Kigeli of Rwanda (1936-2016). The eminent Dr. Pier Felice degli Uberti, president of the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry, a private academic body, asked the attendees on 19 February 2007 to form an opinion regarding the idea of King Kigeli to grant “honours” using “European nobiliary titles”. I have addressed this issue in the past, but I wish to elaborate on the mater by giving examples of the opposite; exotic nobiliary titles (mostly victory titles), issued by European monarchs. Its purpose is to determine whether the issuance of European titles to by non-European monarchs, is acceptable or not. The examples below are selected because of their exotic character. There are many more examples, but for the purpose of this article, these six cases are sufficient.

Examples of exotic nobiliary titles

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein (1946)

The viscountcy of El Alamein in Egypt was created for Sir Bernard Montgomery, by George VI, King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, Emperor of India.

Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein (1887-1976), was a British Field Marshal and war hero. ‘Monty’, as he was nicknamed, served during the First and Second World Wars. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order after the first Battle of Ypres in 1914, in which he had been left for dead, and continued in active service on the Somme and at Passchendaele.

The title Viscount Montgomery of Alamein commemorates Montgomery’s crucial victory in the Second Battle of El Alamein (23 October–3 November 1942). The Allied victory was the beginning of the end of the Western Desert Campaign, eliminating the Axis threat to Egypt, the Suez Canal and the Middle Eastern and Persian oil fields. 

Montgomery was created Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter and a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath. His stall plate can be seen on the north side of Henry VII’s chapel in Westminster Abbey.

Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1946)

The title was created for Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, by George VI, King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, Emperor of India.

Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten (1900-1979), was a British statesman, naval leader, and the last viceroy of India. Mountbatten was an uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and second cousin once removed of Queen Elizabeth II.

During the Second World War, Mountbatten was Supreme Allied CommanderSouth East Asia Command (1943–1946). He successfully conducted the campaign against Japan that led to the recapture of Burma (Myanmar). Mountbatten was the last Viceroy of India (1947). He proved to be a nimble negotiator, extracting agreements from Hindus and Muslims to form an interim joint government pending partition of the subcontinent into the states of Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India. Mountbatten thus administered the transfer of power from Britain to the newly independent nations of India and Pakistan at the partition of the subcontinent that took effect at midnight 14–15 August 1947.

Both Lord and Lady Mountbatten cultivated the friendship of Muslims and Hindus, a new pattern of social behaviour for a viceroy and his wife. Indians who had once languished in the viceroy’s jails were invited to parties at Government House.

In 1946, Mountbatten was made a Knight of the Garter and created Viscount Mountbatten of Burma, of Romsey in the County of Southampton. The title of Earl Mountbatten of Burma was created in 1947 to supersede that of Viscount Mountbatten of Burma.

His obituary in the New York Times sums up the achievements of this great man:

Few people of royal lineage played more versatile and colourful role than Lord Mountbatten, who refused to live the idle life of the royal and the rich. Instead, he became a daring sailor and military strategist, a suave political negotiator, a trusted adviser to prime ministers. He was a major planner for the invasion of occupied Europe in World War II, later the Supreme Allied Commander for Southeast Asia, the Viceroy to India who ended British rule there, First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy, Admiral of the Fleet and chief architect of the overhaul of Britain’s defense system

New York Times, 28 August 1979

Count of Jolo and Viscount of Mindanao (1876)

José Malcampo, 3rd Marquess of San Rafael, Prime Minister of Spain in 1871, during the reign of King Amadeo I, was granted the titles of Count of Jolo and Viscount of Mindanao after he victoriously took the city of Jolo from the Sultanate of Sulu during his governorship-general (1874-1877) of the Philippines.

José Malcampo y Monge, 3rd Marquess of San Rafael (1828–1880) was a Spanish noble, admiral, politician and Freemason, who participated in the Spanish Glorious Revolution of 1868, resulting in the deposition of Queen Isabella II. Malcampo served as Prime Minister of Spain in 1871, during the reign of King Amadeo I.

In the course of Malcampo’s career, he held important military and political offices such as Minister of State in 1871, President of the Council of State and Captain and Governor General of the Philippines from 1874 to 1877, during the reign of King Alfonso XII.

As newly appointed Governor General of the Philippines, a critical situation awaited him. The peninsulars and the native-born, Indios (indigenous Filipino population of the Philippines) and Criollos (Latin Americans who are of sole or of mostly Spanish descent), eyed each other with hostility. The latter complaining that high government positions were reserved to the former, who suspected the latter of seeking separation from Spain. Two years into his term as governor-general, Malcampo led the famous and daring campaign of Joló, causing the sultan of Sulu to submit to the authority of the Spanish monarchy, for which he received the titles Count of Jolo, (after the city of Joló) and Viscount of Mindanao (nowadays, commonly known as Southern Philippines).

With another naval officer, Casto Mendez Nuñez, he founded the first Masonic Lodge in the Philippines, “La Luz Primera de Filipinas,” in Kawit, Cavite. However, only Spanish military and naval officers, as well as government officials were admitted as members. Not much later, a Lodge for Filipinos was organized in Pandacan, Manila.

Duke of Addis Ababa (1936)

This title was issued by King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy on 5 May 1936 to Pietro Badoglio, for conquering Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. On the same day, fascist leader Benito Mussolini declared the King the new Emperor of Ethiopia and usurped Ethiopia as an Italian province.

Pietro Badoglio (1871 – 1956), was a Field marshal and unconvicted war criminal during the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini (1922–43). In 1940 he differed with Mussolini over Italy’s preparations for entering World War II. On 4 December 1940, in the midst of Italy’s disastrous campaign in Greece, he resigned as chief of staff. Badoglio governed Libya from 1928 to 1934 and was given the title of marquis of Sabotino.

In 1935, Badoglio assumed command of the Italian forces in Ethiopia. He asked for and was given permission to apply chemical warfare. He employed mustard gas to destroy the Ethiopian armies confronting him on the northern front.  “This isn’t war,one Red Cross worker remarked, “it isn’t even slaughter. It’s the torture of tens of thousands of defenseless men, women and children with bombs and poison gas.”. In September 1943 he extricated Italy from World War II by arranging an armistice with the Allies. Badoglio was never tried for the war crimes committed in Ethiopia, but instead became the first viceroy of Italian East Africa.

Marchese di Neghelli (1936)

Rodolfo Graziani was created 1st Marchese di Neghelli for his services as leader of military expeditions in Africa before and during World War II, by King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy.

Rodolfo Graziani (1882 – 1955), was an Italian General and convicted war criminal. He was a dedicated fascist and a key figure in the Italian military during the reign of Victor Emmanuel III.

Between 1930 and 1934, Graziani was the fascist commander of the Italian forces in Lybia and suppressed the Senussi rebellion. Italy committed multiple war crimes during the conflict, including the use of chemical weapons, episodes of executing surrendering combatants, and the mass killing of civilians. Italian authorities forcibly expelled 100,000 Bedouin Cyrenaicans, half the population of Cyrenaica, from their settlements. Many of their properties were then given to Italian settlers. In this conflict, called “pacification of Libya” by the Italians, Graziani was responsible for the construction of several concentration camps and labor camps, where thousands of Libyan prisoners died. Some prisoners were publicly hanged, such as Omar Mukhtar, the rebel leader, or shot. Most prisoners died of starvation or disease. His deeds earned him the nickname “the Butcher of Fezzan“.

Before WWII, the League of Nations did not prosecute Graziani nor the Italian authorities for war crimes in Ethiopia. During the Second Italo-Abyssinian War in 1935 and 1936, Graziani was the commander of the southern front. In one case, Graziani had ordered his troops to use chemical weapons against Nasibu Zeamanuel’s troops in Gorrahei on 10 October 1935. Although the Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs gave the League of Nations irrefutable evidence of what the Italian military had done from within a few hours of its invasion on 3 October 1935 to 10 April of the following year, no action was taken. Incidents included the use of poison gas and the bombing of Red Cross hospitals and ambulances.

Graziani suffered a humiliating defeat in Libya in 1940-41, when a small British force destroyed the vast Italian army in Libya.

After the war, Graziani was made Viceroy of Italian East Africa and Governor-General of Shewa and Addis Ababa. After an unsuccessful attempt by two Eritreans to kill him on 19 February 1937, Graziani ordered the killing of up to thirty thousand civilians of Addis Ababa. Another 1.500 people were summarily executed by the end of the next month, and over one thousand Ethiopian notables were imprisoned and then exiled from Ethiopia. Graziani became known as “the Butcher of Ethiopia“.

In 1948, an Italian military tribunal sentenced Graziani to 19 years in jail for his collaborating with the Nazis, but this conviction was not executed.

Baron of Tobago (1662)

Letters of patent issued to the brothers Adrian and Cornelius Lampsins, by King Louis XIV, creating them Barons of Tobago (“Baron de Tobego”) in 1662. Photo: Rijksmuseum.

In 1662, the title of Baron of Tobago (in the Caribbean) was created for Adriaen (1598-1666) and Cornelius Lampsins (1600-1664), slave traders and merchants, by King Louis XIV of France.

Cornelis Lampsins also obtained the Order of Saint Michael (French: Ordre de Saint-Michel), a French dynastic order of chivalry, founded by Louis XI of France on 1 August 1469, in competitive response to the Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece, founded by Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, who was Louis’ chief competitor for the allegiance of the great houses of France, the Dukes of OrléansBerry, and Brittany. The ‘passage fees‘ for these honours were paid with money obtained from the Lampsins’ slave trade.

The Lampsins brothers were born to a wealthy Dutch family of slave traders and merchants. The family owned a trading house in Vlissingen, and was involved in the early colonization of the Caribbean. In the 1630’s, Cornelius Lampsins owned a fleet of over three hundred trading ships, in both the East and West Indies. The Lampsins merchant house was the first employer of the famous Dutch admiral Michiel de Ruyter, who, later in his career, was created a Spanish Duke and Danish Baron.

Cornelius Lampsins helped found the colonies of Martinique and Saint Thomas. In 1654, the Lampsins brothers led a Dutch colonial expedition to Tobago, which was then New Courland. This colony was owned by the Duchy of Courland, which was the second smallest state to colonise the Americas (after the Knights of Malta), with a colony on the island of Tobago from 1654 to 1659, and intermittently from 1660 to 1689.

There was much dispute between the Couronian and Dutch colonists, and when Courland surrendered to Sweden in 1659, the Lampsins brothers took control of the colony. The family reigned over Tobago until the English invaded the island in 1666. Cornelius Lampsins had two sons, Jan and Geleyn, who participated in running the settlement on Tobago with their uncle. The descendants of the Lampsins brothers maintained many rights to the island until 1749, when Britain and France agreed to keep the island neutral.

The Lampsins family played a significant role in the international slave trade. For the Lampsins family, the slave trade had three stages and was called a ‘triangular trade’: (i) West African slaves were exchanged for trade goods such as brandy and guns; (ii) slaves were then taken via the so-called ‘Middle Passage’ across the Atlantic for sale in the West Indies and North America; (iii) finally, a cargo of rum and sugar taken from the colonies, was taken back to Europe to sell.

Journeys lasted from as little as six weeks to several months, depending on the weather. The ships were often too small to carry the hundreds of slaves on board. Slaves were tightly packed into cramped spaces with one person’s right leg chained to the left leg of another person. Conditions on the ships were terrible and slaves died from diseases such as smallpox, scurvy and measles. We can only imagine the sort of memories and visions that may have haunted these slaves, from the moment they were seized in Africa and marched in shackles towards the Atlantic coast, to the hour at which their eyes were closed forever.

The United Nations Slavery Route Project was initiated to study the causes, the modalities and the consequences of slavery and the slave trade, seeking to enhance the understanding of diverse histories and heritages stemming from this global tragedy. In commemoration of the memory of the victims, the General Assembly, in its resolution 62/122 of 17 December 2007, declared 25 March the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, to be observed annually.

The Lampsins family was incorporated into the Dutch nobility, but died out in 1848. In March 1847, Jhr. Jan Jacob van den Velden, obtained permission by Royal Decree to add the surname of his mother, Johanna Margaretha Lampsins, to his family name, creating the name Lampsins van den Velden. This family died out in 1953.


It is sometimes being argued that African and Asian rulers do not have the fons honorum to issue European-style titles of nobility. Examples of (ex-)rules who have issued such titles are King Kigeli V of Rwanda, Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie of Ethiopia (in his capacity of president of the Crown Council) and tribal King Togbe Osei III in Ghana. Former King Peter II of Yugoslavia and Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich of Russia issued titles referring to countries outside their original jurisdiction, but these were European-style titles. The examples in this article show that European monarchs have set the standard by issuing titles, referring to America, Africa and Asia. It is in line with the sovereignty of (ex-)rulers (see Hugo Grotius’ De iure belli ac pacis; English: On the Law of War and Peace. Paris 1625) of these continents to ‘return the favour’ and issue European titles. It is not for private bodies to judge this sovereignty and I do not see why European monarchs should have the monopoly on this practice.

It could be said that the titles issued by European monarchs point to historical events (sometimes genocide and slave trade). Newer titles do not have that characteristic. However, I do not see how this makes the latter less legitimate. They remain part of the cultural and historical heritage of the issuer. Russian Legitimist puts it correctly:

The titles and coats of arms of the Russian Imperial House, its dynastic orders and awards, patents of nobility, and other elements of the historical and symbolic system of monarchical institutions no longer enjoy state recognition and bestow no privileges, but they remain nonetheless monuments of the nation’s history and part of the cultural heritage of Russia.


“It is not for private bodies to judge this sovereignty and I do not see why European monarchs should have the monopoly on this practice.” Well said! I don’t understand why some “experts” downplay the value of nobiliary titles issued and patterned after European tradition by heads of non-reigning families outside Europe. As sovereigns in their own right whether they are ruling or not, they did not lose their fons honorum and may do almost anything as they please within the confines of international law. The titles they grant are certainly not illegal and their usage is solely dependent on those that receive such titles. In comparison, the Nobel Peace Prize itself is granted by a private institute on behalf of Alfred Nobel’s estate and yet world leaders covet this more than the awards of their own countries. Nobiliary titles and honours from legitimate pretenders and heads of non-reigning families are as valid as any international private award. No person has the right to degrade them just because of their personal opinions and biases lest they want to be branded as bigots and such.

Comment by Matthew Pajares Yngson on Facebook, 20 July 2020


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Boomert Arie., Ortiz-Troncoso O.R. Van Regteren Altena H.H. 1987. “Archaeological-historical survey of Tobago, West Indies”, Journal de la Société des Américanistes (Paris), 73, 1987, p. 246-258.

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The position of the ICOC principles with respect to fundamental principles of international law

This article examines Noel Cox’ 2009 research paper “The principles of international law governing the sovereign authority for the creation and administration of Orders of Chivalry (” and the principles of the International Commission for Orders of Chivalry (ICOC) in the context of international law. Cox’ research question is not explicitly cited, but I think he tries to investigate to what extent the principles of the ICOC relate to the principles of the international law. Cox summarises the ICOC-principles as follows:

The principles which the International Commission identified were that only states have the right to create Orders of chivalry; that these Orders [of chivalry] cannot be abolished by republican governments, that exiled Sovereigns retain control of royal Orders [of chivalry], that no private individual can create Orders [of chivalry], that no state or supranational organisation without its own [chivalric] Orders can validate [chivalric] Orders, and that the only sovereign Order is the Order of Malta.

Cox, The principles of international law, p. 1

Cox’ concludes the following:

Firstly, every sovereign prince (or, subject to their respective constitutions, the president or other official in a republican state) has the right to confer honours, in accordance with the constitutional framework of the state. These honours should be accorded appropriate recognition in all other countries under the usual rules of private international law.

Secondly, an exiled Sovereign retains the right to bestow honours, dynastic, state or whatever else they may be styled. This right extends to their lawful successors in title, even for several generations. Appointments may continue to be made, unless this has been expressly prohibited by the successor authorities of the state, or the Order has become obsolete. It also follows that an exiled, or former Sovereign may continue to make appointments to an Order which is also governed by the new regime, thus creating a separate, though related, Order. Whilst an exiled Sovereign may in some circumstances establish a new Order of chivalry, he or she may only do so whilst they remain generally recognised by the international community as the de jure ruler of his country. His or her successors will not have this right to create new Orders, excepting in those rare instances where the son or further issue of an exiled Sovereign has been generally recognised by the international community as the rightful ruler of their country. Only de jure Sovereigns (including their republican equivalents) may create Orders of chivalry.

Thirdly, the international status of an Order of chivalry depends upon the municipal law of the country in which it was created. There can be no international Orders as such, shorn of dependence upon the municipal laws of a state.1 Principles four, five and six together indicate that sovereign Orders are not generally possible, with recognition however being extended to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.2 The Order of Malta depends upon its own unique history, and, at least in part, its recognition by the Holy See and by secular princes. Any pretended “sovereign” Order is nothing more than a voluntary society or association, and members should not wear any insignia or use any styles or titles to which they may be entitled outside the private functions of such groups

1Thus, the “Sovereign Order of Saint Stanislaus” created 9 June 1979 by Count Juliusz Nowina Sokolnicki, President of the Republic of Poland (in exile), is not, and never could have been, sovereign, irrespective of the regularity of Sokolnicki’s own status as titular President.

2Noel Cox, “The Continuing question of sovereignty and the Sovereign Military Order of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta”, 13, Australian International Law Journal (2006): 211-232.

Cox, The principles of international law, p. 8

I disagree with both the principles of the ICOC and with Cox’ conclusions, as I shall explain hereafter.

The freedom to create Orders of Chivalry and Knighthood

International law, e.g. the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), protects the freedom of association and assembly:

“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This Article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.”

Article 11 ECHR
The Roman keyhole with the viewpoint of three different sovereign states: the Sovereign Order of Malta – owner of the Magistral Villa on the Aventine hill – the Vatican and the Italian Republic.

The right to freedom of peaceful association and assembly is both an individual right and a collective right. It is a fundamental right in a democratic society and, like the right to freedom of expression, is one of the foundations of such a society. Thus, it should not be interpreted restrictively (ECHR, Djavit An v. Turkey, § 56; Kudrevičius and Others v. Lithuania [GC], § 91). In view of the fundamental nature of this right, the European Court of Human Rights has been reluctant to accept objections that the applicants have suffered no “significant disadvantage” and to dismiss Article 11 complaints with reference to Article 35 § 3 (b) of the Convention (ECHR, Berladir and Others v. Russia, § 34; Öğrüv. Turkey, § 18. The protection of opinions and the freedom to express them is one of the objectives of the freedoms of assembly and association enshrined in Article 11 (ECHR, Freedom and Democracy Party (ÖZDEP) v. Turkey [GC], § 37). The link between Articles 10 and 11 is particularly relevant where the authorities have interfered with the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in reaction to the views held or statements made by participants in a demonstration or by members of an association (ECHR, Primov and Others v. Russia, § 92; Stankov and the United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden v. Bulgaria, § 85).

Apart from Europe, the freedom of association and its protection from state influence is guaranteed in all modern and democratic legal systems, including the United States Bill of Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, articles 20 and 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In all Western democracies, these principles have been implemented in national law as well.

The mentioned fundamental rights are not only relevant in the relation between individuals and states. They also dictate a responsibility among civilians and private entities within the constitutional order when interacting with each other. This is called the horizontal effect of fundamental rights, pointing at the relations of private parties among each other.

The mentioned freedom of assembly and association is the legal foundation for any person to create an Order (=Merriam-Webster: a group of people united in a formal way). The freedom of expression is the basis for designating such an Order as an Order of Chivalry (=Merriam-Webster: the system, spirit, or customs of medieval knighthood) or Knighthood (=Merriam-Webster: the qualities befitting a knight). Therefore, in principle, any individual living in a democratic state has the fons honorum to create an Order of Chivalry or Knighthood.

The ICOC itself does not interfere with the right of associations of other individuals by making a list of – in their view – genuine Orders, but there are individuals and entities related to the ICOC, who made it a habit to defame associations that they regard as illegitimate.

SMOM is not a sovereign Order

Situated in the heart of Rome’s historical centre, on Via dei Condotti, the Magistral Palace has been the residence of the Grand Master and seat of the Sovereign Order of Malta’s government since 1834.

The sixth principle of the ICOC states that only the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM) is a sovereign Order: “The only recognised Order with the style of “Sovereign” existing nowadays is that of St John of Jerusalem, called of Rhodes, called of Malta, whose international headquarters were transferred to Rome in 1834, and whose international diplomatic “status” as an independent non-territorial power is recognised officially by the Holy See and by many other Governments.“. This statement is incorrect. With respect to the SMOM, a distinction should be made between sovereignty in the interstate relations and sovereignty in the public-private relation.

Sovereignty in the interstate relations

The SMOM describes itself not as a state, but as a sovereign subject of international law. The Italian state recognises SMOM’s extraterritorial rights over its properties in Rome. SMOM maintains a recognized permanent observer mission at the United Nations, the European Commission and other international and multinational organizations. SMOM is not categorized by the UN as a non-member state (like e.g. the Holy See), but among entities and intergovernmental organizations having received a standing invitation to participate as observers. For interstate-sovereignty, it is generally considered that the entity should be recognised as such by other sovereign entities or states. SMOM has diplomatic relations with numerous states and thus clearly possesses such an interstate-sovereignty. From a public international law perspective, SMOM is not a ‘sovereign Order’ (as the ICOC states), but a sovereign subject of the part of public international law that governs interstate relations. This interstate law does not recognise ‘Orders’, but only organisations, entities, subjects et cetera.

Sovereignty in the public-private relation

The SMOM has obviously lost its sovereignty in the public-private relation when it recently experienced a leadership crisis and during that crisis, the Vatican City State took over control of the Order. In December 2016, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager protested his removal as Grand Chancellor by Grand Master Matthew Festing. In a confidential letter of 6 December 2016 (see below: sources), to Grandmaster Festing, cardinal Burke pushed the Grandmaster for cooperation and even threatened with a visitation of the Order by the Pope. In January 2017, Pope Francis ordered Von Boeselager to be reinstated and required Festing’s resignation. The Pope also named Archbishop Giovanni Becciu as his personal representative to the Order until the election of a new Grandmaster. This move ignored the Order’s Cardinal Patron Raymond Burke. In May 2017, the Order named Mauro Bertero Gutiérrez, a Bolivian member of the Government Council, to lead its constitutional reform process. In June 2017, at their annual papal audience, the leadership of the Order wore informal attire instead of the traditional full dress uniforms. In May 2018, when a new Grandmaster was elected, Pope Francis extended Becciu’s mandate indefinitely. When the Order’s General Chapter met in May 2019, the participants included three women; a novelty. OnePeterFive of 14 July 2020 revealed that the program of Boeselager and the German SMOM associations is to modernize the Order by reducing its character as a religious order and to have it run by its lay members as a kind of medical NGO.

With regard to the public-private relation, as governed by public national law, public international law and private national law, it cannot be said that the Order is still sovereign, due to the mentioned Vatican City State interventions.


The mentioned events show that the Pope, not the Grandmaster nor the members of the SMOM, are in charge of the Order. Because SMOM allowed interventions by a religious leader and de facto gave up control over the Order, it is not, in any respect, an autonomous or sovereign Order. In contrast, any private association (Order) that is protected by law from state-interference, can be designated as ‘sovereign’ (=Merriam-Webster: enjoying autonomy).

I think it is important that this great Order gets modernized. This way, it can adapt better to a changing world and be more effective in supplying medical care. The Frankfurter Allgemeine puts it perfectly:

Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager führt den ehrwürdigen Malteserorden. Er bricht mit der Tradition, damit der Orden besser helfen kann.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 14 July 2019, nr. 28

New principles of the ICOC

In my opinion, the ICOC should develop a new set of principles that can be applied to answer one simple question: “Does, in the opinion of the ICOC, the Order of Chivalry in question have a historical background“? If so, it can be placed on the ICOC-list. I suggest applying an adjusted framework of the one that I used earlier to determine the value of nobiliary titles, issued by Prince David Bagration of Georgia (but this could be an interesting discussion within the ICOC):

  • The status of the issuer (dynasty and person);
  • The status of the Order (original status, current status and their compatibility);
  • The acceptance of the Order (acceptance by the legal successors of the dynasty, and/or by other royal houses and/or by relevant authorities).

Apart from the historical background, I would add a fourth criterium, in order to protect potential members from malversation:

  • Legal structure, financial transparency (Hoegen Dijkhof 2006, pp. 427-432) and contribution to society (inspired by the remarks of Freiherr von Boeselager in the Frankfurter Allgemeine of 14 July 2019).


The principles of the ICOC are in breach with the fundamental rights of association, assembly and freedom of speech. The ICOC should revise its task and should not concern itself with the question ‘who has the right to create orders of chivalry‘, since, in a democratic society, this is legal question that is answered by law and by independent and impartial judges; not by a commission of private individuals. From a legal point of view, the current activities of the ICOC come down to one association, judging another association. Legally, both are to the same extent protected to express their opinions by the freedom of speech. There exists no superiority in this respect.

Instead of focussing on recognition issues, I suggest that the ICOC focusses on criteria to determine that an order has historical legitimacy (a positive approach). This information could be of enormous importance to the public. It is e.g. dishonest for organizers of an Order to make false claims about the historic background in order to attract funding. In addition, members of an Order risk becoming involved in trademark and copyright disputes, when they use emblems that belong to another entity. The primary task of the ICOC should be to protect the public in this respect, since in many Orders high passage and membership fees have to be paid to become and remain a member. To achieve this, the ICOC does not need to make major adjustments. The list of the ICOC itself is, to a large extent, a list of Orders that are historically legitimate, but the pretentions of the ICOC regarding their list are incorrect.


Confidential documents. These documents include an alternative timeline of events from a number of different sources. The documents report that Cardinal Burke told Grand Master Matthew Festing, that if Von Boeselager was not removed he would “instruct the Holy Father to initiate a visitation of the order”.

Grotius, Hugo, De iure belli ac pacis, ed. Barbeyrac, Jean (Amsterdam, 1720), Prolegomena, n. 52 Google Scholar.

Hugo Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace, edited and with an Introduction by Richard Tuck, from the Edition by Jean Barbeyrac (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 1. 7/15/2020. <>

Evans, M. D. (2018). International law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Evans, M. (2015). The changing nature of religious rights under international law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Steinerte, E., & Wallace, R. M. (2008). International law. London: Sweet & Maxwell.

The principles of international law governing the Sovereign authority for the creation and administration of Orders of Chivalry”, in Rory Stanley (ed.), Féil-Scríbhinn Liam Mhic Alasdair – Essays Presented to Liam Mac Alasdair, FGSI (Genealogical Society of Ireland, Dublin, 2009) 15-25 ISBN 9781898471677.

European Court of Human Rights, Guide on Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Freedom of assembly and association, Updated on 31 May 2020.

Tornielli, Andrea (26 January 2017). “The Order of Malta’s crisis”La StampaArchived from the original on 26 January 2017. Retrieved 26 January 2017.

Hoegen Dijkhof, Hans J. (2006). The Legitimacy of Orders of St. John: a historical and legal analysis and case study of a para-religious phenomenon. Doctoral thesis. Leiden: University of Leiden. ISBN 9065509542.

“Vatican condom row: pope prevails as Knights of Malta chief resigns”The Guardian. Reuters in Vatican City. 24 January 2017. Retrieved on 10 July 2020.

Pullella, Philip (29 January 2017). “The Knights of Malta-Vatican feud: a tale of chivalry and sovereignty”. Reuters. Retrieved on 10 July 2020.

Sack, J. (2000). Report from practically nowhere. Lincoln: IUniverse.

“Pope intervenes in Knights of Malta after head resigns under pressure”. Reuters. 24 January 2017. Retrieved on 10 July 2020.

Pentin, Edward (26 January 2017). “Pope Francis Declares All of Festing’s Recent Acts ‘Null and Void'”National Catholic Register. Retrieved on 10 July 2020.

Brett, A. (2019). The subject of sovereignty: law, politics and moral reasoning in Hugo GrotiusModern intellectual history, 1-27. doi:10.1017/S1479244319000040

Allen J., John L. (13 May 2011). “A triptych on Benedict’s papacy, and hints of what lies beyond”National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved on 10 July 2020. Becciu was Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, a position akin to that of a papal chief of staff.

“Lettera Pontificia al Sostituto per gli Affari Generali della Segreteria di Stato per la nomina a Delegato Speciale presso il Sovrano Militare Ordine di Malta”. Holy See Press Office. 2 February 2017. Retrieved on 10 July 2020.

Lamb, Christopher (30 January 2017). “Cardinal Burke ‘in Office but out of Power’ as Job Handed to Papal Delegate”The Tablet. Retrieved on 10 July 2020.

The value of nobiliary titles, issued by HRH Prince David Bagration of Mukhrani

This article investigates the value of the nobiliary titles, issued by HRH Prince David Bagration of Mukhrani, claimant to the headship of the Royal House of Georgia. I have selected three criteria to validate the outcome:

  • status of the issuer;
  • status of the titles;
  • acceptance of the titles.

Status of the issuer

Status of the Bagration dynasty

By personal invitation of HM King Felipe VI of Spain, HRH Prince David, accompanied by his older sister, HRH Princess Maria Antonieta Bagrationi-Mukhraneli, attended the commemoration of the 25th anniversary in honour HRH the deceased Infante Juan of Spain, count of Barcelona (Madrid, 3 April 2018).

The Bagration dynasty (Georgian: ბაგრატიონი) is a royal dynasty which reigned in Georgia from the Middle Ages until the early 19th century. It is considered to be amongst the oldest extant Christian ruling dynasties in the world. The genealogy of the dynasty can be traced back to the 8th century and the first mentioning of the dynasty may be traced as far back as the 2nd century AD. The Soviet occupation of Georgia in 1921 forced some members of the family to more modest status. Their properties were seized. Other members relocated to Western Europe and needed to start a new career from scratch. After Georgia regained independence in 1991, some family members repatriated to Georgia.

It is interesting to compare the seniority of the Georgian monarchy to the British and Spanish monarchy. The first monarch of the House of Hannover, George Louis, became king in 1714 as George I; about 1.000 years after the first Bagrationi emerged as a ruling monarch. The House of Borbón-Anjou (Spanish: Casa de Borbón) is, since 1700, the reigning family of the Kingdom of Spain, also about 1.000 years later.

Therefore, based on the seniority, the House of Bagration has an extremely high status.

Personal status of Prince David

Court Circular, 8 March 2017, The Royal Household (UK).

Prince David (1976, Madrid, Spain) is the second son of Spanish race car driver, Prince George Bagrationi-Mukhraneli (1944-2008), by his first wife María de las Mercedes de Zornoza y Ponce de León (1942–2020). Prince David settled permanently in Georgia’s capital of Tbilisi in 2003 and obtained dual citizenship from Georgia in 2004. During the Russian–Georgian war over South Ossetia in August 2008, Prince David accompanied Georgian soldiers to the front-line in order to give them moral support. In 2014, Prince David was invited to witness the historic proclamation of King Felipe VI as King of Spain. On 8 March 2017, Prince David was received at Kensington Palace, where the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester accepted the insignia of the Grand Collar of the Order of the Eagle of Georgia on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II. In 2018, Prince David attended the inauguration at a former royal residence of Georgia’s first female president, HE Salome Zourabichvili.

Considering the foregoing, Prince David has an excellent reputation.

Status of the titles

Nobiliary system during the Bagration reign

In the kingdom of Georgia, about 5% of the population belonged to the nobility. The highest circles in society were occupied by the Bagration family. Immediately below the royal families came the princes (tavadni), organised within great clans. The most prestigious princes were heads of the five most noble clans; the Orbeliani, Amilkhvari, Tsitsishvili and the two Eristavi clans, as well as the senior Armenian melik. Members of these clans outranked other noble clans. Below the princes were the vassal gentry or aznaurni, people of status but dependent on the king, clergy, or the princes. Royal vassals, like the mouravni (local governors originally appointed by the king) outranked the vassals of the church, who in turn outranked the vassals of nobles. Many aznaurni were quite poor and lived no better than peasants, but their status carried certain privileges and exemptions from obligations (Gvosdev 2000, p. 92).

The Georgian nobility was largely organised on a military basis, the army being divided into several corps represented by “banners” (or drosha), each commanded by the great grandees of the realm. These grandees were petty sovereigns within their own domains, enjoying the power of life and death, but owing allegiance to the king (source: Christopher Buyers). It is clear that Georgia had a highly structured nobiliary system, which can serve as a basis for the modern titles.

Compatibility between ancient and current tiles

The ancient nobility in the kingdom of Georgia was organised as follows (source: Christopher Buyers)

  1. H.M. The Most High King.
  2. Princes of the Blood (batonishvili).
  3. Great Officers of State
  4. Grandees of the first class
  5. Grandees of the second class
  6. Junior members (tavadishvili) of the families of the grandees of the first class
  7. Bishops of the Georgian Orthodox Church
  8. Grandees of the third class 
  9. Junior members (mtavarishvili) of the families of the princes of the second class (mtavari)
  10. Archimandrites of the Georgan Orthodox Church
  11. Untitled nobility
William Charnley, lawyer, partner at King & Spalding International LLP; master (2016 – 2017) of the Drapers’ Company; created Duke of Aymer granted by letters patent 29 November 2012 and Marquess of Quarlton, Count of Darsie, Viscount of Turton granted by letters patent 12 May 2015 and appointed Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Eagle of Georgia and the Seamless Tunic of Our Lord Jesus Christ 29 November 2012, Knight Great Star in the Order of the Crown of Georgia and Senator Grand Badge in the Order of Saint Queen Tamar 20 May 2016 by HRH Prince Davit Bagrationi Mukhran Batonishvili, Head of the Royal House of Georgia (source: Burke’s Peerage).

In recent years, Prince David Bagration conferred the title of Duke of San Jorge, to mr. Alfredo Escudero y Díaz-Madroñero, a reputable Spanish insurance broker and tax advisor. Prince David also issued the title of Duke of Aymer (a long-established surname of Anglo-Saxon origin, and derived from the Middle English male given name “Ailmar”) on behalf of mr. William Francis Charnley, a well-respected British lawyer and master (2016 – 2017) of the Drapers’ Company (est. 1361). In 2011, the title of Viscount of Portadei was conferred upon José María de Montells y Galán, historian, meticulous researcher, brilliant writer and revolutionary poet. These appointments show that Prince David carefully selects the persons to whom such honours are given.

It is clear that these titles cannot be compared to the ancient Georgian noble titles like e.g. Duke of Aragvi (Aragvi-eristavi) or Duke of Ksani (Ksani-eristavi). Both titleholders were Grandees of the first class (Sul-didibuli-tavadi) of the Kingdom of Kartli and ruled over enormous estates. Obviously, Prince David has modernised the Georgian nobility, and revised it in accordance with Western standards. This innovation is understandable, since nobility should not be a mausoleum. Apart from that, titles like aznaurni would be very impractical to use in Western Europe. Issuing titles referring to European places, is a personal choice of Prince David.

Modernisation of the titles

In ancient and medieval Georgia, the nobiliary titles were embedded in a system of personal dependence, called feudalism or patronqmoba (Georgian: პატრონყმობა from patroni, “lord”, and qmoba, “slavery”, “serfdom”). This system arose from the tribal-dynastic organization of Georgian society. This hierarchical division of the Georgian feudal society was later codified in law by King Vakhtang VI (reigned 1716–24) in an official table of “weregild” or blood money rates. The system is thought to have its roots into the ancient Georgian, or Iberian, society of Hellenistic period.

The status of the current titles differs very much from the mentioned original status. Currently, the titles are an honorific accessory to the name. This modernisation is in line with the democratic principles that are laid down in article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The revised titles have nothing to do with the horrors of serfdom, attached to the original Georgian titles. Because they have a more humane character, the current status of the Georgian titles is higher than their original status.

No consent or confirmatory authority needed

In medieval Georgia, there existed a council of state, called Darbazi (Georgian: დარბაზი), introduced by king David IV of Georgia (c. 1073-1125). The Darbazi consisted of Didebulis (high aristocracy) and church representatives (Mikaberidze 2007). The Council was non-mandatory in the decisions of major questions of government. The king could, at his discretion, take the advice of the Darbazi into consideration. The rights and obligations of Darbazi were significantly widened after an insurrection by the 12th-century Georgian politician Qutlu Arslan and his followers. It was the result of a social struggle that marked a further step in the advancement of Georgian society.

At the time of the Russian annexation, Georgian society was rigidly hierarchical (Gvosdev 2000, p. 92). Georgian princes not only had nearly unlimited power over their estates and the enserfed peasantry, they also exercised police and judicial power (Gvosdev 2000, p. 65). In this extremely hierarchical society (even compared to imperial Russian standards) no consent was needed to elevate persons to higher ranks.


As a Republic, Georgia currently does not register titles of nobility. The work of Martínez Larrañaga et al. however, includes an overview of the Georgian nobiliary titles, issued by Prince David.

Acceptance of the titles

Likelihood of a restoration

In an article on the website, a project by the United Nations Association of Georgia, several politicians are asked how they feel about the idea of restoring the monarchy.

There has been a broad welcome from the opposition to Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church Illia II’s call to consider establishing a constitutional monarchy.
We, most opposition parties, believe that we should have a parliamentary form of government and its perfect form is a constitutional monarchy, MP Zviad Dzidziguri of the Conservative Party said on October 8.
I always supported a constitutional monarchy, as an appropriate form of government for Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili, the leader of Georgia’s Way, told reporters.
Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili said on October 8 that his party also supports the proposal.
Konstantine Gamsakhurdia, the leader of the opposition Freedom Party, said the proposal was extremely positive.
The New Rights Party, in a statement issued on October 8, said that Georgia should be a constitutional monarchy.
A lawmaker from the ruling party, Vakhtang Balavadze, said the issue should only be considered after the restoration of the country’s territorial integrity.
In his Sunday sermon, Illia II, said that today conditions exist which may help to make this dream of the Georgian people come true referring to the restoration of the Georgian royal dynasty of Bagrationi. He, however, also said it may take years.
His comments come amid political confrontation between the authorities and opposition parties. A group of ten opposition parties has launched a campaign calling for the abolition of the presidency and the creation of a parliamentary system of government.

Politicians Comment on Constitutional Monarchy Proposal, Civil Georgia, Tbilisi, 8 Oct. 2007, 13:42

Considering this political climate, it is not unlikely that Georgia will restore the monarchy and that currently issued titles will be formalised.

Acceptance by the Russian Empire

Catherine II by Fyodor Stepanovich Rokotov (Fedor Rokotov) (Russian: Фёдор Степа́нович Ро́котов, after Roslin (c.1770, Hermitage)- Photo: WikiCommons.

With the Treaty of Georgievsk (Russian: Георгиевский трактат, Georgievskiy traktat; Georgian: გეორგიევსკის ტრაქტატი, georgievskis trakt’at’i) of 24 July 1783 between Catherine the Great of the Russian Empire and Heraclius II of Kartli-Kakheti, eastern Georgia became a protectorate under Russia, which guaranteed its territorial integrity and the continuation of its reigning Bagration dynasty, in return for prerogatives in the conduct of Georgian foreign affairs.

However, on 22 December 1800, Tsar Paul I of Russia, at the alleged request of the Georgian King George XII (sometimes known as George XIII), proclaimed the incorporation of western Georgia (Kartli-Kakheti) within the Russian Empire. The incorporation was formalised by the decree of 8 January 1801, and confirmed by Tsar Alexander I on 12 September 1801. The Bagration royal family was deported from their kingdom. In 1810, the eastern kingdom of Imereti followed a comparable faith. In 1891, Georgia was almost completely annexed by the Russian Empire. The Russians ignored Georgian habits and traditions and sought to eradicate Georgian language and culture. Almost all frescos in the Georgian cathedrals were white-washed and both the status of the Patriarch and the autocephaly of the Georgian Church were abolished (source: Georgian government). The situation became worse when – after a short period as an independent republic – the Soviet armies invaded Georgia in 1921.

Letter from HM The Queen, dated 15 October 1954 to Grand Duke Vladimir of Russia, father of Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia.

In 1801, Emperor Paul I Petrovich recognized the Bagrationi-Davitishvili and the Bagration-Mukhraneli families (amongst many other princely families) as princes of the Russian Empire. This recognition was revoked shortly afterwards. A number of Georgian native nobles ignored the Russian titles, but a substantial number of nobles moved to Russia and mingled with the Russian nobility. Prince David himself, for example, is a cousin of Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia, claimant to the headship of the Russian Imperial House, as her mother was born Princess Leonida Bagration-Mukhraneli. The Russian Nobility Association in America accepts such nobles of Georgian descent as members, when they can prove that their family was listed in the Books of the Nobility of the Russian Imperial Senate between 1801 and 1917 (about 120 families). The restored relation and mutual recognition between the Georgian and Russian dynasties has been underlined recently by Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia:

Russia ceased treating the sons of King George XII of Georgia living in Russia as royal princes, even though their former royal status was a matter of historical fact.  Catherine II’s great-great-great-grandson and heir Nicholas II, perhaps mindful of this history, made a private comment acknowledging the royal status of the Bagrations at the time of the first Romanoff-Bagration wedding in 1911.  But it was her great-great-great-great-grandson and heir Grand Duke Wladimir who in 1946 gave effect to the underlying spirit of mutual respect between the two dynasties that was a key purpose of the treaty., retrieved on 11 July 2020

Grand Duchess Maria of Russia possesses the right to grant nobiliary titles to those she deems worthy of them, but rarely exercises that right.

Although the official recognition of Georgian titles back in the days of the Russian Empire does not apply to the newly issued titles by Prince David, it is not unlikely that there is a mutual recognition of such titles between the two Houses, considering their excellent relationship.


The titles issued by the House of Bagration are of high value. In my opinion, the titles will become even more valuable when they become more ancient over the course of time. They form a unique part of the grandeur of the Georgian Royal House.


Gvosdev, N. K. (2000). Imperial policies and perspectives towards Georgia: 1760-1819. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Toumanoff, Cyril, Cyril, “The Early Bagratids. remarks in connexion with some recent publications”, Le Muséon 62 (1949); “The Bagratids of Iberia from the Eighth to the Eleventh Century”, Le Muséon 74 (1961); Manuel de Généalogie et de Chronologie pour le Caucase chrétien (Arménie, Géorgie, Albanie)“, 1976

Bagrationi, Vakhushti. Description of Kingdom of Georgia, its habits and canons, (აღწერა სამეფოსა საქართველოსა, ზნენი და ჩვეულებანი საქართველოსანი). Moscow, 1745.

Stephen F. Jones, Russian Imperial Administration and the Georgian Nobility: The Georgian Conspiracy of 1832. The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 65, No. 1 (Jan., 1987), pp. 53-76.

Mikaberidze, Alexander, Historical Dictionary of Georgia – Scarecrow Press, (2007 ISBN 978-0810855809.

Martínez Larrañaga, Fernando; Alfredo Escudero y Díaz Madroñero; José María de Montells y Galán; (2015), Armorial de la Orden del Águila de Georgia y la Túnica Inconsútil de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo, ISBN 978-84-943890-4-7

The Rwandan Peerage

In February 2007, a discussion on a Google platform devoted to heraldry focussed on the titles that were awarded by former King Kigeli of Rwanda (1936-2016). 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 names 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?”

The Economist

Personally, I agree with the late King. The titles he issued, had a European flavour, which is not inappropriate. The titles of Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, Duke of Addis Abeba, Marquess of O’Shea and Earl Mountbatten of Burma (issued by European monarchs), for example, are also well-accepted. From a linguistic perspective, it would be difficult to issue African titles to Europeans and Americans. Stewart Saint-David’s interesting work “Grace and Favor” includes a list of Rwandan titles. Saint-David, chevalier de l’ordre national du Mérite, is an expert on Rwanda’s history and his work is authoritative:

Saint-David’s book, ‘Umwami: King Kigeli V and the Shattered Kingdom of Rwanda,’ the official biography of the last ruling monarch of the Nyiginya dynasty, highlights the vital role played by the nation’s kings in helping to foster the long-term peace and prosperity of its traditional society and culture. In 2017, in accordance with the last wishes of the late King, he was granted the honorific nobiliary title of Marquis of Saint-Jean-Baptiste, and was also named a Knight of the Royal Order of Saint Michael of the Wing of Portugal, an ancient chivalric institution founded in the 12th century, whose Grand Master, H.R.H. Dom Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza, has for many years been a noted friend and supporter of the Royal House of Rwanda.

Prof. Saint-David’s later study, ‘Beloved of Amun-Ra: The Lost Origins of the Ancient Names of the Kings of Rwanda,’ centers on the genetic, linguistic, and cultural links between pharaonic Egypt and monarchical Rwanda. As a recognition of this innovative work, he was named a Knight Grand Collar of the Royal Order of the Drum by King Yuhi VI Bushayija of Rwanda, and in October, 2019, he was awarded the Dragomanov Medal for European Communication by the National Dragomanov Pedagogical University of Ukraine.

In March, 2020, Prof. Saint-David was appointed official historian of the Royal House of Rwanda, with the title of Kalinga Chronicler. He has recently published an illustrated survey, ‘In the House of Eternity: A Brief History of Ancient Egypt,’ created in collaboration with his wife, the photographer E. L. J. Saint-David. His latest volume, entitled, ‘In the Presence: Eyewitness Accounts of Foreign Visitors to the Royal Court of Rwanda, 1894-1922,’ is a small collection of excerpted writings by some of the European guests presented at the courts of Kigeli IV Rwabugili (r. 1853-1895) and Yuhi V Musinga (r. 1896-1931). He is currently in the early stages of research for a historical survey of Egypt under Roman and Byzantine rule.


Saint-David’s list is copied below. It can serve as a basis for answering degli Uberti’s question. However, a truly scientific sociological study of the matter would involve a sequence of prescribed steps: defining a specific research question that can be answered through empirical observation; gathering information and resources through detailed observation (e.g. from the Belgian colonial archives); forming a hypothesis; testing the hypothesis in a reproducible manner; analysing and drawing conclusions from the data; publishing the results; and anticipating further development when future researchers respond to and re-examine the findings.

(equivalent to the) Ducal title conferred by H.M. King Mutara III Rudahigwa (1959-2016)

H.M. Baudouin, King of the Belgians, Duc du Royaume (1955). This appointment is manifested by the gift of 120 spears; literally: Ijana Namakumyabiri, or ‘120. The equivalent to the title of duke/duc in European culture.

Ducal titles conferred by H.M. King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa (1959-2016)

H.E. Boniface Benzinge, Duc Benzinge (1989)

H.E. José Antonio da Cunha Coutinho, Duc da Cunha (2006)

H.E. Michael James Donnelly, Duc Donnelly (2006)

H.E. Dr. Carlos Alberto Evaristo, Duc Evaristo (2006)

H.E. Guye William Pennington, Duc Pennington (2016)

Marquesal titles conferred by the Crown of Rwanda (1959-2019)

Carlos Amato, Marquis de Ankober (2007)

Bruce Argueta, Marquis de Grandes Lagos (2012)

Stephen-Michael Besinaiz, Marquis de Besinaiz (2006)

Mark Andrew Bickham, Marquis Bickham (2016)

Melissa C. Bickham, Marquise Bickham (2016)

Philip Bonn, Marquis de Saint-Philippe de la Sainte-Trinité (2016)

Stephan Urs Breu, Marquis de Saint-Othmar (2016/17)

Timoleon de Carmain-Perillos, Marquis Perillos (2006)

Michael James Donnelly, Marquis de Faifo (2006)

Matthew Dupee, Marquis Dupee (2012)

Alfredo Escudero y Díaz-Madroñero, Marquis de Gori (2006)

Alberto d’Ornellas e Vasconcelos-Jardim, Marquis Jardim (2007)

Dr. Carl Edward Lindgren, Marquis Lindgren (2005)

Luis Lorenzato, Marquis Lorenzato (2010)

Albert (‘Alex’) Montague, Marquis Montague (2006)

Maria Alonso Montague, Marquise Montague (2006)

João Saldanha de Oliveira Sousa, Marquis de Rio Maior (2006)

David Ashley Pritchard, Marquis Pritchard (2006)

Bianca Maria Rusconi, Marquise Rusconi (2006)

Stewart Addington Saint-David, Marquis de Saint-Jean-Baptiste (2017)

R. L. Tatman, Marquis Tatman (2012)

John Thoma, Marquis de São Tome (2006)

Alfredo Luigi degli Uberti, Marquis degli Uberti (2006)

Dr. Maria Loredana degli Uberti Pinotti, Marquise degli Uberti (2007)

Dr. Pier Felice degli Uberti, Marquis degli Uberti (2007)

Comital titles conferred by the Crown of Rwanda (1959-2019)

Evangelos Andreou, Comte Andreou (2012)

Bruce Argueta, Comte de Guerra (2012)

Stephen-Paul Besinaiz, Comte de Saint-Paul (2006)

Katherine Michelle Bickham, Comtesse Bickham (2016)

Kristina Schwing Bickham, Comtesse Bickham de Saint-Anselm (2016)

Mark Andrew Bickham, Comte Bickham/Comte de Saint-Anselm (2006)

John Bishop, Comte Bishop (2012)

Alberto Bochicchio, Comte Bochicchio (?)

Philip Bonn, Comte Bonn de Seton de Winton (2016)

Paul Borrow-Longain, Comte Borrow-Longain (2016)

Dr. Abel Madeira Botelho, Comte de Ribadouro (2006)

Dr. Paul Dreschnack, Comte Dreshnack (2006)

Matthew Dupee, Comte Dupee (?)

Dr. Carlos Evaristo, Comte de Santa Ana (2006)

Dr. William Kautt, Comte Kautt (2006)

Carl W. Lemke, Comte de Saint-Aretas (2016)

Johannes T. Niederhauser, Comte Niederhauser (2009)

João Saldanha de Oliveira Sousa, Comte de Azinhaga (2006)

Dr. Patrick O’Shea, Comte d’Alby (2012)

Dr. Craig Paterson, Comte de Saint-Blane (2006/17)

Guye William Pennington, Comte de Gerdon (2015)

Jason Psaltides, Comte Psaltides (2012)

Ulisses Rolim, Comte de Rolim et Reigada (2007)

João Pedro de Saboia Bandeira de Mello Filho, Comte de Saboia de Mello (2016)

Terrence Sarros, Comte Sarros (2012)

Felix Andreas Schweikert, Comte de Schweikert (2016)

Tullio Signoracci, Comte Signoracci (1994)

Francisco Fonseca da Silva, Comte de Torre et Ervededo (2006)

Lehman Smith, Comte de Saint-Christophe (2012)

Luis Filipe Costa da Sousa Azevedo, Comte de Queluz (2006)

Abilio Rodas de Sousa Ribas, Comte de Soajo (2006)

John Thoma, Comte de São Tome (2006)

Vicecomital titles conferred by the Crown of Rwanda (1959-2019)

Reynord Araya Morales, Vicomte Araya de Santa Maria (2016)

Miles Alan Calvin, Vicomte Calvin (2014)

Mathieu Chaine, Vicomte de Kercaden (2016)

Christopher A. Chambers, Vicomte l’Arrivée (2016)

Richard Comyns of Ludston, Vicomte Ludston (2016)

Massimo J. Ellul, Vicomte Ellul (2016)

Antonio Gonzalez-Aller y Suevos, Vicomte de Regina Coeli (2006)

Dr. Enrico Melson, Vicomte Melson de Saint-Luc (2016)

José María de Montells y Galán, Vicomte de Portadei (2006)

Stewart Addington Saint-David, Vicomte Saint-David de Grandpré (2016)

Baronial titles conferred by the Crown of Rwanda (1959-2019)

Reynord Araya Morales, Baron de Saint-Rafael de Araya (2006/2017)

Vickie Argueta, Baronne de St. Victoria (2012)

Jonas A—–, Baron d’Ireba (2016) [this person prefers to remain anonymous]

Alessandro Berghinz, Baron Berghinz (2012)

Jonathan Besinaiz, Baron de Saint Margaret (2012)

Stephen-Michael Besinaiz, Baron de Santa Ana (2006)

Dr. Abel Madeira Botelho, Baron Botelho (2006)

Myles Alan Calvin, Baron Calvin (2013)

Fabio Cavallero, Baron Cavallero (2016)

Joseph Cotto, Baron Cotto (2015)

Ron Crossman, Baron Crossman (2012)

Murray Lee Eiland, Jr., Baron Eiland (2015)

David Lacey Garrison, Baron de Tranent et Cockenzie (2007)

Jean-Paul Gauthier de la Martinière, Baron Gauthier de la Martinière (2014)

Alfred Krupa, Baron (de) Krupa (2013/2016)

Carl W. Lemke, Baron Eligius (2016)

Mark Lindley-Highfield of Ballumbie Castle, Baron de Sainte-Rose de Lima (2016)

Arai Daniele degli Marquesi degli Bagni Vasta, Baron de Canicattini-Bagni (?)

Dr. Enrico Melson, Baron Melson de Saint-Luc (2016)

Angelo Musa, Baron Musa (2012)

João Vicente Saldanhade Oliveira Sousa, Baron de Saldanha (2006)

Dr. Patrick O’Shea, Baron O’Shea (2010), Baron d’Alby (2012)

Dr. Craig Paterson, Baron de Blane (2016)

João Pedro de Saboia Bandera de Mello Filho, Baron de Saboia Bandera de Mello (?)

Dr. George Said-Zammit, Baron Said-Zammit (2007)

Stewart Addington Saint-David, Baron de Grandpré (2013)

Barrie Schwortz, Baron Schwortz (2012)

Angelo Anthony Sedacca, Baron Sedacca de [1] Saint-Michel, [2] Saint-Pierre, [3] Saint-Nicholas and [4] Saint-Jean (2016)

Dr. Luciano Sini, Baron Sini (2014)

Daniel Stattin, Baron Stattin (2016)

Kenneth Yee Man Tse, Baron Stourhead (2017)

William Welsh, Baron Welsh (?)


Saint-David, Stewart. (2019). The Foreign Honorific Peerage of the Royal House of Abanyiginya of Rwanda.

To what extent are feudal titles recognised by the Scottish authorities?

Sir Thomas Innes of Learney (1893–1971) GCVO WS was Lord Lyon from 1945 to 1969, following the position of Carrick Pursuivant and Albany Herald in the 1920s and 1930s. He was an active Lord Lyon, who strongly shared his views regarding the essence of his office, through his writings and pronouncements in his Court. Photo: personal collection of the author.

In Scotland, a baron is the owner of a feudal barony. Scottish feudal baronies are considered to be a form of property, which can be transferred to another owner legitimately. In Scotland, these residues of feudalism relating to land have only recently been abrogated by the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc (Scotland) Act 2000. As to feudal titles, the Act states that when ‘an estate held in barony ceases to exist as a feudal estate, the dignity of baron, though retained, shall not attach to the land; and on and after the appointed day any such dignity shall be, and shall be transferable only as, incorporeal heritable property’.

On 28 November 2004, the mentioned Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc (Scotland) Act 2000 came into force. It abolished the feudal system of land tenure (the relationship that individuals hold regarding land and related resources) on feudal baronies. The retained dignity of baron is no longer attached to land, but a floating dignity which may be bought and sold as incorporeal heritable property and may be bequeathed by will.

Baronies are not registerable in the Land Register and deeds relating to them are no longer recorded in the Register of Sasines (the oldest national public land register in the world, dating back to 1617) automatically. As a result, the transfer of dignity is no longer bound to be registered anywhere. However, ‘Burke’s Peerage and Gentry’ includes a complete list of Scottish Feudal Barons. This list can be viewed online at Where the applicant provides evidence that the Lord Lyon has recognised their feudal barony, or the title is included in Burke’s Peerage, this may be accepted by HM Passport Office and subsequently be recorded on the personal details page of his/her British passport (source: HM Passport Office, 13 Januari 2012).

Registration policies of Lord Lyon

The Court of the Lord Lyon is a court of law, and applications for a coat of arms are made by a formal “Petition”. The initiative thereto is taken by the person wishing to obtain a coat of arms. He/she submits the Petition to the Lord Lyon, stating who he/she is and asking for a coat of arms to be granted to him/her. The process is not complicated. Lord Lyon, who is the Crown’s representative in all heraldic matters in Scotland, used to recognise Scottish feudal titles, but has signalled an intention to phase out this recognition. Since the 2000-Act came into force, successive holders of the office of Lord Lyon King of Arms have developed different practices in relation to the wording of formal Letters Patent, by which the Lord Lyon grants arms to those persons presently entitled to the dignity of baron. 

On 17 December 2002, Lyon Blair (in office between 2001 and 2008) announced that, as a result of the Abolition of Feudal Tenures Act 2000, he would from 28 November 2004 no longer officially recognise a person as a feudal baron, nor make any grant of baronial additaments as part of armorial bearings:


The Armorial Bearings of The Court of the Lord Lyon

In connection with the Appointed Day under the above Act, which has been announced to be 28 November 2004, the following Rules will apply:

1. With effect from the Appointed Day the Lord Lyon will no longer officially recognise a person as a feudal baron, nor make any grant of baronial additaments as part of Armorial Bearings.

2. Any Petition for recognition as a baron and/or for baronial additaments must be submitted to the Court of the Lord Lyon not later than 30 April 2004 in order to allow time for it to be processed before the Appointed Day. No such Petition lodged after the 30 April 2004 will be considered.

3. After the Appointed Day the Lord Lyon will be prepared to consider allowing a bleu chapeau as part of the Arms matriculated by an heir of a baron who has been recognised by the Lord Lyon prior to the Appointed Day, in a similar manner as bleu chapeaux have in the past been, and will continue to be, allowed to Representers of former owners of baronial lands.

4. After the Appointed Day a baron who has a grant of Arms with baronial additaments may continue to use the additaments for his lifetime. Use of the additaments by his heir after the death of the baron will not be permissible and all existing grants will be subject to this Rule.

Robin O. Blair, Lord Lyon King of Arms

In the Margaret Hamilton of Rockhall v Lord Lyon King of Arms ([2019] CSOH 85) case, Lyon Blair determined to recognise the petitioner (in 2006) only as “Holder of the Barony of Lag” and to grant the petitioner a coat of arms without any baronial additaments. The petitioner had asked for wording of the titles “the baron of …” instead of “holder of the barony of …”. In the mentioned Margaret Hamilton of Rockhall v Lord Lyon King of Arms case, it was decided that Lyon Blair was entitled to do so:

The very particular character of the royal prerogative power that is exercised by the Lord Lyon as a matter of grace is wholly inimical to the articulation of a policy or practice by him that is capable of binding successors in the office of Lord Lyon in the grant of arms. The breadth of the discretion the Lord Lyon has in such matters, which is almost unique in a modern context, arises from the origins and nature of his ancient office and the very particular character of the royal prerogative he exercises on behalf of the Monarch.

Lady Wolffe 

On 31 August 2014, the Lord Lyon King of Arms issued the “Note on the Petition of George Menking“, under which he determined to accept petitions for the grant arms for feudal dignities including feudal earldoms (not to be confused with an earldom, which forms part of the Peerage of Scotland) since such dignities have historically always been of the genus of a barony and as such represent a higher form of barony and fall within the jurisdiction of the King of Arms.

Recently, the Lord Lyon stated that from 1 March 2018 he will no longer make mention, in Letters Patent granting armorial bearings, of a petitioner’s ownership of a Feudal Barony and therefore status as Feudal Baron (source: letter dated 23 October 2017, addressed to Dr Michael Yellowlees of Lindsays Solicitors).


A solicitor generally charges legal fees between £2,000 – £3,000 for the acquisition of a barony and £3,000 – £4,000 for an earldom. The barony itself will cost in the region of £75,000 or more in the case of a lordship, earldom or marquisate.


There is a more or less standard procedure for transferring ownership of a feudal barony.

Once the deposit and the intermediary’s (seller’s agent) buyer’s premium have been paid, the intermediary will instruct the selling solicitor to issue the title deeds and the drafts of the transfer documentation. The buyer’s solicitor examines and reports to the buyer on the terms of the titles (the bundle of rights in the property that the buyer will own). If these documents prove existence and ownership of the barony, the buyer’s solicitor will draw up the contract for the purchase on the buyer’s behalf and deal with the assignation (transfer) of the barony.

When the legal procedure reaches the final phase and a date of completion is agreed the buyer’s solicitor will ask the buyer to transfer the balance of the purchase price, the Scottish Barony Register registration dues and his/her solicitor’s fee to our client account. The funds are then paid to the seller’s solicitor in exchange for the signed Assignation. When the purchase is completed the buyer’s solicitor registers the Assignation in the Scottish Barony Register. The seller cannot draw down the purchase price until the Assignation has been registered.

Scottish Barony Register

The Scottish Barony Register is a Private Limited Company by guarantee. The company was incorporated on 22 November 2004 to enable registration of barony titles as a remedy for the introduction of the mentioned Abolition of Feudal Tenure Act. The purpose of registration in the Register is to prevent the sale of irregular titles. The people behind the Register are listed in the registers of Company House (Company number SC276349).

Register of Feudal Lords and Barons of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Those who wish to record their arms in the Register of Feudal Lords and Barons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a private publication, will receive a certificate, recording them in their appropriate status. An index of those who are recorded in this Register along with the link to their entry in The International Register of Arms, formally Burke’s Peerage & Gentry International Register of Arms, is published on the internet by The Armorial Register Ltd.


Lyons have finally accepted that they are not conveyancers. The legal ownership of a feudal barony has never been dependent upon his recognition. The conveyancing (the legal transfer of property from one owner to another) documents should prove the ownership. Lyon will still recognise the holder of a barony as qualifying to petition for Scottish arms, but only as long as the conveyance has been accepted by the Scottish Baronial Register. What has been changed is the fact that Lyon will no longer mention the dignity of feudal baron on the letters patents, granting arms.


Exposing Karl Marx’ and Friedrich Engels’ racist views on society

Jenny Edle von Westphalen
Johanna Bertha Julie Jenny Marx – Edle von Westphalen (12 February 1814 – 2 December 1881), a German theater critic and political activist, Painter unknown. Stiftung Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin.

Political theorist Karl Marx (1818–1883) was born in Trier, Germany. He is considered the father of international communism, also known as Marxism. This ideology in both its original and more orthodox guises, inspired both the Bolsheviks and the Nazis to establish their concentration camps in order to exterminate their political opponents or other ‘undesirable’ individuals. It was the Soviet Union, not Nazi Germany, where the first concentration camps in the ‘old continent’ were established (Vladimir Tismaneanu, ‘Communism and the Human Condition: Reflections on the Black Book of Communism’ (2001) 2(2) Human Rights Review 130). As early as October 1923, there were 315 of them spread all over the Soviet Union. Over that period no less than 15 million Russian people were brought into forced labour, with more than 1.5 million dying in prison. Six million people were deported on grounds of family ties and indeed ethnic identity (Nicolas Werth, ‘A State Against its People: Violence, Repression and Terror in the Soviet Union’ in Stephane Courtois et al., The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Cambridge/MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), p 73). Hitler knew about those Soviet camps, and he learned from them in order to create his own concentration camps in Nazi Germany. In his Public Speech, Munich, November 1941 (see: The Bulletin of International News, Royal Institute of International Affairs, XVIII, No. 5t, p 269) Adolf Hitler said: “Basically, National-Socialism and Marxism are the same.”.

Although both his grandfathers were rabbis, Marx’s father converted his eight children to Protestantism in 1824. The young Marx later declared himself an atheist. As a student, Marx wanted to be a poet and dramatist. At the University of Berlin, he studied Hegelian philosophy and became interested in economics. During his stay in Paris, he befriended Friedrich Engels, who supported him financially for the rest of his life. Together they published the Communist Manifesto in 1848, a radical criticism of the upper class and a call for the international cooperation of the proletariat. Following his expulsion from Brussels, Cologne, and Paris, Marx eventually settled in London. He lived there as a stateless exile until his death.

Marx was a devoted husband to his wife, Jenny Edle von Westphalen, a descendent of Prussian and British aristocrats. Jenny’s paternal grandmother, Jeanie Wishart (1742–1811), was a descendent of a Scottish nobleman. Her father, George Wishart, son of William Wishart, was Principal of Edinburgh University, and a descendant of the 9th Earl of Angus and the 3rd Earl Marischal. The latter was in turn a direct descendant of King James I, of the House of Stuart. At the depth of the couple’s long poverty, Jenny still carried calling cards identifying her as “Marx née Edle von Westphalen”.  The couple had seven children, but only three lived to adulthood. Two adult daughters killed themselves because of political and marital problems.


Johann Ludwig von Westphalen, born on 11 July 1770 in Bornum am Elm, died Trier 3 March 1842, son of Christian Heinrich Philipp Edler von Westphalen (son of a Blankenburg postmaster who had been ennobled in 1764 as Edler von Westphalen by Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick for his military services) and of Jeanie Wishart. Johann Ludwig married (1st) Meisdorf 4 July 1798 Elisabeth von Veltheim, daughter of Karl Christian Septimus von Veltheim and Friederike Albertine von Pannwitz. Johann Ludwig married (2nd) Salzwebel 30 April 1812 Caroline Heubel, daughter of Julius Heubel, retired military horse-care expert, and Sophie Heubel. Children of Johann Ludwig von Westphalen and Caroline Heubel:

  1. Johanna Bertha Julie Jenny Edle von Westphalen, b. 15 Jan 1814, d. 2 Dec 1881, m. 19 June 1843 Karl Heinrich Marx;
  2. Helena Laura Cecilia Charlotte Friederike Edle von Westphalen, b. 16 Mar 1817, d. 3 Apr 1821;
  3. Gerhard Oscar Ludwig Edgar Edler von Westphalen, b. 26 Mar 1819, d. 30 Sep 1890.

Racist views

The combination of Marxism and nobility is strange, taking into consideration the negative ideas of Marx regarding the aristocracy. Currently, another peculiar combination has arisen: Marxism and the Black Lives Matter movements (BLM).

BLM considers itself a neo-Marxist movement with various far-left objectives, including the dismantling of capitalism. The affiliation with Marxism is quite unnatural because both Marx and Engels had extremely racist views on society. In a letter to Engels, in reference to his socialist political competitor Ferdinand Lassalle, the son of a Jewish silk merchant, Marx wrote:

It is now completely clear to me that he, as is proved by his cranial formation and his hair, descends from the Negroes who had joined Moses’ exodus from Egypt, assuming that his mother or grandmother on the paternal side had not interbred with a negro. Now this union of Judaism and Germanism with a basic Negro substance must produce a peculiar product.

Engels shared Marx’s racial philosophy. In 1887, Paul Lafargue, who was Marx’s son-in-law, was a candidate for a council seat in a Paris district that contained a zoo. Engels claimed that Lafargue had “one-eighth or one-twelfth negro blood.”. In a letter to Lafargue’s wife, Engels wrote, “Being in his quality as a negro, a degree nearer to the rest of the animal kingdom than the rest of us, he is undoubtedly the most appropriate representative of that district.

Marx was also an anti-Semite. In On the Jewish Question (1844) Marx endorsed the anti-Semitic leader of the Hegelian Left, Bruno Bauer, who demanded that the Jews should immediately abandon Judaism. Marx asked:

What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money. … Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man—and turns them into commodities. … The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange. … The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general.


Marxism is the movement that inspired Hitler. It will never be the source for inspiration to us, believing in the ideas of Dr. Martin Luther King.


  • Weyl, N. ‘Notes on Karl Marx’s racial philosophy of politics and history’, The Mankind Quarterly (July 1977), pp. 59–70; idem, Karl Marx: Racist (New York: Arlington House, 1979). A comprehensive catalogue of their various, ignominious racially prejudices pontificated by Karl Marx and Engels. This book is needed for those studying economics, Marxism, capitalism, wealth inequality, communism, income equality, and anthropology.
  • Gabriel, M. (2012). Love and capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the birth of a revolution. New York: Back Bay Books / Little, Brown and Co.
  • Zimmermann A. (9 May 2018) Adolf Hitler’s Debt to Karl Marx, in: Quadrant online.


The author opposes racism in all forms and rejects communism and socialism.


One reader wrote me: “It’s actually even worse. In the note to Engels on Ferdinand Lassalle, Marx didn’t use the word Negro. He used the derogatory American word. He propounded the same thoughts on his own son-in-law, Lafarge, who was of part Cuban mulatto and Native American stock.

Behoort ZKH Hugo prins de Bourbon de Parme nu wel of niet tot het “Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme”?


Anna Prinzessin zu Ysenburg und Büdingen (1886-1980)

Bij koninklijk besluit van 15 mei 1996 werden de vier kinderen uit het huwelijk tussen Carel Hugo van Bourbon-Parma (1930) en Irene prinses der Nederlanden (1939) op basis van de Wet op de adeldom ingelijfd in de Nederlandse adel met de titel ‘prins/prinses’ en het predicaat ‘Koninklijke Hoogheid’. Carlos prins de Bourbon de Parme (1970) is de oudste zoon uit dit huwelijk. De grond voor de inlijving in de Nederlandse adel was dat – volgens de Hoge Raad van Adel – het geslacht in Spanje werd gerekend tot de adel. Dit bleek echter, na onderzoek door Jhr. Titus von Bönninghausen bij het Spaanse ministerie van Justitie, niet het geval te zijn. De inlijving had toen al plaatsgevonden en de ontdekking van dit feit is daarom juridisch niet meer terug te draaien.

In 1997 werd Carlos Hugo Roderik Sybren Klynstra (roepnaam ‘Hugo‘), geboren uit de relatie tussen prins Carlos en Brigitte Klynstra, verpleegster (1959). Mevrouw Klynstra woont in het Gelderse Hummelo op het terrein van het landgoed van haar stiefvader, graaf van Rechteren Limpurg:

  • Graaf en Edele heer Ernst van Lippe-Weissenfeld (1870 – 1914, Oostfront) trouwt in 1911 in Schloss Büdingen met Prinses Anna van Ysenburg en Büdingen (1886-1980). Uit dit huwelijk:
    • Prinses Eleonore van Lippe-Weissenfeld (1913 in Dresden – 1964 in Den Haag), trouwt (gescheiden 1944) in 1935 in Detmold met Sweder graaf van Rechteren Limpurg (1910-1972). Uit dit huwelijk:
      • Adolph Roderik Ernst Leopold graaf van Rechteren Limpurg (1938-), Afdelingshoofd van de Vereniging van Natuurmonumenten te ‘s-Graveland, commandeur van de Duitse Orde, trouwt met Ingrid Pieksma (1935-2008), dochter van Dirk Pieksma en Gerardine Nicolina Alette Evers (eerder gehuwd met Sybren Bonno Klynstra (1920-2004)), moeder van Brigitte Klynstra voornoemd.

Prins Carlos en mevrouw Klynstra waren niet getrouwd en woonden niet samen. In 1999 verzocht moeder Klynstra bij de rechtbank in Zutphen om gerechtelijke vaststelling van het vaderschap van prins Carlos. Dit verzoek werd door de rechtbank ingewilligd.

Adellijke titel gaat over op Klynstra

Bij besluit van 14 september 2015 heeft de minister van Veiligheid en Justitie de aanvraag ingewilligd van zoon Klynstra om wijziging van zijn geslachtsnaam in ‘De Bourbon de Parme’, voorafgegaan door de adellijke titel ‘prins’ en het predicaat ‘Koninklijke Hoogheid’. De Afdeling bestuursrechtspraak van de Raad van State oordeelde in 2018 dat de minister terecht heeft besloten dat Klynstra aan de voorwaarden voor naamswijziging voldoet. De vader – prins Carlos – en de entiteit ‘Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme’ hadden hiertegen bezwaar gemaakt. In een persbericht van de Raad van State van 28 februari 2018 is het volgende over de zaak opgenomen:

Hugo Klynstra krijgt ach­ter­naam De Bour­bon de Par­me en de ti­tel ‘prins’

Gepubliceerd op 28 februari 2018
De toenmalig minister van Veiligheid en Justitie heeft het verzoek om de achternaam van Klynstra te wijzigen in De Bourbon de Parme terecht ingewilligd. Dat blijkt uit een uitspraak van vandaag (28 februari 2018) van de hoogste bestuursrechter, de Afdeling bestuursrechtspraak van de Raad van State. Dat betekent dat Klynstra de achternaam van zijn vader Carlos prins de Bourbon de Parme krijgt. Ook mag hij de titel ‘prins’ en het predicaat ‘Koninklijke Hoogheid’ voeren. Om de naamswijziging officieel door te voeren, is eerst nog wel een zogenoemd koninklijk besluit nodig.

Om twee redenen heeft Klynstra recht op de wijziging van zijn achternaam in De Bourbon de Parme en de bijbehorende titel en het bijbehorende predicaat.

Wijziging van de achternaam

In het Burgerlijk Wetboek staan de voorwaarden voor een wijziging van de achternaam. De Afdeling bestuursrechtspraak is van oordeel dat de minister terecht heeft besloten dat Klynstra aan die voorwaarden voldoet. De rechtbank in Zutphen heeft in 1999 het vaderschap van Carlos prins de Bourbon de Parme ‘gerechtelijk vastgesteld’. Dat hij het vaderschap niet heeft erkend, is niet van belang.

Titel en koninklijk predicaat

Uit het Nederlandse adelsrecht volgt dat wijziging van de achternaam automatisch tot gevolg heeft dat adeldom overgaat. Klynstra mag door de naamswijziging dan ook de titel ‘prins’ en het predicaat ‘Koninklijke Hoogheid’ voeren. Carlos prins de Bourbon de Parme is in 1996 ingelijfd in de Nederlandse adel. Hierbij zijn de prinselijke titel en het koninklijk predicaat toegekend aan hem en zijn mannelijke nakomelingen. Daardoor geldt het Nederlandse adelsrecht en gaan de titel en het predicaat met de naamswijziging automatisch over op Klynstra. Voor de Nederlandse Wet op de adeldom maakt de manier waarop het vaderschap van het kind is vast komen te staan niet uit, oordeelt de Afdeling bestuursrechtspraak.

Geen lid van het Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme

De naamswijziging heeft niet tot gevolg dat Klynstra nu ook lid wordt van het Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme. Dat is een privéaangelegenheid van het Huis zelf. En daar gaat het Nederlandse adelsrecht niet over.


Hugo Klynstra is geboren in 1997. Hij is de buitenechtelijke zoon van Carlos prins de Bourbon de Parme. Bij zijn geboorte kreeg hij de achternaam van zijn moeder, Klynstra. Toen hij meerderjarig werd, verzocht hij de toenmalige minister van Veiligheid en Justitie om de naamswijziging. De minister willigde dat verzoek in 2015 in. De rechtbank Den Haag bepaalde in november 2016 dat de bezwaren van Carlos prins de Bourbon de Parme en het Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme tegen de naamswijziging niet konden slagen. De Afdeling bestuursrechtspraak bevestigt dat oordeel van de rechtbank in de uitspraak van vandaag.

Lees hier de volledige uitspraak met zaaknummer 201609884/1.

Persbericht Raad van State

“De regels van het Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme”

In het persbericht wordt uitdrukkelijk vermeld: “De naamswijziging heeft niet tot gevolg dat Klynstra nu ook lid wordt van het Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme. Dat is een privéaangelegenheid van het Huis zelf. En daar gaat het Nederlandse adelsrecht niet over.“. Het is de vraag of dit juist is.

In de uitspraak zelf wordt door de Afdeling bestuursrechtspraak, voor zover van belang, hierover het volgende overwogen (r.o. 7.1):

De Afdeling is van oordeel dat de belangen van [het Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme] rechtstreeks worden geraakt door de in het besluit van 14 september 2015 voorziene overgang van de titel prins en het predicaat Koninklijke Hoogheid. De regels van het Koninklijk Huis verzetten zich ertegen dat een buiten echt geboren kind de titel prins en het predicaat Koninklijke Hoogheid krijgt. [Klynstra] zal gelet op deze regels ook geen lid van dat Koninklijk Huis worden. Deze regels zijn evenwel niet algemeen bekend, zodat aannemelijk is dat de toekenning van de titel prins en het predicaat Koninklijke Hoogheid de schijn zal wekken dat [Klynstra] wél tot dat Koninklijk Huis zal gaan behoren.

Afdeling bestuursrechtspraak, ECLI:NL:RVS:2018:680

De rechtbank heeft in zijn uitspraak van 18 november 2016 hierover – geheel terecht – overwogen dat het al dan niet tot het Koninklijk Huis [De Bourbon de Parme] behoren een particuliere aangelegenheid is die niet door het Nederlandse adelsrecht wordt beheerst. De Afdeling bestuursrechtspraak verwijst in zijn uitspraak naar regels van “het Koninklijk Huis” en overweegt dat het een juridische entiteit betreft die belanghebbende kan zijn in de zin van art. artikel 1:2, eerste lid, van de Algemene wet bestuursrecht. Deze entiteit kan dus ook bezwaar maken/beroep instellen tegen een besluit als hier aan de orde is, aldus de Afdeling.


De Afdeling bestuursrechtspraak kent rechtsgevolgen toe aan het bestaan van een entiteit met eigen huisregels, namelijk doordat de Afdeling de entiteit Koninklijk Huis de Bourbon de Parme (= familievereniging) als belanghebbende aanmerkt bij de vraag of een buiten het huwelijk geboren kind van iemand de naam van de vader mag krijgen (r.o. 7.1):

De Afdeling is van oordeel dat de belangen van [Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme] rechtstreeks worden geraakt door de in het besluit van 14 september 2015 voorziene overgang van de titel prins en het predicaat Koninklijke Hoogheid.

Afdeling bestuursrechtspraak, ECLI:NL:RVS:2018:680

De Afdeling bestuursrechtspraak overweegt over de juridische status van dit Koninklijk Huis dat het een entiteit betreft die herkenbaar is in het rechtsverkeer (r.o. 7):

[Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme] presenteert zich naar buiten als een eenheid, thans onder meer via zijn website. Op deze website is informatie te vinden over de geschiedenis van [Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme], de leden van [Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme] en de organisatie van [Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme]. Het bestuur van [Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme] wordt gevormd door [prins Carlos] als hoofd van [Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme], een hoofd ceremoniën, een secretaris en een vertegenwoordiger. [Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme] heeft voorts aparte besturen voor de verschillende ordes die [Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme] kent. Uit naam van [Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme] worden jaarlijks evenementen georganiseerd waarbij [prins Carlos] als hoofd van [Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme] en Grootmeester van de ordes onderscheidingen, waaronder de ordes, toekent. Onder deze omstandigheden moet [Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme] naar het oordeel van de Afdeling worden aangemerkt als entiteit die herkenbaar is in het rechtsverkeer.

Afdeling bestuursrechtspraak, ECLI:NL:RVS:2018:680

Het Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme voerde in de procedure aan dat het besluit van de minister om titel en predicaat op Klynstra te laten overgaan met zich brengt dat er een Koninklijke Hoogheid is die niet tot een Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme behoort (r.o. 6). Gelet hierop, vormt – volgens het Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme – het besluit in feite de aanzet is voor een nieuw Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme, dat niet te onderscheiden is van het oorspronkelijke Huis. Dit eerste is naar mijn mening juist, het tweede niet.

Klynstra kan inderdaad zijn eigen tak van het ‘Koninklijk Huis de Bourbon de Parme’ starten en ontwikkelen. Omdat Klynstra (nu ZKH Hugo prins de Bourbon de Parme) de oudste zoon is van prins Carlos, is het de vraag wie straks in historische zin de chef van het Huis De Bourbon de Parme is, aan wie traditiegetrouw de dynastieke rechten (bijvoorbeeld: troonopvolging en het uitgeven van orden en adellijke titels) toekomen (zie bijvoorbeeld: Bourbon, S. D. (1914). Le traité d’Utrecht et les lois fondamentales du royaume. Thèse pour le doctorat. Paris: Université de Paris). Naar mijn mening is dit het huis van prins Hugo (traditiegetrouw de oudste tak), maar een autoriteit om dit te bevestigen is er niet. Dit betekent dat prins Hugo alle reden heeft om ook een website op te zetten en een organisatie daar omheen op te bouwen, die bijvoorbeeld verschillende orden (in de uitspraak staat foutief ‘ordes’) kan uitgeven. In dit opzicht is er wel degelijk onderscheid aan te brengen: namelijk tussen een oudste tak en een jongere tak van het Huis De Bourbon de Parme. Het is overigens beslist niet vreemd dat er meerdere aanspraken bestaan op dezelfde dynastieke rechten. Denk daarbij aan dynastieke rechten ten aanzien van het uitgeven van de Heilige Militaire Constantijnse Orde van Sint-Joris (Italiaans: L’Ordine Costantiniano di San Giorgio), kortweg Constantijnse Orde. Zoals ik eerder schreef, worden de dynastieke rechten voor het uitgeven van deze orde geclaimd door drie families (takken), waaronder die van prins Carlos. In de toekomst kan ik daar mogelijk een vierde aan toevoegen.

Het antwoord op de vraag of ZKH Hugo prins de Bourbon de Parme behoort tot het “Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme”, dient bevestigend te worden beantwoord. Daarbij moet worden aangetekend dat met het “Koninklijk Huis De Bourbon de Parme” de oudste tak van de familie wordt bedoeld en niet de jongere tak van prins Carlos. Prins Hugo is namelijk geen lid van deze laatste entiteit.


Het is ongepast om een ethisch oordeel te geven over de weigering van prins Carlos om zijn zoon te erkennen. Hoewel ik hier aanvankelijk impulsief negatief over oordeelde, zijn er toch veel aspecten die niet bekend zijn. Belangrijker is het om vast te stellen dat het een privé kwestie betreft, die – hoewel deze zich in het publiek domein afspeelt – de niet-belanghebbenden niets aangaat. In dit verband wil ik onderstaand stukje citeren dat laat zien dat het gissen is naar de achtergronden van de hele affaire:

Prins Carlos werd door zijn toenmalige vriendin niet alleen voor een slechts door haar gewenste zwangerschap geplaatst, maar mocht ook geen contact hebben met de boreling, die nota bene de namen Carlos Hugo meekreeg. Meer dan een korte verklaring uit 1997 was er tot nu toe niet. Die kwam kil en koel over. Het was ‘een eigen, zelfstandige beslissing van mevrouw Klynstra geweest om moeder te willen worden.’ Prins Carlos respecteerde dat, maar liet ook weten dat geen er familierechtelijke betrekking tussen hem en de pasgeborene bestond en dat ‘het uitgesloten mag worden geacht dat die er zal komen.’. Dat was de basis voor het slechte en gedeukte imago van de prins. Carlos heeft er verder nooit meer over gesproken.


Giesey, Ralph E. “The Juristic Basis of Dynastic Right to the French Throne.” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 51, no. 5, 1961, pp. 3–47. JSTOR, Accessed 10 June 2020.

Foto, Caramb, Palazzo Ducale Parma. Belichting en contrast van de foto door mij bewerkt.

Who is the legitimate successor to the first Carlist pretender to the Spanish throne (and who is not)?

Carlism (in Spanish: Carlismo) is a Spanish political movement of traditionalist character, formed in the 1820’s by the extremist clerical party that developed in 1827 into the paramilitary Royalist Volunteers. This opposition to liberalism affiliated in the 1830s with the person of Carlos María Isidro de Borbón (1788-1855), count (in Spanish: conde) de Molina, younger brother of King Ferdinand VII (1784-1833). In 1970, the Carlist Party (SpanishPartido CarlistaCatalanPartit CarlíBasqueKarlista AlderdiaGalicianPartido CarlistaAsturianPartíu Carlista) was formed that considers itself as a successor to the mentioned historical movement of Carlism. The party remained illegal until 1977, when the Spanish Caudillo Francisco Franco died.

Alfonso XIII, (born May 17, 1886, Madrid, Spain—died February 28, 1941, Rome, Italy). The notorious attempt on his life and that of his bride, Victoria Eugenia of Battenberg, on their wedding day (May 31, 1906) was followed by a constant succession of plots to assassinate him. His great personal courage in the face of these attacks, however, won him considerable admiration. Photo:

The mentioned opposition to liberalism was triggered by the birth of the daughter of Ferdinand VII, Isabella, in October 1830. By the ancient law of Castile and Leon, women could rule as monatchs in their own right. However, this right had been abrogated by an act by Philip V in 1713, changing the rules of succession to Salic Law of Succession, which excluded females from the royal succession. This law was implemented to prevent any union of the crowns of Spain and France. Carlists are advocates of the legitimacy of this male line of succession, proclaiming the conde de Molina as the legitimate successor to Ferdinand VII. King Carlos IV (Ferdinand VII’s father) already suggested that the Salic succession law should be altered. The change would consist of giving preference to females of the main descendant line over males of collateral lines. The proposal was accepted and formally adopted as Cortes’ petition to the king, after a 1789 series of debates and decisions, taking place and adopted prior, during and after the Cortes sittings. However, a corresponding law, known as the Pragmatic Sanction, was not published until 1830. Upon her father’s death, Isabella (1830-1904) ruled as Queen of Spain from 1833 until 1868. The First Carlist War (1833–39) broke out almost immediately.

The question to whether the succession law was effectively changed in 1789 turned into a heated juridical, historical and political debate and continued well into the 20th century. Currently, most historians tend to avoid addressing the 1789 series of debates and decisions, taking place and adopted prior, during and after the Cortes sittings. In retrospective, the issue had no historical significance.

In 1833, Ferdinand VII issued the mentioned Pragmatic Sanction to ensure the succession of his daughter. Isabella came to the throne when her father died in the same year. Her succession was unsuccessfully disputed by the count of Molina (her father’s younger brother). Under the regency of her mother, Spain transitioned from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy by adopting the Royal Statute of 1834 and Constitution of 1837. In 1868, during the Glorious Revolution, Isabella II formally abdicated in 1870.

Isabella II’s son, Alfonso XII (1857-1885), became king of Spain in 1874, following a military coup against the First Republic. Alfonso XII reigned from 1874 to 1885. Alfonso XII was succeeded by his unborn son, who became king as Alfonso XIII (1886-1941). On 12 April 1931, the republican parties won a significant victory in the municipal elections, perceived as a plebiscite on monarchy. Alfonso XIII left the country on 14 April 1931 and the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed. However, he did not formally abdicate and eventually settled in Rome. On 15 January 1941, Alfonso XIII renounced his rights to the defunct Spanish throne in favour of his third son Juan, Count of Barcelona (1913-1993). In 1933, his two eldest sons, Alfonso and Jaime, had already renounced their claims to the defunct throne, and in 1934 Alfonso XIII youngest son Gonzalo died. This left his third son Juan, Count of Barcelona his only male heir. In 1975, the Caudillo Francisco Franco Bahamonde handed over full control as head of state to Juan’s son, Juan Carlos. The Caudillo died three weeks later. Two days after Franco’s death, the Cortes Españolas proclaimed Juan Carlos King of Spain. He is the father of the current King of Spain, Felipe VI.

Current claimant

Prince Carlos of Bourbon-Parma, Duke of Parma and Piacenza, is considered by some a contested pretender to the Carlist claim to the throne of Spain under the name Carlos Javier I. In 2016 Carlos told the Spanish press that, while (like his father in 2005) he “does not abandon” his claim to the throne, it is “not a priority” in his life, and he “will not dispute” [no planteo pleito] the legitimacy of King Felipe VI (“Ser príncipe me ayuda a mejorar el bienestar común“, La Vanguardia. 11 November 2016). These vague statements do not make sense, since the Carlist succession was rejected by the Kingdom of Spain when Isabella II became queen in 1833. She was styled accordingly during her reign:

  • 10 October 1830 – 29 September 1833: Her Royal Highness The Princess of Asturias
  • 29 September 1833 – 25 June 1870: Her Most Catholic Majesty The Queen of Spain
  • 25 June 1870 – 10 April 1904: Her Majesty Queen Isabella II of Spain

In 1837, Spanish legislation produced a constitutional monarchy and a new format of the title was used for Isabel: By the grace of God and the Constitution of the Spanish monarchy, Queen Isabel II of the Spains.

The underage Queen Isabella II was known by a long title that included both extant and extinct titles and claims:

Isabel II by the Grace of God, Queen of Castile, Leon, Aragon, of the Two Sicilies, of Jerusalem, of Navarre, of Granada, of Toledo, of Valencia, of Galicia, of Majorca, of Seville, of Sardinia, of Córdoba, of Corsica, of Murcia, of Menorca, of Jaén, the Algarves, Algeciras, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, of the East and West Indies, Islands and Mainland of the Ocean Sea; Archduchess of Austria; Duchess of Burgundy, Brabant, Milan; Countess of Habsburg, Flanders, Tirol and Barcelona; Lady of Biscay and Molina.

Monter, E. W. (2012). The rise of female kings in Europe, 1300-1800. New Haven: Yale University Press.

In addition to the semi-claim to the throne of Spain, Wikipedia states that Prince Carlos of Bourbon-Parma (1970) is also the “uncontested traditional claimant to the defunct throne of the Duchy of Parma under the name Carlo V“.

Prince Carlos of Bourbon-Parma, Duke of Parma and Piacenza (born 27 January 1970) is the current head of the House of Bourbon-Parma, as well a member of the Dutch Royal Family. He is the uncontested traditional claimant to the defunct throne of the Duchy of Parma under the name Carlo V (English: Charles V). In addition, he is considered by some a contested pretender to the Carlist claim to the throne of Spain under the name Carlos Javier I (English: Charles Xavier I). In 2016 Carlos told the Spanish press that, while (like his father in 2005) he “does not abandon” his claim to the throne, it is “not a priority” in his life, and he “will not dispute” [no planteo pleito] the legitimacy of King Felipe VI.


In 1814 the Congress of Vienna gave the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza to Napoleon’s consort, Marie-Louise. Upon her death, in 1847, Parma and Piacenza were restored to the Bourbons. Louise of Bourbon-Berry (1819–1864), regent for her infant son Robert (1854-1907), transferred her powers to a provisional government on 9 June 1859. Subsequently, Parma and Piacenza were annexed by Piedmont-Sardinia in March 1860. Piedmont-Sardinia became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861, ruled by the Savoy Dynasty.

The Savoy’s estates extended over Aosta, Savoy, Piedmont and other territories of modern-day Italy and France, including Sicily and Sardinia. The Savoys remained Kings of a united Italy until the impact of World War II led to a referendum which in 1946 narrowly established the current Republic of Italy. The last King, Umberto II, died in 1983. His only son, Victor Emmanuel of Savoy, is the present Head of the House of Savoy. In my opinion, he is a legitimate successor to the title ‘Duke of Parma and Piacenza‘, simply by tracing the line of royal succession. Wikipedia’s statement that Carlos of Bourbon-Parma is the “undisputed claimant”, is therefore incorrect.


A legitimate successor to the Carlist claim does not exist, because the claim was rejected in 1833 by the Kingdom of Spain. An alternative successor to the title ‘Duke of Parma and Piacenza‘ is the head of the House Savoy, because Parma became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860.


The legal status of the Portuguese Brotherhoods and Orders of Saint Michael of the Wing

Brotherhoods and Orders of Saint Michael

In history, there have been several Orders of Saint Michael. The most prominant ones are listed hereafter.

Bavarian Brotherhood and Order of Saint Michael

Guido Reni’s Michael (in Santa Maria della Concezione church, Rome, 1636) tramples Satan. A mosaic of the same painting decorates St. Michael’s Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica.

On 8 May 1693, Joseph Clemens, duke of Bavaria, then Archbishop-Elector of Cologne, formed the Bruderschaft des hl. Erzengels und Himmelsfürsten Michael, that still exists today and has about 800 members, mostly in Germany and Austria. On 29 September 1693, Joseph Clemens created the Bavarian Orden zum Heiligen Michael or Königlicher Verdienstorden vom heiligen richael, as a Military order. Initially, the latter was only open to the Catholic nobility. On 16 February 1837, the Order was abolished by king Louis I of Baviaria.

Portuguese Brotherhoods and Orders of Saint Michael

The original Knights of St. Michael’s Wing founded an order in the Cistercian monastery of Alcobaza about 1171, by Alfonzo I, King of Portugal, in commemoration of victory over the Moors, in which, according to tradition, he was assisted by St. Michael in person. The knights were placed under the jurisdiction of Abbot of Alcobaza and were pledged to recite the same prayers as the Cistercian lay brothers. Some authors state that the Order only existed briefly in the 12th century (Alston, George Cyprian “The Benedictine Order”. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company 1907); some claim it lasted until 1732 (James Anderson. Royal genealogies: or, The genealogical tables of emperors, kings and princes, from Adam to these times; in two parts. London), and some claim it existed until 1910, the year Portugal became a republic (Rodrigues Lima, Carlos [2009-01-09]. “Nuno da Câmara Pereira ganha batalha judicial a D. Duarte”Diário de Notícias. Archived from the original on 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2011-01-21Juíza vinca que Portugal é uma República, desvalorizando herança. O Tribunal Cível de Lisboa acaba de dar razão a Nuno da Câmara Pereira num conflito que o opunha a D. Duarte de Bragança, obrigando este último a desistir da denominação Real Ordem de São Miguel de Ala, uma ordem que criou em 2004. (Judge stresses that Portugal is a Republic, and values heritage. The Civil Court of Lisbon had initially ruled in favor of Nuno da Câmara Pereira in a conflict with Dom Duarte de Bragança, forcing the latter to give up the name the Royal Order of Saint Michael of the Wing, an order created in 2004.)

The history of the ancient Order is obscure, but the current Order’s predecessor was revived sometime in the 19th century (Almeida, Gomes Abrunhosa Marques de and Manuel Ângelo (2007), Precedentes histórico-teóricos dos regionalismos dos Açores e da Galiza. Santiago de Compostela: Univ Santiago de Compostela) as a secret society – not as a knighlty order – with political motives, aiming to restore Miguel’s branch of the Bragança family to power in Portugal.

The newly created entity in 2004 is not a dynastic award of the House of Bragança (Carlos Rodrigues Lima. “Nuno da Câmara Pereira ganha batalha judicial a D. Duarte“, 9 January 2009).

American Royal Brotherhood of Saint Michael of the Archdiocese for Military Services

The Royal Brotherhood of Saint Michael of the Archdiocese for Military Services was canonically erected by Decree of His Excellency Archbishop Timothy Broglio STD (2016), specifically as an Association of the Faithful for active or reserve military personnel. Dedicated to Saint Michael it is headquartered in the Military Archdiocese of the United States Armed Forces. The Commandry is a registered non profit Charity 501 C3. Its activities, fall under the canonical jurisdiction of Royal Brotherhood of the Archdiocese governed by the Canonically confirmed Judge, Col. Stephen Michael Besinaiz. The Royal Brotherhood was canonically erected in 2016 in the Archdiocese for Military Services, and is a Member of the Federation of Royal Brotherhoods of Saint Michael of the Wing. This branch of the Order is affliated with Dom Duarte Pio.

French Order of Saint Michael

The French Order of Saint Michael (French: Ordre de Saint-Michel) was a French chivalric order, founded by Louis XI of France in 1469, in competitive response to the Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece, that was founded by Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy. As a chivalric order, its goal was to confirm the loyalty of its knights to the king. Originally, there were a limited number of knights, at first thirty-one, then increased to thirty-six including the king. An office of Provost was established in 1476. The Order of St Michael was the highest order in France until it was superseded by the Order of the Holy Spirit.

The Order was abolished by the French authorities in 1830. However, in 1929-1930 Jaime, Duke of Anjou and Madrid, and in 1960 Infante Jaime, Duke of Anjou, Segovia and Madrid, granted membership of the Order to their confidants, thus de facto reviving the Order.

Intellectual Property issues

Nuno da Câmara Pereira ganha vitória em tribunal contra D. Duarte Pio
Fadista ganha em tribunal a exclusividade de título da Ordem de São Miguel da Ala. Saiba que outros temas falaram nos ‘Sem Papas na Língua’. 29 March 2016.

On 4 August 1981, Nuno da Câmara Pereira, José da Câmara Gonçalves, Gonçalo da Câmara Pereira, António de Sousa Lara and João Ferreira Rosa established the association Ordem de São Miguel da Ala by public deed at the Instituto dos Registos e do Notariado, which was recorded in the database of the Institute, the Registo Nacional de Pessoas Colectivas. Nuno da Câmara Pereira is the great grandson of Dom Vasco António de Figueiredo Cabral da Camara, 3rd count of Belmonte. As a monarchist, Nuno da Câmara Pereira disputes the validity of the dynastic claims of the Miguelist Branch of House of Bragança, of which the current pretender is Dom Duarte Pio de Bragança, his distant cousin. Dom Nuno de Figueiredo Cabral da Câmara Pereira, is Marques de Castelo Rodrigo and President of the Council of the Portuguese Nobility and Chancellor of all Knightly Orders of the House of Loulé, the second major claimant to the dynastic rights to the throne of Portugal.

In 2004 Dom Duarte Pio de Bragança registered the association Real Irmandade (=Brotherhood) de São Miguel de Ala. In 2007, Câmara Pereira sued  Dom Duarte on charges of breaching the intellectual property rights of his Ordem de São Miguel da Ala and won the case in 2009.

The judge noted that in the current legal-constitutional order, which configures Portugal as a Republic and enshrines the principle of separation between Church and State, it is irrelevant whether the association is a dynastic order,  if the use of the insignia is exclusive to the putative heir of the royal house (which is not recognized in the legal order of the Republic), or if it was canonically erected. Despite the historical arguments put forward by the Dom Duarte, the judge determined the problem as “purely legal”. In this respect, the simple apposition of the word ‘Real’ (royal) before the name already used by the association “Ordem de São Miguel da Ala” is not enough to achieve an effective and objective differentiation between the two associations. In 2011, Dom Duarte, saw 17 of his properties seized as well as a bank account worth more than 260 thousand Euros, as a result of a judicial execution.

Dom Duarte appealed and on 1 October 2015, the Portuguese Supremo Tribunal de Justiça (Supreme Court of Justice) finally condemned Dom Duarte, forbidding him to use the name and insignia of the “Ordem de São Miguel da Ala“, forcing him to indemnify the rightful holders and preventing him from even requesting a new appeal in the face of that process. However, the case was turned upside down when on 3 November 2015 Nuno da Câmara Pereira’s intellectual property rights to use the symbols expired. Subsequently, on 7 December 2016 Dom Duarte regained the intellectual property rights to use the insignia. Although followers of Dom Duarte, often mention that the legal procedures show that Dom Duarte is the dynastic successor to the historical Order of Saint Michael of the Wing, the matter was a legal one and solely a matter of intellectual property law.

As I understand, the revived Order currently has an upgraded legal structure (a federation of brotherhoods). It is not so much as a dynastic award of the House of Bragança anymore. However, the Order is still operating under the patronage of the House of Bragança. Many members of the Order today are Americans and citizens of the British Commonwealth.

Current holder of the intellectual property rights

The European Union Intellectual Property Office shows the IP registration for the word combination “QUIS UT DEUS” and the accompanying graphic representation in the name of “Duarte Pio De Bragança, Rua do Campo, 4, San Pedro P-2710, Sintra, Portugal” since 7 November 2016. This registration (nr. 016009748) also shows that the registered trade mark has been published for opposition, at which time one or more challenges to registration were filed but they have not yet been decided. On 23 March 2020 the case was still pending before the Board of the Office. The representative of the opposition is Mr António José Caeiro da Mota Veiga (b. Lisbon, 8 June 1951), a lawyer, who married in Sintra on 31 October 1974 to Maria José Trigueiros de Aragão Acciaioli de Avilez (b. Lisbon, Santa Maria de Belém, 21 June 1954), youngest of the only three daughters of José Maria de Avilez Juzarte de Sousa Tavares (Lisbon, 14 August 1926 -), 7th Count of Avilez, Representative of Viscount of Torre do Terrenho, of the Viscounts of Reguengo, and his wife (m. Castelo Branco, Alcains, 28 September 1947) Ana Maria de Portugal Lobo Trigueiros de Aragão (Fundão, Aldeia de Joanes, 16 August 1923-), of the Counts ofIdanha-a-Nova and Viscounts of o Outeiro.


Under Portuguese law, the dynastic rights to the ancient Brotherhoods and Orders of Saint Michael of the Wing are not recognised. There is a tradition of affiliation between the House of Bragança and the Brotherhood/Order, but the headship of the House is disputed. The jurisprudence in this case shows that the intellectual property rights regarding the insignia of the Order are irrelevant to the question of whom the legal successor is to the dynastic rights regarding the Order. Simply, because Portuguese law is not interested in the historical aspects, but judges the matter in terms of IP-rights only. The holder of the IP rights to the insignia can be anyone. It is only a matter of who registered the IP-rights first (or forgot to reregister them).

In my opinion, (knightly) orders or brotherhoods should not be subject to costly legal battles. Historical evidence should be the key to the question if an order or brotherhood has historical substance. An example of a total escalation is the long-running intellectual property dispute between two knightly orders:  the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta on the one hand, and the  Florida Priory of the Knights Hospitallers of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta, the Ecumenical Order on the other hand.

SMOM alleged that The Florida Priory had infringed on five of its registered trademarks including its cross and shield imagery. The organization also alleged that The Florida Priory engaged in false advertising by claiming a historical background that belongs to the SMOM.

The legal costs for both parties have been enormous. Such a waste of money and effort is an insult to their donors, who think that their money benifts the poor. Instead, their donations end up in the pockets of overpaid lawyers. In a published opinion, one district judge wrote the following disparaging comment (Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, October 15, 2015, Case: 14-14251, Page: 9 of 49):

“The parties present themselves as Christian charities. The Court struggles with the parties’ characterizing themselves in that manner, however. The amounts of money each party has raised for charitable purposes are unimpressive, which leads the Court to believe that the members of both [the Sovereign Order] and the [Florida Priory] are more interested in dressing up in costumes, conferring titles on each other and playing in a “weird world of princes and knights” than in performing charitable acts.”

The Michael of the Wing-dispute has similar characteristics, but the Duke de Bragança is not to blame.


Lines of succession of the Peerage, created by William III of England, Ireland and Scotland

The reign of William III

Willem III of Orange by Benjamin Arlaud. Collection: Rijksmuseum.

In December 1653, Oliver Cromwell (25 April 1599 – 3 September 1658) was appointed ‘Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, and the dominions thereto belonging’, with powers akin to those of a monarch. Cromwell was an English general and statesman who led the Parliament of England’s armies against King Charles I during the English Civil War and ruled the British Isles as Lord Protector from 1653 until his death in 1658. He acted simultaneously as head of state and head of government of the new republican commonwealth. After the Protectorate collapsed, Charles II, the eldest surviving child of Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland and Henrietta Maria of France had very wide support for his taking of the throne in 1660. He was king of Scotland from 1649 until his deposition in 1651 and king of England, Scotland and Ireland from the 1660 Restoration of the monarchy until his death in 1685. Charles’s wife, Catherine of Braganza, bore no live children, but Charles acknowledged at least twelve illegitimate children by various mistresses. He was succeeded by his brother James II with widespread support in England, Ireland and Scotland, largely based on the principle of divine right or birth. James was not a supporter of religious tolerance, as his time in France had exposed him to the beliefs and ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church. He and his wife Anne became drawn to the Roman Catholic faith.

In June 1688, two events triggered a constitutional crisis. First, in April 1688, James re-issued the ‘Declaration of Indulgence’ and subsequently ordered Anglican clergy to read it in their churches. William Sancroft, the archbishop of Canterbury, and six other bishops petitioned him against this and were prosecuted for seditious libel. In reaction, they were arrested and tried for seditious libel. Secondly, their acquittal almost coincided with the birth of a son, James Francis Edward, on 10 June 1688, to James’s Roman Catholic queen, Mary of Modena. Because James’s only possible successors were his two Protestant daughters, the English establishment could see his pro-Catholic policies as a temporary phenomenon. The birth, however, of his son James Francis Edward promised an indefinite continuance of his policy and brought wide discontent. Several influential Protestants had already entered into negotiations with the Protestant Stadholder William III of Orange when it became known the Queen was pregnant. In the same year, seven eminent Englishmen, including one bishop and six prominent politicians of both Whig and Tory persuasions, wrote to the Protestant Stadholder (Dutch: Stadhouder) William III of Orange, inviting him to come over with an army to redress the nation’s grievances and to help expel James II.

William was both James’s nephew and his son-in-law, and, until the birth of James’s son, William’s wife, Mary, was heir apparent. William’s chief concern was to check the overgrowth of French power in Europe. Between 1679 and 1684, England’s impotence and the emperor Leopold I’s preoccupation with a Turkish advance to Vienna had allowed Louis XIV to seize Luxembourg, Strasbourg, Casale Monferrato, and other places vital to the defense of the Spanish Netherlands, the German Rhineland, and northern Italy. By 1688, however, a great European coalition had begun to form to call for a halt to aggressions. Its prospects depended partly upon England. Thus, having been in close touch with the leading English malcontents for more than a year, William accepted their invitation. Landing at Brixham on Tor Bay (November 5 1688), he advanced slowly on London as support fell away from James II. James’s daughter Anne and his best general, John Churchill, were among the deserters to William’s camp. Thereupon, James fled to France (source:

After his successful invasion, William and his wife, Mary Stuart, were crowned king and queen King of England, Ireland and Scotland.  William III was sovereign Prince of Orange from birth, Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel in the Dutch Republic from the 1670s and King of England, Ireland and Scotland from 1689 until his death in 1702. In his capacity of King of Scotland, he is known as William II and is informally also known as “King Billy” in Northern Ireland and Scotland. For the next half century, James II and his son James Francis Edward Stuart and grandson Charles Edward Stuart claimed that they were the true Stuart kings, but they were in exile, and attempts to return with French aid were defeated.

Granting of titles

The following is an examination of three cases: the ennoblement by William III of William Bentinck, of Arnold van Keppel, of and of Alexander Hume. Described below are the similarities and differences among the three cases and an analysis of the questions that arise in the line of succession of the awarded titles.

Earl of Portland

The title ‘Earl of Portland’ was created for a second time in 1689 in favour of Hans William Bentinck (20 July 1649, in Diepenheim, Overijssel – 23 November 1709, in Bulstrode Park, Buckinghamshire), the Dutch favorite and close advisor of King William III. He made Bentinck Groom of the Stole, first gentleman of the bedchamber, and a Privy Counsellor. In April 1689 Bentinck was created Baron Cirencester, Viscount Woodstock and, in its second creation, Earl of Portland. The first creation of the earldom had been made for Richard Weston in 1633, but it became extinct in 1688. On the death of Bentinck, his eldest son Henry or Hendrik in Dutch (1680-1724) succeeded as second earl. He was created marquess of Titchfield and duke of Portland in 1716.

Hans Willem Bentinck (1649 – 1709), 1st earl of Portland, created 1689

  1. Henry Bentinck (1682 – 1726), 2nd earl and 1st duke of Portland
    1. William Bentinck (1709 – 1762), 2e hertog en 3e graaf van Portland
      1. William Henry Cavendish Cavendish-Bentinck (1738 – 1809), 3rd duke and 4th earl of Portland; change of name to Cavendish-Bentinck in 1801
        1. William Henry Cavendish Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck (1768 – 1854), 4th duke and 5th earl of Portland; change of name to Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck
          1. William John Cavendish Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck (1800 – 1879), 5th duke and 6th earl of Portland
        2. William Chalrles Augustus Cavendish-Bentinck (1780 – 1826)
          1. Arthur Cavendish-Bentinck (1819 – 1877)
            1. William Cavendish-Bentinck (1857 – 1943), 6th duke and 7th earl of Portland
              1. William Cavendish-Bentinck (1893 – 1977), 7th duke and 8th earl of Portland
        3. Frederik Cavendish-Bentinck (1781 – 1828)
          1. George August Cavendish-Bentinck (1821 – 1891)
            1. William George Frederik Cavendish-Bentinck (1856 – 1948)
              1. Ferdinand Cavendish-Bentinck (1888 – 1980), 8th duke and 9th earl of Portland
              2. Victor Cavendish-Bentinck (1897 – 1990), 9th duke and 10th earl of Portland
  2. Willem Bentinck (1704 – 1774)
    1. Christiaan Frederik Bentinck (1734 – 1768)
      1. Johan Karel Bentinck (1763 – 1833)
        1. Karel Anton Ferdinand Bentinck (1792 – 1864)
          1. Hendrik Karel Adolf Bentinck (1846 – 1903)
            1. Robert Bentinck (1875 – 1935)
              1. Henry Noel Bentinck (1919 – 1997), 11th earl of Portland
                1. Timothy Bentinck (* 1953), 12th earl of Portland


Earl of Albemarle

Arnold van Keppel (baptized Zutphen 30 January 1670  –  The Hague 30 May 1718), 1st Earl of Albemarle, became Groom of the Bedchamber and Master of the Robes in 1695. In 1696, he was created the Viscount Bury in Lancashire, and the Baron Ashford of Ashford, Kent. On 10 February 1697, William made Van Keppel the Earl of Albemarle. In 1699, he was awarded the command of the First Life Guards. After the death of William III, who bequeathed to him ƒ 200,000 and the lordship of Bredevoort, Albemarle returned to The Netherlands, took his seat as a noble in the States-General, and became a general of cavalry in the Dutch army.

1. Arnold Joost van Keppel, 1st earl of Albemarle (1670–1718)

1. Willem Anne van Keppel, 2nd earl of (1702–1754)

1. George Keppel, 3rd earl ofvan Albemarle (1724–1772)

1. William Charles Keppel, 4th earl of Albemarle (1772–1849)

1. William Keppel, Viscount Bury (1793–1804)

2. Augustus Frederick Keppel, 5th earl of Albemarle (1794–1851)

3. George Thomas Keppel, 6th earl of Albemarle (1799–1891); through whom is descended Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

          1. William Coutts Keppel, 7th earl of Albemarle (1832–1894)

1. Arnold Allan Cecil Keppel, 8th earl of Albemarle (1858–1942)

              1. Walter Egerton George Lucian Keppel, 9th earl of Albemarle (1882–1979)

1. Derek William Charles Keppel, Viscount Bury (1911–1968)

1. Rufus Arnold Alexis Keppel, 10th earl of Albemarle (1965-)

1. heir apparant: Augustus Sergei Darius Keppel, Viscount Bury (2003-)


Earl of Dunbar

Sir Alexander Home of Manderston.

1. George Home, 1st Earl of Dunbar (ca. 1556 – 20 January 1611) died without male issue. In the last decade of his life, George Home, KG, PC was the most prominent and most influential Scotsman in England. He was knighted on 4 November 1590, and known as “Sir George Home of Primrose Knowe”, then in 1593, “Sir George Home of Spot”. Spott is a village in East Lothian. Upon James’s accession as James I of England in 1603, Home accompanied his sovereign to Westminster, where he became Chancellor of the Exchequer (and ex officio the Second Lord of the Treasury) from 1603 to 1606. In 1603 he was also appointed to the Privy Council of England, and on 1 June of that year, he received a grant as Keeper of the Great Wardrobe for life. On 7 July 1604, he was created Baron Hume of Berwick in the Peerage of England. In 1605 he was appointed a Knight of the Garter, and on 3 July was created Earl of Dunbar in the Peerage of Scotland.
2. John Home, de jure 2nd Earl of Dunbar (a 1628), brother of 1st Earl, according to the Lord Advocate in 1634, he “conceiving his fortune too mean, forebore to assume the dignity.” He died without male issue.

    • George Home, de jure 3rd Earl of Dunbar (a 1637), son of Alexander Home of Manderston and nephew of 1st Earl, certified his claim in 1634 by the same Lord Advocate.
      • Alexander Home, de jure 4th Earl of Dunbar (d 1675), son of 3rd Earl, is said to have been confirmed in title by Charles II in 1651, but does not appear in The Great Seal of Scotland and died without male issue.

Creation by William III

Alexander Hume, of Manderstone, de jure 5th Earl of Dunbar (b. 1651, d. 4 Jan. 1720 Aurich, Germany), nephew of 4th Earl. Capt. of a troop of horse in the service of the States of Holland, later Geheimrat in Aurich, Germany. To him 14 Oct. 1689, William III, King of England, Ireland and Scotland confirmed the Earldom of Dunbar exemplifying the previous confirmation thereof by Charles II. It is not known if Alexander Hume styled himself “Earl of Dunbar” in Germany, where he and his descendants rather are known as Grafen (Counts) Hume of Manderstone. He married the daughter of Leonard Fewen, General Steward of Emden, who inherited the manor house and estate of Stikelkamp at Hesel, East Frisia. His son – Leonard Hume (1684-1741), de jure 6th Earl of Dunbar – inherited the estate in Stikelkamp from his father. Leonard married Gesina Bruncken (1701-1763). An alleged son of Leonard – Heeres Andries Hume – was de jure the 7th Earl of Dunbar (b. 1738 in Norden). Leonard’s daughter Helena Hume of Manderstone (1722-1784) inherited the estate of Stikelkamp; she married Bebäus Scato Kettwig; their daughter Isabella (1742-1797) married Eger Carl Christian Lantzius-Beninga (1744-1798); the Lantzius-Beninga family owned the Stikelkamp estate untl 1971, when it was purchased by the Landkreis Leer. Note: No claimant has progressed his claim before the House of Lords Committee for Privileges to a satisfactory conclusion. This Committee was – until the Dissolution of Parliament on 12 April 2010 – the only body which was authorised to decide whether or not a claimant may be confirmed in the title. The Lord Advocate of Scotland, for instance, has no authority in these matters, especially in the 17th century, given the corruption and nepotism rampant at that time. The usual way to establish the right to inherit a title is to apply for a Writ of Summons to attend Parliament (a procedure that will have to be reviewed in the light of new legislation abolishing the hereditary parliamentary rights of peers). Then the Committee for Privileges examines the validity of the documentation supporting the line of descent of the claimant and his relationship to the previous holder of the peerage title. Source: Wikipedia.


In the case of Keppel and Bentinck, the succession to the peerage was confirmed by the subsequent heads of state of the United Kingdom:

  1. The Peerage of England — titles created by the Kings and Queens of England before the Act of Union in 1707; The Peerage of Scotland — titles created by the Kings and Queens of Scotland before 1707.
  2. The Peerage of Great Britain — titles created for the Kingdom of Great Britain between 1707 and 1801.
  3. The Peerage of the United Kingdom — titles created since 1801 to the present.

Coat of arms Sir George Home, 1st Earl of Dunbar, KG. Artwork by R. S. Nourse on WikiCommons.

In the case of Hume, the succession to the title is not confirmed. The genealogical lines from the creation by William III to the current descendants is clear, however no state recognition, by incorporating the title to Peerage of the United Kingdom, has been granted. As the original title was created by the House of Stuart, it could be said that the current head of the House still has the fons honorum to recognize the title dynastically as an alternative to recognition by the United Kingdom.

After the Battle of Culloden, the Jacobite army of Charles Edward Stuart was decisively defeated by a British government force under William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, on Drummossie Moor near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. The House of Stuart lost its position as a dynastic alternative to the Hanoverians. The movement of the supporters of the House of Stuart called ‘Jacobitism’ went into a rapid decline, and in 1788, with the death of Charles, the ‘Young Pretender’, the Jacobite succession lost its political importance. His younger brother, Henry, Cardinal of York, died in 1807, and the male line of the House of Stuart thereby became extinct. According to the Royal Stuart Society, the claim to the Headship of the House of Stuart takes its descent from Henrietta-Anne (1644-1670), daughter of King Charles I, and her husband Philippe, Duke of Orléans. It was inherited by their heirs, the House of Savoy. Marriages of the subsequent heirs then saw it pass to the House of Modena-Este and later to the House of Wittelsbach (Bavaria), with whom it rests today, and the Head of which is Franz Bonaventura Adalbert Maria Herzog von Bayern:

House of Savoy (Sardinia) Charles IV 1807-1819
Victor 1819-1824
Mary II* 1824-1840
House of Este (Modena) Francis I 1840-1875
Mary III 1875-1919
House of Wittelsbach (Bavaria) Robert I and IV 1919-1955
Albert 1955-1996
Francis II 1996-

According to the Society, the elder daughter of King James II and VII, who was married to William III and styled herself Mary II, was not part of the de jure succession, with her father and brother being alive at the time. I do not quite agree with this statement, as Duke Franz has declined such a claim. It is therefore perfectly legitimate for other successors to come forward.

Marie Anne de Mailly-Nesle by Jean-Marc Nattier. Marie Anne de Mailly-Nesle, duchesse de Châteauroux (5 October 1717 – 8 December 1744) was the youngest of the five famous de Nesle sisters, four of whom would become the mistress of King Louis XV of France. She was his mistress from 1742 until 1744. Photo: Public Domain.

An even more obvious authority who could recognize the use of the title Earl of Dunbar would be the successor of William III, since he was the most recent monarch to create the title. However, in 1702, the first House of Orange-Nassau became extinct with the death of William III. John William Friso, Prince of Nassau-Dietz, inherited part of the possessions and the title “Prince of Orange” from his cousin, William III. From then on, the rulers used the title Fürst von Nassau-Oranien in Germany and the title Prins van Oranje-Nassau (English: Prince of Orange-Nassau) in The Netherlands. When the branches of Nassau-Dillenburg and Nassau-Siegen died out in 1739 and 1743, all Nassau areas of the Ottonian Line were reunited and inherited by the branch of Orange-Nassau. The Prince of Orange-Nassau from then on had two seats in the Council of Princes of the Reichstag: Hadamar-Nassau and Nassau-Dillenburg. On 31 May 1815, Prince William VI of Orange-Nassau signed a treaty at the Congress of Vienna with his Prussian brother-in-law and first cousin, King Frederick William III. The treaty ceded the Principality of Orange-Nassau to the Kingdom of Prussia in exchange for Luxembourg which was elevated to a Grand Duchy. On the same day, the Prussian King gave most of the principality to the Duchy of Nassau (thereby uniting the areas of the Ottonian Line and the Walram Line of the House of Nassau). Only Siegen remained with Prussia. Thus, naming a successor to the dynastic rights of William III is difficult. Rival claims to the title ‘Prince of Orange’ have been made by German emperors and kings of the House of Hohenzollern.

Another claiment to the title “Prince of Orange” is the head of the French noble family of Mailly. In 1673, Louis XIV bestowed the titular princedom on Louis Charles de Mailly, Marquis de Nesle, whose wife was a direct descendant, and heiress-general by primogeniture, of the original princes of Orange. After the marquis (who died in 1713), the next holder was Louis of Mailly-Nesle, marquis de Nesle (1689–1764). Although no longer descended from Louis-Charles, a branch of the Mailly family still claims the title today.

Therefore, the current claimants to the title “Prince of Orange” are: Princess Catharina-Amalia of the Netherlands (Amsberg), Georg Friedrich Prince of Prussia and/or Philip Kirill Prince of Prussia (Hohenzollern), and Guy de Mailly, Marquis de Mailly-Nesle (Mailly). In my opinion, all three have the dynastic authority to recognise the title “Earl of Dubar” as issued by William III. This authority is based on dynastic succession. In addition, the Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms also has the authority in her capacity of legal successor of William III. This authority is based on constitutional law.


In Britain, who is entitled to the suffix of “Esquire” (“Esq.”)?


The Right Honourable The Lord Rees-Mogg Kt. William Rees-Mogg, father of politician Jacob Rees-Mogg, was a British newspaper journalist who was Editor of The Times from 1967 to 1981. In the late 1970’s he served as High Sheriff of Somerset, and in the 1980s he was Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain and Vice-Chairman of the BBC’s Board of Governors. In 1988, William Rees-Mogg was made a life peer as Baron Rees-Mogg, of Hinton Blewett in the County of Avon. Photo: National Portrait Gallery London.

British politician Jacob Rees-Mogg has marked his arrival as a senior minister in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government by issuing a detailed style edict (see appendix) for his departmental staff. Under the new rules, “untitled” men are to be described in writing as “Esquire” rather than “Mr.”  In this respect, it is interesting to see who in Britain is entitled to the suffix of “Esq.” from both a modern and historical perspective.

Historically, the term “Esquire” has an exclusive bearing. An esquire (Latin: scutarius; shield-bearer) originally was a personal attendant to a knight. Over time, the title evolved into that of an apprentice knight and later into a lord of a manor. With the rise of the use of the term “Gentleman” as a rank, it became increasingly difficult to know where the lower limit should be drawn. Traditionally, Esquire ranked socially above Gentleman but below Knight.

In the post-medieval world, the title of ¨Esquire” came to be attributed to all men of the higher landed gentry. Sir John Fearn, in his Glory of Generositie of 1586, referred to four sorts of esquires; by creation, birth, dignity, and office. He commented that this title “is no less abused and profaned” than that of Gentleman, and that,

the degree of esquire is through custom tolerated to many other sorts of gentlemen, but they all, or most of them, are…in function of some offices of justice or government in the King’s palace, as…annexed to the dignities of judges and barons of the benches and courts of justice; to the advocates and procurators of the sovereign; to the degree of sergeants at the coif; to the office of sheriff, escheator, and serjeant at arms; to the eldest born of a baron and peer of the realm or of a knight, besides many others. But that the same should descend from the father to the son, as the state of gentry doth, is mere fabulous. For the title of esquire of common right doth appertain to none, except that by creation he receives the same at the sovereign’s hand, or else through the bearing of such an office as a dignity anent to the same, or else by right of birth as in cases aforesaid, and that through custom.

In the 16th century, esquires and gentlemen were not precisely defeined – the esquires ranked above gentlemen as sons of knightly families or as Justices of the Peace – but all had achieved a certain position. For those who held such positions, the Heralds of the College of Arms could issue a coat of arms for a certain fee (Corfield, p. 7).

In the 18th century, bankers, dealers, and other more modest tradesmen also started styling themselves as „Mr‟ or, more powerfully, as „Gent.‟ or „Esquire‟. For example, there were individual vintners, brewers, tanners, theatre-managers, and dancing-masters who used this title (Corfield, p. 13). Three members of the Horrocks manufacturing dynasty were designated in literature as „gent.‟ or „Esq.‟, while their cotton-spinning business was simultaneously entered under „tradesmen‟. In the Maidstone directory, the Scudamore solicitors were listed twice, both as „gentry‟ and as „attorneys‟ (Corfield, p. 36), as well as in other legal documents concerning the transfer of property (e.g. National Archives, X668/90). The monumental inscriptions, including wills (pre 1858) and other notes of the Holy Trinity Church in Maidstone dated 7 May 1856 concerning the family, do not mention „Gent.‟ or „Esquire‟.

In 1848, Burke published an article in The Patrician, that addresses the question “who is a gentleman, and who an esquire?“.

In conclusion, for the sake of clearness, we recapitulate in a tabular form, the different classes to whom the title of Esquire belongs. ESQUIRES ARE:

  1. The sons of all the peers and lords of parliament in the lives of – their fathers; the younger sons of peers after the death of their fathers; the eldest sons of the younger sons of peers, and their eldest sons in per petual succession.
  2. Noblemen of other nations.
  3. The eldest (and we think, if any, all the) sons of baronets, and the eldest sons of knights.
  4. Esquires created expressly with a collar of SS, and spurs of silver, now obsolete.
  5. Persons to whom the Queen gives arms by her own letters patent, with the title Esquire.
  6. Esquires of the Bath , and the eldest sons of those Esquires pursuant to the statutes of the order.
  7. Barristers-at- law, by their office or profession.
  8. Justices of the peace, and mayors, while in the commission, or in office.
  9. Persons chosen Esquires to the body of the Prince, now obsolete.
  10. Persons attending on the Sovereign ’s coronation in some notable employment, or persons employed in any superior office of trust under the Crown, or serving in some place of better note in the Queen ‘ s household.
  11. Persons who are styled Esquires by the Queen in their patents, commissions, or appointments, such as sheriffs of counties, captains in the army and navy.
  12. Attorneys in colonies, where the departments of counsel and attor ney are united.

Based on these observations and on other literature, the entitlement to the suffix of “Esquire” included the following persons:.

Category A: Esquires by birth

  • The eldest sons of knights and their eldest sons in perpetual succession;
  • The eldest sons of younger sons of peers and their eldest sons in perpetual succession;
  • The Eldest sons of esquires created by letters patent or other investiture, and their eldest sons;
  • Foreign noblemen.

In this context, the term is used to pay an informal compliment to a male recipient by way of implying noble birth.

Category B: Esquires other than by birth

  • Lords of the Manor;
  • Esquires created by letters patent or other investiture;
  • Esquires by virtue of their offices: as the heralds and serjeants at arms and some others, who are constituted esquires by receiving a Collar of Esses; Judges and other officers of state, justices of the peace, and the higher naval and military officers who are designated esquires in their patents or commissions; Doctors in the several faculties and barristers at law.

None  of these offices or degrees convey gentility to the posterity of their holders.


There are protocols for identifying those to whom the suffix should properly be given, especially in very formal or official circumstances. However, no fixed criteria distinguishing those designated “Esquire” exist. They differ over time and have the character of customary law. A number of authorities have tried to create criteria, but none of these are entirely correct or complete. The use of the term “Esquire” essentially remains a matter of impression as to whether a person qualifies for this status. For example, British men have ‘Esq.’ after their names whereas all men from overseas are called ‘Mr.’ on the envelope containing an invitation to Buckingham Palace. The same counts for letters sent to employees of the Royal Household. This protocol does not convey gentility. It is different when the suffix is used in official diplomas issued under the auspices of HM the Queen. In such cases, the suffix implies noble birth (category A, above).

The context of the use is therefore crucial to establishing the meaning of the suffix and determining whether the suffix is correctly used or not. The same is true for the prefix “Sir.” This prefix is used for men titled Knights, i.e., of orders of chivalry, to baronets and other offices. Since the Late Modern era, “Sir” has been increasingly used also as a respectful way to address any commoners of a superior social status or military rank.

Therefore, the specific context can be linguistic, involving the linguistic environment of the suffix “Esquire”, as well as situational, involving extra linguistic elements that contribute to the construction of the meaning of the suffix.


Appendix 1: Use of the suffix of “Esquire” by the Dutch in the East Indies (currently Indonesia) during the British period

Screenshot from 2020-04-10 23-00-19
Regerings-Almanak Nederlandsch-Indië of 1815, p. 39 (during the British period). From 1811 to 1816, Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles, FRS (5 July 1781 – 5 July 1826) was Lieutenant-Governor of the Dutch East Indies.

Appendix 2: full text of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s writing style document


To combat a shocking decline in standards, all but myself must obey the following rules. I shall not be bound by them, as evidenced in my recent excellently-written, well-received and best selling book, ‘Eminent Victorian’s’.

Do not use the Metric System. Or any other French invention, including pasteurisation, mayonnaise or aspirin. Use good, honest British alternatives or, better still, do without. Show some pluck!

Do not use decimal currency. Pounds, shillings and pence will suffice, but florins and groats for preference.

Terms of address. Untitled men are ‘Esquire’, after the totally most excellent example set by our colonial cousin Mr. Bill S. Preston, Esq, of California.

Unmarried women are ‘spinster of the parish’. Correspondence to married women should be addressed to their husband.

Use multiple spaces after a full stop. The more white space you can leave the better, in order to camouflage the lack of meaningful content.

FACT-CHECK YOUR WORK. If you find any, remove them immediately.

Certain words and phrases are strictly forbidden in communications, including

’I understand your concerns’ – I have never understood anyone’s concerns and I do not propose to start now.

’Get’, as in ‘Can I get a coffee?’ – I would immediately sack any member of the cast of Friends, and I will do the same to you if you speak like them.

’Friends’ – I watched it once. Awful moving daguerreotype ‘programme’. Do not mention it.

’Hopefully’ – There shall be no hope during my tenure.

’Unacceptable’ – Nothing is forbidden, everything is acceptable. This applies only to the actions of the Prime Minister.

’Equal’ – Equality has no place in our administration.

’Disappointment’ – this will go without saying.

‘Flaps’ – Can people please stop saying this to me? I do not understand it but makes me feel funny.

Zijn familiewapens auteursrechtelijk beschermd?

Het antwoord op deze vraag luidt: ‘nee’ als het gaat om oude familiewapens. In een vonnis van de rechtbank in Brussel uit 2017 wordt dit verder uitgelegd. Ik zal de zaak in dit artikel bespreken.

De zaak Zara Home – Damiaens

Zara Home is een Spaanse onderneming die onderdeel uitmaakt van de Inditex group, en zich richt op het produceren van betaalbare kleding, in steeds wisselende collecties, en volgens de allerlaatste trends.

Justitiepaleis van Brussel. Foto: Lotusvogel.

Patrick Damiaens is een Vlaamse meester ontwerpsnijder, die internationale faam geniet als een vakman op het gebied van het maken van familiewapen in hout en van ornamenten en ander houtsnijwerk.

In  2012 aanvaardde Damiaens opdracht van de Nederlands familie Odink om een 3D-versie van het recent opgefriste wapenschild in hout uit te snijden. Nadat Damiaens het familiewapen in hout had uitgesneden, plaatste hij een foto van zijn handwerk op zijn website en begon hij aan een ander werk. In 2014 ontving de vakman een telefoontje uit Parijs. Een vriend deelde hem mee dat deze tijdens het shoppen in meubelketen Zara Home een versierde kaars had gezien met een afbeelding, die als twee druppels water leek op de werk van Damiaens. De ontwerpsnijder accepteerde dit niet. Samen met opdrachtgever Odink, nam hij een advocaat in de arm.

  • Afbeeldingen van het door Damiaens vervaarde houtwerk en de kaars van Zara Home zijn te vinden op de website van Damiaens.

De uitspraak van de rechtbank in Brussel

Uiteindelijk deed de Brusselse rechtbank op 19 juni 2017 uitspraak.  Deze hield in dat Zara Home een schadevergoeding moet betalen voor het gebruik van een Nederlands familiewapen.

Damiaens en de familie Odink vorderden dat het ontwerp van het familiewapen en het beeldhouwwerk van eisers als oorspronkelijke werken worden beschermd door het auteursrecht. Verder vorderden zij dat Zara Home door de reproductie van de werken in de Zara Home kaars, de mededeling aan het publiek en de verkoop van de kaars hun auteursrechten heeft geschonden. Zara Home betwiste de originaliteit van het familiewapen.

De rechtbank verklaarde echter voor recht dat het houtsnijwerk auteursrechtelijke bescherming geniet en dat Zara Home door de reproductie van dit werk op de kaars de auteursrechten van Damiaens geschonden heeft. Zara Home werd veroordeeld tot een schadevergoeding van EUR 7.500, conform de vordering. 

De rechtbank oordeelde ook dat het familiewapen van Odink als zodanig niet auteursrechtelijk beschermd is en wees de door hen gevorderde schadevergoeding van EUR 17.500 af. De wijzigingen in het origineel weerspiegelden niet de vrije en creatieve keuzes van de auteur. Het aspect van identificatie waarbij aan een lid van een familie het recht toekomt om het familiewapen te gebruiken verzet zich tegen het toekennen van exclusieve rechten aan één persoon onder de vorm van een auteursrecht. Dit zou de auteursrechthouder in staat stellen om familieleden het gebruik van het familiewapen te ontzeggen.

Ook moest het vonnis worden gepubliceerd in het Heraldisch Tijdschrift.

Nederlandse situatie

De nationale wetten in verschillende landen op het gebied van het auteursrecht kunnen van elkaar afwijken. Het Nederlandse auteursrecht is vastgelegd in de Auteurswet van 1912. Deze is voor gebaseerd op de Berner Conventie van 1886, een verdrag dat is opgesteld om auteursrecht internationaal te beschermen. Andere belangrijke internationale verdragen op dit gebied zijn het TRIPS-verdrag (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) opgesteld door de Wereldhandelsorganisatie in 1994 en de Universele Auteursrecht Conventie van 1952. Naar mijn mening is de Belgische uitspraak ook in Nederland toepasbaar.


Kortom: familiewapens op zich zijn niet auteursrechtelijk beschermd, maar de afbeelding wel als deze bestanddelen bevat die de uitdrukking vormen van de eigen intellectuele schepping van de auteur. De auteur moet bovendien vrij en creatief kunnen kiezen, waardoor hij een ‘persoonlijke noot’ die zijn ‘persoonlijkheid weerspiegelt’ aan het werk kan aanbrengen (gebaseerd op jurisprudentie van het Hof van Justitie van de Europese Unie).

In de uitspraak is een belangrijke overweging opgenomen, die tot op heden veelal over het hoofd wordt gezien (p. 17):

Ondanks de afwezigheid van enige gecodificeerde bescherming van familiewapens, ook naar Nederlands recht, lijkt prima facie zich niets te verzetten tegen de bescherming van familiewapens tegen manifest onrechtmatig gebruik door een derde (1382 BW) [onrechtmatige daad, JvBQ]. Onder onrechtmatig en dus foutief gebruik zou desgevraagd het gebruik van een familiewapen door een derde begrepen kunnen worden.

Dit laatste was echter niet gevorderd, maar de Brusselse rechtbank oordeelde dus wel dat er een mogelijkheid bestaat dat een schadeplicht ontstaat tegen een derde die een familiewapen onrechtmatig gebruikt, ook in Nederland. Hetzelfde geldt naar mijn mening ook voor heerlijkheidswapens en -titels.

Ik ben van mening dat nieuw ontworpen familiewapens wel auteursrechtelijk zijn beschermd als deze openbaar zijn gemaakt, omdat deze moeten worden aangemerkt als een werk met een eigen oorspronkelijk karakter, dat het stempel van de maker draagt. In dat geval gaat het immers – in tegenstelling tot oude familiewapens – om scheppende menselijke arbeid, waarbij creatieve keuzes zijn gemaakt.


American Royalty – Succession to the dynastic rights of the Hawaiian monarchs


The Crown Jewels of Hawaii – Photo by the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii.

The formation of the Kingdom of Hawaii started in 1795 with the unification of the independent islands of Hawaiʻi, Oʻahu, Maui, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi. In 1810, all of the Hawaiian Islands became unified in one kingdom when the islands of Kauaʻi and Niʻihau were voluntarily added. Two major dynastic families ruled the kingdom subsequently: the House of Kamehameha and the House of Kalākaua until the monarchy was abolished in 1893. This article examines the legitimacy of the current claimants regarding the dynastic rights to the former throne of Hawaii.

Monarchs of Hawaii

The following historical chronology and biographies of Hawaiian monarchs were originally documented in Encyclopedia Britannica.

Kamehameha I (1758?-1819). reigning 1795-1819 – Founder and first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii. A shrewd businessman, Kamehameha amassed a fortune for his kingdom through a government monopoly on the sandalwood trade and through the imposition of port duties on visiting ships. He was an open-minded sovereign who rightfully deserves his title Kamehameha the Great. Acclaimed as the strongest Hawaiian ruler, he maintained his kingdom’s independence throughout the difficult period of European discovery and exploration of the islands—a task that proved too great for his successors (source:

Kamehameha II (1797-1824), reigning 1819-1824 – Kamehameha resisted conversion to Christianity, allegedly because he refused to give up four of his five wives as well as rum drinking. In 1823 he sailed on a visit to England, in a delegation that included two of his wives. Stricken with measles in London in June 1824, Kamehameha and his favourite wife, Kamamalu, died there (source:

Kamehameha III (1813 – 1854), reigning 1825-1854 – Only 10 years of age when he succeeded to the throne, he was initially under the regency of Kamehameha I’s favourite wife, Kaahumanu, who had been regent ever since Kamehameha II had visited England in 1824 and died there. Converted to Christianity in 1824, she became known for her wise and beneficent rule. On her death in 1832 the regency fell to Kamehameha I’s daughter Kinau, but in the following year Kamehameha III assumed power in his own right. After hearing a series of lectures on government delivered by an American clergyman, William Richards, Kamehameha III promulgated the Declaration of Rights, called Hawaii’s Magna Carta, on June 7, 1839, the Edict of Toleration on June 17, 1839, and the first constitution on Oct. 8, 1840. This first written constitution for Hawaii contained several innovations, including a representative body of legislators elected by the people. It also set up a supreme court. The first compilation of laws was published in 1842. With Richards’ aid, Kamehameha also obtained diplomatic recognition of Hawaiian independence by the United States in 1842 and by Great Britain and France in 1843 (source:

Kamehameha IV (1834-1863), reigning 1855-1863 – Kamehameha IV, original name Alexander Liholiho, was known for his firm opposition to the annexation of his kingdom by the United States. As Kamehameha IV, he strove to curb the political power of the American Protestant missionaries in the Hawaiian Islands. Dedicated to protecting his people, who were rapidly dying out because of disease, he sponsored many social and economic reforms. He established Hawaii’s commercial and political relations with other nations on a solid base and tried to balance each country’s influence on island life. The son of Kekuanaoa, governor of Oahu, and Kinau, a woman chief who had been kuhina nui (prime minister), Prince Alexander Liholiho was adopted as a child by his uncle, Kamehameha III. He was rigorously educated by Protestant missionaries and attended the Chiefs’ Childrens’ School. To prepare him further for his future role, Prince Alexander and his brother, Lot, accompanied by the missionary-doctor Gerritt P. Judd, toured the United States, England, and France in 1849. Crowned in 1855 at the death of Kamehameha III, he became a popular monarch and was virtually an idol to the Hawaiian people. The annexation movement of 1853–54, championed by many American missionaries, caused Kamehameha to take steps to ensure the independence of his kingdom. In order to balance foreign relations, which had formerly been dominated by the United States, he invited the Church of England to establish itself in the islands. Impatient with the puritanical American missionaries and suspicious of American businessmen, he gradually removed all American members from cabinet posts and encouraged Hawaii’s commercial interests with other nations (source:

Kamehameha V (1830-1872), reigning 1863-1872 – Succeeding to the throne on the death of his younger brother, Kamehameha IV, he immediately revealed his intention to rule with a strong hand, refusing at his inauguration to take the oath to maintain the existing, comparatively liberal constitution. After calling and dismissing a constitutional convention, he himself wrote and promulgated a new constitution (1864), which remained in effect for 23 years. He also imported the first wave of Japanese labourers, by a contract made in 1868. Kamehameha V never married, and the Kamehameha dynasty ended with his death. The legislature elected a cousin, William Charles Lunalilo, to succeed him (source:

Lunalilo (1835-1874), reigning 1873-1874 – Prince William Charles Lunalilo was born to High Chiefess Miriam ʻAuhea Kekāuluohi (Kuhina Nui, or Premier of the Hawaiian Kingdom and niece of Kamehameha I) and High Chief Charles Kanaʻina. Lunalilo’s grandparents were Kalaʻimamahū (half brother of Kamehameha I) and Kalākua (sister to Kaʻahumanu). His great grandfather was Keōuakupupāikalaninui (father of Kamehameha I).Kamehameha V had not named a successor to the throne before he died on December 11, 1872. Lunalilo wanted his people to choose their next ruler in a democratic manner and requested a plebiscite to be held on New Year’s Day. Prince David Kalākaua and others not in the Kamehameha lineage chose to run against Lunalilo. The people on every island unanimously chose Lunalilo as King. At noon on January 8, 1873, the Legislature met, as required by law, in the Courthouse to cast their ballots to elect the next King. Lunalilo received all 37 votes. The coronation of Lunalilo took place at Kawaiahaʻo Church in a simple ceremony on January 9, 1873. He reigned for one year and 25 days, succumbing to pulmonary tuberculosis on February 3, 1874. As a proponent of democracy and more freedom of choice for his people, he did not name a successor before his death because he believed that the people should, again, choose their leader. His trait of “Lokomaikaʻi” followed him in death because of his desire to do what was best for the people (source:

Kalakaua (1836-1891), reigning 1874-1891 – The son of a high chief, Kalakaua was a candidate to the throne in 1873 but lost the election to Lunalilo. When Lunalilo died the following year, the legislature then elected Kalakaua, who inaugurated a decidedly reactionary and pro-American reign. In 1874 he visited the United States, and in 1881 he took a trip around the world. Although he secured a somewhat favourable reciprocity treaty with the United States in 1876, he yielded in 1887 to demands to give the United States the exclusive right to enter Pearl Harbor and maintain a naval coaling and repair station there. There was an ever-increasing endeavor by King Kalakaua to restore the ancient Hawaiian social order with its customs and ideas of absolutism and divine right, but it was accompanied by extravagance, corruption, personal interference in politics, and fomentation of race feeling, until he was compelled to promulgate (1887) a new constitution providing for responsible ministerial government and other guarantees. The struggle continued, however, not only until the end of his reign (1891), during which there was an armed insurrection (1889) by the opposition, but even more hotly during the subsequent reign of his sister, Liliuokalani. Kalakaua died on a visit to the United States, amid rumours that he was about to sell his kingdom (source:

Liliuokalani (1838–1917) – reigning 1891-1893.  On the death of King Kalakaua in January 1891, Lydia Liliuokalani ascended the throne, becoming the first woman ever to occupy it. Kamakaeha was of a high-ranking family. Her mother, Keohokalole, was an adviser of King Kamehameha III. Reared in the missionary tradition deemed appropriate for Hawaiian princesses, she received a thoroughly modern education, which was augmented by a tour of the Western world. After a time as a member of the court of Kamehameha IV, she was married in September 1862 to John Owen Dominis, son of a Boston sea captain and himself an official in the Hawaiian government. In 1874 her brother David Kalakaua was chosen king, and in 1877, on the death of a second brother, W.P. Leleiohoku, who was heir apparent, she was named heir presumptive. She was known from that time by her royal name, Liliuokalani. Over the next 14 years she established herself firmly in that role. She served as regent during King Kalakaua’s world tour in 1881, and she was active in organizing schools for Hawaiian youth. During a world tour in 1887 she was received by U.S. Pres. Grover Cleveland and by Britain’s Queen Victoria (source: Ka’iulani (1875-1899) was born as the daughter of Archibald Scott Cleghorn and Princess Miriam Likelike. Her mother was a sister of King Kalākaua and Queen Liliʻuokalani, the last Queen of Hawaii. She was baptised on Christmas Day at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. She passed her first years with her nurse May Leleo and later her governess Miss Barnes. In 1889, Kaʻiulani was sent to England to receive a private education at Great Harrowden Hall, and although she found her lessons hard, she liked them. Her uncle died in 1891 and was succeeded by her aunt, now Queen Liliʻuokalani. Queen Liliʻuokalani immediately appointed Victoria as Crown Princess. Despite this, she continued her studies in England. In 1893, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown, and her aunt was deposed. Kaʻiulani released a statement to the press in England (source:

The end of the Hawaiian monarchy

Newspaper article, announcing the appointment by the King of Hawaii of Mr. J.D. van der Made as vice-consul in Dordrecht, The Netherlands. Source: “Binnenland. Rotterdam, 21 Maart.”. “Rotterdamsch nieuwsblad”. Rotterdam, 22-03-1887. Geraadpleegd op Delpher op 02-07-2019,

The United States began exercising direct influence over the Hawaiian monarchy with the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875. In exchange for exclusive use of Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaiian sugar would enter U.S. markets under favorable tariff rates. Sugar was suddenly the islands’ premier crop, and revenue more than tripled. This economic boom granted the Big Five sugar companies (Ladd & Company, H. Hackfeld & Company, C. Brewer & Company, Castle & Cooke, and Alexander & Baldwin) enormous leverage, that triggered them to organize a political revolution in 1887 (source:

In 1893 the last monarch of Hawaii, Queen Lili’uokalani, was overthrown by a group of businessmen, who subsequently installed a provisional government. Thereupon, President Benjamin Harrison proposed the Unites States Sanete to annex the Hawaiian islands. In 1897, this initiative was blocked because the native Hawaiian Patriotic League, successfully petitioned the Unites States Congress in opposition of the initiative. In February 1898 however, at the start of the Spanish American War, the establishment of a mid-Pacific fueling station and naval base became crucial for the United States. The Hawaiian islands were an obvious choice in this respect. In July 12, 1898, a Joint Resolution to annex the Hawaiian islands passed Congress and the Hawaiian islands were officially annexed by the United States (source: The annexation of the Hawaiian islands marked the end of a long struggle between native Hawaiians and white American businessmen for the control over the country.

In 1993, president Bill Clinton signed legislation that apologized for the U.S. role in the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. The apology, meant as a means of reconciliation with Native Hawaiians, acknowledges the historic significance of the event. It did not however, provide Federal recognition to native Hawaiians as other Federal laws provide to American Indian tribes.

Legal soap

In the 1990’s, two friends, Lance Paul Larsen and David Keanu Sai prepared a strategy to fabricate a recognition of the self-proclaimed “Hawaiian Kingdom”. A classic formula for ‘recognition’ of fantasy claims is to provoke an arbitral award and then claim that this award is proof of the recognition by a judge of the desired claims. Larsen and his friend followed this strategy and managed to bring their fabricated dispute before an arbitral tribunal established under auspice of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague (Netherlands). The parties in the case were designated Lance Paul Larsen as Claimant and the “Hawaiian Kingdom” as Respondent. The appointed arbitrators were Dr. Gavan Griffith QC, Professor Christopher J. Greenwood QC and Professor James Crawford SC (President of the Tribunal). The essence of the case was the question regarding the legality of the annexation of Hawaii by the United States in 1898 and the claim of the continuing existence of the Kingdom as an independent State in international law. The arbitral tribunal did not tackle any of these issues since it concluded that it did not have jurisdiction over the dispute submitted by the Parties. It also noted that it did not recognize anything by designating the Respondent ‘Hawaiian Kingdom’ (par. 1.2):

In the Notice of Arbitration of 8 November 1999 the Respondent is expressed to be “the Hawaiian Kingdom by its Council of Regency”. Without prejudice to any questions of substance, the Respondent will be referred to in this award as “the Hawaiian Kingdom”.

The summary of the case reads as follows.

In 1999, Mr. Lance Paul Larsen, a resident of Hawaii, brought a claim before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Netherlands against the Hawaiian Kingdom by its Council of Regency (“Hawaiian Kingdom”) on the grounds that the Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom is in continual violation of: (a) its 1849 Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with the United States of America, as well as the principles of international law laid down in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969 and (b) the principles of international comity, for allowing the unlawful imposition of American municipal laws over the claimant’s person within the territorial jurisdiction of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

In determining whether to accept or decline to exercise jurisdiction, the Tribunal considered the questions of whether there was a legal dispute between the parties to the proceeding, and whether the tribunal could make a decision regarding that dispute, if the very subject matter of the decision would be the rights or obligations of a State not party to the proceedings.

The Tribunal  underlined the many points of agreement between the parties, particularly with respect to the propositions that Hawaii was never lawfully incorporated into the United States, and that it continued to exist as a matter of international law. The Tribunal noted that if there existed a dispute, it concerned whether the respondent has fulfilled what both parties maintain is its duty to protect the Claimant, not in the abstract but against the acts of the United States of America as the occupant of the Hawaiian islands. Moreover, the United States’ actions would not give rise to a duty of protection in international law unless they were themselves unlawful in international law. The Tribunal concluded that it could not determine whether the Respondent has failed to discharge its obligations towards the Claimant without ruling on the legality of the acts of the United States of America – something the Tribunal was precluded from doing as the United States was not party to the case.

I agree with Dr. Kenneth R. Conklin’s conclusions regarding the case:

Gullible people see an opera and mistake it for real life. This staged performance had the backdrop of a building used for the genuine International Court at the Hague, where disputes between nations are resolved and where international war crimes trials are held. Naturally, Keanu and Lance refer to their arbitral panel as “The International Court at the Hague,” which creates a false impression of grandeur.


In this paragraph I will discuss five claims to the dynastic rights of the former Hawaiian monarchs.

Wilcox Salazar claim

The claim to the headship of the Royal House of Hawaii by Mrs. Owana Ka`ohelelani Kahekili Mahealani-Rose La`anui Wilcox Salazar is summarized  below.

The Succession to the throne is named by the sovereign under a proper royal proclamation or a ratified and approved constitution, naming the heir to the throne or a line of succession according to the law. In 1844, King Kamehameha III ignored wide claims to the dynasty from other chiefly relatives, and thereby, submitted an official list to the Legislature as the Order-in-Council of a selection of the highest ranking native ali’i eligible to rule under the pertaining Articles of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s constitutions. Article 22 states that upon failing to name an heir to the throne, and if the throne should become vacant, the Legislative Assembly, who shall elect by ballot some native ali`i of the Kingdom as successor to the throne. The Legislative Assembly calls on royal candidates of the highest ranking native ali`i from the list of eligibles to the throne submitted by King Kamehameha III. The list of the highest ranking native ali`i to be rulers was never expanded officially after Kamehameha III by any sovereign, including  Kalakaua who was elected from the list in this manner and reigned for 17 years with legal heirs to the throne naming Lili`uokalani. The deposed Queen Lili`uokalani failed to secure a legal heir to the throne after Princess Ka`iulani and dies in 1917 under an illegal occupation, leaving the throne vacant.  In 1917, Queen Lili`uokalani’s cousin, the High Chiefess Elizabeth Keka`aniau La`anui is the hereditary head of the royal house and now the only highest ranking ali`i alive on the list of eligibles to the throne provided for the Legislative Assembly for Article 22. Given the fact of the overthrow and that the Legislative Assembly is no more, the head of the royal house and preemptive to the throne, High Chiefess Elizabeth Keka`aniau, by the Grace of God has the natural right under international law to continue as “de jure” sovereign under the illegally occupied Hawaiian Kingdom in 1917. Princess Elizabeth Keka`aniau announces her status as head of the royal house, a direct descendant of King Kamehameha’s brother and also a cousin of Queen Lili`uokalani. Elizabeth claims the next head of the royal house by primogeniture will be her niece, Princess Theresa Owana Ka`ohelelani and then to her primogeniture descendants, which has been handed down from generation to generation to her great grand daughter, Princess Owana Ka`ohelelani Salazar (source:

Baker claim

The Baker-claim is more modest and honest. The proponent of the claim, Mr. Darrick Baker, substantiates his claim as head of the House of Kamakaheleias and as protector (instead of the head) of “the Royal House” as follows:

The Kingdom of Hawaii was founded by King Kamehameha I in 1795 after unifying the individual Kingdoms of the Hawaiian Islands. Then in 1893 the throne was vacated after a coup d’état against Queen Lydia Liliʻuokalani, who was the last sovereign of Hawai’i. Today there remain descendants of the pre-unication Royal Houses and prominent among them are the House of Kawananakoa and the House of Kamakahelei. H.R.H. Prince Darrick Lane Hoapili Liloa Kamakahelei Baker is the head of the House of Kamakahelei. The House of Kamakehelei is closely related to the former ruling Houses of Kamehameha and Kalakaua and also with the House of Kawananakoa, which is currently headed by Prince Quentin. And as per Hawaiian customs, both Prince Darrick and Prince Quentin are equally positioned to be elected to the Head of the Royal House of Hawaii should the Kingdom be restored.

As Ali’i and a senior member of the Royal House of Hawaii, Prince Darrick considers it his duty to be the protector of the Royal House, actively preserving its legacy and authenticity by maintaining its rich traditions and culture to the maximum extent possible (source:

The claim is well-documented in a social-cultural study, named: Prince Darrick Baker and the Royal House of Kamakahelei. In november 2019, Prince Darrick was persueded to sign an agreement with a junior member of the family and some Spanish and Portuguese individuals, regarding the successon of his claim. In January 2020, Prince Darrick terminated this agreement by reason of the other parties’ misrepresentation, thus voiding their claim.

Mr. Quentin Kawānanakoa

Mr. Quentin Kawananakoa is a Hawaiian politician and great-grandson of Prince David Kawananakoa — who was a cousin of King David Kalakaua. His great-grandfather’s brother was Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole.

Some Hawaiians also consider Quentin Kawananakoa an heir to the Hawaiian monarchy. However, Mr. Kawananakoa has stated that he neither claims nor rejects the title and it has never been formally bestowed on him. Such a title would be honorific, rather than a source of actual political power, except in the sense that it emphasizes heritage and Island roots, he states in an interview with the Honolulu Advertiser in 2006:

I don’t allude to myself in that fashion, but I certainly am proud of my forefathers who in fact were of the royal family,” he said. “But today what we have is perhaps a remembrance of our culture, and in that respect, I think many Hawaiians do recognize that we do come from our prior ali’i family lines.

Mrs. Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawānanakoa

Mrs. Kawānanakoa (1928-) is the only child of Lydia Liliuokalani Kawānanakoa and William Jeremiah Ellerbrock. Her great-grandfather was James Campbell, a 19th-century Irish industrialist who made a fortune as a partner in a Maui sugar plantation. At the age of six, Mrs. Kawānanakoa was legally adopted in the Hawaiian tradition of hānai by her grandmother, Princess Abigail Campbell Kawānanakoa. It was the intention that she remain a direct heir to a possible restoration of the monarchy. As Liliʻuokalani’s great grand niece, Mrs. Kawānanakoa is seen as the heir apparent to the Hawaiian throne, should restoration of the monarchy occur. She has been described by US Senator for Hawaii and President pro tempore of the United States Senate, Daniel Ken Inouye as “a member of the family with the closest blood ties to the Kalākaua dynasty” (source: Senator Daniel Ken Inouye, “Anniversary of Coronation of King Kalākaua”, Congressional record 10,098 (27 April 1983, cited in Van Dyke, J.M.  (2009). Who Owns the Crown Lands of Hawai’i?, p. 370). Mrs. Kawānanakoa has been active in various causes for the preservation of native Hawaiian culture, including the restoration of ‘Iolani Palace.

Mr. Sammy Amalu

Also worth mentioning is Mr. Sammy Amalu (1917–1986), a longtime columnist at The Honolulu Advertiser. The 1972 book by Doris Jividen describes the life of this gentleman in much detail. Amalu styled himself as High Chief Kapiikauinamoku, Prince of Keawe and Duke of Konigsberg. He attempted to buy up several Waikiki hotels with counterfeit checks in the 1940s and ended up in prison. Under the alias Kapiikauinamoku, he later wrote “The Story of Hawaiian Royalty” and “The Story of Maui Royalty” in a series of columns written for The Honolulu Advertiser. These articles include genealogies of Hawaii’s aliʻi families including his ancestress, Miriam Auhea Kekāuluohi Crowningburg Kamai (c. 1839–1899). Mrs. Auhea was a high chiefess during the Kingdom of Hawaii. She was a cousin of King Lunalilo and namesake of his mother Kekāuluohi, however was rarely referred to as Kekāuluohi II. Mr. Amalu’s claim ended with his imprisonment.


  1. It is quite peculiar that the anonymous Facebook page “Prestor John Institute” defames the Baker claim on the basis of a book by Mr. Amalu (alias “Samuel Crowningburg-Amalu”), mentioned above. The page states in its Facebook post of 9 April 2019: “Princess Owana Salazar is the undisputed Head of the Royal House and Senior Heir to the Throne.“. Because there exists at least one more claimant (Mrs. Kawānanakoa, mentioned above), this statement is obviously false.
  2. The Larsen  vs. the Hawaiian Kingdom case shows that private persons or entities cannot recognize a state that does not exist. At least, such a recognition does not have legal consequences from a public law perspective. The only authoritative body that could recognize (in a sense of attributing public law consequences) one or more Hawaiian dynastic rights, is the State of Hawaii or the Federal government. Such a recognition could have the form of Act by the government.
  3. Contrary to the Larsen vs. the Hawaiian Kingdom case, there exist transparant and genuine ways to recognise native hereditary rights. In Africa, for example, Botswana has passed several laws to recognise the authority of traditional leaders. These include the Chieftaincy Act; Customary Courts Act, Tribal Territories Act, Marriages Act, and House of Chiefs Act. In Zimbabwe, traditional leaders are selected by their families through rules of succession and eventually endorsed by the executives, a process embedded in the Traditional Leaders Act. In the United States, the Office of Federal Acknowledgment (OFA) within the Office of the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs of the Department of the Interior (Department) implements Part 83 of Title 25 of the Code of Federal Regulations (25 CFR Part 83), Federal Acknowledgment of American Indian Tribes. This acknowledgment process is the Department’s administrative process by which petitioning groups that meet the criteria are given Federal acknowledgment as Indian tribes and by which they become eligible to receive services provided to members of Indian tribes. These examples show that governmental recognition of native groups is achievable. Similar legislation by the State of Hawaii or the Federal Government would bring genuine recognition to Hawaii’s heads of dynastic families.
  4. I do not recommend Hawaiian heads of dynastic families to seek recognition from other non-reigning (European) claimants, since this only emphasizes a lack of official recognition. Hawaii’s dynastic families do not need recognition from private parties to show that they are genuine. I recommend sending a petition with scientific, anthropological, genealogical, and historical research to the state of Hawaii to achieve recognition. Hawaii itself is the only authoritative body in this respect.
  5. At the moment, a single Royal House of Hawaii does not exist and a head of the Royal House cannot be elected, since there is no legislature to institute a council of Hawaiian nobles, elected by the High Chiefs. Princess Victoria Ka’iulani did not appoint a successor. In my opinion, the situation before the unification of the Hawaiian dynastic families has currently been revived, and therefore there can only be heads of the pre-unification dynastic families. The Baker-claim is the only claim that is transparent, precise and honest in this respect.


  • Dumberry, Patrick, The Hawaiian Kingdom Arbitration Case and the Unsettled Question of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s Claim to Continuity as an Independent State Under International Law (October 23, 2008). Available at SSRN: or
  • Webb, N. B., & Webb, J. F. (1998). Kaiulani: Crown princess of Hawaii. Honolulu: Mutual Publishing.
  • Fornander, A., & Stokes, J. F. (1969). An account of the Polynesian race, its origin and migrations and the ancient history of the Hawaiian people to the times of Kamehameha I. Rutland (Vt): Tuttle.
  • Kamehiro, S. L. (2009). The arts of kingship: Hawaiian art and national culture of the Kalākaua era. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
  • McKinzie, E. K., & Stagner, I. W. (1986). Hawaiian genealogies: Extracted from Hawaiian language newspapers. Laie, HI: Institute for Polynesian Studies, Brigham Young University-Hawaii Campus.
  • Peleioholan, L. S. (1908). Genealogy of the Robinson family & ancient legends and chants of Hawaii. Honolulu: Bulletin Publishing.
  • Düsing, S. (2002). Traditional leadership and democratisation in Southern Africa: A comparative study of Botswana, Namibia, and Southern Africa. Münster: Lit.
  • Jividen, D. (1972). Sammy Amalu: Prince, Pauper Or Phony? Erin Enterprise.
  • Van Dyke, J.M. (2009). Who Owns the Crown Lands of Hawai’i? HonoluluUniversity of Honolulu Press.


I gratefully acknowledge the most interesting comments of Dr. Matt Bray.

Spanish version of this article

[27-34] Realeza americana: la sucesión de los derechos dinásticos de los monarcas hawaianos, por Rudolph Juchter van Bergen Quast, in: Cuadernos de Ayala 82.

Nederlandse adeldom via de vrouwelijke lijn

Een afstammeling – via de vrouwelijke lijn – van een Nederlandse adellijke familie vroeg mij onlangs of hij kon worden erkend te behoren tot de Nederlandse adel. Ik moest hem helaas teleurstellen.

Juridisch kader

Volgens vaste jurisprudentie van de Raad van State gaat adeldom in Nederland alleen over via de mannelijke lijn:

Gelet op de vaste rechtspraak van de Afdeling (uitspraken van 5 april 2006 in zaak nr. 200505679/1 en van 22 juli 2009 in zaak nr. 200807914/1), is van discriminatie geen sprake als er voor het maken van onderscheid in het licht van de doelen van de van toepassing zijnde regeling redelijke en objectieve gronden bestaan. In dit verband dient de vraag te worden beantwoord of er voor het verschil in behandeling tussen buitenechtelijke kinderen van een adellijke vader geboren vóór 1 augustus 1994 enerzijds en buitenechtelijke kinderen van een adellijke vader die daarna zijn geboren anderzijds een objectieve en redelijke rechtvaardiging bestaat. De adel is een historisch gegroeid instituut dat zijn bestaansrecht uitsluitend ontleent aan dat historische karakter. Met het naar eigentijdse denkbeelden wijzigen en inrichten van het instituut zal dit instituut zijn grondslag verliezen. Uitgangspunt bij het wetsvoorstel was gelet daarop, het beleid ten aanzien van adeldom en het geldende adelsrecht te handhaven. De modernisering is daarom beperkt tot na 1 augustus 1994 buiten het huwelijk geboren kinderen van een adellijke vader. Gelet hierop bestaat voor het onderscheid een objectieve en redelijke rechtvaardiging.


Poster van de Vereeniging voor Vrouwenkiesrecht.
Bron: Collectie IAV-Atria, kennisinstituut voor emancipatie en vrouwengeschiedenis. Vervaardigd door Th. Molkenboer, 1918.

De logica waarom een historisch gegroeid instituut zijn bestaansrecht uitsluitend ontleent aan dat historische karakter en zijn grondslag verliest als adeldom via de vrouwelijke lijn overgaat, ontgaat mij. Naar mijn mening is de overweging van de Raad van State denigrerend ten aanzien van vrouwen; het zijn kennelijk (als je de overweging leest) inferieure wezens die niet in staat zijn om een historisch instituut ‘in ere’ te houden. Laat het helder zijn: zonder vrouwen kan er geen adel zijn omdat alleen vrouwen kinderen kunnen krijgen. Voorgaande standaard-overweging van de Raad van State is een uitvloeisel van een politiek spelletje en heeft niets met recht te maken. Het is zeer ernstig dat de Raad van State zich hiervoor leent. Ik zal dit nader toelichten aan de hand van een vergelijking met het vrouwenkiesrecht.

Vergelijking met vrouwenkiesrecht

In de grondwet van 1882 werd gesproken van ‘Nederlanders’ als het ging om het kiesrecht. Vrouwen waren volgens de letter van de wet dus niet uitgesloten van het kiesrecht. Toen de arts Aletta Jacobs zich in 1883 als eerste vrouw op de kiezerslijst wilde laten zetten in Amsterdam, werd zij geweigerd. Tot drie keer toe kreeg mevrouw Jacobs nul op haar rekest: eerst van de gemeente Amsterdam, vervolgens van de arrondissementsrechtbank en tenslotte van de Hoge Raad.

Hoewel de grondwet het kiesrecht aan meerderjarige Nederlanders met een bepaald inkomen toekende, stelde de Hoge Raad dat ‘Nederlander en ingezetenen alleen slaat op de mannen, anders ware dit afzonderlijk vermeld’. Ons hoogste rechtscollege overwoog dat (Schokking 1958, p. 24):

de rechtbank (…) terecht heeft beslist, dat het ten enemale onaannemelijk is, dat het in de bedoeling van de Nederlandsche wetgever bij de herziening der Grondwet in 1848 zoude hebben gelegen, om, in afwijking van destijds bestaande toestanden en geldende beginselen van Staatsrecht, het stemrecht aan vrouwen toe te kennen; dat toch, ware deze uitbreiding van het kiesrecht door de wetgever beoogd, dit allergewichtigst beginsel ongetwijfeld in duidelijke en ondubbelzinnige termen in de Grondwet en diensvolgens in de Kieswet van 1850 zoude zijn uitgesproken, wat echter niet is geschied.

Some candid shots from the 2017 Women’s March in Los Angeles.Net als met de weigering van de adeldom via de vrouwelijke lijn werd ‘de geest der wet’ belangrijker geacht: “. Bij de Grondwetsherziening van 1887 werd het kiesrecht uitgebreid tot kiezers die ‘over tekenen van welstand en bekwaamheid beschikten’, maar er werd ook uitdrukkelijk opgenomen dat alleen mannelijke ingezetenen kiesrecht hadden. Er zou dus een nieuwe grondwetswijziging nodig zijn om vrouwenkiesrecht mogelijk te maken. Pas in 1917 werd in Nederland het passief kiesrecht voor vrouwen ingevoerd. Vrouwen konden toen voor politieke functies gekozen worden, maar mochten niet zelf stemmen. In 1919 kregen vrouwen eindelijk het felbegeerde actief kiesrecht, waardoor ze zelf mochten stemmen.

Aan het weigeren om adellijke titels (die volgens het Europees Hof voor de Rechten van de Mens een onderdeel van de naam zijn; zie de door mij behandelde zaak: EHRM 18 mei 1999, zaaknr. 45908/99) over te laten gaan via de vrouw, liggen dezelfde ‘objectieve’ overwegingen ten grondslag: de geest van de wet. Ik meen dat de term zombie overwegingen beter de lading dekken. Zelfs in 2007 werden dergelijke zombies nog van stal gehaald bij de totstandkoming van de uitspraak van de Raad van State. Hierin werd beslist dat de Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij gesubsidieerd moest worden ondanks dat de partij een vrouw-onvriendelijk beleid hanteert ten aanzien van het kiesrecht. Zoals J. Peeters en K. Bleeker in 2008 terecht constateren, een niet te vatten redenering:

Het blijft voor ons toch moeilijk te vatten dat een partij als de SGP, die vrouwen rechtstreeks discrimineert, nog steeds serieus genomen wordt (was zelfs recentelijk nog even bij de kabinetsformatie betrokken). Men kan dit toch moeilijk afdoen als een gevolg van de eis van pluriformiteit die ons democratisch bestel kenmerkt? Dat wordt toch niet minder gekenmerkt door het verbod van discriminatie van vrouwen? Misschien wordt de SGP door velen gezien als een rariteit in ons bestel en niet bedreigend. Men moet dan niet vergeten dat de SGP lokaal in sommige gemeenten een dominante rol speelt. Zelfs wanneer men in de afweging tussen de pluriformiteit van de ABRS [Afdeling Bestuursrechtspraak van de Raad van State, red.] en het discriminatieverbod van het Hof kiest voor pluriformiteit betekent dat toch niet per se dat de SGP actief gesteund moet worden middels subsidie. Wat dit aangaat zijn de vrouwenrechten er niet op vooruitgegaan met de uitspraken van de ABRS en het Hof.


Het is voor mij – en gelukkig voor veel anderen – een enigma dat vrouwen nog steeds geen adeldom kunnen overdragen omdat daarmee het ‘historisch instituut zijn grondslag verliest’. Alleen als de vrouw lid is van het Koninklijk Huis wordt de zombie teruggestuurd naar de plaats waar hij vandaan komt; dan is overerving van adeldom in de vrouwelijke lijn wel mogelijk en verliest het historisch instituut zijn grondslag kennelijk niet. Ik begrijp het niet.


  • Atria; BWN; BWSA; PDC ; W.F. Bynum and Helen Bynum red., Dictionary of Medical Biography (Oxford 2007);  Bonnie Smith red., The Oxford Encyclopaedia of Women in World History (Oxford 2008).
  • Schokking, J.C. De vrouw in de Nederlandse politiek. Emancipatie tot actief Burgerschap, Assen, 1958.
  • Peters, J. & K. Bleeker (2008). Staat moet SGP aanpakken maar ook subsidiëren: over botsende competenties en grondrechten, NJB nr. 10, 7 maart 2008, p. 556-563.

Bijlage – Wet op de Adeldom

Wet van 10 mei 1994, houdende regeling inzake de adeldom

Wij Beatrix, bij de gratie Gods, Koningin der Nederlanden, Prinses van Oranje-Nassau, enz. enz. enz.

Allen, die deze zullen zien of horen lezen, saluut! doen te weten:

Alzo Wij in overweging genomen hebben, dat op grond van additioneel artikel XXV van de Grondwet een voorziening moet worden getroffen ter zake van de adeldom;

Zo is het, dat Wij, de Raad van State gehoord, en met gemeen overleg der Staten-Generaal, hebben goedgevonden en verstaan, gelijk Wij goedvinden en verstaan bij deze:

Artikel 1

Adeldom wordt verleend bij koninklijk besluit. De verlening kan uitsluitend geschieden aan Nederlanders.

Artikel 2

1 De verlening van adeldom geschiedt door verheffing, inlijving of erkenning.

2 Verheffing in de adel bij koninklijk besluit kan uitsluitend plaatsvinden ten aanzien van leden van het koninklijk huis en van voormalige leden daarvan binnen drie maanden na verlies van het lidmaatschap van het koninklijk huis.

De verlening van de titels «Prins (Prinses) der Nederlanden» en «Prins (Prinses) van Oranje-Nassau» wordt bij of krachtens de Wet lidmaatschap koninklijk huis bepaald.

3 Inlijving in de Nederlandse adel kan slechts plaatsvinden ten aanzien van personen wier geslacht behoort tot de wettelijk erkende adel van een staat met een vergelijkbaar adelsstatuut en die het verzoek tot inlijving hebben gedaan.

    • a.te zamen met het verzoek tot verlening van het Nederlanderschap;

    • b.te zamen met het afleggen van de verklaring ter verkrijging van het Nederlanderschap door optie;

    • c.te zamen met het bereiken van de meerderjarigheid bij de verkrijging van het Nederlanderschap van rechtswege indien de vader van de verzoeker het Nederlanderschap niet van rechtswege heeft verkregen.

4 Erkenning te behoren tot de Nederlandse adel kan uitsluitend plaatsvinden ten aanzien van personen die behoren tot een geslacht dat voor 1795 reeds tot de inheemse adel behoorde.

Artikel 3

Adeldom gaat ook volgens de bestaande regelingen met betrekking tot adeldom over op buiten het huwelijk geboren kinderen.

Artikel 4

Bij de verlening van adeldom zijn taxa verschuldigd. Bij algemene maatregel van bestuur worden nadere regels omtrent de taxa gesteld.

Artikel 5

Adeldom wordt vermeld op officiële documenten waar dit vereist is, tenzij de betrokken persoon verzoekt, de vermelding achterwege te laten of te verwijderen.

Artikel 6

1 Er is een Hoge Raad van Adel.

2 De Raad heeft tot taak Onze Minister van Binnenlandse Zaken te adviseren over verzoeken tot verlening van adeldom.

3 De Raad is samengesteld uit vijf leden, die bij koninklijk besluit worden benoemd en ontslagen.

Artikel 7

1 [Red: Bevat wijzigingen in andere regelgeving.]

2 De bestaande regelingen met betrekking tot adeldom en de Hoge Raad van Adel kunnen worden gewijzigd bij algemene maatregel van bestuur.

Artikel 8

Inlijving in de Nederlandse adel kan plaatsvinden ten aanzien van personen wier geslacht behoort tot de wettelijk erkende adel van een staat met een vergelijkbaar adelsstatuut en daartoe een verzoek om inlijving hebben gedaan binnen vijf jaar na de datum van inwerkingtreding van deze wet.

Artikel 9

Deze wet kan worden aangehaald als Wet op de adeldom.

Lasten en bevelen dat deze in het Staatsblad zal worden geplaatst en dat alle ministeries, autoriteiten, colleges en ambtenaren wie zulks aangaat, aan de nauwkeurige uitvoering de hand zullen houden.

Gegeven te ‘s-Gravenhage, 10 mei 1994


De Minister van Binnenlandse Zaken,

E. van Thijn

Uitgegeven de tweede juni 1994

De Minister van Justitie,

E. M. H. Hirsch Ballin

Legal opinion: the legitimate successor of king Kigeli V of Rwanda


King Rwanda
King Rudahigwa Mutara III (1911-1959) in Belgium in 1949 with mr. Kamuzinzi ka Rusagara behind him. Photo: Mrs. Majolie F. Uwase. Rudahigwa Mutara III became a Rwandan King in 1931 and effectively worked under the Belgians influence. Rudahigwa, who died in in Bujumbura, is said to have been the first victim of the ID’s introduced by Belgians.

According to tradition, Ruganzu I Bwimba, a Tutsi leader, founded a kingdom in the Bwanacambwe region near Kigali in the 15th or 16th century. What is now central Rwanda was absorbed in the 16th century, and outlying Hutu communities were subdued by the mwami (“king”) Ruganzu II Ndori in the 17th century. In some areas of the country, independent Hutu principalities continued to exist, and in other areas, Tutsi and Hutu lineages lived in interdependent cooperation under the nominal control of the king. The borders of the kingdom were rounded out in the late 19th century by Kigeli IV Rwabugiri, who is regarded as Rwanda’s greatest king. By 1900 Rwanda was a unified state with a centralized military structure (source: Encyclopaedia Britannica).

Upon the arrival of the Belgians in 1916 after the First World War following the defeat of Germany, the Belgians endorsed the Tutsi’s power over the Hutus as a means of controlling the country. The Belgians considered the Tutsis to be superior to the Hutus. They considered the Tutsis as more like themselves. For this reason they supported them to be the upper-class of Rwandan society. Identity cards that distinguished Hutu from Tutsi became mandatory, like the Jews were categorized in during the Nazi regime. Belgium’s worst crime was the introduction of a racial theory aimed at providing proof of the Tutsi’s apparent greater purity and closer ancestry to Europeans. Skull measurements showing larger brain size, greater height, and lighter skin tones all reaffirmed the Tutsis’ superiority over the Hutus.

The final step in Belgium’s racial policy was implementing ‘Corvée’: peasant farmers, for the large part Hutus, were obligated to grow coffee beans on their land for Tutsi officials. Corvée is a system similar to slavery.

When Belgium relinquished power and granted Rwanda independence in 1962, the Hutus took their place. Over subsequent decades, the Tutsis were portrayed as the scapegoats for every crisis. The oppressed Hutus decided to take revenge. During Grégoire Kayibanda’s regime (1961-1973), there was an increasing exodus of Tutsis from Rwanda into neighboring nations. The above mentioned developments culminated eventually in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide that left nearly one million people dead.

Rwanda’s peacekeepers

In 1961, with the support of the Belgian government, Hutu politician Dominique Mbonyumutwa led a coup d’état that took control of the Rwandan state and abolished the kingdom on 25 September 1961. King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa of Rwanda (1936 – 2016) was the last ruling king (Mwami) of Rwanda, from 28 July 1959 until the abolition of the Rwandan monarchy. Like his ancestors, he was a peacekeeper and preserved the unity in his country under the difficult times of Belgium oppression. Their support to overthrow the king as head of state was the last act of betrayal by the Belgians to the Rwandan people: the destruction of its centuries-old cultural identity.

The last official king of Rwanda led a life in exile for almost 60 years, both as a refugee and a consistent advocate for the immediate, safe and unconditional return home of all Tutsi exiles. One of the first to help the king was the Monarchist League, a 70-year-old British group that campaigns for the preservation and restoration of kingdoms the world over. In order to fund this great achievement, Kigeli V turned to westerners who were willing to support him financially in exchange for noble titles and other honors. Such a practice is not an uncommon business model for monarchs (whether reigning or in exile) to fund their court.

However, the living circumstances of this great man remained far from optimal. In 2013, Washingtonian magazine found the former monarch living in subsidized housing in Virginia and living off food stamps. He told the magazine that Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda and a fellow Tutsi, had permitted him to return to his home country but said that he could not resume the throne. In retrospective, I doubt that this was the right decision.

As the return to monarchy could be instrumental in preserving unity and peace in Rwanda and thus preventing further violence, it is interesting to investigate the question of who can be seen as a legitimate successor to king Kigeli V.

Line of succession

During the colonization by the Belgians, all legislation governing the country was made by Belgian authorities and the mainstay of criminal and civil legislation was the civil and criminal codes of the then Belgian Congo. Though criminal law had universal application, written civil laws was applied only to whites. Customary law continued to apply to the natives. Hence, the current Rwanda Civil Law Legal system is based on German and Belgian civil law systems and customary law. It is important to note that Rwanda is a civil law legal system that in the beginning of the 21st century was undergoing a transformation from purely civil law to a merge between civil law and common law. The evolutionary process has led to the reform of several laws such as the penal code, and the law of evidence among others.

During the time that Rwanda was a kingdom, the central government was manned by the Abiru through a complex and secret polity known as ubwiru. The Abiru were ritual loyalists who lived in the king’s palace. Their purpose was to explain occurrences and forecast the future. For instance, the Abiru alone could secretly determine the next king and define his mission during his reign (source:

There currently is no formal law to appoint a successor of Kigeli V as head of state, since the kingdom has been replaced by a republic. This, however, is irrelevant because the Abiru has full authority to appoint a dynastic successor. This ancient institute cannot be abolished by the president of the Rwandan republic as it is part of the king’s personal entourage. Therefore, in respect to the legitimacy of the claim to the headship of the Royal House of Rwanda, customary law adopted to general principles of law that are recognized by civilized nations, legitimize the succession. It is along these lines of thought that I have formed an opinion about the legitimate successor of king Kigeli V.

Legal opinion

Acclamation of the new pretender to the vacant throne of Rwanda Yuhi VI by mr. Benzinge (9 January 2017).

There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Boniface Benzinge, who himself is a member of a reputable Rwandan family,  was a close friend and reliable confidant of the former king. In many instances he can be seen by his side in the Kigeli V’ company, for example at the king’s last public interview of 30th August 2016. Mr. Benzinge also accompanied the king on his last visit to the United Kingdom in June 2016. The close relationship both men held, was mentioned by the Washingtonian in the 2013 article. Mr. Benzinge was Kigeli’s boyhood friend (source: Mr. Chris Kamo). He played various roles for the King, including his chancellor, counsellor, secretary and interpreter. He stayed with his friend for nearly six decades when almost all other Rwandans abandoned him and only a handful of Westerners circled around the former king with the sole purpose of obtaining royal titles and awards. For his services, the King awarded Mr Benzinge a ducal title in 1989, along with the highest grades in the Rwandan Royal Orders. The late King appointed Bushayija as his successor, and entrusted Mr Benzinge to execute his last wishes, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Based on the oral evidence, publicly given by Mr. Benzinge on 9 January 2017, and the forementioned facts and circumstances, in my opinion, the current claimant, Mr. Emmanuel Bushayija (1960), should be regarded as the legitimate successor to the headship of the Royal House of Rwanda. Bushayija is the son of HRH Theoneste Bushayija and grandson of HM King Yuhi V Musinga. Bushayija’s family had ruled Rwanda for nine centuries before his predecessor was ousted in 1960. He has assumed the title “Yuhi VI” and should be addressed as His Majesty in formal correspondence in order to stress the fact that he did not give up his sovereign rights in line with international legal principles that ex-monarchs continue to possess their sovereign rights (see Hugo Grotius’ De iure belli ac pacis; English: On the Law of War and Peace. Paris 1625).


  • I recommend populating the Abiru with Rwandans, who are able to act in accordance with the ancient traditions of customary law, but are also open to implementing fundamental rules of modern law (for example regarding gender-neutrality). An Abiru, consisting of Westerners is not acceptable, since this would be in breach with customary law.
  • The Abiru should be formed as a Swiss Verein in order to create a solid fundament for the future.
  • The composition of the Abiri also needs to be transparent in order not to trigger discussion regarding future successors. The names of the members of the Abiri should be published on the website of the Royal House.


Authoritative bodies regarding the recognition of knightly orders

Is there a generally accepted standard regarding the recognition of orders of knighthood?

James Watt (1736-1819) by Carl Frederik von Breda (Photo: NPG). The famous inventor, James Watt grew up within the Barony of Cartsburn. His father and namesake, James Watt, was contracted to enlarge the mansion house of Sir John Shaw, 2nd Baronet at Greenock, and his grandfather, Thomas Watt, was Bailie of the Barony of Cartsburn. In 2010, the dignity Baron of Cartsburn was transferred by assignation to Dr. Pier Felice degli Uberti, scholar and nobiliary law expert.

No, there is not. If this were the case, it would be rather simple to decide whether a given order is legitimate or not. A recognized and accepted standard of what an order of knighthood is does not exist. However, an attempt was made in the 1960’s to establish such a standard; the International Commission for Orders of Chivalry, also known as  “ICOC” or in Italian: “Commissione internazionale permanente per lo studio degli ordini cavallereschi“. The organization is a privately run, privately funded, and privately managed entity composed of scholars on chivalric matters and systems of awards. Its purpose is to examine orders of chivalry to determine their legitimacy. Dr. Pier Felice degli Uberti, Baron of Cartsburn, has been its president since 1999. The seat of the organization is in Milan, Italy.

ICOC principles

In 2015, the ICOC stated that orders were considered knightly only when they are historical. Other types of orders are listed in appendices in order to inform the public of their existence, but without evaluation. New creations, currently being made by Heads of former ruling Houses, are considered as awarding systems without the designation ‘knightly’. The ICOC uses the below mentioned standard (source: website ICOC) to evaluate whether it is considered ‘knightly’ or not. I have copied the first five standards and added my personal comments. The sixth principle addresses the Sovereign Order of Malta and is not relevant for the questions raised in this article.

Principles involved in assessing the validity of Orders of Chivalry

1) Every independent State has the right to create its own Orders or Decorations of Merit and lay down, at will, their particular rules. But it must be made clear that only the higher degrees of these modern State Orders can be deemed of knightly rank, provided they are conferred by the Crown or by the “pro tempore” ruler of some traditional State.

Comments. An independent state does not need the recognition of the ICOC to decide whether an order is knightly or not. As an example, article 111 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of The Netherlands states that orders of knighthood are constituted by law. Based on this article, Dutch law established two orders of knighthood for civilians: the Order of the Dutch Lion and the Order of Orange-Nassau. Both are explicitly named ‘orders of knighthood’ independent of the issued rank. The first principle of the ICOC is therefore incorrect.

2) The Dynastic (or Family or House) Orders which belong jure sanguinis to a Sovereign House (that is to those ruling or ex-ruling Houses whose sovereign rank was internationally recognised at the time of the Congress of Vienna in 1814 or later) retain their full historical chivalric, nobiliary and social validity, notwithstanding all political changes. It is therefore considered ultra vires of any republican State to interfere, by legislation or administrative practice, with the Princely Dynastic Family or House Orders. That they may not be officially recognised by the new government does not affect their traditional validity or their accepted status in international heraldic, chivalric and nobiliary circles.

3) It is generally admitted by jurists that such ex-sovereigns who have not abdicated have positions different from those of pretenders and that in their lifetime they retain their full rights as “fons honorum” in respect even of those Orders of which they remain Grand Masters which would be classed, otherwise, as State and Merit Orders.

Comments. These two principles have already been established centuries ago by Hugo de Groot (1583-1645), a Dutch jurist (Grotius, Hugo, 1583-1645. (1964). De jure belli ac pacis libri tres / by Hugo Grotius; trans. by Francis W. Kelsey; with the collaboration of Arthur E.R. Boak, Henry A. Sanders … [and others]. New York : Oceana). Along with the earlier works of Francisco de Vitoria and Alberico Gentili, he laid the foundations for modern international law. They are therefore not original principles of the ICOC, but nonetheless correct principles.

4) Although, at one time – many centuries ago – private people of high standing could and did create some independent Orders of Knighthood, some among which came, in due course, to gain considerable prestige and obtained formal validity from the Church and the Crown, such rights of creation of Orders have long since fallen into desuetude and, nowadays, Orders of Chivalry as we understand the term must always stem from or be – by longstanding uninterrupted tradition – under the protection of Chiefs or of Houses of recognised sovereign rank.

Comments. The Order of the Knights of Rizal is an Order of Knighthood in the Philippines. The Order has been created in 1911 by Colonel Antonio C. Torres, to honor and uphold the ideals of Philippine national hero and polymath Dr. José Rizal. The ranks and insignia of the order are recognized in the Honors Code of the Philippines as official awards of the Republic. The Order has been granted a legislative charter by President Elpidio Quirino as a non-sectarian, non-partisan, non-racial civic, patriotic, and cultural organization under the Republic Act 646 on June 14, 1951. The Order’s insignia have been approved to be worn by the Philippine diplomatic corps. The fourth principle of the ICOC that only “many centuries ago” private persons could create an independent Order of Knighthood, is therefore incorrect. A state, like the Philippines, enjoys the sovereignty to recognise a new Order of Knighthood, formed by private individuals. In addition, the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem is a 19th century example of a private revival, that managed to be turned into an official Order in Britain in 1888. Apart from these two examples, the internationally recognised freedom of association (United States Bill of Rightsarticle 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and international law, including articles 20 and 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 22 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) is the legal basis for creating independent Orders of Knighthood.

5) The recognition of Orders by States or supranational organisations which themselves do not have chivalric orders of their own, and in whose Constitutions no provisions are made for the recognition of knightly and nobiliary institutions, cannot be accepted as constituting validation by sovereignties, since these particular sovereignties have renounced the exercise of heraldic jurisdiction. The international “status” of an Order of Knighthood rests, in fact, on the rights of fons honorum, which, according to tradition, must belong to the Authority by which this particular Order is granted, protected or recognised.

Comments. The signing of the treaties of Westphalia in 1648 significantly changed the nature of international relations, since it illustrated the beginning of two important principles: state sovereignty as well as the notion of non-interference. These principles are also part of the United Nations’ (UN) charter which says that “the Organization’s foundation depends on the equal sovereignty of all its members.” As such, state sovereignty has been an undeniable pillar of international relations for decades, and it is essential in the present international community. The fifth principle of the ICOC is incorrect, because it is in breach of the sovereignty of states as generally accepted in international law. The same is true regarding supranational entities like the European Union and the World Trade Organization.


There exist a number of websites that purport to be authoritative bodies, but have proven to be landing pages for medal mills. They trigger the public to make inquiries about orders and decorations, subsequently offering their services as an ‘independent’ intermediary. The final step is to sell the medals of formerly ruling houses in exchange for a so-called ‘passage fee’. In this respect, I would like to mention the following websites.

  • The “International Commission and Association on Nobility” is run by a UK-company of the same name, of which the director is Mr. Salvatore Caputo, born in 1942, with the Italian nationality and living in Guatemala (Companies House nr 07457100). The website states that it is affiliated with the United Nations and the European Commission, which is not the case.
  • The ‘Instituto Preste João / Prester John Institute’ is a Facebook page run by the Portuguese “Centro de Informação do Castelo de Ourém“, which, in turn, has a separate web page that has been “under construction” for years.  The Facebook page also states that the ‘Institute’ is recognized by the “CIAN-International Confederation of Nobility Associations”, a non-existing entity. It further states that the ‘Institute’ is a “Royal and Imperial Council of Foreign Nobility”. The meaning of this designation remains unclear, but the Facebook page lacks authority in these matters.


Screenshot of the Prester John Institute Facebook page with its truncated  uploaded banners.

I prefer to see the ICOC as a highly respected learned society. Its work and publications cannot be overestimated. I very much appreciate the fact that the ICOC’s knowledge and principles develop constantly. It is this attitude and transparency that make the ICOC an important contributor to the body of knowledge regarding knightly orders.  I also hold Dr. Pier Felice degli Uberti, widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts in heraldry, reward systems and nobiliary law, in high regards. Due to Dr. degli Uberti’s effort, the ICOC has become the leading learned society regarding knightly orders and nobiliary law. On their website, the ICOC shows that its aim is to genuinely contribute to the body of knowledge:

Today, the Commission considers the Register always open and does not exclude the possibility of modifying its positions or decisions, provided that there is solid documentary scientific evidence to do so. Moreover, the Commission favours open discussions on subjects between persons with differing points of view.

In the twenty-first century the Commission needs to expand its horizons, widening its principles in order to bring them into line with the objective reality of today’s society and the inevitable historical changes. The compilation of the Register cannot be limited to the chivalric material of the past, thus the Commission has to offer, to those who are not scholars in the field of award systems, a valid publication from which one can learn and understand. Above all this publication must open the eyes of the uninitiated to diverse award systems which exist in today’s world.

Voorgestelde aanpassingen in het Besluit draagvolgorde onderscheidingen

In de wereld van de orden, decoraties en medailles wordt vaak de term ‘ridderlijk’ gebruikt, in de zin van ‘ridderlijke orde’. Volgens Van Dale (jaargang 1898) betekent ‘ridderlijk’:

wat een ridder of de ridders betreft: de ridderlijke stand, de ridderstand; een ridderlijk landgoed, slot; — als een ridder: zich ridderlijk gedragen; ridderlijke avonturen; dapper, moedig; — ridderlijk antwoorden, bekennen, eerlijk, rondborstig.

Het betreft dus een redelijk brede term, waardoor het vrijwel onmogelijk wordt om van overheidswege over te gaan tot het al dan niet erkennen van ‘ridderlijke orden’. Toch doet de overheid dit wel in het Besluit draagvolgorde onderscheidingen (zie onderaan dit artikel). De term ‘ridderlijke orde’ betekent iets anders dan de term ‘ridderorde’. Een ridderorde kan alleen bij wet worden ingesteld (artikel 111 Grondwet). De drie Nederlandse ridderorden zijn de Militaire Willemsorde (ingesteld bij wet van 30 april 1815, Stb. 33), de Orde van de Nederlandse Leeuw (ingesteld bij wet van 29 september 1815, Stb. 47), en de Orde van Oranje-Nassau (ingesteld bij wet van 4 april 1892, Stb. 55).

In zijn buitengewoon interessante proefschrift over Nederlandse ridderlijke orden, komt jhr. dr. Versélewel de Witt Hamer tot een aantal belangrijke conclusies ten aanzien van de erkenning van de drie ridderlijke orden die zijn opgenomen in het Besluit draagvolgorde onderscheidingen (zie hieronder bij de letter D: “Erkende (ridderlijke) orden”. Zijn conclusies (Versélewel de Witt Hamer, p.97) op dit punt luiden als volgt.

  • Alleen voor de Duitse Orde geldt dat deze orde bij wet is ingesteld en daarmee in juridische zin door de Nederlandse overheid is erkend.
  • Anders ligt het bij de Johanniter orde en de Orde van Malta (SMOM) die beide als vereniging zijn opgericht en waarvan de statuten bij koninklijk besluit zijn vastgesteld, net als van elke Nederlandse vereniging voor de invoering van boek 2 van het Burgerlijk Wetboek in 1976, waarna de toets van bezwaar tegen de erkenning van rechtspersoonlijkheid verviel.

In deze bijdrage wordt kritiek gegeven op de plaats van ridderlijke orden in het Besluit draagvolgorde onderscheidingen. Betoogd wordt dat deze orden daaruit moeten worden verwijderd.

Het Koninklijk Besluit voor de goedkeuring van de statuten is geen erkenning van overheidswege van de Johanniter Orde of de Orde van Malta als ridderlijke orde

Keizer Wilhem II als Herrenmeister van de Johanniter Orde (1888). Foto: WikiCommons.

Een Koninklijk Besluit was in Nederland in de jaren 1855 tot en met 1976 noodzakelijk als een vereniging verzocht om rechtspersoonlijkheid. Dit laatste is noodzakelijk om registergoederen te kunnen aankopen (bijvoorbeeld een kantoorgebouw). In dat geval dienden de statuten van de vereniging te worden goedgekeurd door het Ministerie van Justitie. Voor verenigingen die korter dan 30 jaar waren aangegaan werd de goedkeuring en daarmee de rechtspersoonlijkheid verleend bij koninklijk besluit, voor een duur langer dan 30 jaar bij wet. Om deze laatste, moeilijker weg te ontlopen werden verenigingen doorgaans voor iets korter dan 30 jaar aangegaan, waarna een verzoek tot verlenging kon worden ingediend.

De goedgekeurde statuten werden in de Staatscourant gepubliceerd en bijgehouden in het Verenigingenregister bij het Ministerie van Justitie. Over de periode 1875-1976 bevat dit register (aanwezig bij het Nationaal Archief) ongeveer 80.000 dossiers, waaronder  de in 1968 opgerichte “Ridders van de Soevereinde Orde van de Heilige Johannes van Jeruzalem, Ridder van Malta OSJ“. Naar laatstgenoemde ridderlijke orde hebben het Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken, het Openbaar Ministerie en de Rijksrecherche onderzoek gedaan wegens het misbruiken van de term “Royal Decree”. Enkele brieven en rapporten van de Nederlandse overheid over deze orde zijn hieronder opgesomd (zie

De koninklijke goedkeuring kon volgens art. 7 van de Wet van 1855 alleen worden geweigerd op grond van het algemeen belang. De koninklijke goedkeuring verdween bij de invoering van Boek 2 van het Nieuw Burgerlijk Wetboek in 1976. Vanaf dan heeft elke vereniging rechtspersoonlijkheid, met de aantekening dat de bestuurders hoofdelijk aansprakelijk zijn zolang de statuten niet door een notaris in een authentieke akte zijn opgenomen en deze bij de Kamer van Koophandel is geregistreerd. Van een erkenning door middel van een Koninklijk besluit van de Maltezer en de Johanniter Orde is dan ook geen sprake.

Juridische aspecten

Artikel 1:3, eerste lid, Algemene wet bestuursrecht bepaalt dat van een besluit sprake is bij een schriftelijke beslissing van een bestuursorgaan inhoudende een publiekrechtelijke rechtshandeling. Volgens vaste jurisprudentie van de Raad van State, moet de vraag of met een handeling een rechtsgevolg is beoogd en het al dan niet om een besluit gaat, worden onderscheiden van de vraag of degene die de handeling heeft verricht bevoegd was namens een bestuursorgaan dat besluit te nemen. Een gepretendeerde bevoegdheid of het geheel ontbreken van een bevoegdheid staan er niet aan in de weg, dat sprake is van een besluit als bedoeld in artikel 1:3, eerste lid, Awb (bijvoorbeeld: ECLI:NL:RVS:2006:AW1297). Dit betekent dat de opname van het Maltezer en de Johanniter Orde in het Besluit draagvolgorde onderscheidingen kan worden aangemerkt als een besluit, maar door het ontbreken van de wettelijke bevoegdheid, wel een onrechtmatig besluit. De onrechtmatigheid geldt ook ten aanzien van andere ridderlijke orden, die een dergelijke erkenning van overheidswege niet hebben gekregen, zoals de oecumenische Orde van Sint Lazarus en de Rooms-katholieke Orde van het Heilig Graf van Jeruzalem. Het wordt een interessante casus als, bijvoorbeeld de Orde van Sint-Lazarus, aan aanvraag doet om te worden opgenomen op de lijst van het Besluit draagvolgorde onderscheidingen.


Het voorgaande betekent dat de Maltezer Orde en de Johanniter Orde niet door de Nederlandse overheid als ridderlijke orde zijn erkend, behalve in het Besluit draagvolgorde onderscheidingen. Hiervoor is geen wettelijke grondslag.

De erkenning door de regering van de huidige Duitse Orde als ridderlijke orde is twijfelachtig

De Duitse orde, balije Utrecht, is op 27 februari 1811 door Napoleon opgeheven en weer hersteld bij wet van 8 augustus 1815, nr. 55, (zie Stbl. nr. 1815, 43). Het eerste artikel van deze wet luidt als volgt:

De Duitsche Orde, Balye Utrecht, wordt hersteld, zodanig als derzelve, ten tijde van derzelve suppressie, in den jare 1811, heeft bestaan, voorbehoudens nogtans Onze bevoegdheid, om aan derzelve Orde, in tijd en wijle, zoodanige andere en meer doelmatige inrightingen te geven, als Wij zullen goedvinden, en voorts op den voet en onder bepalingen, in de volgende artikelen vermeld.

Koning Willem I wees de titel van hoog- of grootmeester af, maar trok wel het aggregatierecht (de mogelijkheid van om de benoeming van nieuwe leden en alle bevorderingen goed te keuren) naar zich toe. Alle benoemingen en bevorderingen in de Duitse Orde vinden sindsdien plaats door middel van een Koninklijk Besluit. Onder de term “Wij” moet worden verstaan: Koning plus Ministers. In het licht van deze Koninklijke Besluiten zou kunnen worden gezegd dat de huidige Duitse Orde van regeringswege is erkend. Het Besluit draagvolgorde onderscheidingen heeft dan ook vanuit dit perspectief een wettelijke grondslag om de Duitse Orde op te nemen. Aan de andere kant is de huidige ‘Ridderlijke Duitsche Orde, Balije van Utrecht’ een particuliere vereniging, die is ingeschreven bij de Kamer van Koophandel (inschrijvingsnummer: 40478069). Of met de wet van 1815 ook deze vereniging is erkend (en de erkenning dus zonder meer doorloopt), kan worden betwijfeld omdat ook geredeneerd kan worden dat een nieuwe rechtspersoon is ontstaan.


Uitreiking van de Zilveren Anjer in 2012 door Koningin Beatrix aan Neeltje van der Ven-Blonk en Clemens van der Ven voor hun bijzondere bijdrage als moderne mecenas ten behoeve van kunst en cultuur. Beide waren medeoprichters van de wereldberoemde kunstbeurzen TEFAF en de PAN Amsterdam.

De Duitse Orde, de Johanniter Orde en de Orde van Malta in Nederland zijn lidmaatschap-orden, die tegen betaling van een jaarlijkse bijdrage recht geven op het bijwonen van een jaarlijkse vergadering en andere bijeenkomsten. Het lidmaatschap is gelimiteerd op grond van een combinatie van (adellijke) geboorte en godsdienstige achtergrond.

Lidmaatschap-orden behoren in het geheel niet van overheidswege te worden erkend, zeker niet in het Besluit draagvolgorde onderscheidingen. De overige onderscheidingen die in het Besluit worden genoemd betreffen namelijk zonder uitzondering een eerbetoon voor een persoonlijke, maatschappelijke verdienste ten opzichte van de Nederlandse samenleving. Het zijn geen koopdecoraties voor de maatschappelijk elite. Het is te gek voor woorden dat het Besluit draagvolgorde onderscheidingen de ridderlijke orden plaatst boven een belangrijke orde van verdienste als bijvoorbeeld de Gouden Anjer. Deze laatste wordt uitgereikt als blijk van waardering voor personen van onbesproken vaderlands gedrag, die in enigerlei vorm van onverplichte arbeid uitstekende verdiensten hebben verworven voor de Nederlandse cultuur of voor die van de Nederlandse Antillen. In 2018 bijvoorbeeld werd de decoratie uitgereikt aan:

  • Piet de Boer (Dordrecht, 1942) voor zijn inzet als voorzitter voor het Volendams Opera Koor.
  • Alice van Romondt (Aruba, 1949) voor haar bijdrage aan de cultuur, de literatuur en de kunsten op Aruba.
  • Hans van der Ven (Den Haag, 1942) voor zijn hulp aan met name het Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam bij het verwerven van kunstwerken die belangrijk zijn voor het erfgoed van Nederland.

Een tweede punt van kritiek betreft de inconsequentie van indeling door de regering van ridderlijke orden ten opzichte van andere particuliere organisaties. Het is mij niet duidelijk waarom de ridderlijke orden niet gewoon worden gerangschikt onder “F. Onderscheidingen van Nederlandse particuliere organisaties”. Categorie F betreft organisaties met een veel grotere maatschappelijke impact dan genoemde ridderlijke orden. Voorbeelden zijn het Carnegie Heldenfonds en het Rode Kruis. Bovendien is de Orde van Malta een buitenlandse ridderlijke orde en zou om die reden al niet in het Besluit moeten voorkomen.

Een derde kritische opmerking is te maken over de voorkeursbehandeling door de overheid van genoemde ridderlijke orden. Door de overheid is aan deze particuliere orden het voorrecht toegekend van officiële erkenning van de decoraties. Dit geeft deze orden een bijzondere maatschappelijke status, die bijvoorbeeld een Orde van Sint-Lazarus mist. Erkenning geeft deze orden meer aantrekkingskracht en daarmee ook meer mogelijkheden om financiële middelen aan te trekken voor de doelstellingen die zij nastreven, dan de andere ridderlijke (lidmaatschap-) orden in Nederland. Versélewel de Witt Hamer geeft een voorbeeld van het maken van misbruik van het overheidsstempel door de Johanniter Orde ten opzichte van een van de eigen leden, die ook lid was van de Orde van Sint Lazarus (Versélewel de Witt Hamer, p. 152):

Ik werd lid omdat mijn vader lid was. Maar nadat ik een brief kreeg van de Johanniter Orde om dat lidmaatschap te beëindigen omdat het een niet-erkende orde betrof, heb ik dat gedaan. Ik heb toen alle spullen van die orde teruggestuurd.

Typerend voor de discriminerende (door de overheid geïnspireerde) eigendunk van de huidige “ridderlijke orden” is ook de opmerking van jhr. Van Citters, coadjutor van de Johanniter Orde, die in 2016 desgevraagd aan Versélewel de Witt Hamer meedeelde (proefschrift, p. 111):

De Orde van het Heilig Graf is geen ridderlijke orde, de leden zijn immers niet van adel.

Fresco van Giacomo Jaquerio in Saluzzo, waarop het kruis van de Orde van het Heilg Graf is afgebeeld, Noord Italië (circa 1420). Het symbool van de ridderorde is een Latijns krukkenkruis met vier Griekse kruisen in de armen. Het kruis is rood en wordt wel Jeruzalemkruis genoemd. Het door Godfried van Bouillon als wapen gekozen kruis in het wapen van het koninkrijk Jeruzalem is van goud.

De familie Van Citters is een familie van koopmanslieden en bestuurders, die voor het eerst in de archieven verschijnt met Cornelis van Seters, in 1522 burgemeester van Breda. De familie is in 1828 en 1872 verheven in de Nederlandse adel. Met ridders heeft de eigen familie van de coadjutor dus niets uit te staan. Zijn in 1946 nieuw opgerichte Johanniter Orde heeft dat ook niet. Van Citters vergeet dat de door hem als inferieur beschouwde Orde van het Heilig Graf wel zijn oorsprong in de riddertijd heeft (1114), volledig onder pauselijk gezag staat (en dus officieel erkend is) en een belangrijke internationale charitatieve impact heeft; de orde met zijn 23.000 leden is onderverdeeld in 52 commanderijen, gevestigd in meer dan 30 landen (24 in Europa, 15 in de Verenigde Staten en Canada, 5 in Latijns-Amerika en 6 in Australië en het Verre Oosten). Van Citters’ opmerking is daarom ongepast.

Met het voorgaande wil ik aangeven dat het weigeren van bijvoorbeeld de Orde van het Heilig Graf en het opnemen van de Johanniter Orde in de categorie Erkende (ridderlijke) orden in het Besluit draagvolgorde onderscheidingen volstrekt willekeurig is en bovendien niet wordt gelegitimeerd door maatschappelijk toegevoegde waarde.

Een vierde punt van kritiek is dat de genoemde Ridderlijke Orden niet van overheidswege dienen te worden erkend omdat zij statuten hebben met discriminatoire bepalingen. Nu is het waarschijnlijk verenigingsrechtelijk toegestaan om personen van adellijke komaf te verenigen en dus personen van niet-adellijke komaf te weigeren (discrimineren), maar het wordt anders als deze verenigingen door de overheid bevoordeeld worden ten opzichte van andere particuliere organisaties bij het dragen van onderscheidingen. Het opnemen in het Besluit van verenigingen waaraan de adellijke status gekoppeld is en die godsdienstige voorwaarden stellen, is strijdig is met nationale en internationale anti-discriminatie bepalingen omdat deze verenigingen en hun discriminerende statuten daarmee van overheidswege worden gepromoot.


In het Besluit draagvolgorde onderscheidingen moet categorie D (Erkende (ridderlijke) orden) vervallen en moet Categorie E (Door Z.K.H. Prins Bernhard der Nederlanden ingestelde onderscheidingen) worden toegevoegd aan Categorie B (Huisorden).




De heer Erik Müller, decoratie-deskundige (LinkedIn 23 maart 2019)

Op hoofdlijnen ben ik het met je eens, echter:

  • de banden van het Koninklijk Huis met zowel de Johanniter Orde (waar altijd een lid van het KH als erecommandeur is geïnstalleerd geweest) en de Orde van Malta (waar meerdere leden van het KH een band mee hebben gehad) hebben hun het voorrecht verworven om al vanaf de eerste draagvolgordelijst in 1952 opgenomen te zijn. Ditzelfde voorrecht is de Orde van Sint Lazarus (waar dan weer wel meerdere ministers en staatssecretarissen lid van zijn geweest) en de Orde van het Heilige Graf nooit gegund. Ik ben het echter wel met je eens dat in ieder geval de laatste gewoon opgenomen zou moeten worden. Voor wat betreft de eerste: welke linie is de oorspronkelijke? Je hebt de Spaanse en de Franse linie, welke beiden claimen de oorspronkelijke orde te zijn. De familie De Bourbon-Parma is verwant aan het Koninklijk Huis, dus ik vermoed dat die de strijd dan wel zullen winnen ;-)
  • De prinselijke decoraties zijn zeker geen huisorden. Het zijn particuliere onderscheidingen, net als de hofmedailles, die niet door het staatshoofd, maar door een lid van de Koninklijke familie zijn verleend. In het overzicht mist nog de reddingsmedaille die door Koningin Emma werd verleend. Verder zou ik ze inderdaad tussen de herinneringsmedailles en particuliere onderscheidingen laten staan. Ik denk dat er maar één manier is om te achterhalen of het Besluit Draagvolgorde aangepast gaat worden en dat is een request met deze strekking aan de Kanselarij te richten.


Besluit draagvolgorde onderscheidingen

10 oktober 2017

Nr. KNO/17/7632

De Kanselier der Nederlandse Orden,

Overwegende dat het wenselijk is het bij zijn besluit van 25 juli 2013 vastgestelde Besluit draagvolgorde van de erkende onderscheidingen te herzien;

Gelet op de instemming van de Minister van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties;


Vast te stellen het herziene Besluit draagvolgorde onderscheidingen.

Artikel 1

Indien een persoon de hem toegekende Koninklijke of Ministeriële onderscheidingen draagt, dan worden deze links op de borst gedragen in de in artikel 2 aangegeven volgorde, waarbij de onderscheiding met het laagste rangnummer het dichtst bij het hart wordt gedragen.

Artikel 2

De volgorde waarin onderscheidingen worden gedragen, luidt als volgt:

Rangnummer Benaming onderscheiding Graden/klassen/medailles
A. Ridderorden en vergelijkbare onderscheidingen
1 Militaire Willems-Orde 1.1 Ridder Grootkruis

1.2 Commandeur

1.3 Ridder der 3e klasse

1.4 Ridder der 4e klasse

2 Kruis (Medaille) voor Moed en Trouw
3 Eresabel
4 Verzetskruis
5 Eerepenning voor Menschlievend Hulpbetoon in goud
6 Orde van de Nederlandse Leeuw 6.1 Ridder Grootkruis

6.2 Commandeur

6.3 Ridder

7 Orde van Oranje-Nassau 7.1 Ridder Grootkruis

7.2 Grootofficier

7.3 Commandeur

7.4 Officier

7.5 Ridder

7.6 Lid

7.7 Eremedaille, verbonden aan de Orde, in goud

7.8 Eremedaille, verbonden aan de Orde, in zilver

7.9 Eremedaille, verbonden aan de Orde, in brons

B. Huisorden
8 Huisorde van de Gouden Leeuw van Nassau 8.1 Ridder
9 Huisorde van Oranje 9.1 Grootkruis

9.2 Groot Erekruis

9.3 Erekruis

10 Kruis van Trouw en Verdienste van de Huisorde van Oranje 10.1 in goud

10.2 in zilver

11 Eremedaille voor Voortvarendheid en Vernuft
12 Eremedaille voor Kunst en Wetenschap
13 Kroonorde 13.1 Grootkruis

13.2 Groot Erekruis met plaque

13.3 Groot Erekruis

13.4 Erekruis met rozet

13.5 Erekruis

13.6 Eremedaille in goud

13.7 Eremedaille in zilver

13.8 Eremedaille in brons

C. Overige staatsonderscheidingen
C1. Onderscheidingen voor dapperheid
14 Eervolle Vermelding
15 Bronzen Leeuw
16 Verzetsster Oost-Azië 1942-1945
17 Bronzen Kruis
18 Kruis van Verdienste
19 Vliegerkruis
20 Eerepenning voor Menschlievend Hulpbetoon 20.1 in zilver

20.2 in brons

C2. Onderscheidingen voor verdiensten
21 Erepenning voor Verdiensten jegens Openbare Verzamelingen (Museumpenning) 21.1 in goud

21.2 in zilver

21.3 in brons

22 Onderscheidingsteken ter erkenning van uitstekende daden bij watersnood verricht (Watersnoodmedaille) 22.1 in zilver

22.2 in brons

23 De Ruytermedaille 23.1 in goud

23.2 in zilver

23.3 in brons

24 Medaille van het Nederlandsche Roode Kruis (Regeringsmedaille)
25 Erkentelijkheidsmedaille 25.1 in zilver

25.2 in brons

26 Ereteken voor Verdienste (Defensie) 26.1 in goud

26.2 in zilver

26.3 in brons

27 Eremedaille voor verdienste politie in goud
C3. Herinneringsonderscheidingen voor militaire operaties
28 Ereteken voor Belangrijke Krijgsbedrijven (Expeditiekruis)
29 Oorlogsherinneringskruis
30 Verzetsherdenkingskruis
31 Ereteken voor Orde en Vrede
32 Nieuw-Guinea Herinneringskruis
33 Mobilisatie-Oorlogskruis
34 Kruis voor Recht en Vrijheid
35 Herinneringsmedaille VN-Vredesoperaties
36 Herinneringsmedaille Multinationale Vredesoperaties
37 Herinneringsmedaille Internationale Missies (voorheen Herinneringsmedaille Vredesoperaties)
38 Herinneringsmedaille voor Humanitaire Hulpverlening bij Rampen (voorheen Herinneringsmedaille Rampenbrigade)
39 Kosovo-medaille
C4. Onderscheidingen voor trouwe dienst
40 Onderscheidingsteken voor Langdurige Dienst als officier (Officierskruis)
41 Onderscheidingteken voor Langdurige en Trouwe Dienst (Trouwe Dienst Medaille) 41.1 in goud

41.2 in zilver

41.3 in brons

42 Onderscheidingsteken voor trouwe dienst bij de Militaire (Marine) kustwacht voor vrijwillig dienende militairen beneden de rang van officier 42.1 in goud

42.2 in zilver

42.3 in brons

43 Onderscheidingsteken voor trouwe en langdurige dienst Nederlandse Politie
44 Vrijwilligersmedaille Openbare Orde en Veiligheid (voorheen Vrijwilligersmedaille)
C5. Overige herinnerings- en vaardigheidsonderscheidingen
45 Herinneringsmedaille 1926
46 Herinneringsmedaille Erewacht 1933
47 Huwelijksmedaille 1937
48 Inhuldigingsmedaille 1948
49 Herinneringsmedaille 1962
50 Huwelijksmedaille 1966
51 Inhuldigingsmedaille 1980
52 Medaille Bezoek Nederlandse Antillen 1980
53 Huwelijksmedaille 2002
54 Inhuldigingsmedaille 2013
55 Herinneringsmedaille bezoek in 2013 aan het Caribisch deel van het Koninkrijk
56 Herinneringsmedaille Buitenlandse Bezoeken
57 Herdenkingspenning komst Ambonezen naar Nederland (Rietkerk-penning)
58 Marinemedaille
59 Landmachtmedaille
60 Marechausseemedaille
61 Luchtmachtmedaille
62 Herinneringsmedaille Vrijwillige Politie 1948-1998
63 Ereteken Meester-Scherpschutter voor Schepelingen van de Koninklijke Marine
64 Ereteken Meester-Kanonnier voor Schepelingen van de Koninklijke Marine
65 Vaardigheidsmedaille KNIL
66 Schietprijsster KNIL
D. Erkende (ridderlijke) orden
67 Soevereine Militaire Hospitaal Orde van Sint Jan van Jeruzalem van Rhodos en van Malta 67.1 Ridder/Dame van eer en Devotie

67.2 Ridder/Dame van Gratie en Devotie

67.3 Ridder/Dame van Magistrale Gratie

68 Johanniter Orde in Nederland 68.1 Erekapittelridder/Erekapitteldame

68.2 Rechtsridder/Rechtsdame

68.3 Ridder/Dame

69 Ridderlijke Duitsche Orde, Balije van Utrecht 69.1 Commandeur

69.2 Ridder

E. Door Z.K.H. Prins Bernhard der Nederlanden ingestelde onderscheidingen
70 Zilveren Anjer geen
71 Orde van de Gouden Ark 71.1 Commandeur

71.2 Officier

71.3 Ridder

F. Onderscheidingen van Nederlandse particuliere organisaties
F1. Onderscheidingen voor dapperheid
72 Medaille van het Carnegie Heldenfonds 72.1 in zilver

72.2 in brons

F2. Onderscheidingen voor verdiensten
73 Kruis van Verdienste van het Nederlandse Rode Kruis
74 Medaille van Verdienste van het Nederlandse Rode Kruis 74.1 in zilver

74.2 in brons

75 Medaille van de Koninklijke Nederlandse Vereniging voor Luchtvaart 75.1 in goud

75.2 in zilver

75.3 in brons

76 Prins Mauritsmedaille
77 Medaille voor Bijzondere Verdiensten van de Koninklijke Nederlandse Vereniging ‘Onze Luchtmacht’
F3. Onderscheidingen voor bijzondere inzet
78 Herinneringsmedaille Luchtbescherming 1940-1945
79 Herinneringskruis 1939-1940 (Nederlandse Rode Kruis)
80 Herinneringskruis 1940-1945 (Nederlandse Rode Kruis)
F4 Onderscheidingen voor trouwe dienst
81 Medaille voor 10 jaar Trouwe Dienst (Nederlandse Rode Kruis)
F5. Herinnerings- en vaardigheidsonderscheidingen
82 Kruis van de Koninklijke Nederlandse Bond voor Lichamelijke Opvoeding voor betoonde marsvaardigheid (Vierdaagsekruis)
83 Nationale Sportmedaille NOC*NSF (voorheen Vaardigheidsmedaille NSF)
84 Nationale Vijfkampkruis NOC*NSF
85 Kruis van de Koninklijke Vereniging van Nederlandse Reserve Officieren (TMPT-kruis)
86 Elfstedenkruis
G. Onderscheidingen van internationale organisaties
87 Verenigde Naties (VN)
88 Noord-Atlantische Verdragsorganisatie (NAVO)
89 West-Europese Unie (WEU)
90 Multinational Force & Observers (MFO)
91 Europese Gemeenschap (EG)
92 Europese Unie (EU)
93 Baltic Air Policing-Medal
H. Buitenlandse onderscheidingen
In de volgorde van de graden van hoog naar laag. Bij gelijke graad op alfabetische volgorde van de Franse benamingen van land. Bij meerdere onderscheidingen van één land dient de daar gebruikelijke draagvolgorde te worden aangehouden.

Artikel 3

  • 1.Dit besluit treedt in werking met ingang van heden.

  • 2.Dit besluit zal worden geplaatst in de Staatscourant.

Aldus vastgesteld te Den Haag, 10 oktober 2017

De Kanselier der Nederlandse Orden,H. Morsink


Het Besluit draagvolgorde onderscheidingen is laatstelijk gewijzigd op 25 juli 2013 vanwege het opnemen van enkele onderscheidingen. Het thans voorliggende besluit dient aan een breed publiek inzichtelijk te maken welke gedachte aan de draagvolgorde ten grondslag ligt. Het besluit kent daarom de volgende wijzigingen:

  • aanpassing volgorde onderscheidingen in categorie C. Overige staatsonderscheidingen,

  • aanpassing volgorde onderscheidingen in categorie F. Onderscheidingen van Nederlandse particuliere organisaties,

  • aanpassing volgorde internationale organisaties in categorie G. Onderscheidingen van internationale organisaties,

  • toevoegen nieuw ingestelde onderscheidingen,

  • afvoeren onderscheidingen voor eenmalige gebeurtenissen die niet meer kunnen worden toegekend en waarvan de laatste toekenning meer dan honderd jaar geleden heeft plaats gevonden,

  • aanpassing nieuwe naam Herinneringsmedaille Vredesoperaties,

  • aanpassing volgorde draagwijze buitenlandse onderscheidingen,

  • toevoegen graden ridderlijke orden.

Aanpassing volgorde onderscheidingen in categorie C. Overige staatsonderscheidingen

Deze wijziging in de indeling van categorie C (‘Overige staatsonderscheidingen’) beoogt de indeling inzichtelijker te maken, mede met het oog op het rangschikken van eventueel in de toekomst toe te voegen onderscheidingen. Daartoe worden vijf subcategorieën gecreëerd:

  • C1 Onderscheidingen voor dapperheid,

  • C2 Onderscheidingen voor verdiensten,

  • C3 Onderscheidingen voor militaire operaties,

  • C4 Onderscheidingen voor trouwe dienst,

  • C5 Herinnerings- en vaardigheidsonderscheidingen.

Binnen de subcategorieën worden de onderscheidingen ingedeeld op basis van de datum waarop de onderscheiding bij Koninklijk Besluit, Algemene Maatregel van Bestuur of ministeriële regeling is ingesteld.

Er is om praktische redenen gekozen om in de subcategorie ‘C5 Herinnerings- en vaardigheidsonderscheidingen’ de herinneringsonderscheidingen te laten prevaleren boven de vaardigheidsonderscheidingen binnen deze categorie teneinde volgorde in het huidige besluit zoveel als mogelijk in stand te houden. De onderscheidingen voor operationele inzet van de Nederlandse krijgmacht (Marinemedaille, Landmachtmedaille, Marechausseemedaille en Luchtmachtmedaille) zullen gelet op de aard van de onderscheiding en de uitvoerbaarheid gehandhaafd blijven in de categorie ‘C5. Herinnerings- en vaardigheidsonderscheidingen’.

Door deze categorisering hebben enkele onderscheidingen een andere positie gekregen in de draagvolgorde. Gelet op de instellingsdatum van de Erepenning voor Verdiensten jegens Openbare Verzamelingen (1817) en de De Ruytermedaille (1907) zijn deze onderscheidingen van plaats gewisseld.

Aanpassing volgorde onderscheidingen in categorie F. Onderscheidingen van Nederlandse particuliere organisaties

Ook de onderscheidingen die worden toegekend door particuliere organisaties zijn opnieuw gerangschikt conform de categorie C. Overige staatsonderscheidingen:

  • F1 Onderscheidingen voor dapperheid,

  • F2 Onderscheidingen voor verdiensten,

  • F3 Onderscheidingen voor bijzondere inzet,

  • F4 Onderscheidingen voor trouwe dienst,

  • F5 Herinnerings- en vaardigheidsonderscheidingen.

Binnen de subcategorieën worden de onderscheidingen ingedeeld op basis van de datum waarop de onderscheiding bij Koninklijk Besluit van staatswege is erkend.

Aanpassing volgorde organisaties in categorie G. Onderscheidingen van internationale organisaties

Gelet op de veelvuldige bijdragen van de Nederlandse krijgsmacht en andere organisaties aan vredesoperaties en wederopbouw in internationaal verband is het nodig om deze categorie nader in te vullen om de indeling inzichtelijker te maken. Er is gekozen voor de onderstaande indeling op basis van de oprichtingsdatum van de organisaties of, in het geval van multinationale verbanden, naar de instellingsdatum van de afzonderlijke onderscheiding. Daaruit is deze volgorde af te leiden:

  • Onderscheidingen van de Verenigde Naties (VN),

  • Onderscheidingen van de Noord-Atlantische Verdragsorganisatie (NAVO),

  • Onderscheidingen van de West-Europese Unie (WEU),

  • Onderscheidingen van de Multinationals Force & Observers (MFO),

  • Onderscheidingen van de Europese Gemeenschap (EG),

  • Onderscheidingen van de Europese Unie (EU),

  • Baltic Air Policing Medal (BAP).

Bij meerdere onderscheidingen van dezelfde organisatie geldt de binnen de organisatie geldende volgorde. Indien deze niet formeel is vastgelegd dienen onderscheidingen te worden gerangschikt, eerst op basis van aard (onderscheiding voor verdiensten of herinneringsonderscheiding) en daar binnen op basis van de instellingsdatum van de onderscheidingen.

Om verwarring te voorkomen zijn onderscheidingen van afzonderlijke militaire missies en bijzondere inzetten onder auspiciën van internationale organisaties niet afzonderlijk vermeld.

Toevoegen en afvoeren nieuwe of erkende onderscheidingen

In de draagvolgorde worden de volgende nieuw ingestelde onderscheidingen toegevoegd:

  • ‘Eremedaille voor verdienste politie’ in goud in categorie ‘C2. Onderscheidingen voor verdiensten’. Op basis van de instellingsdatum is de onderscheiding ingevoegd na het Ereteken voor Verdienste (Defensie),

  • ‘Herinneringsmedaille bezoek in 2013 aan het Caribisch deel van het Koninkrijk’, welke is geplaatst in de categorie ‘C5. Overige herinnerings- en vaardigheidsonderscheidingen’ en op basis van de aard van de onderscheiding ingevoegd na de Inhuldigingsmedaille 2013 en voor de Herinneringsmedaille Buitenlandse Bezoeken,

  • Het Ereteken voor Verdienste van het Ministerie van Defensie in brons als aanvulling op de reeds bestaande varianten in goud en in zilver.

Uit de draagvolgorde worden de volgende onderscheidingen verwijderd omdat de onderscheiding is ingesteld voor een eenmalige gebeurtenis welke niet langer kan worden toegekend en waarvan de laatste toekenning meer dan honderd jaar geleden heeft plaats gevonden:

  • Lombokkruis,

  • Inhuldigingsmedaille 1898,

  • Huwelijksmedaille 1901,

  • Herinneringspenning van de Tweede Haagse Vredesconferentie in 1907.

Tevens zijn de volgende historische onderscheidingen opnieuw opgenomen:

  • Onderscheidingsteken ter erkenning van uitstekende daden bij watersnood verricht (Watersnoodmedaille),

  • Ereteken Meester-Kanonnier voor Schepelingen van de Koninklijke Marine.

Aanpassing benaming Herinneringsmedaille Vredesoperaties

De naam van de Herinneringsmedaille Vredesoperaties is op grond van het besluit van 2 juni 2016, houdende wijziging van het Besluit Herinneringsmedaille Vredesoperaties, gewijzigd in Herinneringsmedaille Internationale Missies (HIM). De reden was dat de term ‘vredesoperaties’ geen recht deed aan de missies waarin men zich in feite in oorlogsgebied bevindt en in het hoogste geweldsspectrum wordt opgetreden.

Draagvolgorde buitenlandse onderscheidingen

Vanwege een misdruk in de vorige vaststelling van de draagvolgorde is er een misverstand ontstaan over de wijze waarop buitenlandse onderscheidingen dienen te worden gedragen.

De regel is dat buitenlandse onderscheidingen moeten worden gedragen naar de aard van de onderscheiding, d.w.z. eerst de ridderorden gerangschikt aan de hand van de graad en daarna de overige onderscheidingen. Indien een persoon gerechtigd is tot het dragen van twee onderscheidingen van gelijke graad van verschillende landen, dan worden deze gerangschikt op de alfabetische volgorde van de Franstalige benamingen van de landen. Indien de gedecoreerde gerechtigd is tot het dragen van twee onderscheidingen van hetzelfde land, dient hij deze naast elkaar te dragen, ook indien de daaropvolgende onderscheiding van een ander land hoger is in gradatie.

Samenvattend, de draagvolgorde van buitenlandse onderscheidingen wordt eerst bepaald aan de hand van de graad en bij gelijke graad per land op Franse alfabetische volgorde. Heeft een gedecoreerde meerdere onderscheidingen van hetzelfde land, dan moeten deze aansluitend worden gedragen, ongeacht de hoogte van de graad van andere landen.

Graden erkende (ridderlijke) orden

In tegenstelling tot de ridder- en huisorden bevatte categorie D geen nadere vermelding van de bij de in deze categorie opgenomen orden. De afzonderlijke graden zijn alsnog toegevoegd.

Verkorte draagvolgorde

Er is om praktische redenen voor gekozen om geen officiële verkorte draagvolgorde vast te leggen. Op basis van het nieuwe besluit kan er in de brochure Draagwijzer (Kanselarij) en het Handboek Onderscheidingen (Defensie) een nader in te vullen verkorte volgorde worden opgenomen.

Lines of succession to the former Portuguese throne


Dom Manuel II, last King of Portugal, in full robes during a 1911 Order of the Garter procession. His reign ended with the dissolution of the monarchy in the 5 October 1910 revolution. Dom Manuel lived the rest of his life in exile in Twickenham, southwest London. His death on 2 July 1932 (via suffocation by an abnormal swelling in the vocal folds of his larynx, or tracheal oedema) has been regarded as suspicious due to the fact that he had been playing tennis on the day before and did not have any health issues. Detective Inspector Harold Brust (a member of Scotland Yard Special Branch in charge of protecting public figures) describes in his autobiography an incident surrounding Dom Manual’s sudden death. Brust mentions an incident which probably occurred in 1931. An intruder was discovered in the grounds of Fulwell Park who turned out to be a prominent member of an international secret terrorist group called the “Carbonária”. On 1 February 1908 King Carlos I of Portugal and his eldest son and heir Luis Filipe were assassinated by Alfredo Luís da Costa and Manuel Buíça in a conspiracy involving the Carbonária. By 1910 the Carbonária had some 40,000 members and was instrumental in the Republican 5 October 1910 revolution. Until today, the identity of the intruder remains a mystery. [photo: WikiCommons]
After the death of King John VI of Portugal in 1826, the Braganzas were divided into three main family-branches: (1) the Brazilian branch, with its chief King John VI’s eldest son, Emperor Pedro I of Brazil, (2) the Constitutional branch, with its chief Emperor Pedro I’s eldest daughter, Queen Maria II of Portugal, and (3) the Miguelist branch, with its chief King John VI’s second eldest son and seventh child, King Miguel I of Portugal. The Brazilian branch became the House of Orléans-Braganza. This branch is divided by the Vassouras branch, led by Prince Luiz of Orléans-Braganza, and the Petrópolis branch, led by Prince Pedro Carlos of Orléans-Braganza. The Constitutional branch of Maria II became extinct with the death of King Manuel II (who’s reign ended with the dissolution of the monarchy in revolution on 5 October 1910) in 1932.

It is generally accepted that the claim to the Portuguese Crown, and therefore to the chieftainship of the House of Braganza, passed to Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza. Another well-known pretender is Pedro, Duke of Loulé. In this article I will show that the Duke of Loulé has an equally serious claim to the defunct throne of Portugal – both from a historical as a legal perspective – as the Duke of Braganza. Apart from the Portuguese parliament, there is currently no authority to decide who’s claim is the most credible. I think it is interesting to see how the two main claims are derived and which facts are relevant to decide which claim is preferred. My conclusion is that this is a matter of opinion, because both claims are quite transparent and none of the two claims can be dismissed on grounds that cannot be challenged.

Family Relations

The genealogical relations among the heirs to the throne of Portugal since the late 18th century are shown below:

I. King John VI (1767–1826), King of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves from 1816 to 1825. Children:

  1. Emperor Pedro I (fourth child), follow IIa.
  2. King Miguel I (seventh child) , follow IIb.
  3. Queen Maria (ninth child), follow IIc.


IIa. King Pedro I (1798–1834), nicknamed “the Liberator”, was the founder and first ruler of the Empire of Brazil, as King Dom Pedro IV between 1822-1831, he reigned briefly over Portugal in 1826. Daughter:

IIIa. Queen Maria II (1819–1853), reigned as Queen of Portugal from 1826 to 1828, and again from 1834 to 1853. Maria II’s throne was usurped by Dom Miguel (see below, IIb), Pedro I’s younger brother. Sons:

IVa.1 King Pedro V (1837–1861), nicknamed “the Hopeful” (Portuguese: o Esperançoso), was King of Portugal from 1853 to 1861.

IVa.2 King Luís I (1838–1889), King of Portugal from 1861 to 1889. Son of Luís I:

Va. King Carlos I (1863–1908), known as “the Diplomat” (also known as “the Martyr”; Portuguese: o Diplomata and Portuguese: o Martirizado), King of Portugal 1889-1908 (murdered). Son:

VIa. King Manuel II (1889–1932), “the Patriot” (Portuguese: “o Patriota”) or “the Unfortunate” (Portuguese: “o Desventurado”), was the last King of Portugal, ascending the throne after the assassination of his father, King Carlos I, and his elder brother, Luís Filipe, the Prince Royal. Before ascending the throne he held the title of Duke of Beja. His reign ended with the dissolution of the monarchy in the 5 October 1910 revolution. Manuel lived the rest of his life in exile in Twickenham, South London.


IIb. Miguel I (1802 – 1866), “the Absolutist” (Portuguese: “o Absolutista”) or “the Traditionalist” (Portuguese: “o Tradicionalista”), usurper of the Portuguese throne, regent of Portugal from February 1828 and self-proclaimed king from July 1828 to 1834, though his royal title was not  recognized everywhere.

Miguel went with the rest of the royal family to Brazil in 1807, escaping from Napoleon’s armies, but returned with them in 1821 to Portugal. He was then—and remained—much under the influence of his Spanish mother, Queen Carlota Joaquina. On his return, King John VI accepted the liberal constitution of 1821, but Queen Carlota refused to take the oath. When in 1823 the French overthrew the radical regime in Spain, Miguel led a military rebellion that dissolved the discredited Cortes in Portugal. His father promised an amended constitution but appointed liberal ministers, and on April 30, 1824, Miguel again led a military rebellion. When it faltered, his father reluctantly exiled him to Vienna (June 1824). When John VI died (March 10, 1826), his elder son, Pedro I, emperor of Brazil, became Pedro IV of Portugal but constitutionally abdicated in favour of his daughter Maria, then seven years of age. She was to marry Miguel, who was to accept Pedro’s constitutional Charter. Miguel swore to accept the Charter, returned to Portugal, and assumed the regency (Feb. 22, 1828); however, he promptly fell under his mother’s influence, settled old scores, and had himself proclaimed king (July 7, 1828). He was so recognized by the Holy See, Spain, the United States, and Russia but not by the liberal monarchies. In 1830 the Duke of Wellington’s government in Britain was about to recognize him, but it fell. In 1831 Peter abdicated in Brazil, returned to Europe, and initiated a civil war. Michael lost Porto, but the struggle was protracted; he was finally forced by foreign intervention to leave Lisbon and surrendered at Évora-Monte on May 26, 1834 (source: Encyclopaedia Britannica).

In December 1834 the Portuguese Cortes banished Miguel and all his descendants from Portugal upon pain of immediate death. Article 98 of the Constitution of 1838 excluded the collateral Miguelist line from the throne. The 1834 ban remained in effect until revoked in May 1950. Son:

IIIb. Miguel Januário de Bragança (1853 – 1927), Miguelist claimant to the throne of Portugal from 1866 to 1920. He used the title Duke of Braganza. Son:

IVb. Duarte Nuno, Duke of Braganza (1907 – 1976). In 1952, when the Portuguese Laws of Banishment were revoked, Dom Duarte Nuno moved his family to Portugal, where he spent the rest of his life attempting, without success, to restore the Brigantine assets to his family and reestablish the image of the Miguelist Braganzas in Portuguese society. Dom Duarte Nuno’s overall aim was to restore the Portuguese monarchy under the Braganzas. Son:

Vb. Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza (1945 -), claimant to the defunct Portuguese throne, President of the King Manuel II Foundation, married Dona Isabel Inês de Castro Curvello de Herédia.


IIc. Infanta Ana de Jesus Maria of Braganza (1806 – 1857), married Royal Ajuda Palace, 5 December 1827 Dom Nuno José Severo de Mendonça Rolim de Moura Barreto (1804-1875), then Marquis of Loulé and Count de Vale de Reis. As leader of the Historic Party, he was three times appointed President of the Council of Ministers and Prime Minister (1856 – 1859; 1860 – 1865 and 1869 – 1870). Dom Nuno was created 1st Duke of Loulé  by Luís I of Portugal in 1862. He was awarded the Grand Cordon in the Order of Leopold (1857) and was Member of the Military Order of Christ and of the Order of the Tower and Sword. Son:

IIIc. Pedro José Agostinho de Mendoça Rolim de Moura Barreto, 2nd Duke of Loulé, 10th Count of Vale de Reis (1830–1909), married Constança Maria de Figueiredo Cabral da Câmara. Daughter:

IVc. Ana de Jesus Maria de Mendoça (1854 – 1922), married João Maria dos Enfermos da Câmara Berquó (1859 – 1934). Daughter:

Vc. Constança Maria da Conceição Berquó de Mendoça (1889 – 1967), condessa de Vale de Reis (11th, 29 May 1932), married Dom Pedro José de Basto Feyo Folque (1888 – 1969), succeeded to the dukedom of Loulé on 20 April 1947. Son:

VIc. Alberto Nuno Carlos Rita Folque de Mendoça Rolim de Moura Barreto (1923 – 2003), 5th Duke of Loulé married Dona Maria Augusta Amelia de Moraes Cardoso de Menezes. Son:

VIIc. Pedro José Folque de Mendoça Rolim de Moura Barreto, 6th Duke of Loulé (1958 -), claimant to the defunct Portuguese throne, entrepreneur, married Margarida Vaz Pinto and lives in Portugal.

Note: The Government of the Order of Saint Sebastian, called the Arrow is entrusted to the Dom Filipe, Count of Rio Grande, brother of VIIc. This Order was revived in January 1994, by Dom Filipe, with express authorization of his father, Dom Alberto, Duke of Loulé (VIc.).


Dom Pedro José de Mendonça Bragança e Bourbon, was born in Lisbon, Portugal March 9, 1958. He is the son of Dom Nuno Alberto and Maria Augusta Dona Amelia, 5th Duke of Loulé. Dom Pedro completed his studies in Portugal, after having completed training in business management in the United States. He was professionally active in the oil sector in Brazil, Angola and Nigeria and is now engaged as a successful entrepreneur in Portugal.

The Duke of Braganza and the Duke of Loulé share a common ancestor: King John VI of Portugal. Both dukes claim the headship of the defunct throne of Portugal. When validating these claims, it should be taken into account that the direct ancestor of Dom Duarte Pio, Miguel I, usurped Maria II’s throne and that the legitimate Portuguese government banished Miguel I and all his descendants (like Dom Duarte Pio) from Portugal, as well as excluded the collateral Miguelist line from the throne. These facts do not contribute to the legitimacy of the claim of the Duke de Braganza.

However, a formal statement by the Portuguese government in 2006 (see below, sources), makes it clear that the Duke of Braganza is seen as the legitimate claimant to the defunct Portuguese throne. The Duke of Braganza even has the right to grant titles and to name new members of the royal dynastic orders of chivalry, although titles granted after 1905 are not recognized by the Republic. The Duke and Duchess of Braganza are entitled to use their royal title and style in Portugal based on the law that permits those who had a noble status prior to 1905 to use their styles and titles in Portugal. Only the Duke and Duchess of Braganza and their eldest son, the Duke of Beira, have the right to use the style of HRH. Very interesting and an act of social recognition is the fact that the document states that it has long been the custom of the Portuguese Republic to invite the head of the House of Braganza to participate in solemn ceremonies and to represent the country abroad as a living symbol of Portuguese history.

The Duke of Loulé descends from King John VI in the female line and from a younger child than the Duke of Braganza. I think these facts might not entirely fit into the traditional lines of succession, but they do not hinder a legitimate claim regarding the defunct throne of Portugal, especially taking into account that the line of succession in the past already included females. The mentioned statement by the Portuguese government does not exclude or dismiss the Duke of Loulé’s claims. The statement only concerns the legitimacy of the claim of mr. Rosario Poidimani, an Italian businessman.

Modern diploma of the Order of São Sebastião. By a letter dated the 19th July 1999, the Duke of Loulé (Dom Alberto) confirmed in writing the authorisation granted years before, to his son, Dom Filipe, so that he would deal with its registration and ensured the activity of the “Old Order of São Sebastião, said of the Frecha”, expressly declaring “that him (Dom Filipe) and his successors shall be the perpetual Administrators, as Representatives of a Branch of Our House which is in the first line of Succession to the Crown of Portugal”. This document clarifies any doubt about the legitimacy of the “Fons Honorum” underlying the restoration of the Order (See James J. Algrant y Cañete, “El Fons Honorum”, in the magazine “Revista Ibero-Americana de Heráldica”, Colégio Heráldico de España y de las Indias, Madrid, nº 3, January 2004, pages 65-78).

Articles 87 and 88 of the Constitutional Charter of 1826 stated that the throne passed first to the descendants of Queen Maria II, and stipulated that only in the case this line was extinct, the throne succeeded to her collateral heirs. Article 89 of the same Charter stipulated that “no foreigner may succeed to the crown of the kingdom of Portugal”. Maria II had living descendants in 1932, but none of these had the Portuguese nationality. These facts and circumstances make the matter even more complex. The so-called Dover and Paris Pacts (two supposed agreements regarding the line of succession between the Miguelist and the Braganza-Saxe-Coburg branches of Portugal’s royal family in exile) cannot be seen as authoritative in this matter. The existence of both Pacts is a subject of debate (to say the least), since no signed versions have ever been published and Princess Aldegundes de Bragança later announced that the parties had not reached an agreement and that the whole story was just a propaganda stunt with the intention to validate the unsuccessful Miguelist claims. Between 1920 and 1928, Adelgundes acted as the regent-in-absentia on behalf of her nephew and Miguelist claimant to the Portuguese throne, Duarte Nuno (IVb), who was twelve years old when his father Miguel (IIIb) renounced his claim to the throne in favour of his son. These circumstances only contribute to the idea that the last King of Portugal did not want the Miguelist line to succeed him.

Preference for one of the two claims remains either a matter of opinion or a political choice, since there are no absolute legal criteria from which a judgment can be derived. My personal opinion is that both claims are transparent and are based on a reasonably arguable position, but in the end it is for the Portuguese people to decide who has the best claim. Since only about 25% of the Portuguese population wants to return to a monarchy, it is unlikely that the matter will ever be resolved. This is odd because a monarch would create political stability in the country, similar to, for example, The Netherlands. Due to its constant, senseless political quarrels, Portugal saw its credit rating downgraded to junk status. I am certain that this would not have happened when Portugal were a monarchy. In the times of the monarchy, Portugal was an economic super power. Its current status is far from that.


Legal Opinion: the status of adult adoption in the context of the German nobility

On a German website, focussing on selling titles of nobility, it is stated that German nobility can be obtained by adoption:

Members of Germany’s historical nobility up to the Royal Rank offer the rare opportunity to acquire a genuine title of nobility. If you were not born into the noble class, you can acquire a highly prestigious German nobility title by adoption, marriage or, for your firm or product, licensing by a legal title-holder.

In this article, I will answer the question to what extend this statement is correct.

Legal framework

German law

Article 109 of the Weimar Constitution, inter alia, abolished all privileges based on birth or status and provided that marks of nobility were to be valid only as part of a surname. Pursuant to Article 123(1) of the present Constitutional Law,  that provision remains applicable today. It is common ground that under German law a surname which includes a title of nobility continues to vary according to the sex of the bearer if that was the case for the former title of nobility.

Adolf II. Fürst zu Schaumburg-Lippe (23 February 1883 – 26 March 1936) was the last ruler of the Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe. He was succeeded as head of the House of Schaumburg-Lippe by his brother Wolrad (1887-1962), who was succeeded by Philipp-Ernst (1928-2003). The current head of the dynasty is Alexander (1958).

Any head of a dynasty who did not reign prior to 1918 but had held a specific title as heir to one of Germany’s former thrones (such as, Erbprinz (“hereditary prince”)). In a similar way the heirs to a title of nobility inherited via primogeniture, and their wives—were permitted to incorporate those titles into elements of the personal surname. These specific titles were not heritable (1). With the death of the last person styled “Kronprinz” (=crown prince) before 1918, the title Kronprinz ceased to exist as a part of German surnames. Traditional titles exclusively used for unmarried noblewomen by birth, such as Freiin, were also transformed into parts of the legal surname. The could be changed after marriage or upon request (2). All other former titles and designations of Nobility are currently inherited as part of the surname, and protected by German family law as such.

Sections 1297 to 1921 of the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch) (BGB) contain rules regarding family law. The competent court of first instance is the District Court (Amtsgericht) (section 23a, Law on the System of Judicature) (GVG). Court hearings are generally held in private (section 170, GVG). Remedies in family cases go to the regional Courts of Appeal (Oberlandesgericht) (section 119 I a and b, GVG).

Adoption of children is possible if it serves the best interests of the child and it is anticipated that a parent-child relationship will arise between the adoptive parent and the child (section 1741 I, BGB). With adoption, the child becomes the legal child of the adoptive parents/person/couple who receives parental custody by law. The legal relationship to the previous parents, to former siblings, grandparents, great-grandparents or cousins ends. In addition, the child receives the surname of the adoptive family.

Austrian Law (3)

In 1919 the Law on the abolition of the nobility, (Gesetz vom 3. April 1919 über die Aufhebung des Adels, der weltlichen Ritter- und Damenorden und gewisser Titel und Würden (Adelsaufhebungsgesetz), which has constitutional status in accordance with Article 149(1) of the Federal Constitutional Law (Bundes-Verfassungsgesetz) abolished the nobility, secular orders of knighthood and certain other titles and dignities, and prohibited the bearing of the corresponding styles. Under Paragraph 1 of the implementing provisions adopted by the competent ministers (Vollzugsanweisung des Staatsamtes für Inneres und Unterricht und des Staatsamtes für Justiz, im Einvernehmen mit den beteiligten Staatsämtern vom 18. April 1919, über die Aufhebung des Adels und gewisser Titel und Würden), the abolition applies to all Austrian citizens, regardless of where the relevant privileges were acquired. Paragraph 2 indicates that the prohibition covers, inter alia, the right to bear the particle ‘von’ as part of the name and the right to bear any title of noble rank, such as ‘Ritter’ (knight), ‘Freiherr’ (baron), ‘Graf’ (count), ‘Fürst’ (prince), ‘Herzog’ (duke) or other corresponding indications of status, whether Austrian or foreign. Under Paragraph 5, various penalties may be imposed for contravening the prohibition.

This prohibition has been applied by the courts with certain adjustments where those bearing a German surname including a former German mark of nobility were concerned. Where a German citizen bore such a surname and acquired Austrian nationality, that name could not be reinterpreted as including a title of nobility and could not be changed. Moreover, an Austrian woman acquiring such a name by virtue of marriage to a German citizen was entitled to bear the name in its entirety; however, she must bear exactly the same surname as her husband, and not a feminine form of the name.

Under Paragraph 9(1) of the Federal Law on international private law (Bundesgesetz vom 15. Juni 1978 über das internationale Privatrecht (IPR-Gesetz), the personal status of natural persons is determined by the law of their nationality. Under Paragraph 13(1), the name which they bear is regulated by their personal status, regardless of the basis on which the name was acquired. Paragraph 26 provides that conditions governing adoption are regulated by the personal status of each adopting party and of the child, while its ‘effects’ are regulated, when there is a single adopting party, by the personal status of that party.

The ‘effects’ thus regulated extend only to those in family law and not to the determination of the adopted child’s name (which remains governed by Paragraph 13(1)). According to a report drawn up by the International Commission on Civil Status (ICCS) in March 2000 (‘Loi applicable à la détermination du nom’) at which time Austria was a member of that organisation, in response to the question ‘What is the law applicable to the determination of the name of an adopted child?’, Austria stated: ‘The (change of) name of an adopted child is one of the effects of the adoption and is determined according to the national law of the adopting party or parties. When the adopting parties are spouses of different nationality, their common national law, failing which their previous common national law if it is still the national law of either spouse, applies. Formerly, the applicable law was that of the habitual residence‘.

Under Paragraph 183(1), read in conjunction with Paragraph 182(2), of the Austrian Civil Code (Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch) a child adopted by a single person takes that person’s surname if the legal ties with the parent of the other sex have been dissolved.

Until a court case in 2018 decided otherwise, the noble prefix “von” was tolerated in Austria when having the meaning of originating from a certain geographical location (thus not designating a noble title). The non-noble designation “van” is still tolerated.

Court cases (4)


Graf Christian Ludwig Casimir zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg-Ludwigsburg) (13 July 1725, Berleburg – 6 May 1797, Rheda) (WikiMedia Commons)

Ms Ilonka Sayn-Wittgenstein, an Austrian citizen resident in Germany, following her adoption, in 1991, by Mr Lothar Fürst von Sayn-Wittgenstein, a German citizen, acquired the surname of the latter as her name at birth, with his title of nobility, in the form “Fürstin von Sayn-Wittgenstein” (“Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein”). The Austrian authorities proceeded to enter this new name in the Austrian register of civil status. They also renewed and issued a passport and certificates of nationality in the name of Ilonka Fürstin von Sayn-Wittgenstein.

In 2003, the Austrian Constitutional Court held, in a similar case, that the 1919 Law on the abolition of the nobility – which is of constitutional status and implements the principle of equal treatment – precluded an Austrian citizen from acquiring a surname which includes a title of nobility by means of adoption by a German national who is permitted to bear that title as a constituent element of his name. Prompted by that judgment, considering that the birth certificate issued to Ms Ilonka Fürstin von Sayn-Wittgenstein following adoption was incorrect, the civil registrar of Vienna corrected the entry of the surname in the register of civil status to “Sayn-Wittgenstein”. The correction was based on Paragraph 15(1) of the Law on civil status, that requires a registration to be rectified if it was incorrect at the time the entry was made.

Mrs. Sayn-Wittgenstein challenged this decision before the Austrian Supreme Administrative Court, arguing that the non-recognition of the effects of her adoption on her name constituted an obstacle to her right to freedom of movement – since this forces her to use different names in two Member States – and interference with her right to respect for family life – on account of the amendment of her name which she had nevertheless used continuously for 15 years.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) considered that the justification relied upon by the Austrian Government, i.e. the application of the 1919 Law on the abolition of the nobility and more generally the constitutional principle of equality of all Austrian citizens, should be interpreted as reliance on public policy. After having recalled the margin of discretion of the Austrian authorities and the fact that the Union respects the national identities of its Member States, it considers that it is not disproportionate for a Member State to seek to attain the objective of protecting the principle of equal treatment by prohibiting any acquisition, possession or use, by its nationals, of titles of nobility or noble elements which may create the impression that the bearer of the name is holder of such a rank.

Consequently, the ECJ replies that the refusal by the authorities of a Member State to recognise all the elements of the surname of one of its nationals, as determined in another Member State at the time of his or her adoption as an adult by a national of the latter, where that surname includes a title of nobility which is not permitted in the first Member State under its constitutional law, does not unjustifiably undermine the freedom to move and reside enjoyed by citizens of the Union.

Bogendorff von Wolffersdorff

Mr. Nabiel Peter Bogendorff von Wolffersdorff changed his name while living in the United Kingdom to Peter Mark Emanuel Graf von Wolffersdorff Freiherr von Bogendorff. He has dual German-UK citizenship. Mr Bogendorff von Wolffersdorff lived in the United Kingdom between 2001 and 2005. He changed his name under United Kingdom rules and became a citizen of both countries. On his return to Germany, Mr. Bogendorff von Wolffersdorff requested the registry office of the city of Karlsruhe to register his new name, which would allow him to update his German identity papers. The Karlsruhe registry refused.

Mr Bogendorff von Wolffersdorff stated that this has created problems with identity documents, including getting German officials to recognise his passport. He also has trouble convincing people that his young daughter is related to him. Her (United Kingdom) name is Larissa Xenia Graefin von Wolffersdorff Freiin von Bogendorff. Mr Bogendorff von Wolffersdorff took his case to a district court in the town of Karlsruhe, which asked the ECJ for advice.

On 2 June 2016 the ECJ decided that Germany was not bound to recognise the name Bogendorff von Wolffersdorff when he also holds the nationality of another Member State in which he has acquired that name which he has chosen freely and which contains a number of tokens of nobility, which are not accepted by the law of the first Member State, provided that it is established, which it is for the referring court to ascertain, that a refusal of recognition is, in that context, justified on public policy grounds, in that it is appropriate and necessary to ensure compliance with the principle that all citizens of that Member State are equal before the law.

Case study: Schaumburg-Lippe

Coat of Arms of the Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe (WikiMedia Commons). Artwork by Glasshouse using elements by Sodacan – Own work.

Schaumburg-Lippe was a county in Germany until 1807 when it became a principality. From 1871 until 1918 it was a state within the German Empire. The current heir apparent of the House of Schaumburg-Lippe (according to the traditional rules that were applied before 1919) is Ernst-August Alexander Wilhelm Bernhard Krafft Heinrich Donatus Prinz zu Schaumburg-Lippe (1994), the son of Ernst August Alexander Christian Viktor Hubert Prinz zu Schaumburg-Lippe (1958), head of the dynasty.

The House of Schaumburg-Lippe is an interesting subject to study in this respect because of the adult adoption by Prince Waldemar of Schaumburg-Lippe, a socialite. Officially Prince Waldemar is called Waldemar Stephan Ferdinand Wolrad Friedrich Karl Prinz zu Schaumburg-Lippe (born 19 December 1940 in Glienicke, Germany). He is a son of Christian Prinz zu Schaumburg-Lippe and Prinzessin Feodora of Denmark, and the great-grandson of King Frederick VIII of Denmark. Prince Waldemar’s fourth marriage was with Gertraud-Antonia Wagner-Schöppl, a politician, on 20 September 2008 in Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna. He adopted the adult son of his wife: Mag. iur. Dr. iur, Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe, MAS, LLM, a well-known actor and journalist.

Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe was born on 23 December 1977 as Mario-Max Wagner, in Salzburg, Austria. His father was Dr. Helmut Wagner, MD. Mario-Max Wagner was adopted in Austria in 2001 by Helga Claire Lee Roderbourg (1911-2005), widow of Max Prinz zu Schaumburg-Lippe (nephew of the mentioned Prince Waldemar) and daughter of the German industrialist Dr. Carl Roderbourg. In the process, he changed his surname from Wagner to Schaumburg-Lippe. At the occasion of the mentioned marriage of his mother, Gertraud-Antonia Schöppl to Prince Waldemar in 2008, Mario-Max was adopted again, this time by Prince Waldemar. Due to his (German) adoption by Prince Waldemar he obtained the surname Prinz zu Schaumburg-Lippe and the German nationality. Mario-Max legally changed his given names to Mario-Max Prince Antonius Adolf Albert Eduard Oliver Gertraud Edith Helga Magdalena.

Under German law adults can be adopted (§ 1770 BGB), but the German law considers this to be a so called “weak adoption”, which means that the relationship is limited between the adopting parents and the adoptee (thereby excluding other familial ties of the adopting parents). This also implies that in general the German citizenship is not passed on to the adult adoptee. According to § 1772 BGB, however, adults can also be adopted according to the rules of the adoption of a minor (full adoption) with the same legal effects. This way, the family name is also inherited. According to his birth certificate, shown on his personal internet page, this type of adoption has taken place in the case of Mario-Max Prinz zu Schaumburg-Lippe.

I disagree with the negative attitude towards adoptees who have been adopted (being adult or minor) by members of the German nobility when the intensions of such an adoption are genuine. I am convinced that this is the case in the Schaumburg-Lippe situation. During the legal proceedings, this is also tested by the judge who decides whether or not the adoption should be ratified. I therefore do not have any problem with the change of name from Wagner to Prinz zu Schaumburg-Lippe.

Whether an adopted child can legally be treated as descendent depends upon the law in the particular jurisdiction. In America e.g., the States have different rules and statutes. Some allow a person to inherit from both his/her biological parents and the adoptive parents, while others preclude an adoptee from inheriting from his/her biological parents and allow them only to inherit from his/her adoptive parents. Under Florida law e.g., adopted children are considered descendants for the purposes of Probate. Applying these remarks to the Schaumburg-Lippe case, it would be incorrect for Mario-Max Prinz zu Schaumburg-Lippe (who often resides in America) to e.g. designate Feodora of Denmark as his grandmother or to state that he descends from King Frederik VIII of Denmark, since in everyday language, as well in a legal context, a descendent is a blood relative in the direct line of descent (Black’s Law Dictionary):

One who Is descended from another; a person who proceeds from the body of another, such as a child, grandchild, etc., to the remotest degree. The terms the opposite of “ascendant,” (?. v.). Descendants is a good term of description in a will, and includes all who proceed from the body of the person named; as grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Amb. 397; 2 Hil. Real. Prop. 242.

In the context of family law, an adoptee can be treated in the same way as a descendent, but this is a legal construct and therefore not identical to actually being a descendent. Mario-Max Prinz zu Schaumburg-Lippe is an heir to his adoptive father, but not a descendent. There is no biological relation between the adoptee and the dynasty of Schaumburg-Lippe and the genealogical chart that is presented on the website of Mario-Max Prinz zu Schaumburg-Lippe is misleading. This observation is without prejudice to Mario-Max Prinz zu Schaumburg-Lippe’s achievements in life.

Genealogical chart showing that Mario-Max Prinz zu Schaumburg-Lippe is a descendent of King Frederik VIII.of Denmark. This impression is false. The addition “of Germany” is misleading, since Mario-Max nor the House Schaumburg-Lippe have been rulers over Germany. “from Germany” would be the correct description. Source:


Traditionally (especially before 1918), adult adoption has been used as a way to save a noble family from extinction.

Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser Band XIX, C.A. Starke Verlag, Limburg a.d. Lahn 2011. Example of an adoption with the consent of the German nobiliary law association, obtained after the adoption agreement was ratified by the court and the change of name had been processed in the public registers.

In such cases, in order to be accepted as belonging to the nobility, the adoption had to be followed by a Royal consent; after 1918 replaced by a declaration of no-objection (“adelsrechtliche Nichtbeanstandung der Führung ihres adeligen Namens”) from the German nobiliary law association (“der Deutsche Adelsrechtsausschuß“). Adoptees who obtain(ed) the mentioned consent are treated as founding father of a new family (Heiner Baron v. Hoyningen gen. Huene, Der Deutsche Adelsrechtsausschuss (ARA), pp. 1,4,5,6 ):

Als auch nach 1945 die DAG und mit ihr die Nachfolgeorganisation der APA zu existieren aufhörte, bildete sich nach wenigen Jahren im Jahre 1949 – noch vor der Gründung der Vereinigung der Deut- schen Adelsverbände (VdDA) – der Ausschuss für adelsrechtliche Fragen. Initiator war Hans Friedrich v. Ehrenkrook, der bereits seit 1925 zusammen mit früheren Mitgliedern des aufgelösten Heroldsamtes dem APA angehört hatte und der bis zu seinem Tode 1968 stellvertretender Präsident des ARA war. Er war somit Garant für die erstaunlich kontinuierliche Arbeit in adelsrechtlichen Fragen in einem langen Zeitraum, seit der Auflösung des Heroldsamts bis in die jüngste Vergangenheit, in einer Zeit, die durch ständige Veränderungen geprägt war. Der Ausschuss, der seit 1977 nicht mehr “Ausschuss für adels- rechtliche Fragen der deutschen Adelsverbände” sondern “Deutscher Adelsrechtsausschuß” heißt, wur- de und wird gebildet von Vertretern der einzelnen Deutschen Adelsverbände bzw. historischer deut- scher Landschaften, für die kein Adelsverband besteht.


Für alle diese Fälle, in denen der Adelsname nach dem staatlichen bürgerlichen Recht zurecht geführt wird, ohne indessen eine Zugehörigkeit zum historischen Adel zu begründen, hält sich der ARA als Rechtsnachfolger seiner Vorgänger, der von 1918 bis 1945 bestehenden Spruchorganisationen des deutschen Adels, für befugt, in besonderen Fällen die Führung eines Adelszeichens, die nach früherem Adelsrecht unzulässig gewesen wäre, adelsrechtlich nicht zu beanstanden mit der Folge, dass der Betroffene als zum Adel gehörend angesehen wird, in das Genealogische Handbuch des Adels aufgenommen und Mitglied eines Adelsverbandes werden kann. Hierbei handelt es sich aber um seltene Ausnahmen bei Vorliegen besonderer Umstände. Denn es kann nicht Aufgabe des ARA sein, Neuadel zu schaffen. Es muß sich um Fälle handeln, in denen angenommen werden kann, dass der Monarch früher eine Nobilitierung vorgenommen hätte.


Seit 1949 hat die II. Kammer (bis incl. 2016) 105 Entscheidungen getroffen, davon 49 positiv und 56 negativ. Die Probanden, deren Namensführung adelsrechtlich nichtbeanstandet worden sind, begründen adelsrechtlich eine neue adelige Familie, die im GHdA einen eigenen Artikel erhält.

Without the mentioned consent, adult adoption by a German noble person of a non-noble adoptee as such does not create German nobility in a historical sense. Therefore, these adoptees are not listed in e.g. the Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels that contains the genealogies of these families. The position of Mario-Max Prinz zu Schaumburg-Lippe could change when he would obtain a consent from the head of one of the former reigning German dynasties. 


(1) Several heirs filed suits against this regulation. On 11 March 1966 the supreme Federal Administrative Court of Germany ruled, based on Art. 109 of the Weimar Constitution and an earlier decision of the Reichsgericht, that German law on names does not recognise hereditary surname variants for heads of families distinct from the legal surname borne by other family members. (cf., N.N. Primogenitur – Nur eine Silbe (“primogeniture – only a syllable”), in: Der Spiegel, No. 15 (1966), p. 61.

(2) Das Bürgerliche Gesetzbuch mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Rechtsprechung des Reichsgerichts und des Bundesgerichtshofes; Kommentare (=Großkommentare der Praxis (in German); “Civil Law Code with Special Attention to Jurisdiction of the Reichsgericht and the Bundesgerichtshof: Commentaries”), edited by members of the Bundesgerichthof, vol. 1: §§ 1–240, compiled by Kurt Herbert Johannsen, 12th, newly revised edition, Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 1982, § 12 (p. 54). ISBN 3-11-008973-4.

(3) According to the Advocate General Sharpston, delivered on 14 October 2010, in case C‑208/09 (Ilonka Sayn-Wittgenstein) of the European Courts of Human Rights.

(4) ECJ, Case C-208/09 Ilonka Sayn-Wittgenstein vs. Landeshauptmann von Wien, judgment of 22 December 2010, summery of the judgment, provided by the court.

The legitimacy of issuing European-style titles of nobility by traditional leaders in modern Africa

The role of traditional leaders in modern Africa is complex and has many aspects. It is discussed by advocates of “traditionalists” and of “modernists.” The traditionalists regard Africa’s traditional chiefs and elders as the true representatives of their people, accessible, respected, and legitimate, and therefore essential to politics on the continent. “Modernists,” by contrast, view traditional authority as a gerontocratic, chauvinistic, authoritarian and increasingly irrelevant form of rule that is antithetical to democracy (C. Logan, working paper 93, Afro Barometer).

Togbe Osei III, 25th Togbe of Godenu, in a gathering with other traditional rulers (picture:

In modern Africa the “traditionalists” represent the more popular view. An Afrobarometer survey of 36 African countries in 2014-15 found that 61% of people trusted local chiefs. Faith in ancient power structures has increased as people have grown more wary of modern and democratic institutions and politicians (The Economist, 19 December 2017); which is more or less the same as in West Europe. One reason is because the state in Africa is often absent. It is far more effective to ask a chief than a far-ocourt to rule in a case. Because the chief is local, his ruling may be better understood and accepted. Another reason may be that traditional leaders are seen as less corrupt, even though they tend to follow unwritten customs rather than written laws (The Economist, 19 December 2017).

These unwritten rules and customs, also called “customary law”, are defined as meaning the customs and practices traditionally observed among the indigenous African people of South Africa, which form part of the culture of those people (Bekker Seymour’s Customary Law in Southern Africa (1989) 11-13). Some African countries have definitions, whereas in other countries only descriptions can be applied and thus rules are more complex to derive. Allott says about the definitions: “Whether these definitions of customary law contribute anything by way of precision or facilitation of choice of laws is an open question.” (Allott New Essays in African Law 1970, 157).

Modern African Legal Systems

Most African legal systems consist of a complex combination of customary law, religious laws, received law (such as common law or civil law) and state legislation. In particular customary law can be hard to define in a set of rules as we know in continental Europe. The complexity becomes apparent when the application of different sources of law leads to different outcomes in specific legal cases. In Bhe v The Magistrate, Khayelitsha; Shibi v Sithole; South African Human Rights Commission v President of the Republic of South Africa, for example, the Constitutional Court declared customary rule of male primogeniture, which allows only an oldest male descendant or relative to succeed to the estate of a Black person, unconstitutional and invalid. It also declared unconstitutional and invalid, section 23(7) of the Black Administration Act which unfairly discriminates against women and others with regard to the administration and distribution of black deceased estates. The court imposed, as an interim measure, the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act on estates previously dealt with under the Black Administration Act. It also made special provision for estates relating to polygynous marriages and that estates previously administered in terms of the Black Administration Act must be administered by the Master of the High Court in terms of the Administration of Estates Act.. (J.C. Bekker and D.S. Koyana, The judicial and legislative reform of the customary law of succession, De Jure, 45 Volume 3 2012 pp 568).

In this context some traditional African leaders have started to issue ancient European titles of nobility to westerners in order to help their people fund health care and education. The question arises to what extend such titles can be regarded as legitimate, both from a historic and legal perspective. I will discuss two cases in this respect.

Case study: Ghana

On the internet, examples of European-style titles of nobility can be found that are issued by Togbe Osei III. of Godenu. For example: “The hereditary noble title of “Baron of Todome” has been conferred on November 13, 2016 by H.R.H. Togbe Osei III., by the Grace of God The Dufia of Gbi-Godenu in the Volta Region, Ghana, The Lion of Godenu, officially recognized, protected and guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana.“. The passage fees are used to contribute to important local social projects.

Ghana has a mixed system of English common law and customary law. Article 11(3) of the 1992 Constitution defines customary law as the rules of law which by custom are applicable to particular communities. Customary law is now a question of law to be determined by the courts. In Muslim communities, the reference to customary law is a reference to Islamic law or the Sharia. Customary law is not codified. Under Sections 42 and 43 of the Ghana Chieftaincy Act, 1971 (Act 370), as amended by Chieftaincy (Amendment) Decree, 1973(NRCD 166), Chieftaincy (Amendment) (No. 2) Decree, 1973 (NRCD 226), Chieftaincy (Amendment) Law, 1982 (PNDCL25) and Chieftaincy (Amendment) Law, 1993 (PNDCL 307), the National House of Chiefs and/or a Regional House of Chiefs, can draft their declaration of customary law for approval and publication as a legislative instrument by the President after consultation with the Chief Justice (V. Essien, Researching Ghanaian Law, Hauser Global Law School Program, New York University School of Law, 2005).

I have not discovered in Ghana’s common law nor in Ghana’s customary law (as determined by the courts) a rule or basis that makes it possible to issue European-style titles of nobility. In particular, Ghana’s Constitution makes no mention of such a practice. Therefore, it seems to be the case that this practice has no legal basis. From a historical perspective, the mentioned practice has never occurred. Does this mean that such titles are not legitimate? More specifically, the question is: are there any objections regarding the issuance of western titles by Togbe Osei III and what is their value? I already addressed this question in my article about the former King Kigeli of Rwanda. That case involved a former head of state. In the Ghana-case it concernes a ruling traditional chief, as legally embedded in Ghana’s constitution.

It could be hard to embed a local nobility in Ghana’s regions, since there is no legal basis for it. Nobility can even be seen as unlawful. The President of the National House of Chiefs, the Agbogbomefia of the Ho Asogli State, Togbe Afede XIV, recently said one of the objectives of his administration would be to restore the nobility and reverence of the chieftaincy institution to enable it to effectively play its roles in society as expected (Ghanaweb, 2 February 2017, Do not meddle in politics. Togbe Afede tells chiefs). Issuing European-style titles may currently be the only safe way to bestow honours, since Ghana law is neutral about them in the same way as e.g. Italian law.

Like other major Western noble titles, baron is sometimes used to render certain titles in non-Western languages with their own traditions (e.g. the Indian equivalent Rao and the Székely equivalent primor, historically used among a specific population of Hungarians in Transsylvania). From a historic perspective these titles are unrelated and thus hard to compare. They are considered comparable in relative rank. Even in Western Europe the term Baron can hardly be compared among the different European countries or even among different regions within a country. Therefore, when using the title in public, the source of the title should be mentioned; although the word is the same, internationally it has a different meaning.

In my opinion, European-style titles and honours might be unconventional, but can be accepted. There is no authority to forbid the Togbe (literally meaning “grandfather”, the Ewe (1) reference for a chief) to style Europeans and Americans in a European manner. I think the Togbe simply wants to make his titles more attractive to westerners, which is understandable. Issuing original Ghanese-style titles to westerners would be unconventional  as well and could even be unlawful. On the other hand, at least one example exists that contradicts the latter suggestion. Therefore, it remains an open question to what extend it is legitimate to issue European titles. I tend to see them as legitimate, but only when used in proper circumstances as described below.


  • African leaders might not have enough insight regarding the intentions of westerners that want to be involved in charity in Africa in exchange a title of some kind. Frankly, these intentions are not important as long as the titles are bestowed upon worthy individuals and the passage fee is used for the good. However, not taking into account the character and behaviour of the recipients might lead to situations in which the issuer is disgraced. Low passage fees will contribute to attracting gold diggers. More importantly, it also designates low value.
  • Today’s internet facilities attract numerous title hunters who make ridiculous appearances on the internet, thus jeopardising the reputation of the honour- or award-issuer. Such persons also decrease the value of the titles that are awarded. It is not easy to spot such title and medal hunters from an African perspective. Therefore, African leaders, that choose to issue titles to fund their regional charities are advised to carefully select a western intermediary of high reputation to represent them in such matters. Appointing the first person who comes knocking on the door is unwise.
  • The use of the title should not lead to confusion and irritation with European title holders. Therefore, on social media (e.g. the “Awards” section on LinkedIn) mentioning the title should e.g. read as: Baron of Todome (13 November 2016), title issued by the Togbe Osei III, 25th Togbe of Godenu. Extravagant use of the title should be avoided: less is more.
  • I have a problem with use of the terms “King” and “Royal”, without any further explanation. In the context of antiquity and contemporary indigenous peoples, the title can refer to tribal kingship. Germanic kingship is cognate with Indo-European traditions of tribal rulership (c.f. Indic rājan, Gothic reiks, and Old Irish , etc.), but it differs from the modern use of the term “King” (head of a state). It needs to be explained that the terms “King” and “Royal” refer to tribal kingship. I suggest that this explanation is put on the website of the House of Godenu.
  • I also have a problem with creating all kinds of “Royal” institutions, without any real substance. Some representatives of African Houses have e.g. created non-accredited Royal Universities, Honorary Guards, a Hall of Fame, a Royal Society, a Royal Warrant Holder Society, a Royal Commission of Nobility and Royalty, a Royal College of Technology Foundation, a Royal General Register of All Arms and Bearings and other institutions that try to mimic those of reigning European monarchs. All these institutions are presented in a manner that immediately shows a lack of good taste. In my opinion, these institutions are – to put it in a diplomatic manner – not appropriate and therefore should be avoided. African chiefs have their own identity and should not try to become European because of possible commercial gain. The result of these creations without any substance will be that ancient historic African families are again disgraced by westerners. They will be regarded as fake and ridiculous by the public. An example of a genuine and modest presentation, with a focus on history, research and good intentions, is the website of the House of Rwanda. I suggest this website is used as an example.

Comments and different points of view regarding this article are most welcome.


(1) Ewe (Èʋe or Èʋegbe [èβeɡ͡be]) is a Niger–Congo language spoken in southeastern Ghana by approximately 6–7 million people as either the first or second language.


I have copied the opinion of Dr. W.H. Jones, because of his interesting views on the matters, discussed in my article. I was not able to trace the original anymore on the internet.

Granting of Orders and Titles by H.M. King Kigeli V of Rwanda

| 17.03.2007 | 18:40:33 | Views: 398


BSc (Econ) London, MA, PGCertTESOL, EdD Macquarie, JP NSW, 16 March 2007

Is it possible for the present King of Rwanda, being King Kigeli V, to grant honours which are based on European nobiliary titles?

In February 2007, during a discussion between interested members on a public Internet discussion site devoted to heraldic matters, the question of titles being awarded by King Kigeli of Rwanda was raised.

Following these discussions, which at times became quite heated, the current President of the International Commission for Orders of Chivalry (ICOC), (See Footnote 1) Dr Pier Felice degli Uberti, issued an invitation on 19 February 2007 as follows:

Footnote 2. 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.

I accept the invitation to prepare a study. The study will not be published in one of Dr degli Uberti’s reviews as it is not presented in a way that meets the requirements for his reviews. In addition I am not able to participate in the International Colloquium of Genealogy organized by Institut International d’Etudes Généalogiques for September / October 2007.

The invitation was stated as being to those who have something to say against the idea of the King Kigeli to grant “honours” using name of “European nobiliary titles”. However I prefer in an academic treatise to pose a question in positive terms. That being so, the question could be posed quite succinctly as follows:

“Is it possible for the present King of Rwanda, being King Kigeli, to grant honours which are based on European nobiliary titles?”

This whole matter arises because King Kigeli V of Rwanda is in fact not a reigning monarch, but a deposed monarch. He was appointed in 1959, deposed in 1961 and initially fled into exile to Tanzania. Since 1992 he has lived in exile in the USA.

The practice of referring to someone by a title and of a person using a title is one of social convention rather than a legal requirement. While a person might well be fully entitled (sic) to use a title or to be referred to as a holder of such a title, there are seldom any legal sanctions if this is not done. Within the military such disregard or disrespect might be a disciplinary offence but in the civilian world such non-use or non-recognition is normally just bad manners or ignorance. The sanction might be that one is not invited to official functions again, while for those who refuse to recognise or use titles for someone who has such an honour from a monarch in exile such as King Kigeli, then the sanction is not to be invited to future private functions.

However, for the purposes of this study it might be useful to pose the problem in two parts.

Can any modern-day monarch create honours or titles based on current or past titles which are conventionally used in European nobiliary traditions?

Following from this, can a deposed modern-day monarch create titles based on current or past titles which are conventionally used in European nobiliary traditions?

Can any modern-day monarch create honours or titles based on current or past titles which are conventionally used in European nobiliary traditions?

The term “Honours” has a wide meaning but for this question it probably means:

Titles of honour in the European traditions, such as duke, marquess / marquis, earl, count, viscount, baron, lord, and baronet. There may be others of course, such as “grandee” in Spain and “noble” in some countries.

Decorations, medals and orders, which can be created or issued for a very wide range of purposes, eg. Orders of chivalry with between one and any number of classes, orders of merit, also of between one and a number of classes, bravery awards, merit awards, commemoration awards and long service awards.

There are many other meanings for “honours” but these are the ones dealt with in this paper.

At Footnote 3 there is an opinion on what constitutes Orders of Knighthood. There are also comments on sources of legitimacy and legitimacy is a central element in recognition of “honours”.

“Monarch”, while being a fairly specific word, really means the executive or ceremonial head of government of a country, and this could – of course – be a President. Therefore, while this paper does not look at the acts of “presidents”, it can be taken that modern-day presidents can do much the same as monarchs can do, again within the limits imposed by the type of constitution or government that any country is ruled under.

“Titles” in the European context are a social construct and are not scientific phenomena. While the specific meaning of the various ranks within the nobiliary might well have had some specific meaning at some time in the past, changing over the centuries, nowadays such distinctions are mostly a matter of social recognition. One country where the nobiliary had real legal political power was the peerage in United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK), but recent reforms have reduced that power drastically. What is left in the way of “power” from the peerage in the UK is mostly persuasive and social.

Note: After the British Labour Party came to power in 1997, it began the process of reforming the House of Lords. Under the House of Lords Act 1999, hereditary peerages do not entitle individuals to seats in the House of Lords. The Act did provide exemptions for the Earl Marshal, the Lord Great Chamberlain and ninety others elected by the peers. Further reform of the Lords is under consideration.

“Nobles” is a more difficult concept to generalise on. Again it is a social construct, but it is nevertheless ingrained deep into the consciousness of many European traditions. Much like a grant of arms, “nobility” is seen by some as an incorporeal hereditment, perhaps inalienable in some conventions. In Britain, perhaps excepting Scotland which has some traditions of its own, there is not a “noble” class per se. Only peers are regarded as part of the peerage and their brothers and sisters normally only receive courtesy titles.

Guy Stair Sainty is the author of a paper entitled, “A Summary of the Use of the Royal Prerogatives, its use by the Heirs to Former Thrones and by Republican or Revolutionary Regimes” Footnote 4. Therein he mentions that “certifications of nobility were issued by the Stuart claimants, despite being an alien practice for which there was no need in England (there being no privileged nobility other than the Peerage)” … and these were routinely accepted by nobiliary authorities in France, Spain, Italy and the Empire.) However “nobility” as a discrete element is not dealt with in this paper, as whole books can be written on the subject

Honours and awards are created by convention, normally part of the executive prerogative within a state. Invariably, such honours and awards do not have extra-territorial effect but normal politeness will normally provide at least social acceptance extra-territorially.

At official or diplomatic level, one country will normally accept whatever descriptions are given by sending countries. A somewhat idiosyncratic position was taken by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam of Australia for a while during his tenure of office from 1972 to 1975. He is said to have disputed titles such as “Duke of Gloucester” and referred to the then incumbent as “Prince Henry” Prime Ministers can do much as they like but that ponderous interpretation did not last very long. (See in, Whitlam, E. G. “The Truth of the Matter”. Melbourne: Penguin Books, 1979; W H Jones, “Development of the System of Honours and Awards in Australia”, 1986, Macquarie University).

There are many good sources to find details of the honours and awards issued by the countries of the world. The Internet will provide good references. The Orders and Medals Research Society is a good source for worldwide information (,) and has the added attraction of having HRH the Prince of Wales as its Patron. On a more esoteric and limited scale there is the private organization known as the International Commission for Orders of Chivalry (ICOC) ( ). Both of these sites can give a guide to past and present honours.

It is a matter of international practice that governments of different countries generally recognize the acts of other countries, unless they are at war or unless there are some other reasons for not recognizing particular acts, laws or conventions. Honours and awards are no exception and countries will normally recognize the awards of other countries. This does not mean that they will give permission to use, accept or wear such honours, except under specific circumstances. Recognition does not imply “permission to wear”.

Switzerland is the only country that I am aware of that specifically does not allow its citizens to have medals and honours in the sense used in this study. This is not a prohibition on non-Swiss from having, using or accepting honours. By exception, Swiss are permitted to serve in the Pontifical Lifeguard (Swiss Guard) and to accept decorations from the Holy See.

Keeping to the subject of honours, almost all countries nowadays create, amend, vary or even disestablish honours. Again a good source on new and defunct honours is the OMRS. A good example of a recent change to a Royal Order is in Britain where the Royal Victorian Order renamed the grade of MVO 4th Class to LVO (Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order). There have also been changes to the Order of the Bath within the last hundred years and of course the Order of the British Empire is less than one hundred years old. The most recent change in the Order of the British Empire is to introduce a lapel badge (2007). While not strictly relevant to the topic of this paper, a point to bear in mind is that some British honours are “dynastic” to the extent that they remain within the control of the monarch – The Garter, Thistle, Royal Victorian Order and the Order of Merit. Most UK gallantry and long service awards have undergone recent changes, particularly by the removal of distinctions between which ranks can receive which awards.


The answer to the first question – “Can any modern-day monarch create titles based on current or past titles which are conventionally used in European nobiliary traditions?” must be yes. The only way in which the executive authority of the monarch (or head of state) in power can be curtailed is by the laws and conventions of the country concerned.

“How” such honours are created can differ. It may be through Orders in Council during the exercise of executive prerogative or it may be by legislation.

To look at King Kigeli of Rwanda in this context, if he had created honours and awards during his very brief period as monarch (1959 to 1961), I doubt very much if such creations would be an issue. They might have been unwise, unconventional or even bizarre, but, in my opinion, they would have been properly established. There are no governing principles or international law or custom that he must follow. The King, if he chose to do so, could create an entirely new system of aristocracy, honours, titles or anything else that followed neither European nor African precedents.

Mr Richard Lichten has referred me to an article on creations within the Japanese peerage. In 1869 under the new Meiji government, a Japanese peerage was created by an Imperial decree merging the former Court nobility (kuge) and former feudal lords (daimyo) into a single new aristocratic class called the kazoku. The House of Peers consisted of princes, marquises, counts, viscounts and barons. The Korean empire also had a system of aristocratic rank that equated to that of Europe, with titles similar to those of Japan. Although these titles may have seemed strange at the time, they created a hierarchy that was comprehensible to both the Japanese and Koreans, and also to outsiders. Nobody would deny the rulers of Japan and Korea the right to create European-style titles, but the main point made by Mr Lichten, is that these rulers had the right of fons honorum. King Kigeli does not.

The Emperor Napoleon 1 of France created a whole range of titles, with rules quite distinct from previous traditions. Nevertheless these were perfectly valid, because they were created by a ruling monarch – despite the interesting fact that he was the “Emperor of the Republic of France”. Footnote 5. Napoleonic Titles and Heraldry Napoléon’s official style, “Napoléon, par la grâce de Dieu et les Constitutions de la République, Empereur des Français”

Source : Brigadier General D Fourie, member of the South African Defence Force Honours Advisory Committee and of the South African Heraldry Council, March 2007.

Can a deposed monarch create honours or titles based on current or past titles which are conventionally used in European nobiliary traditions?

While this question is looked at from the perspective of King Kigeli of Rwanda as a deposed monarch, the answer is likely to be the same for any ex-monarch and for their heirs who might be described as “pretenders”.

There have been many instances of deposed monarchs or governments purporting to establish governments-in-exile. These have had varying levels of support, at least for some years. There was a Polish government in exile between 1939 and 1990 and this claimed to be the de jure government of Poland according to the 1935 constitution until 1990 when communism fell and free elections were held. During this time the PGinE continued to make what might be considered by some as lawful awards of Polish orders. By the 1970s no state recognized the PGinE but such diplomatic recognition was regarded by some as irrelevant to its legality, in much the same way as an interregnum had continued in Poland between 1795 and 1919. It might well be the case that King Kigeli or any other deposed dynasties could raise similar arguments, but it is usually the de facto position that holds the most sway.

In the first place – and quite probably the most important issue – there is the lack of a system within which to establish honours, however described. A monarch in exile does not control the apparatus of the state from which he (or she) is exiled, so it is most unlikely that that state would formally recognize any acts of the former head of state. I know of no state that affords such internal recognition. Portugal is one country that treats the pretender to the throne of Portugal very well, but this does not imply any recognition of acts exercised by the pretender or any of his descendants.

Looking outside Rwanda, one could look to see if honours created by a monarch in exile or a pretender to a throne are recognized, regardless of non-recognition in Rwanda. . I know of not one country that recognizes any actions of any kind by King Kigeli as being effective in Rwanda. There are no known instances in modern times of honours created by monarchs in exile being recognized extra-territorially, although for a while the honours created by the Stuart monarchs in exile received some form of acceptance in some Continental countries. There is no international system in place within which King Kigeli can create honours which have any international meaning or which any international body will acknowledge as having any meaning in Rwanda.

In general I would rely on a statement from a distinguished source:

Footnote 6 Dr Pier Felice degli Uberti, 2007 President of the International Commission for Orders of Chivalry (ICOC).19 February 2007 ” … (I) consider valid and undisputable from a legal point of view only a grant of honours or nobiliary titles coming from a Sovereign on the throne or a State sovereign.

Also relevant are the following:

Footnote 7. I want to precise that although I disagree from a legal point of view with the grants of nobiliary titles made from exile or by descendants, that effectively do not have any value, I consider them a good idea … PFdU

Footnote 8. As you know I disagree with the grants of nobiliary titles given from exile in every case, less and less if the grants come from descendants.

Of course King Kigeli could consider himself to be the Rwandan government in exile and act as a de jure monarch even though de facto deposed. If he is acting as lawful king (but lawful in whose opinion?) though in exile, the question then arises of whether he should consider himself to be guided exclusively by the laws of (Belgian) Rwanda as they existed at the time of his de facto position as monarch, or if he is free to go beyond the restricted royal role of the colonial period. This is hardly a serious question, as it would be specious to argue on the one hand that he should not have been deposed and on the other that because he is now a free agent, although in exile, he can now go beyond powers he had when de facto in power.

What then can King Kigeli do?

As a free man King Kigeli can do virtually anything that is not illegal. It is not illegal to create titles or to purport to do so. The Stuarts in exile did so. The Hutt River Principality in Australia is a good example of self-created titles. There are hundreds if not thousands of societies that grant titles and give awards.

The only real question is what the value is of such titles.

Creation of titles by King Kigeli

King Kigeli has purported to create titles-in-waiting, if I might use that expression, by the issue of Letters Patent that have no legal authority (meaning enforceable authority) but that are not in themselves illegal.They are in effect a form of promissory note without any real intention, possibility or capability of being honoured. But see Footnote 11.

Here is an example of the King’s own words: (See Footnote 10)

By the Grace of God King of Rwanda etc

… We do grant a title of honour, correspondent to the hereditary nobiliary title of (eg Marquis / Count / Baron etc) in the European tradition. This hereditary nobiliary title of (Marquis / Count / etc) shall descend by way of male primogeniture, We engage ourselves to make lawful, valid and executive the nobiliary title of …

These Letters Patent have as much meaning as a similar document issued by any person, but have the added cachet of being issued by a former head of state, who may – just may – become head of state again. Because King Kigeli was born in 1935 and has no known descendants the Letters Patent have doubtful value. In addition there is no indication in the Letters Patent that there is any provision or promise to bind or “engage” any person or body other than the King to make the title “lawful, valid and executive”.

The question then arises about the purpose of the Letters Patent. From Footnote 12 it is clear that the current format of the Letters Patent came after there was some concern about titles being created and granted by King Kigeli. Dr degli Uberti, because of his expertise and background in matters of honours undertook to assist in trying to put in place a system to regularize the granting of titles of honour, while making it clear that the titles had no immediate effect.

Footnote 12. I … am pragmatic and for me every title coming from a former Sovereign (or his descendants) has no legal public official value … not only Africa, but particularly old Europe.

One of King Kigeli’s former close advisers sees the matter in a practical light. With regard to intention, he remarks (see Footnote 9),

” … Anyone may have a political agenda in order to resume the power in his Country and has the right to invent any strategy that can bring about the realization of that plan.

In other words, it is a strategy to regain power in some way, presumably by raising money and gathering adherents for some future endeavour.

A more argumentative interpretation is posed by some of the opponents of such titles, at worst, without saying that creating titles could have every indication of being a form of confidence trick, which attracts funds but offers only a chimera (vain or idle fantasy) in return, playing on individual gullibility or vanity.

Issues about the validity of titles are real, as can be seen in the current controversy (2007) in the UK, on the supposed misuse of the honours system there,

The real question ten remains as to why King Kigeli felt the need to create such nobiliary titles. He had already created a number of “Orders” and other decorations and medals (See following paragraphs – Creation of other honours by King Kigeli V)

The orders and decorations created under the imprimatur of King Kigeli V seemed to find a ready supply of recipients, who, presumably, paid for such honours, either by way of contributions to the causes favoured by King Kigeli or by way of “passage” fees for admittance to the various Orders.

Why then the urge to create further honours in the form of nobiliary titles? Lacking any other plausible explanation, the indications are that it was based on advice from outside King Kigeli’s knowledge, and perhaps as an additional means of raising funds.

The possibilities are legion, but the conclusion one must come to is that King Kigeli was poorly advised in agreeing to establish a system of titles based on European traditions. They have nothing to do with Rwanda or indeed with anything in Africa and, more importantly, did not exist whill he was in power.

There have been some suggestions by his advisers, former advisers and others that there is a distinction between “honours” and “titles”. Such advice may well have been given in good faith, but it is doubtful if such a distinction is really valid.

Footnote 2 (but I repeat they are not nobiliary titles but only honours)

Footnote 9. These people believe incorrectly that the King has placed himself into a position whereby he grants titles of nobility. This belief is incorrect and absolutely false. This can be understood by reading and understanding the … documents signed by the King. The King of Rwanda … does not desire to, nor does He grant to individuals any European noble title (baron, count or marquis). …

I repeat – King Kigeli grants ONLY honors and not titles.

These statements are contradictory within themselves and are also contradicted by the specific words of the King in the example Letters Patent mentioned above, viz;

Footnote 10. We do grant a title of honour, correspondent to the hereditary nobiliary title of (eg Marquis / Count / Baron etc) in the European tradition.

This hereditary nobiliary title of (Marquis / Count / etc)

We engage ourselves to make lawful, valid and executive the nobiliary title of (etc)

The plain fact is that dukedoms, marquisates, earldoms, viscountcies, baronies lordships and baronetcies are all quite clearly titles, within the ordinary meaning of the word. One can quibble about the difference between “title of honour” and “title” but in reality it makes little difference. The grants, titles or honours are unmistakably, from the words of the Letters Patent, intended to be legitimized on the accession of King Kigeli to the throne of Rwanda, as hereditary titles with descent by primogeniture. The King’s ability to effect such legitimization must be in doubt, but this is always a possibility, however remote.

Creation of honours other than titles by King Kigeli

Much the same remarks as have been made about the creation of titles apply to the creation of Orders and decorations. At country or state level, such creations are routine.At a private level, including pretenders to thrones, it is not illegal to do so, is harmless, and if anyone wishes to recognize such orders and decorations then they can do so. Governments invariably will not do so. The following words, already quoted, are apt in this context:

Footnote 6. Dr Pier Felice degli Uberti, 2007 President of the International Commission for Orders of Chivalry (ICOC). 19 February 2007 ” … (I) consider valid and undisputable from a legal point of view only a grant of honours or nobiliary titles coming from a Sovereign on the throne or a State sovereign.

Creation of orders and decorations, in a way, is a much less objectionable way of rewarding services and of fund-raising. Those awarded such orders and decorations can wear them privately or on any occasion where they would be socially acceptable.

The Order of the Lion of Rwanda is one Order created by King Kigeli. There are no records of the existence of such order before King Kigeli was deposed, so it must have the status of a newly-created Order in exile. There is no conflict with an existing Order in Rwanda under the control of the present government. Therefore, there is no situation comparable to the Stuarts (James II) in exile purporting to create Knights of the Garter. On the other hand, if evidence were to be provided that the Rwandan Order of the Lion did exist before King Kigeli was deposed, then the situation would be much the same as pertained during the time of ex-king James II of Britain and King William III of Britain – one set of awards would have recognition from a de facto ruler and one from a self-styled de jure ruler.

Use of titles and honours from King Kigeli V

One of my functions as Chief of Protocol in Rhodesia and Zimbabwe was to deal with issues of precedence and appropriate ways of recognizing titles, honours and awards. In this regard I came in contact with current heads of government, and ministers existing royalty and former royalty.

During the Independence celebrations for Zimbabwe (leading up to 18 April 1980, I dealt with the then Governor, Lord Soames and also had some time with HRH Prince Charles, Camilla Parker Bowles as she was then and Lt Col Andrew Parker Bowles.

At the Independence Dinner itself on 17 April 1980, I had to advise Prime Minister Mugabe on how to resolve the problem of an uninvited guest, Daniel Ortega, who announced himself as the head of the new five man ruling junta in Nicaragua. Living in Rhodesia at the time was King Leka of Albania and his wife, Queen Susan (an Australian). There were issues on how to deal with them and I had a number of problems in this regard.

I looked after HRH the Duke of Kent during a brief stopover in Zimbabwe, and also various Presidents, Prime Ministers, the UN Secretary General, ambassadors, Cardinals and other prominent people in the world of politics.How then might I have advised persons honoured by King Kigeli V?

I might well have given the following advice privately to those who had received decorations such as “knighthood” equivalents, and recipients of “titles” such as marquis from monarchs or pretenders in exile. I would have suggested that they treasure such honours and use them quite openly in appropriate circumstances. By all means use such titles as “Chevalier” in appropriate circumstances and even in correspondence with people who afford such recognition. I might well have suggested that it was no business of anyone else’s what was done in this regard. The appropriate circumstances, however, were unlikely to be official events. “Titles” such as marquis are always a more difficult issue, because they make a statement about social standing, not just for oneself but also for one’s family. They also place a person in a social position in relation to those who might claim “legitimate” titles, if I might use that expression.

However, I would have advised such title-holders in much the same way as those who held positions in Orders – use the title with discretion, within the appropriate milieu. In both instances, my opinion is that recipients of such honours should not be afraid to admit belonging to an order or having a title. If a monarch in exile or a pretender saw fit to honour someone in this fashion then it would be quite proper to admit it. Not to do so would mean denying the donor. The significant issue is to use or display such titles and awards with discretion.

In general, I believe this advice is consistent with that provided by Dr degli Uberti (See Internet site rec.heraldry 18 February 2007). See Footnote 12. Edited from rec.heraldry of 18 Feb 2007. Dr degli Uberti does seem to feel the need to make a case for a distinction between “titles as honours but not titles as such” on the one hand and other forms of titles on the other. I would not agree with this interpretation but it really is not that significant. I see no problem with creating what purport to be titles and calling them titles, as long as the recipients are aware of the uncertain status of such titles within the international community and – more importantly – as long as such tiles are used with circumspection. The Letters Patent from King Kigeli make it clear that the titles are subject to being made valid if the king ever returns to his throne.

Conclusion and Summary

The question that was posed is “What is the position on the idea of the King Kigeli of Rwanda to grant honours using names of European nobiliary titles”


In a very few words, it is not illegal or even improper for King Kigeli to purport to grant honours using names of European nobiliary titles, but this amounts in present circumstances to a private act or acts, backed only by the cachet of being an ex-king, with a remote chance of ever becoming king again. I believe Dr degli Uberti and I are in agreement on many points, and I quote : “King Kigeli – as other former Sovereigns or Chiefs of House – is right in creating new awards (orders), that have value (private) only among his supporters and among those who want to give them value, and are different from those created in Europe” From Footnote 12.


Footnote 1

IOCC Website.

The Commission is a private body, the worth and seriousness of which wholly depends upon the worth and seriousness of its component Members. In the past, there have been errors in scientific evaluation and interpretation, or times when the Commission exceeded its institutional role. Therefore, the new Statutes require a specific academic grounding of those who seek to become Members and these persons must demonstrate their experience in the field of the study of chivalric orders, decorations and awards systems through publications and other specific work.

Footnote 2

I wish only make an invitation. 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”

Footnote 2

(but I repeat they are not nobiliary titles but only honours):

Continuation of Footnote 2

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 (Nobiltà or Il Mondo del Cavaliere ), 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.

If the person cannot participate for the distance I will publish the intervention among the proceedings of the Colloquium, so it will be conserved in many of the Libraries and Archives in the world which receive also my reviews.It must be a true study not only personal opinions without scientific support.By my side I will prepare a study on the argument supported by historical precedents of dynasties who granted nobiliary tiles from the exile in Countries where the concept of nobility (as we mean in Europe) did not exist, that should be an ahistorical precedent of common usage between historical dynasties.I will begin from the Oriental Empire, so I will utilize this study also for the next International Colloquium of Genealogy in Romania on May 2007.

Footnote 3

Legitimacy and [of] Orders of Knighthood

This essay was first published in December 1996. – François Velde.

Footnote 4



In Portugal, both the deposed Monarch, Miguel I, and the last King of the “liberal” Monarchy (deposed in 1910), bestowed titles of nobility while in exile. H.R.H. Dom Duarte, Duke of Braganza, the claimant to the Portuguese Throne, has not only awarded the Royal Order of the Immaculate Conception of Villa Viçosa, the only Order of the former Kingdom not taken over by the Republic, but has also re-established a long dormant Order, that of Saint Michael of the Wing, with members across Europe and a handful in the United States (now reformed as an Association rather than an Order) The Republican authorities have looked with a benevolent eye on the activities of Dom Duarte, who has a substantial following within the country and has always conducted himself with considerable dignity. His late father created a Council of Nobility, now under the Presidency of the Marques de Pombal, which he has invested with delegated powers to confirm in his name titles created during the Monarchy but now extinct or dormant. A feature of the titles created under the “liberal” monarchy was that a substantial number were created for the life of the grantee, or for one or two lives thereafter. The Council has also been given the power to revive or extend the life of such titles, generally, although not necessarily, for the representative of the original grantee. Thus, by such “revivals” the Council may sometimes be creating new titles.


It may be safely stated that the legitimate claimants to the Headship of formerly reigning families can assume the prerogative to award their Royal or Dynastic Orders and, to the extent that the last Constitutions of those particular Monarchies so permitted, enjoy such other prerogatives as can be exercised in actuality. These may, for example, include the right to create or confirm titles of nobility, provided such creations conform with the legal requirements established before the fall of the Monarchy. They would not include, on the other hand, such provisions as being Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of that country, as that responsibility is likely to have been assumed by another under the Constitution of the successor state. It may not always be possible for a Head of a Dynasty to comply with the precise requirements of the Monarchical law because of the disappearance of an historic office or position. To the extent that it is possible and practical, such requirements should be met and the various acts properly recorded.

Whether these awards have any validity outside the realm of private law would depend on the attitude of other Sovereign states. As several reigning Heads of State having accepted the Austrian Order of the Golden Fleece, itself recognized by the Austrian Republic, the exercise of that particular prerogative can be considered as having been recognized in public law (precisely because it is held not to derive from the claim to the throne). The same applies to the Grand Magistery of the Constantinian Order which, although divided, is recognized as a non-national Order by the Government of Italy and, in Spain, is recognized as an award and is invited to participate in ceremonies along with the Orders of Malta and the Holy Sepulcher. German Law seems to acknowledge the right of the heads of formerly reigning families to award their Orders and several states have recognized, in the past, titles created by exiled Sovereigns whom they accorded some form of recognition (such as those by the exiled Stuarts). Whether or not a claimant chooses to exercise these prerogatives, he or she would be well advised to do so with caution and discretion; one day the Dynasty might be restored and a future Sovereign would not wish to be embarrassed by having to acknowledge as legitimate those actions of his immediate antecedents which would be better forgotten.

Footnote 5

See Napoleonic Titles and Heraldry Napoléon’s official style,paper provided to me by Brigadier General D Fourie, member of the South African Defence Force Honours Advisory and of the South African Heraldry Council. “Napoléon, par la grâce de Dieu et les Constitutions de la République, Empereur des Français”

Footnote 6

What a strange thing for me (who consider valid and undisputable from a legal point of view only a grant of honours or nobiliary titles coming from a Sovereign on the throne or a State sovereign) to take on the justification of a former King who used for his honours also the name of European nobiliary titles. Dr. Pier Felice degli Uberti

Footnote 7

I want to precise that although I disagree from a legal point of view with the grants of nobiliary titles made from exile or by descendants, that effectively do not have any value, I consider them a good idea particularly valid as moral value which in some manner in private ambient maintain a tradition of our culture which deserves not to die. Dr. Pier Felice degli Uberti

Footnote 8

As you know I disagree with the grants of nobiliary titles given from exile in every case, less and less if the grants come from descendants. Dr. Pier Felice degli Uberti

Footnote 9 (edited by me, WHJ).

Occasionally, on the Internet Newgroup, several have mistakenly written concerning the HONORS granted from the former King of the Rwanda. This has probably been caused in part by the ignorance (unscientific awareness) of some of the newsgroups’ frequent visitors who have seen certain web site references to European noble titles … granted by the King of Rwanda.

These people believe incorrectly that the King has placed himself into a position whereby he grants titles of nobility. This belief is incorrect and absolutely false. This can be understood by reading and understanding the ,… documents signed by the King.

The King is perfectly acquainted with the law in His Country and does not desire to, nor does He grant to individuals any European noble title (baron, count or marquis). To do so would be against the tradition of His reign as King of Rwanda and against the laws and culture of the country of Rwanda.

In commonsense terms, the King, in order to reward his faithful supporters who had worked with him in support of the causes of the Rwandan people, had decided as a “political plan” or course of action to create honors comparable or merely similar to the ancient European Noble Titles which had been granted from the European monarchs in the past or the present (as they are legally done today with full authority

The King knows well that his position is completely different from those held by current monarchs on the throne – who also have the tradition to grant noble titles

The position of King Kigeli … is one of a monarch outside of the throne or a FORMER ruler of a country … he does not have the prerogatives to grant a title of nobility in any way, much less according to the ancient rules based on the European model.

However, it does not prohibit the Monarch from the granting of the honors that in this moment of time and space only have value to the inside or membership of his dynasty and between his diligent and loyal supporters. This does not however have any official value but reveals only a term of endearment.

In the document the King of the Rwanda engages himself with His word or promises as King to render these honors in Rwanda valid upon a day of the King’s return as Monarch to the throne, and obviously in that case He will change also the law in his Country in order to allow the full legal acknowledgment of thes