Legal opinion: the legitimacy of the claims of The Ó Súilleabháin Mór


On 11 October 2014, Dr. Gary Brian O’Sullivan (California, 1955) was elected as the Hereditary Chief of the Name of the Ó Súilleabháin Clan of Munster by the derbhfine (male descendants of a common great-grandfather) at Dunderry Castle (1) in the village of Gravier, near Nevers, France (source: minutes of the meeting). He is since then designated as GarraíEoin Brian Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith:

Dr. Ó Súilleabháin is a certified, direct, male, descendant of MeicRaith, the Chief of the Ó Súilleabháin Clan c. 1400 AD. 


On October 11, 2014, Dr. Ó Súilleabháin was elected as the Hereditary Chief of the Name of the Ó Súilleabháin Clann of Munster by the derbhfine of the clan, upon the abdication of his older brother, Donal Seosamh Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith III, (Hereditary Chief of the Name of the Ó Súilleabháin Clann of Munster 2004 – 2014).

This article addresses the question to what extent the claims of Dr. O’Sullivan are, from a historical and legal perspective, legitimate.

I start by addressing the nature of ancient Irish society, since this puts the older genealogy of the O’Sullivan family in a broader perspective. Then, I explain the main characteristics of Irish family history in order to understand the difficulties that Irish genealogists face. Subsequently, I describe Dr. O’Sullivan’s line of succession, which is the core of the study.

The relations between the Spanish and Irish nobility need to be mentioned in order to understand the relevance of the registration of the coat of arms of Dr. O’Sullivan by Don Alfonso de Ceballos-Escalera y Gila, Marques de la Floresta, as Chronicler of Arms for Castile and León.

The aforementioned paragraphs form the basis for the conclusions of this study.

Ancient Irish society

In Gaelic Ireland, society was organized around traditional kinship groups. The terms “tribe”, “clan” and “sept” refer to such groups. Due to a lack of historical sources, it is impossible to exactly define the nature of these entities. As Irish nationalist politician and lawyer Laurence Ginnell (1852-1923) put it: “Knowledge of the real nature of the Ireland’s clan or tribal system would be a master-key to much connected with ancient Ireland that is now mysterious, and would remove many stumbling-blocks, if not all.” He explains:

Tuath, Cinel, and Clann, were the words used interchangeably to denote what we now call indifferently a clan or tribe. It resembled the Gens of ancient Rome in that all the members of it claimed descent from a remote fine, and from a common ancestor as head of that fine, and were therefore kinsfolk, were entitled severally to various rights dependent on the degree of relationship and other facts, and formed collectively a state, political and proprietorial, with a distinct municipal individuality and life, with a legislature of its own and an army in gremio; but in these two latter respects slightly subject to, and forming a member of, a superior state consisting of a federation of similar communities. Each clan was composed of a number of septs, and each sept was composed of a number of fines. Kinship was the web and bond of society throughout the whole clan; and all lesser rights whatsoever were subject to those of the clan.

Theoretically, it was a true kinship of blood, but in practice it may have been to some extent one of absorption or adoption. Strangers settling in the district, conducting themselves well, and intermarrying with the clan, were after a few generations indistinguishable from it. A chief or a flaith also occasionally wished to confer on a stranger the dignity and advantages of clanship—practically meaning citizenship—and when he had obtained the sanction of the clan assemblies, the stranger was adopted in the presence of the assembled clan by public proclamation.

In the course of time the name Tuath came to be applied to the district occupied by a clan, and Cinel (pronounced Kinnel) was then the word used to denote the clan itself. Fine (pronounced Finna) was also sometimes used in the broad sense of clan, and this was not strictly incorrect since every clan originated in a small fine; but the word fine properly meant one of a number of sub-organisms of which the clan consisted. It was a miniature clan, and in fact the germ of a clan and the real social and legal unit.

It was considerably more comprehensive than our word family. It has been compared with the Roman familia, but it was more comprehensive than even that. When complete it consisted of the Flaith-fine (also called Ceann-fine), and sixteen other male members, old members not ceasing to belong to it until sufficient new members had been born or adopted into it, upon which event happening the old were in rotation thrust out to the sept, and perhaps began to form new fines. Women, children, and servants did not enter into this computation. The flaith-fine, or paterfamilias, was the head and most important member of the group, in some sense its guardian and protector, and was the only member in full possession and free exercise of all the rights of citizenship. All the members had certain distinct and well-recognised rights, and, if of full age, were sui juris and mutually liable to and for each other; but so long as they remained in the fine, the immediate exercise of some of their rights was vested in the flaith-fine, who should act for them or in whose name they should act. “No person who is under protection is qualified to sue.”

There are various conflicting theories as to the persons of whom and the manner in which this organism was composed, and even as to whether it was in fact ever composed or ever existed except as a legal fiction; and no explanation of it or conjecture about it is free from difficulty. Having regard, however, to the frequent mention of it, and of the “seventeen men” of whom it consisted, by various legal and other writers at times far apart and in various connections, it is quite impossible to believe that it was fictitious; but in practice it may not often have attained or long retained that perfect organisation which the law contemplated; and the law itself may have contemplated different things at different times. Whether the members of it became members on their birth, or on attaining manhood and acquiring property; whether they included or represented all within the fifth degree of relationship, or all within the seventeenth degree, are matters in dispute.

Laurence Ginnell, The Brehon Laws: A Legal Handbook. Husain Press, 2013.

Medieval genealogical sources

Oil painting: ‘Donal O’Sullivan Beare’, 1859 (copy of 17th century original), portrait, signed by Pedro Micó. Ref: UCCHS.1914.001 © University College Cork. O’Sullivan Beare is standing, dressed in Spanish armour, wearing the Order of Saint James of the Sword, a plumed helmet is on a table by his side. In his right hand he holds a truncheon, and his left rests on the hilt of his sword. Legend: ‘O’Sullevanus Bearrus Bearrae et Beantriae Comes Aetatis suae LIII Christi Vero Domini MDCXIII anno’ (translation: O’Sullivan Beare, Count of Beare and Bantry, age 53, In the year of the true Christ 1613). In the upper-right hand corner is a coat of arms, with four quarters bearing a bear, deer, an arm holding a sword and three lions passant. Surmounting the shield is a helmet with a rayed coronet and the motto, ‘Gaudet Patientia Duris’ (translation: Patience rejoices in adversity). Artist: Pedro Micó, Salamanca, Spain (c.1800-c.1863).  The original of this painting is now located at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth: The artist of the original oil painting is unknown but was probably a court artist of Philip III of Spain. Inscription: ‘Pedro Micó pinto en Salamanca, año 1859’ [translation: Pedro Micó painted in Salamanca, 1859].
Date: 1859 (copy of 17th century original)

The Book of Ballymote (Irish: Leabhar Bhaile an Mhóta) is a 14th century Irish manuscript, beautifully written on vellum. The original Book was presented to the Royal Irish Academy in 1785. Many scholars have studied its content and form. Its size and extent, the range of material it contains and its beautiful illumination, show that this manuscript is an important work of late medieval learning. Its 251 folios contain, among many other works, texts such as the Book of Invasions (Irish: Lebor Gabála Érenn), the Book of Rights (Irish: Lebor na Cert), the dinnshenchas of Ireland (Irish: Dindshenchas Érenn), the prose ‘Lore of women‘ (Irish: Banshenchas Érenn), the Fitness of Names (Irish: Cóir Anmann), and extensive genealogical material, including the pedigrees of some of the most prominent Irish groups and families. These lineages are highly detailed, certainly when compared with the genealogies of the Merovingian king and Empower Charlemagne (source: lecture The Book of Ballymote: a genealogical treasure trove; range and purpose, Academy House, 6 February 2015 by Donnchadh Ó Corráin, MRIA, emeritus Professor of Medieval History at University College Cork).

The (Great) Book of Leacan (Irish: Leabhar (Mór) Leacáin), named after Castle Forbes, Leacan, where it was composed between 1397 and 1418, is one of the greatest and most authentic works in Irish history. It contains a large amount of genealogical material, especially relating to the families with which the Mac Firbisigh, with their family castle, in the parish of Laeckan, TireraghCounty Sligo, were associated. The manuscript is voluminous and written on vellum. The original Book of Leacan is preserved at the Royal Irish Academy, and a copy is stored in the Royal Library at Windsor.

Both aforementioned works contain copies of the Book of Munster (Irish: An Leabhar Muimhneach). The manuscript was written in 1709 by Diarmuid Ó Conchubhair (Dermod Connor) for Muiris Ó Sobháin (Maurice Sovane or Savage) in the latter’s house at Ballineedora, parish Ballymacelligot, barony of Trughanacmy, County Kerry. The work is principally compiled from the ancient record; the Psalter of Cashel, containing notices of the History of Ireland from the earliest period to the end of the fourteenth century; in particular, relating to the history of Munster. It gives an account of its kings, chiefs, clans, and principal families, and includes important information on the ancient Irish laws, arts, agriculture, commerce, and customs.

The source of the first generations is the forementioned Book of Munster. Copies of the Book of Munster are inserted in the Books of Leacan and Ballymote. The dates of births are estimates, based on the fact that in medieval Irish genealogies three generations invariably equal almost precisely 100 years (source: Professor Nollaig Ó Muraíle).

Modern Irish genealogy

Modern Irish family history can also be challenging, because of (a combination of) three main reasons:

  • Administrative districts in Ireland have changed over time. It is therefore required to distinguish between a parish, townland, civil registration district, barony and county;
  • Most of Ireland’s 19th-century census records (population reports) were destroyed in the 1922 fire at the Public Records Office of Ireland. Only fragments survive;
  • In Ireland, non-Catholic marriages were registered from 1845. Catholic marriages begin in 1864. Ireland’s parish records are the main source of information before 1864.

Ireland was one of the first places in Europe to adopt hereditary surnames (since circa the early 900s). Medieval Irish society was organized around the extended family, that determined a person’s daily life. This continues to be an essential part of today’s Irish society. There are certain interesting anomalies associated with Irish first names. Traditionally, most Irish families named their children as follows:

  • The eldest son is often named after his paternal grandfather;
  • The second son is often named after his maternal grandfather;
  • The third son is often named after his father;
  • The fourth son is often named after his father’s oldest brother;
  • There was also a similar, but less closely followed, pattern for naming Irish girls.

These circumstances require specific expertise when conducting Irish genealogical research.


In recent times, some irregularities regarding the genealogies of ancient Irish families have been exposed:

One area which caused the writer particular concern was that of spurious ‘Clans’ and bogus ‘Chiefs’. In the first place, as Edward MacLysaght and other authorities were at pains to point out, Ireland never had a clan system like that of Scotland, and MacLysaght advised that the term ‘sept’ is more appropriate in the Irish context. (1) In the second place, the thorough destruction by the English of Gaelic political structures in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, allied with the loss of so many Irish records over the centuries, mean that only a handful of families can truly trace their lineages back to a duly inaugurated Chief. Nevertheless, Government and tourism interests required that Irish ‘Clan’ organisations should be brought into being, and that new ‘Chiefs’ should be found. Thus although it regularly pleaded lack of resources adequate to perform basic genealogical tasks, in 1989 the State’s Genealogical Office/Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland found space in its new premises in Kildare Street, Dublin, for the organisation known as the ‘Clans of Ireland’. It would be fair to say that most Irish genealogists acquiesced in the face of this tourism-driven ‘clansterism’, or indeed actively supported it. (2) For his pains in opposing the march of pseudo-genealogy and pseudo-heraldry and attempting to assert some kind of standards, the writer found himself isolated from most of his professional colleagues and effectively barred from contract work in the Genealogical Office from 1993.

Sean Murphy, Irish Historical Mysteries: The MacCarthy Mór Hoax, Centre for Irish Genealogical and Historical Studies

Under these circumstances, it is important to investigate claims, like Dr. O’Sullivan’s, very carefully.

Genealogy of The Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith

The first nine generations are based on the aforementioned Book of Munster. The subsequent generations are based on research by Riobard O’Dwyer, a genealogical expert on the history of the Béarra peninsula, County Cork, Ireland. O’Dwyer has recently completed the Annals of Beara; a three-volume, 2,000-plus-page monumental set in which all the parish records of the Beara peninsula are recorded.

I. MeicRaith (Cragh), The Ó Súilleabháin Mór

MeiccRaith, mic Dúnlaing in The Book of Munster. He was the last Ó Súilleabháin Mór to enjoy the rights of primogeniture. MeicRaith had a younger brother, Ruairi, from whom descend the cadet “Ó Súilleabháin Mór Sept.

Ó Donnchadha, Tadhg (ed.), An Leabhar Muimhneach maraon le suim aguisíní (The Book of Munster). Produced for the Irish Manuscripts Commission / Baile Átha Cliath: Foillseacháin Rialtais. 1940, p. 219.

II. Dónal (* ca. 1394 -), The Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith

Domhnaill, mic MeicRaith in The Book of Munster.

Ó Donnchadha, Tadhg (ed.), An Leabhar Muimhneach maraon le suim aguisíní (The Book of Munster). Produced for the Irish Manuscripts Commission / Baile Átha Cliath: Foillseacháin Rialtais. 1940, p. 219.

III. Conor (* ca. 1430 -), The Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith

Conchubhair, mic Domhnaill in The Book of Munster.

Ó Donnchadha, Tadhg (ed.), An Leabhar Muimhneach maraon le suim aguisíní (The Book of Munster). Produced for the Irish Manuscripts Commission / Baile Átha Cliath: Foillseacháin Rialtais. 1940, p. 219.

IV. Eoin (* ca. 1466 -), The Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith

Eoghain, mic Conchubhair in The Book of Muster.

Ó Donnchadha, Tadhg (ed.), An Leabhar Muimhneach maraon le suim aguisíní (The Book of Munster). Produced for the Irish Manuscripts Commission / Baile Átha Cliath: Foillseacháin Rialtais. 1940, p. 219.

V. Buodach (* ca. 1502 -), The Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith

Buadhaigh, mic Eoghain in The Book of Munster.

Ó Donnchadha, Tadhg (ed.), An Leabhar Muimhneach maraon le suim aguisíní (The Book of Munster). Produced for the Irish Manuscripts Commission / Baile Átha Cliath: Foillseacháin Rialtais. 1940, p. 219.

VI. Donogh (* ca. 1538 -), The Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith

Diarmada, mic Buadhaigh in the Book of Munster.

Ó Donnchadha, Tadhg (ed.), An Leabhar Muimhneach maraon le suim aguisíní (The Book of Munster). Produced for the Irish Manuscripts Commission / Baile Átha Cliath: Foillseacháin Rialtais. 1940, p. 219.

VII. Conor (* ca. 1574 -), The Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith

Conchubhair, mic Diarmada in the Book of Munster.

Ó Donnchadha, Tadhg (ed.), An Leabhar Muimhneach maraon le suim aguisíní (The Book of Munster). Produced for the Irish Manuscripts Commission / Baile Átha Cliath: Foillseacháin Rialtais. 1940, p. 219.

VIII. Eoin (* ca. 1610 -), The Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith

Eoghain, mic Conchubhair in the Book of Munster.

Ó Donnchadha, Tadhg (ed.), An Leabhar Muimhneach maraon le suim aguisíní (The Book of Munster). Produced for the Irish Manuscripts Commission / Baile Átha Cliath: Foillseacháin Rialtais. 1940, p. 219.

IX. Dermot (c. 1646 -), The Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith

Diaraid mac Eoghain in The Book of Munster.

Ó Donnchadha, Tadhg (ed.), An Leabhar Muimhneach maraon le suim aguisíní (The Book of Munster). Produced for the Irish Manuscripts Commission / Baile Átha Cliath: Foillseacháin Rialtais. 1940, p. 219.

X. Eoin Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith (* ca. 1682-), the Ó Súilleabháin Mór 

Documentation for Eoin (Owen / John) (John Greath) Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith (born c. 1682) was found in Account Books B & C of the Bantry House Collection of the University College Cork (Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh), B. Estate Administration, 1. Rentals, 1.1 Ledgers, 440, 441; 1740 – 1775. He is also recorded in O’Donovan’s Ordnance Survey in a letter from Thomas O’Connor of Killarney, dated August 29, 1841, listing the genealogical line of the Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith sept.

Bantry House Collection of the University College

Upon the death of ‘The Ó Súilleabháin Mór’ (MhicRuairi) in Tomies (County Kerry), on 16 April 1754, the official title, ‘The Ó Súilleabháin Mór’, reverted to the descendants of MeicRaith:

Another branch of the O’Sullivan clan resided at the castle of Cappanacushy [sic]. They were often called the Mac Crah, as being descendants of a chief called Mac Crah. They were, it appears, the senior branch of the O’Sullivan race, but had been deprived of the chieftanship through the workings of the law of Tanistry. The younger brother of Mac Crah had succeeded him as chief and had managed to secure the succession of his own sons, excluding his nephews, who had the best right to the chieftanship. The Slíocht Mac Crah had to content themselves with an estate of twenty ploughlands, and the reversionary right to the chieftanship, if the ruling house should become extinct.”

William F.T. Butler, Gleanings from Irish History, Longmans, Green, and Co., 1925, p. 47. A history of the ancient Kingdom of Desmond (the western districts of Cork and the southern half of Kerry), the clans of the area, with a special emphasis on the MacCarthy family, who ruled the kingdom of South Munster.

XI. Dermot Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith (* ca. 1718)

Documentation for Dermot (Darby a Sheáin) Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith (born c. 1718) was also found in Account Book C of the Bantry House Collection. He is also recorded in O’Donovan’s Ordnance Survey in a letter from Thomas O’Connor of Killarney, dated August 29, 1841, listing the genealogical line of the Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith sept.

Account Book C of the Bantry House Collection and O’Donovan’s Ordnance Survey

XII. Eoin (Owen / John), The Ó Súilleabháin Mór (* ca. 1749)

Documentation for Eoin/Owen (John Darby) Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith (born c. 1749) was found in the 1827 Tithe List for Doire Chonaire where he is listed as John Darby (Eoin, son of Dermot).

1827 Tithe List for Doire Chonaire

XIII. Séamus Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith (* ca. 1770)

Documentation for Séamus (James Crath) Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith (born c.1770) was also found in the 1827 Tithe List for Doire Chonaire where he is listed as James Crath. James had two sons, Muircheartach [Murty Cragh (I)] and Dermot (Jerem), the two progenitors of the Ó Súilleabháin Murts and Ó Súilleabháin Jers of Doire Chonaire.

Tithe List for Doire Chonaire

XIV. Muircheartach Mór I (Murtagh Cragh), The Ó Súilleabháin Mór (* ca. 1791)

Documentation for Muircheartach Mór [Murty Cragh (I)] Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith (born c. 1791) was also found in the 1827 Tithe List for Doire Chonaire where he is listed as Murty Cragh. He is an adult property owner, according to this document. His estimated birth year was 1791, making him about 36 years old at this time. He is also registered in the Adrigole Parish Records as the father of John McGrath, who was baptized in Doire Chonaire on March 16, 1834. Murty Cragh (I) was about 43 years old when John was born. The wife of Murty Cragh (I) is identified as Ellen Shanahan in the Adrigole Parish Records. Murty Cragh (I) was about 25 years old when he sired his oldest son, Muircheartach Mór [Mort Crath (II)] in 1816. Murty Cragh (I) is also listed in Griffith’s Valuation for Kilcasken Parish (1848 – 1864).

Tithe List for Doire Chonaire, Adrigole Parish Records and Griffith’s Valuation for Kilcasken Parish.

XV. Muircheartach Mór II (Murtagh Cragh), The Ó Súilleabháin Mór (* 1816-1882)

Documentation for Muircheartach Mór [Mort Crath (II)] Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith (born 1816) was also found in the Adrigole Parish Records where his marriage to Mary Crath was recorded on May 4, 1841. He is listed as Mort Crath. He died on October 5, 1882 at the age of 66. He had suffered with stomach cancer for about one year prior to his death. His daughter-in-law, Catherine Sullivan (nee Daly) was present at his death. From this Kilcasken Parish Record obituary, we know that Mort Crath (II) was born in 1816. He is also listed in Griffith’s Valuation for Kilcasken Parish (1848 – 1864).

Tithe List for Doire Chonaire, Adrigole Parish Record and Griffith’s Valuation for Kilcasken Paris.

XVI. Muircheartach Mór Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith III (* 1857-1940)

Documentation for Muircheartach Mór [Mortimor James (III)] Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith (born 1857) is found in the Kilcasken Parish Records. His birth is registered as July 6, 1857. He married Catherine Daly. He died on February 7, 1940. His youngest son Liam (Willie) was present at his death. Mortimor James (III) had three older siblings, all of whom died in childhood. Mary was born in 1847, known as “Black ‘47” since it was the worst year of An Gorta Mhóir (the Great Hunger). John was born in 1850 and Michael was born in 1854, which were still bleak years for the people of Doire Chonaire.

Kilcasken Parish Records

XVII. Donal Seosamh I (Daniel Joseph), The Ó Súilleabháin Mór (1889 – 1954)

Documentation for Donal Seosamh [Daniel Joseph (I)] Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith (born 1889) is found in the Kilcasken Parish Records. His birth is registered in the Civil Records as March 30, 1889 but Mr. O’Dwyer is certain that this date is wrong. His correct birthdate is February 9, 1889. He was baptized on February 10, 1889 by the Very Reverend Father John Mangan P.P., No. 498 in the Baptismal Book. His Godparents were Daniel Sullivan and Johanna Crowley. Daniel Joseph (I) had two older brothers: John, who died without issue in a lumberjack camp in Washington State, U.S.A., purportedly during an “axe fight”; and Patrick, whose youngest son, John, had a son named Ray, who had a son named Brady. Both Ray and Brady serve on the Derbhfine of the clan.

Kilcasken Parish Record, Civil Records

XVIII. Donal Seosamh II (Daniel Joseph), The Ó Súilleabháin Mór (1920 – 2004)

Documentation for Donal Seosamh [Daniel Joseph (II)] Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith (born 1920) is an American birth certificate. Birth Record # 983 filed in Manhattan, New York City, New York, January 6, 1921 documenting the live birth of Daniel Joseph (II) on December 28, 1920.

American birth certificate


  1. Donal Seosamh III (Daniel Joseph), The Ó Súilleabháin Mór (1949 – 2014)
  2. Dr. Garraí Eoin Brian Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith (Gary), The Ó Súilleabháin Mór (1955 -)

Irish nobility

From an Irish perspective, historical nobility was not restricted to titled nobility. It could descend by inheritance, or be obtained by creation (O’Donnell 2019, p. 322).

In 1169, Henry II, king of England and duke of Normandy (1133-1189), was allowed by Pope Adrian IV (ca. 1100-1159) to initiate an expedition of barons from South Wales to establish Anglo-Norman supremacy in Leinster. In the following centuries, English authority seldom extended beyond the capital, Dublin, a narrow corridor of land around Dublin and the eastern seaboard, and a few ports strung along the coast.

By devising the 1541 Act for the Kingly Title (which was subsequently accorded by the Dublin parliament), the English monarch tried to gain full control over Ireland. The Act formally declared Ireland to be a distinct kingdom in its own right. It made all inhabitants of Ireland subjects of the English monarch, but separate from the kingdom of England.

The Treaty of Limerick of 3 October 1691, ended the war in Ireland among William III of England (known as William of Orange) and the Irish followers of his Father in Law, King James II, and their French allies. By the time of the Treaty, most Gaelic nobles had lost the power in their (former) domains.

Gaelic aristocrats were, when they submitted to the authority of the English monarch, formally recognised as members of the peerage. Since then, the character of the Irish nobility changed:

When we think about aristocratic titles we have to go back to 1541. Because prior to that period you have in Ireland English nobles who happen to live in Ireland, so the Earls of Kildare, Earls of Desmond, so on and so forth. And then you also have Gaelic nobles.

And these people have rather different titles. So if you are a Gaelic noble, you’re known as the name of your family. So you are the O’Neill or the O’Brien.

So in 1541 when Ireland becomes a kingdom, this is the first revolutionary moment, because Gaelic nobles are then allowed to transfer their traditional titles into English style titles. So we see a number of examples of this. So The O’Neill becomes the Earl of Tyrone. The O’Brien becomes the Earl of Thomond and so on and so forth.

Now when we get to James I, we see an attempt to really recreate the Irish nobility. And there are a number of reasons for this. And it works out in a number of different ways. And one of the reasons for this is that we have to remember how important hierarchy is to this society.

Elizabeth is incredibly stingy with her nobility. So when titles die out she doesn’t renew them. She doesn’t reward people who’ve served her well with a new title.

There’s a real push to try to get the luster of the nobility brought back. And James I does this and everybody knows this. So when he comes from Scotland there’s a problem of integrating the Scottish and the English nobility. But there’s also the issue of what to do with the Irish nobility.

So one of things that he does is he attempts to make people happy at court by creating new titles. You have plantation land in Munster, than in Ulster. And the King can actually use that land and attach it to titles, and then give it to the highest bidder.

And his favorite, the Duke of Buckingham, is the one who oversees this market in Irish titles. So you see a creation of basically a new Irish nobility made out of people who are willing to pay the price.

Know the purpose for the creation of Irish titles of nobility between 1541, when Henry VIII of England made himself king of Ireland and during the reign of James I. Video on

In the Republic of Ireland, the Irish Constitution precludes the State from conferring titles of nobility, and prevents citizens from accepting titles of nobility or honour – except with the prior approval of the government. Existing holders of aristocratic titles continue to use them, but they are not recognised by the Irish government. While some representatives of clans and families had obtained “courtesy recognition” as Chiefs of the Name from the Chief Herald of Ireland, this practice was discontinued by 2003. The Attorney General stated that such recognitions were unconstitutional and without basis in law. In Northern Ireland, as part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, certain titles are still used and awarded.

Currently, the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland continues to exercise jurisdiction over the Peerage of Ireland. The matter is different in the Republic of Ireland. Article 40 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland states:

ARTICLE 40 1 All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law. This shall not be held to mean that the State shall not in its enactments have due regard to differences of capacity, physical and moral, and of social function.

2 1° Titles of nobility shall not be conferred by the State. 2° No title of nobility or of honour may be accepted by any citizen except with the prior approval of the Government.


Irish statute book
Dr. O’Sullivan is a citizen of the Republic of Ireland. He was educated at Creighton University and Rutgers Medical College (now Robert Wood Johnson Medical School). He successfully completed postgraduate studies at Harvard Medical School; Johns Hopkins Medical School; and the University of South Carolina. After establishing a successful career as a gynaecological surgeon, Dr. O’Sullivan dedicated twenty years of his life finding, collecting, reading, and noting all the extant material relating to the history and culture of the Ó Súilleabháin clan. He published his discoveries and conclusions in The Oak and Serpent (2007) and A History of the O’Sullivan Clan (2007). There is a striking physical resemblance between Dr. O’Sullivan and his 17th-century forefather; Donal O’Sullivan Beare (see above).

The term “title of nobility or of honour” in Article 40.2.2° is interpreted as an award that entitles the recipient to use a prefix, such as “Sir” or “Lord”, before a name. An award that provides for the use of letters or marks of distinction after the name, such as “OBE” or “MBE”, is not regarded as a title of nobility or of honour in this context. In case of foreign awards, it is the normal protocol for a foreign government that wishes to make the award to an Irish citizen to inform the Government. Such notifications are considered on a case by case basis to see if they are subject to Article 40.2.2° of the Constitution. The vast majority of these notifications are of a routine nature and in the absence of any constitutional requirement that they be brought to the Government are dealt with at the official level. (Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Cowen, Dáil Éireann Debate, 2 March 2004).

The question arises whether Dr. O’Sullivan can be designated as a member of the Gaelic nobility. The Gaelic nobility consists of those who are a descendent in the male line of any historical grade of a king or who qualified under the rules of tanistry.

The main title of the clan was: “The O’Sullivan Mór”. The title “O’Sullivan” means “Of the House of Sullivan”. This identifies the bearer of the title as a descendant of the Eóganachta kings of Ireland. My conclusion is that – based on the family lineage – Dr. O’Sullivan belongs to the ancient Gaelic nobility. Although since 1943, courtesy recognition as Chiefs of the Name could be obtained from the Irish government, this practice ceased in 2003. The status of the title is that of a courtesy title. It has no legal significance, but is used in the context of tradition and culture.

Relations between the Irish and Spanish nobility

The first known relations between Ireland and Spain developed in both nations were through stories about Celtic relations between the two people, noted in the 11th Century AD Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland):

§24. Four ships’ companies strong came the Gaedil to Spain: in every ship fourteen wedded couples and seven unwed hirelings. Brath, a ship’s company. Ucce and Occe, two ships’ companies: [Two brethren were they, the sons of Allot s. Nenual s. Nemed s. Allot s. Ogamain], Mantan [s. Caicher the druid s. Ercha s. (Coemthecht)] a ship’s company. So they broke three battles after going into Spain: a battle against the Tuscans, a battle against the Langobardi, and a battle against the Barchu. But there came a plague upon them, and four and twenty of their number died, including Occe and Ucce. Out of the two ships none escaped, save twice five men, including En s. Occe and Un s. Ucce. 

Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of Invasions), The Book of Leinster Redaction

The Lebor Gabála Érenn created a legendary Biblical origin story for the Irish people that was comparable to that of the Israelites. It is a pseudo-historical collection of poetry and prose narrative. The Lebor Gabála describes the history of Ireland from the Biblical Flood narrative to the Middle Ages. The work is not an accurate account of ancient Irish history, but combines elements of Christian narrative with surviving threads of oral history and Irish mythology.

In April 1529, the first formal diplomatic contact between the Irish and Spanish nobility took place. In that year, the Spanish ambassador of King Charles V of Spain, Don Gonzalez Fernandez, stepped ashore in Dingle on the south-west coast on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, in the territory of the Earls of Desmond, where he met with James FitzGerald (abt. 1480-1529), 10th Earl of Desmond (Wills, James. Lives of Illustrious and Distinguished Irishmen from the Earliest Times to the Present Period Arranged in Chronological Order, and Embodying a History of Ireland in the Lives of Irishmen. MacGregor, Polson, 1847, pp. 452-3). The two men signed an agreement, known as the Treaty of Dingle.

The Earl himself is from 30 to 40 years old, and is rather above the middle height. He keeps better justice throughout his dominions than any other chief in Ireland. Robbers and homicides find no mercy, and are executed out of hand. His people are in high order and discipline. They are armed with short bows and swords. The Earl’s guard are in a mail from neck to heel, and carry halberds. He has also a number of horses, some of whom know how to break a lance. They all ride admirably, without saddle or stirrup.

Report by Charles V’s ambassador Gonzalo Fernández, who visited Ireland in April 1529, cited in: James Froude, History of England, from the Fall of Wolsey to the death of Elizabeth. 12 vols. London, 1862-70.

The treaty had a serious positive impact on the lives of many Irish exiles and émigrés, as it provided a legal and constitutional basis for the rights of citizenship and other privileges in Habsburg Spain, Habsburg Austria and Habsburg Netherlands from the 16th to the early 20th centuries (see also: Hiram Morgan, The establishment of the Irish-Spanish relationship, in Eduardo Peduelo Martin & Julia Rodriguez de Diego, eds, Los Irlandeses y la Monarquia Hispanica (1529-1800): vinculos in espacio y tiempo. Madrid, 2013).

From 1554 until 1558, King Philip II of Spain (1527 – 1598), also known as Philip the Prudent, was jure uxoris (by right of his wife) King of England and Ireland from his marriage to Queen Mary I in 1554 until her death in 1558. The presence of a significant Irish community in Spain dates back to the 1560s. The void left by the evictions since 1609 of the Moriscos (Christian descendants of Spain’s Muslim population) created opportunities for the Irish immigrants. The first wave of immigrants occupied influential positions in both the Church and the Spanish armies.

A new era in relations between Spain and Ireland began in the early seventeenth century, when Philip III (1598-1621) had the opportunity to incorporate the island into the monarchy, as the majority of the Irish nobles proffered their support to him and recognized him as the ‘King of Ireland’. The King duly dispatched an expeditionary force of 4,000 troops to the south of Ireland, leading to the famous battle of Kinsale of 1602, in which the Catholic army was defeated by an English force.

This loss did not harm the links between Spain and Ireland. On the contrary, the Irish immigrant community in Iberia dramatically increased in size and significance as the Habsburg government welcomed Irish nobles who, like true Spaniards, had pledged themselves as loyal subjects of the King. In this context, numerous exiled nobles were enlisted in the Spanish military orders and obtained Spanish noble titles.

The Irish migration to the Spanish empire was an ongoing, complex process that took place from 17th-century Habsburg Spain to 18th-century Bourbon Spain, and from Europe to the New World. The Irish played a key role in the army, commerce, medicine, literary life and 18th-century Spanish Enlightenment.

In this context, it is perfectly in order for Dr. O’Sullivan to register (15 December 2014, no. 62/2014 and 13 December 2017, no. 44/2017) his coat of arms with Don Alfonso de Ceballos-Escalera y Gila, Marques de la Floresta, as an alternative to registration with the Office of the Chief Herald.


The personal coat of arms of Garraí Eoin Brian Ó Súilleabháin, The Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith, Count of Knockgraffon (title issued by the head of the Royal House of Georgia), with the collar of Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Eagle of Georgia. Artwork by Carlos Navarro, who created the official coat of arms of Philip VI, King of Spain.

The legitimacy of Dr. O’Sullivan’s claims requires sufficient openness and honesty about evidence, arguments, and research design to level the discursive playing field. Dr. O’Sullivan made his sources, analysis, methods, and interpretive choices underlying their claims visible in a way that allows others to evaluate them. The research process is therefore sufficiently transparent.

The primary and secondary sources of Dr. O’Sullivan’s research should be placed in their historical context. The reliability of the family relations in the Book of Munster for example, cannot be compared to modern DNA-based matches. In the era that the Book of Munster covers, its content and reliability were the gold standard. The internationally accepted principle of non-retroactivity applies, which means that laws do not apply retroactively. This means that it is unfair to judge the reliability of the family trees recorded in the Book by nowadays standards. The genealogical relations, as recorded in the book, should be considered sufficient. The same is true for the more recent sources. This means that the material evidence is sufficiently coherent and reliable to support Dr. O’Sullivan’s conclusions.

Another factor that should be taken into account when judging Dr. O’Sullivan’s claims, is that much crucial evidence has been destroyed. This is witnessed by Count O’Connell in his book: Last Colonel of the Irish Brigade (p. 53):

The last O’Sullivan Mor died at Tomies in 1762. He left an illegitimate son, whose grandson is a fisherman at Killarney. This grandson told me that when a gossoon some thirty years ago, he went to see his grandfather lying dead at Tomies. He saw not only his departed ancestor, but also a great pile of old papers, “maybe three feet high, mostly written on skins in Latin and Irish; and faith I was in dread they might fall into the hands of the Mahonys or some other new people in the country, and they might get more of the old O’Sullivan estates, so I burned them all myself”.

Bianconi, O. C. M. A. (1982). The last colonel of the Irish Brigade: Count O’Connell and Old Irish life at home and abroad, 1745-1833. Filmed by the Library of Congress Photoduplication Service.

Dr. O’Sullivan’s research is thorough and complete, and he has commissioned independent experts to review his claims. It is important, that there are no indications that contradict Dr. O’Sullivan’s publications. The refusal of the Office of the Chief Herald to grant or confirm Dr. O’Sullivan’s coat of arms cannot be seen as such, since the Herald’s jurisdiction is limited to researching, granting and confirming coats of arms. The Herald has no jurisdiction regarding succession to nobiliary titles or territorial designations. Apart from that, no jurisdiction is in force that discourages people from designing and using a coat of arms, without the interference of the Herald. In view of the foregoing, Dr. O’Sullivan’s claims are legitimate.


  1. One branch of the O’Sullivan MacCragh sept of Cappanacush Castle acquired Dunderry Castle in the village of Gravier, near Nevers, France. It remains the family home of this sept and serves as the international headquarters of the O’Sullivan MacCragh Clan. This is in line with many noble families of Ireland who settled in Catholic France after losing their estates in Ireland: O’Connor: Chateau du Bignon-Mirabeau; O’Mahony: Chateau de Pont Bellanger; O’Kelly Farrell: Chateau La Soriniere; Walsh: Chateau de Serrant; Hennessy: Chateau de St. Brice; Phelans: Chateau Phelan-Segur; O’Byrne: Chateau La Houringue; Lynch: Chateau Lynch-Bages; MacCarthy Reagh: Chateau St. Gery; MacMahon-O’Sullivan Beara: Chateau Sully-sur-Loire; O’Sullivan MacCragh: Chateau du Gravier (Dunderry Castle). In addition to the nobles, there was in the seventeenth century also a large immigration of Irish soldiers to the continent romantically known as the Flight of the Wild Geese; the departure of the Irish Jacobite army under the command of Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan, from Ireland to France, as agreed in the Treaty of Limerick on 3 October 1691. These men formed the various regiments of the Irish Brigades. Variations of Irish surnames can still be found throughout France as a result of this exodus.


O’Sullivan, Gary. The Oak and Serpent The Blood Book of the Ó Súilleabháin MhicRaith Sept. Lulu 2021.

Wills, James. Lives of Illustrious and Distinguished Irishmen from the Earliest Times to the Present Period Arranged in Chronological Order, and Embodying a History of Ireland in the Lives of Irishmen. MacGregor, Polson, 1847.

O’Donnell, Francis Martin. Irish Nobility and Armigerous Families, chapter in Actas – Il Coloquio Internacional Sobre La Nobleza (2nd International Colloquium on Nobility, Madrid 20-21 October 2017), Real Asociación de Hidalgos de España, Madrid 2019 (paperback, ISBN 978-84-948410-5-7).

Ginnell, Laurence. The Brehon Laws: A Legal Handbook. Husain Press, 2013.

Ohlmeyer, Jane H. Making Ireland English: The Irish Aristocracy in the Seventeenth Century. Yale University Press, 2017.

Bradshaw, Brendan. The Irish Constitutional Revolution of the Sixteenth Century. Cambridge University Press, 2008.

O’Higgins P., The Treaty of Limerick 1691. In: Alexandrowicz C.H. (eds) Studies in the History of the Law of Nations. Springer, Dordrecht, 1970.

Schwartz, Stuart B. “The Voyage of the Vassals: Royal Power, Noble Obligations, and Merchant Capital before the Portuguese Restoration of Independence, 1624-1640.” The American Historical Review, vol. 96, no. 3, [Oxford University Press, American Historical Association], 1991, pp. 735–62,

Morales, Oscar Recio. Ireland and the Spanish Empire, 1600-1825. Four Courts, 2010.

Boekrecensie | Wapenspreuken van Nederlandse geslachten

In de heraldiek verwoorden wapenspreuken (ook motto’s genoemd) vaak op kernachtige wijze de ideologie van de familie. Wapenspreuken moeten worden onderscheiden van leuzen. De wapenspreuk wordt op een bandelier of lint onder het wapen geplaatst. Een leus wordt boven het familiewapen of op de rand van de wapentent geplaatst.

In Nederland bestond nog geen naslagwerk waarin de wapenspreuken van geslachten en families systematisch waren opgenomen. De bekende Nederlandse historicus en heraldicus C.E.G. ten Houte de Lange heeft hier verandering in gebracht. In zijn laatste boek, Wapenspreuken van Nederlandse geslachten, worden op systematische en overzichtelijke wijze zo’n 430 wapens en motto’s beschreven van families die in Nederland tot de adel of het patriciaat worden gerekend. Aan het boek hebben ook Alle Diderik de Jonge (voorzitter van Stichting Het Blauwe Boekje, uitgever van Nederland’s Patriciaat) en Jan Spoelder (classicus) een belangrijke bijdrage geleverd. Beide heren hebben zelf reeds een aantal indrukwekkende publicaties op hun naam staan.

Ten Houte de Lange et alia zijn uitgegaan van de wapenspreuken van de Nederlandse adel sinds 1813 en van de Nederlandse patriciaatsfamilies. De genealogieën van deze families zijn gepubliceerd in Nederland’s Adelsboek, Nederland’s Patriciaat, Stam en wapenboek van aanzienlijke Nederlandsche familiën en Repertorium familiewapens van bekende Nederlandse geslachten. De auteurs gaan in hun werk in op de aard van de wapenspreuken en op de bronnen waaraan deze zijn ontleend. Daarnaast onderzoeken zij in hoeverre een wapenspreuk een toespeling op de familienaam e/of het familiewapen maakt. Tenslotte wordt nagegaan welke families een gelijkluidende wapenspreuk voeren en welke wapenspreuken een vergelijkbare versie in andere talen hebben. De uitgave is mooi vormgegeven en overzichtelijk opgezet. Het werk vormt een belangrijke bijdrage aan de ontwikkeling van de Nederlandse heraldiek.

In het boek van Ten Houte de Lange et alia zijn de wapenspreuken op alfabetische volgorde vermeld met een afbeelding van het betreffende familiewapen, de familienaam en een korte verwijzing naar een van de genealogieën. Een fragment uit Wapenspreuken van Nederlandse geslachten is hier opgenomen. Via de link hieronder kan het werk worden besteld.

Christoph E.G. ten Houte de Lange ; Alle Diderik de Jonge ; Jan Spoelder | Wapenspreuken van Nederlandse geslachten | Taal: Nederlands | ISBN 9789462584631 | Bindwijze Hardback | Aantal pagina’s 192.

Undeserved royal honours in The Netherlands

During state visits, it is common for heads of state to exchange national honours. The guests are invited by the foreign country, which acts as the official host for the duration of the state visit. An exchange of honours took place during the state visit of the Queen to the United Arab Emirates and Oman in November 2010:

British State Visit to Abu Dhabi and Oman, 2010

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were in the midst of a State Visit to Abu Dhabi and Oman on this day in 2010, their last State Visit to the Middle East, three decades after their monumental Tour of the Gulf States

The Tour started in Abu Dhabi, one of the seven Emirates of the United Arab Emirates, where notable events included a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque and a formal luncheon with Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan that was followed by an exchange of honours, at which the Queen (in the Order of the Garter) received the Order of Zayed, and members of the Abu Dhabi Royal Family received the Order of the Bath and the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George., 25 November 2018

This article examines the tradition of exchanging honours in a political context and compares this tradition to the conventional requirements for the granting of official honours. The article focuses on The Netherlands, but it is reasonable to assume that its findings are applicable to many countries across Europe.

The honours system in The Netherlands

VIDEO CLIP NOS Journaal of 8 October 1994 – Heading a conservative Dutch government from 1982 to 1994, Lubbers’ policies were in step with his counterparts in Washington and London, President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, as he trimmed back the Dutch welfare state, persuaded powerful labor unions to rein in their demands and ushered in years of growth.

Official personal honours are divided into orders of chivalry and orders awarded for services rendered to the Royal House. The King is Grand Master of the chivalric orders.

Article 111 of the Constitution of The Netherlands stipulates that national honours can be created by act of parliament only. The only Dutch civilian orders of chivalry, created by act of parliament are the Order of the Lion of The Netherlands and the Order of Orange-Nassau.

These honours are conferred on persons who have rendered outstanding service to Dutch society. Candidates are nominated via the mayor of the municipality where they reside. Foreigners are nominated via the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Case study: well-deserved awards

The Order of the Lion of the Netherlands is the oldest and highest civilian order of chivalry in The Netherlands. The Order of the Netherlands Lion has been primarily used to recognise merit in the arts, science, sport and literature. The second order of chivalry, the Order of Orange-Nassau, is awarded for longstanding meritorious service to society, the State or the Royal House:

To continue on from that idea of respect being so important in society, this brings us to another position that you’ve held since 2014, chairman of the Civil Honours Advisory Commission. To many this might sound formal and ceremonial, but it is an important institution that bestows recognition on as many people as possible who have made an outstanding contribution to Dutch society. How do you perceive this formal and ceremonial image?

Everyone is familiar with the birthday honours list, or ‘lintjesregen’ as we call it in Dutch. The vast majority of people are rightly proud if a royal honour is conferred on them or a family member. The basic principle is that for someone to qualify for an honour they must be of impeccable character. It is, after all, a royal honour bestowed by the king. It is something special. The commission advises the minister. There are of course those honours that can be awarded without discussion, but there are also matters that need to be considered, including the ‘grade’ at which the honour should be awarded. Every two weeks the Advisory Commission, along with the chancellor of the Netherlands Orders of Knighthood, meet to discuss these matters. As I mentioned, we advise the minister, and our role is to protect the integrity of the system and its proceedings.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer | PSOW Blog, Interview with Professor Jaap G. de Hoop Scheffer, former Secretary-General of NATO, Guest Blogger – Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The following examples show the extent of merit required to be awarded the Order of the Netherlands Lion and the Order of Orange-Nassau.

  • Hendrik Johannes “Johan” Cruijff (1947 – 2016) was a Dutch professional football player and coach. As a player, he won the Ballon d’Or three times, in 1971, 1973, and 1974. Cruyff is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, and one of the greatest football managers. BBC broadcaster and former England striker Gary Lineker, regarded Cruyff as Europe’s best ever player. Upon hearing of the death of Cruijff, former UEFA president Michel Platini said: “Today football has lost one of its best ever players and ambassadors. I am very sad because Johan was my childhood hero, my idol and my friend.”. Cruijff was appointed Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau (10 April 2002).
  • Jelle Zijlstra (1918 – 2001) was a Dutch politician and economist who served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 22 November 1966 until 5 April 1967. He was chief of the Dutch Central Bank serving from 1 May 1967 until 1 January 1982. Zijlstra was granted the honorary title of Minister of State on 30 April 1983 and continued to comment on political affairs as a statesman until his death. His legacy as a Minister in the 1950s and ’60s and later as President of the Central Bank continues to this-day. Zijlstra was awarded the Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Netherlands Lion (18 November 1981); and Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Orange-Nassau (27 April 1967).
  • Andreas Antonius Maria “Dries” van Agt (1931-) is a Dutch politician, diplomat and jurist who served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 19 December 1977 until 4 November 1982. Following his retirement, Van Agt continued to be active in the public sector and worked as an advocate, lobbyist and activist for several non-profit organisations. He is currently advisor for the International Forum for Justice and Peace. Van Agt was awarded the Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Orange-Nassau Netherlands (9 December 1982).
  • Maximilianus “Max” van der Stoel (1924 – 2011) was a Dutch politician, diplomat and activist who served as High Commissioner on National Minorities of the OSCE from 1 January 1993 until 1 July 2001. From 1973 to 1977 and 1981 to 1982 he was the Netherlands Minister of Foreign Affairs. Van der Stoel was granted the honorary title of Minister of State on 17 May 1991 and continued to comment on political affairs until his death. Van der Stoel was a Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion Netherlands (5 December 1966) and a Grand Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau Netherlands (9 September 1982).
  • Rudolphus Franciscus Marie “Ruud” Lubbers (1939 – 2018) was a Dutch politician and businessman who served as Prime Minister of The Netherlands from 4 November 1982 to 22 August 1994, and as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from 1 January 2001 until 20 February 2005. Lubbers was granted the honorary title of Minister of State on 31 January 1995. He is both the youngest Prime Minister of the Netherlands at 43 years, and the longest-serving with over 11 years, and is consistently ranked both by scholars and the public as one of the best post-war Prime Ministers. Lubbers was awarded the Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Netherlands Lion Netherlands (8 October 1994) (see: Financial Times).

Case study: undeserving recipients

In diplomatic circles, it is customary to award high-ranking Dutch awards to foreign diplomats:

Do you see the exchange of honours during a state visit as a way of strengthening the bond between two countries and showing respect for one another?

Definitely, the exchange of honours plays an important role during state visits. The ‘high grades’ that are often awarded are sometimes criticized, but people should remember that this is where the idea of ‘reciprocity’ comes into play, which is extremely important in international diplomacy. When country x uses the occasion of a state visit to present the equivalent of a Grand Cross of the Order of Orange-Nassau to someone in the Dutch entourage, then reciprocity requires that the Netherlands does the same. There are those who say that the level of the award should be reduced slightly, and some countries do that; some countries are ready to discuss it, but there needs to be a clear understanding. However, reciprocity remains the key principle.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer | PSOW Blog, Interview with Professor Jaap G. de Hoop Scheffer, former Secretary-General of NATO, Guest Blogger – Tuesday, June 28, 2016

De Hoop Scheffer’s comments are incorrect. It is an insult to the Dutch people to let reciprocity become the main consideration for awarding high-ranking Dutch awards to useless foreign diplomats and politicians. A few examples of undeserved high-ranking Dutch awards are listed below, but there are many more cases.

  • All foreign ambassadors in The Netherlands receive the Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Orange-Nassau at the end of their term. Between May 2019 and March 2020 (11 months) Dutch police recorded 12.971 traffic offences of which 37 were severe traffic offences, committed by about 10.000 diplomats (source: Kamerbrief over verkeersveiligheid en medewerkers die in Nederland immuniteit genieten, 10 July 2020). This is apart from about 20 criminal offences per year, committed by diplomats (source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Russian and Chinese diplomats are notorious offenders but there are many more countries that misbehave in The Netherlands. Colombia once recalled a diplomat because he had links with the drugs trade. The diplomats remain out of the range of the justice system because they enjoy diplomatic immunity. In some cases, the ministry asked for the immunity to be lifted. Statistics show that diplomats are often delinquents. They should be banned from receiving any official awards.
  • Elena María Isabel Dominica de Silos de Borbón y de Grecia (1963-) is the first child and elder daughter of King Juan Carlos I of Spain and Queen Sofía of Spain, and third in the line of succession to the Spanish throne. She has a younger sister, Cristina, and a younger brother, King Felipe VI. Infante Elena has done nothing significant for the Dutch people, but was nonetheless awarded the Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Orange-Nassau.
  • Hassanal Bolkiah (1946-) is the 29th and current sultan and Prime Minister of Brunei. He is one of the few absolute monarchs in the world. The sultan has been ranked among the wealthiest individuals in the world. In 2008, Forbes estimated the sultan’s net worth at around EUR 20 billion. Scandals associated with Bolkiah include the Shannon Marketic Incident (pre-1998), involving sex abuse and drugs), the Amedeo crisis (1983-1998, involving financial fraud of around USD 40 billion); Anti-LGBT and death by stoning legislation (2019) and the Car collection controversy (involving a financial crisis due to overspending). In 2013, Bolkiah was awarded the Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Netherlands Lion, although he made no contribution to Dutch society.
  • Bert Jozef Herman Vic Anciaux (1959) is a Belgian politician and Vooruit faction leader in the Belgian Senate. He served as Minister for Culture, Youth and Sport in the Flemish Government from 2004 until 2009, he was also Minister for relations with the Brussels-Capital Region and the Brussels Parliament. Without any serious contributions to The Netherlands, Anciaux was awarded the Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Orange-Nassau (2008).
  • Armand De Decker (1948 – 2019) was a Belgian politician and member of the French-speaking liberal party Mouvement Réformateur (MR). In 2018, De Decker was indicted for influence-peddling as part of the wide-ranging “Kazakhgate” probe into allegations of corruption in 2011 linked to a trade agreement between France and Kazakhstan. The case led to charges against several people in France and raids on the offices of European aviation giant Airbus (source: Without any serious contributions to The Netherlands, De Decker was awarded the Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Orange-Nassau.
  • Sven Otto Julius Littorin (1966-) is a former Swedish politician and architect of major structural reforms in his country. On 7 July 2010, Littorin announced his immediate resignation. The day before, he been confronted by a reporter for Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet whether it was true or not that he had purchased sex. Littorin denied the allegations, but nevertheless resigned from the government. His official reaction was the harshness of the media against him and his children, as well as “for private reasons”, following divorce and a custody battle over his children (source: In 2009, Littorin was awarded the Grand Cross in the Order of Orange-Nassau, without having contributed anything of significance to the Dutch people.


Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Orange-Nassau (Dutch: Orde van Oranje-Nassau); a civil and military Dutch order of chivalry founded on 4 April 1892 by the Queen regent Emma, acting on behalf of her under-age daughter Queen Wilhelmina (Photo:

Official statistics show, that in The Netherlands, diplomats generally have a low standard of ethics. However, they are systematically awarded the highest honours, The Netherlands can give. All parting ambassadors in The Netherlands receive the Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Orange-Nassau. This practice is an insult to the men and women who built up our country, like for example Olympic gold medalists, who receive the lowest rank (knighthood) in the Order of the Netherlands Lion. It is also insulting to the Dutch people that heads of state and other officials receive the Order as a matter of political courtesy, without any compensation. It is disgraceful that 99% of all foreign holders of the highest ranks in the Dutch honour system have obtained their honours based on political considerations only. The highest rank of the Dutch orders of chivalry has thus become a cheap giveaway. Foreigners who do not contribute to Dutch society are issued the highest honours but Dutch residents who make serious sacrifices, receive the lower ranks.

There is a good alternative to deal with this matter: the already existing Order of the Crown. This award is conferred on ‘foreign nationals who have rendered meritorious service to Us or Our House’. It is divided into five classes: Grand Cross, Grand Cross of Honour with Plaque, Grand Cross of Honour, Cross of Honour with Rosette and Cross of Honour. Although some adjustments to the statutes might be necessary, the Order of the Crown can be awarded as a courtesy gift to foreign diplomats and the like. It should replace the conferring of the Order of the Netherlands Lion and the Order of Orange-Nassau to foreign diplomats and politicians. This would stop the regular insults inflicted on the Dutch people, by issuing the country’s state orders to diplomats and politicians who – even in the most deserving cases – have invariably made no worthy contribution to The Netherlands. Often, the opposite is true.

Appendix A

Vaststelling begroting Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken 2020


Vergaderjaar 2019-2020

Nr. 40

Aan de Voorzitter van de Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal

Den Haag, 12 november 2019

In de antwoorden op de vragen van de leden Sjoerdsma en Sneller van 20 juni 2019 (Aanhangsel Handelingen II 2018/19, nr. 3117) heb ik toegezegd een evaluatie van decoratie uitwisseling bij staatsbezoeken uit te laten voeren. Hierbij ontvangt u de resultaten van deze interne evaluatie. Doelstelling van de evaluatie is een appreciatie te geven van het huidige functioneren van decoratie uitwisseling bij staatsbezoeken en te bekijken of aanpassingen aan de huidige praktijk wenselijk zijn.

Staatsbezoeken hebben in het diplomatieke verkeer tussen landen een bijzondere functie en waarde. De praktijk van uitwisseling van onderscheidingen bij staatsbezoeken kan hier -in voorkomende gevallen- deel van uitmaken. Dit onderscheidt zich van de overige delen van het decoratiestelsel in de zin dat het niet gaat om beoordeling van de merites van een persoon, maar om het uitdrukken van wederzijds respect en het versterken en bekrachtigen van de goede relaties tussen twee landen. Het Kapittel voor de Civiele Orden geeft daarom ook geen advies over voorstellen tot decoratieverlening bij staatsbezoeken. De Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken neemt als politiek verantwoordelijke Minister het definitieve besluit over decoratie uitwisseling. Hier spelen internationaal gebruik, onderlinge verhoudingen, verwachtingspatronen en gevoeligheden een bijzondere rol.

Het besluit om al dan niet over te gaan tot uitwisseling van decoraties tijdens staatsbezoeken wordt voorafgegaan door een zorgvuldige afweging door het Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken in overleg met het Ministerie van Algemene Zaken en vertegenwoordigers van het Koninklijk Huis over de opportuniteit van een bezoek op het allerhoogste niveau. Het besluit over een eventueel staatsbezoek wordt gemaakt op basis van politieke (inclusief o.m. vraagstukken van goed bestuur, mensenrechten en internationaal recht), diplomatieke en economische argumenten, waarbij tevens rekening wordt gehouden met een zekere regionale spreiding, aandacht voor buurlanden, economische relevantie, relaties met andere monarchieën en de bilaterale relatie. Indien een staatsbezoek opportuun wordt geacht op basis van deze criteria, volgt hieruit dat er geen principiële bezwaren zijn tegen het uitwisselen van koninklijke onderscheidingen met het betreffende land als uiting van wederzijds respect.

Het uitwisselen van decoraties is zeker geen automatisme. Er is geen staande praktijk van het standaard uitreiken van decoraties bij staatsbezoeken. Belangrijk om hierbij voor ogen te houden is dat uitwisseling tussen twee landen plaatsvindt ter versterking van de bilaterale relaties en niet op basis van merites van individuele personen. Centrale uitgangspunten bij de besluitvorming omtrent decoratie-uitwisseling bij staatsbezoeken zijn, naast de hierboven genoemde zorgvuldigheid in de afweging van de opportuniteit van een staatsbezoek op zich:

  1. Geen automatisme: per staatsbezoek en per land wordt bekeken of uitwisseling van decoraties toegevoegde waarde heeft voor de bilaterale betrekkingen en voor de uitstraling van het bezoek.
  2. Reciprociteit: zowel het ontvangende als het gevende land moeten een systeem van decoratie uitwisseling hebben en er dient een goede balans te zijn in de decoraties over en weer.
  3. Soberheid, vooral waar het gaat om de aantallen uit te wisselen decoraties.

Op basis van bovenstaande uitgangspunten zijn de afgelopen vijf jaar bij sommige staatsbezoeken in het geheel geen decoraties uitgewisseld (Zuid-Korea, Canada, China, Australië, Nieuw-Zeeland, Ierland, Singapore en India), zijn bij een aantal andere alleen op het niveau van staatshoofden decoraties uitgewisseld (Portugal, Argentinië, Verenigd Koninkrijk, en Kaapverdië) en bij de rest (Japan, Polen, Denemarken, Frankrijk, België, Italië, Vaticaanstad, Luxemburg, Estland, Letland en Litouwen) is soberheid in de aantallen betracht.

De werkwijze die door andere EU-lidstaten wordt gehanteerd voor decoraties bij staatsbezoeken verschilt weinig van de Nederlandse werkwijze. Navraag bij onder meer het VK en Duitsland leert dat ook bij hen bij staatsbezoeken uitwisseling geen automatisme is en dat reciprociteit, soberheid, zorgvuldigheid en politieke opportuniteit ook daar belangrijke uitgangspunten zijn.

Volgens de Nederlandse wetgeving vervalt een onderscheiding alleen als de gedecoreerde persoon onherroepelijk is veroordeeld tot een gevangenisstraf van minimaal één jaar. Dit is geregeld in artikel 12, lid 2 van de Wet instelling van de Orde van de Nederlandse Leeuw en in artikel 11, lid 2 van de Wet instelling van de Orde van Oranje-Nassau. Na het vervallen van de onderscheiding wordt de onderscheiding opgevraagd. Dit is nog nooit gebeurd ten aanzien van onderscheidingen uitgewisseld bij staatsbezoeken. In mijn antwoorden op de vragen van de leden Sjoerdsma en Sneller van 20 juni 2019 (Aanhangsel Handelingen II 2018/19, nr. 3117) heb ik al aangegeven dat het verruimen van intrekkingsgronden van onderscheidingen niet zal bijdragen aan een betere inhoudelijke discussie met het betrokken land over het respecteren van het internationaal recht en zodoende niet betekenisvol is.

In de praktijk worden de hierboven genoemde centrale uitgangspunten van het systeem van decoratie uitwisseling zorgvuldig gehanteerd en bieden deze voldoende aanknopingspunten om per staatsbezoek een weloverwogen en voor dat land passende keuze te maken waar het gaat om uitwisseling van decoraties. Deze praktijk voorziet in de nodige flexibiliteit om per geval een zorgvuldige afweging te kunnen maken van wat in het belang is van de bilaterale relaties met het andere land. Ook in de toekomst zullen deze centrale uitgangspunten leidend blijven, juist in het belang van het aanzien en de maatschappelijke waardering van Koninklijke onderscheidingen. Graag wil ik het belang benadrukken van het feit dat decoratieverlening tijdens staatsbezoeken, op basis van de Nederlandse normen en waarden, als logisch wordt ervaren.

De Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken,
S.A. Blok

Appendix B

The following is an interesting quote by Mr. Matthew Palmer, who is a veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service. While on the Secretary of State’s policy-planning staff, Palmer helped design and implement the Kimberley Process for certifying African diamonds as “conflict free.”. It is too interesting not to mention.

We [the US diplomats] cherry-pick our facts, omit the inconvenient from our narratives and manipulate language without mercy to make our point. 

Matthew Palmer, The Dishonest Diplomat: How a Critical Profession Got a Bad Rap, Time, 23 July 2014

“Royal Patrons” of Orders of Knighthood: do’s and don’ts

Most Orders of Knighthood are formulated as charities with or without a national outlook, and often – though not always – regulated within the territory they were founded in. This is in line with the spirit of their ancient and original predecessors, that also focused on protecting the vulnerable. In many cases a person of royal descent is attracted as a patron to give the Order more cachet. This article provides recommendations regarding these Royal Patrons. In a case study, the article focuses on the Orléans obedience of the Order of Saint Lazarus, although more branches of this international Order of Knighthood exist, each recognising their own Grand Master.

In a 2015 BBC News article, Professor Catherina Pharoah, Co-Director of the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy, at Cass Business School at City University, London, states that royal patronage changes the public perception of a charity:

“It’s an endorsement that their work is reputable and high quality,” she says, adding that royal patrons are highly sought-after.”

 “The support of the royal princes for services and ex-services charities has been hugely important. Those areas were very much seen as a legacy of the past, but they’ve brought a new awareness to it and made it a more immediate cause.

“It was like when William and Kate chose charitable causes as part of their wedding celebrations, they chimed in with the mood of the moment.”

Vanessa Barford, Why do charities want a royal patron?, BBC News, 5 January 2012

Recent research

However, recent research concludes that royal patronages provide no discernible financial benefits to charities:

We found that charities should not seek or retain Royal patronages expecting that they will help much. 

74% of charities with Royal patrons did not get any public engagements with them last year. We could not find any evidence that Royal patrons increase a charity’s revenue (there were no other outcomes that we could analyse), nor that Royalty increases generosity more broadly. Giving Evidence takes no view on the value  of the Royal family generally. The findings are summarised in this Twitter thread.

We investigated this mindful that some donors help charities much less than they think they do. Some help a lot; some create so much work that dealing with them consumes the entire donation, meaning that their net contribution is nil; and some are even worse, creating a net drain. (Having been a charity CEO myself, I wrote an entire book for donors, about how charities really function and how donors can help them and avoid hindering them.) Equally, some well-intentioned programmes run by charities are great, some achieve nothing, and some are counter-productive and harmful.

Royal patronages can create costs for charities. For example, The Telegraph newspaper claimed that the Outward Bound Trust flew Prince Andrew, its then-patron, to New York to attend a fundraising event.

Charities often seem to think that a Royal patron will visit them, or enable events at palaces which they can use to attract press coverage or donors. In fact, most UK charities with Royal patrons did not get a single public engagement with their Royal patron last year: 74% of them got none. Only 1% of charities with Royal patrons got more than one public engagement with them last year. {In this video, it transpires that Kate hasn’t visited one of her patronee charities for eight years.} Some got many more, but they are mainly charities set up by the Royals. We found that same pattern when we analysed a three year period, 2016-19. Charities set up by the Royals are 2% of the patronee charities but last year got 36% of the Royals’ public engagements with patronee charities. (Later, Prince William took over two patronages from the Queen and Prince Philip. One of those charities had had one official engagement from their Royal patron in the last ten years: the other had had none in ten years. Data here.)

Charities cite various benefits of Royal patronages e.g., on staff morale, on beneficiaries. We do not deny these. But we are trying to do science, so needed reliable and comparable data about the large number of charities that we needed to analyse. The sole such data are revenue, so we used that. The potential to raise a charity’s revenue appears to among the Palace’s criteria for selecting charities.

Just by looking at graphs (see below) of the revenue over time of the patronee charities versus that of comparable charities it is looks as though revenue is not affected when a Royal patronage starts.

We also looked in much more complicated ways. We used several sophisticated analytical methods: econometric regressions using various combinations of comparator groups and outcome variables. None convincingly found an effect.

In the videos below, we explain what we researched, why, how, and what we found. We had three research questions: what are Royal patronages; which charities have them; and what difference do they make?

Charities seem to matter to the Royal family. ‘Charities and patronages’ is the first permanent item on the Royal website below an article about the Monarch.

As well as finding no evidence that Royals bring revenue to their patronee charities, we also found no reason that donors should assume that a charity with a Royal patronage outperforms its peers. Take air ambulances. The UK has 21 air ambulance charities, each serving a different ‘patch’. The ones with senior Royal patrons are: Cornwall (Camilla: Duchess of Cornwall), London (William: who lives in London), Wiltshire (Camilla, who has a house in neighbouring Gloucestershire), and Yorkshire (Andrew: Duke of York). It seems likely that these selections are driven less by quality than by history and geography.

We found no evidence that a concentration of Royal patronages of charities in a geographic area increases the generosity of people in that area. (We compared English regions on (i) the number of Royal patronages they have, and (ii) the proportion of people who have given recently). And looking internationally, we found no evidence that a resident Royal family makes a nation more generous. In short, we looked from many angles, and did not find evidence of a beneficial effect from any of them.

Caroline Fiennes, Royal patronages of charities don’t seem to help charities much, 16 July 2020.

Orders of Knighthood

Most Orders of Knighthood are international charities that attract donations from their members and subsequently distribute these funds among worthy causes. They often have a Royal Patron as they think this adds value to their organization. In certain cases, this is true. In other cases the opposite is true.

Dynastic Orders should be connected to the original dynasty that was involved in the formation of the Order to add historical legitimacy. This places the Order in its dynastic context, which certainly adds historical value to the Order. A good example in this respect is the French branch of the Order of Saint Lazarus, which attracted the Count of Paris (the head of the French Royal Family) as their patron.

Case study: the Order of Saint Lazarus

On Sunday 12 September 2004 in the Cathedral of Orléans, the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus was restored to its traditional Protector – the Royal House of France. This event restored the status of the Order which it formerly enjoyed and which had been lost to the Order since 1830. In the presence of numerous witnesses His Royal Highness the Count of Paris, Duke of France and Head of the House of France, declared before the High Altar that the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem would once again be given the Protection of the House of France (photo: OSLJ).

Since 12 September 2004, the Protection of the Order of Saint Lazarus has been assumed by the Royal House of France. By offering its Protection, the Royal House of France has restored the Order to the status it had lost in 1830, when a royal decree caused the order to lose its royal protection after both King Louis XVIII, the Order’s protector, and the duc de Châtre, the Order’s lieutenant-general, had died in 1824. Confirmation of the Royal Protection was given (see Appendix) in the Cathedral of Orléans, during the Investiture of Prince Charles-Philippe d’Orléans, Duc d’Anjou, as Grand Master of the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem. The installation of the Prince was solemnly witnessed and validated by His Royal Highness the Count of Paris and by His Eminence Cardinal László Paskai, Primate Emeritus of Hungary. The document was also signed and witnessed in the Chapel dedicated to St Joan of Arc in the Cathedral of Orleans by the leaders and delegates of 19 National Jurisdictions of our Order. In addition, the ceremony was attended by representatives of the Catholic, Greek Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Reformed Churches. Also present were members of the diplomatic corps, dignitaries of the French Republic and the City of Orléans and Military Officers of France, The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Ireland. It should be noted that Wikipedia’s statement “The Orléans obedience claims the protection of Henri d’Orléans, Count of Paris.” is false as it suggests that this claim might in fact not be true. The statement is based on a negatively biased source.

The Order of Saint Lazarus is an international confraternity of Christians who profess their commitment to Jesus. Its three pillars are charity, spirituality and tradition (source: Order of Saint Lazarus). The Order of Saint Lazarus offers financial support to, for example, the Society for Uplift and Rehabilitation of Leprosy Affected People, based in Sri Lanka. It offers assistance primarily to people with leprosy, but it also works to help children orphaned because of leprosy and those affected in any way by this terrible disease (source: Order of Saint Lazarus). The combination of historical authenticity and genuine good works strengthen the legitimacy of this important charitable institution enormously.

When the Royal House of France took the Order of Saint Lazarus under its wings again, the question regarding the formation date of the Order was reduced to an academic question. The fact that it is an Order of the Royal House of France, revives the Order’s full legitimacy.


I have five recommendations for organisations that consider attracting a Royal Patron.

  • There is a difference between a Fons Honorum and a Royal Patronage. A Fons Honorum is 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). The Fons Honorum is needed to create a new legal entity, like reviving an ancient Order of Knighthood or granting a title of nobility. A Royal Patronage is in fact only a formal act of support. Therefore, there is no need for a Royal Patron to hold the Fons Honorum. In the exceptional case of the Order of Saint Lazarus, the Fons Honorum and the Royal Patronage have merged when the Count of Paris became the Order’s patron and endorsed the appointment of his nephew as Grand Master. But in general, it is not necessary to attract a Royal Patron who is the head of a dynasty. Other members of dynastic houses can very well carry out the task of patron. Although a head of a dynastic house will often be the first choice, Orders should not limit themselves to one person when this is not feasible. Selecting a specific member of a Royal Family can also be the result of a process where the person with the best abilities is chosen to become the Order’s patron. In fact, this is a much better strategy than to just aim for the Head of the Family. In addition, other persons of achievement, like celebrities or successful business leaders, can act as a valuable patron of the Order.
  • In general, it does not help the funding activities if a Royal Patron gives her/his blessing to an organisation. In case of Orders of Knighthood, this is different. These organisations gain reputation when an influential patron endorses the Order. As a consequence, the Order will attract more members and is therefore better equipped to perform charitable activities. Finding a good patron is therefore an important task for an Order.
  • Royal Patrons who do not have a historical relation with the Order, are in a way a red flag for becoming a member. It shows that the Order is unable to find a historically relevant patron. Unintentionally, it sends out a signal of illegitimacy. The Royal Patron sends out the wrong signal as well because her/his irrelevant background supports the idea that something is not right.
  • It is peculiar that the Order of Saint Lazarus sought (e.g. L’Osservatore Romano of 21 March 1952) and possibly still seeks some kind of recognition from the Pope. Such a recognition is irrelevant and will never come. Being a Roman Catholic Order of Knighthood means a breach with the ecumenical principles, which is one of the most important pillars of the success of the Order. The Order of Saint Lazarus should remain fully independent and focus on interfaith dialogue. It should not become involved in the Roman Catholic church hierarchy. For the same reasons, I advise against the formation of local entities of the Order in the form of Catholic lay organisations, as has become a regular practice.
  • I noticed that some more recent dynastic claimants enter into so-called ‘friendship treaties’ with exotic Royal Houses (e.g. in Asia) in order to become more accepted within nobiliary circles. This serves the same purpose as attracting a Royal Patron. I strongly advise against this practice because it shows the opposite: a lack of acceptance. When a claimant needs to reach out to Royal Houses in other continents to substantiate her/his case, it shows that more obvious ‘royal friends’ decline to engage in joint activities. It should be kept in mind that a genuine dynastic claim does not need recognition from anyone, because of the sovereign character of a dynasty. In most cases, it is enough when the claim is transparent and reasonably embedded in a historical context. The perfect claim does not exist.


An anonymous reviewer is thanked for critically reading the manuscript and suggesting substantial improvements. His suggestions helped improve and clarify this article.


Déclaration de Monseigneur le Comte de Paris, Duc de France, Chef de la Maison Royale de France

Henry, par la grâce de Dieu, Chef de la Maison de France, faisons savoir à tous, tant présents que futurs que,

Considérant les lettres patentes données à Poitiers, en juillet 1308, par le Roi Philippe IV le Bel qui déclara “prendre sous notre garde spéciale et notre protection le Maître Général et les frères de l’Ordre de Saint-Lazare de Jérusalem” afin de leur éviter toute spoliation,

Considérant les origines pontificales et l’organisation canonique de l’ordre de Saint-Lazare de Jérusalem rappelées, notamment, par le Pape Alexandre IV (bulle donnée à Naples le 11 des calendes d’avril 1255) et par le Pape Clément XIV (bulle Militarium Ordinum Institutio du 10 décembre 1772),

Considérant les différents accords conclus entre les Chefs de la Maison Royale de France et les Souverains Pontifes complétant l’exercice de ce Protectorat depuis le concordat du 15 aoùt 1516,

Considérant que ce Protectorat a été assumé par les Chefs de la Maison Royale de France jusqu’en 1830,

Considérant la titulature de Protecteur Temporel de l’Ordre Militaire et Hospitalier de Saint-lazare de Jérusalem comme faisant intégralement partie de l’héritage que nous assumons en tant que Chef de la Maison Royale de France,

Nous déclarons perpétuer cet engagement en garantissant le caractère authentique et unique, dans sa dimension juridique et traditionnelle, de cette antique Institution.

Orléans, le 12 septembre 2004

Declaration by H.R.H. the Count of Paris, Duke of France, Head of the Royal House of France

We, Henri, by the Grace of God, Head of the House of France, make known to all persons, for now and the future, that,

Whereas pursuant to letters patent given at Poitiers, in July 1308, by King Philippe IV the Fair, who declared that he took “under Our special guard and protection the Master General and brethren of the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem” in order to prevent their suffering any despoilment;

Whereas pursuant to the pontifical origins and canonical structure of the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem, as recalled in particular by Pope Alexander IV in a Bull given at Naples on the eleventh day of the calends of April 1255, and by Pope Clement XIV in the Bull Militarium Ordinum Institutio of 10 December 1772;

Whereas pursuant to the various agreements entered into between the Heads of the Royal House of France and the Sovereign Pontiffs setting out in full the exercise of that Protectorship following the Concordat of 15 August 1516;

Whereas pursuant to this Protectorship being assumed by the Heads of the Royal House of France until 1830;

And whereas the title of Temporal Protector of the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem being an integral part of the heritage that we have entered into as Head of the Royal House of France;

We declare our perpetuation of this commitment, guaranteeing as we do, in terms both of the law and of tradition, the authentic and unique character of this ancient Institution.

Orléans, 12 September 2004



Versélewel de Witt Hamer, T. J. (2017). Geloven verplicht: Een elite-onderzoek naar ridderlijke orden in het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden (1965-2015). Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.

Dames and Knights of the Royal House of Portugal

This article focuses on the traditions of the nobility in Portugal during the rule of the Bragança-dynasty (1640 to 1910). In particular, the article investigates to what extent these traditions have survived since Portugal became a republic in 1910.

The Headship of the House of Bragança is claimed by the Duke of Bragança and the Duke of Loulé, who share a common ancestor: king John VI of Portugal (1767-1826). This issue is addressed in my article Lines of succession to the former Portuguese throne. The current article only addresses the honours that are issued by the Duke of Bragança.


The upper social class in fifteenth-century Portugal was the fidalguia (nobility), corresponding perhaps to one percent of the population. The ancient Portuguese nobility was defined by the medieval lineages of noblemen (fidalgos or in Spanish: hidalgos). An early definition of this term can be found in the Book of Laws that was issued by King Alfonso X of Leon and Castile in the mid-thirteenth century (Ley 3ª, Título XXI, Partida 2ª de las Siete Partidas del Rey Alfonso X el Sabio). Hidalguía (Portuguese: fidalguia) is the nobility that comes to men through their lineage:

…es nobleza que viene a los hombres por linaje, y por ello deben mucho guardar los que tienen derecho en ella, que no la dañen ni la mengüen, y pues que el linaje hace que la tengan los hombres así como herencia, no debe querer el hidalgo que él haya de ser de tan mala ventura que lo que en los otros se comenzó y heredaron, mengüe o se acabe en él, y esto sería cuando él menguase en lo que los otros acrecentaron, casando con villana o el villano con hijodalgo. Pero la mayor parte de la hidalguía ganan los hombres por la honra de los padres, pues cuando la madre sea villana y el padre hijodalgo, hijodalgo es el hijo que de ellos naciere, y por hidalgo se puede contar, mas no por noble, mas si naciere de hijadalga y de villano, no tuvieron por derecho que fuese contado por hijodalgo.

…it is nobility what comes to men by lineage, and for this reason those who have a right to it should be very careful not to damage or diminish it, and since lineage causes men to have it as an inheritance, the nobleman should not wish that he should be so unfortunate that what was begun and inherited in others should diminish or end in him, and this would be when he diminishes in what others have increased, by marrying a woman-villain or a villain despite a nobleman. But the greater part of nobility is gained by men through the honour of their parents, for when the mother is a villain and the father is a nobleman (Fidalgo), nobleman (Fidalgo) is the son born from them, and he can be counted as fidalgo but not as noble, but if he is born of a son of a noblewoman (Fidalga) and of a villain, he has no right to be counted as nobleman (hijodalgo).

Libro de las Siete Partidas (Book of Laws), P. II, Tít. XXI, l. III (modernized spelling).

The lineages of the ancient Portuguese nobility are recorded in the unique work of Pedro Alfonso de Portugal, 3º Conde de Barcelos (before 1289 – 1350), an illegitimate son of King Denis of Portugal and Grácia Frois: Livro de Linhagens do Conde D. Pedro; Quintilhas aos brasões de armas das famílias de Portugal / João Rodrigues de Sá e Meneses [1601-1700]. The original nobility was supplemented by persons who were elevated to the noble status by the monarch, based on their personal achievements and their services rendered to the House of Bragança. The structure of the Portuguese nobility is complex. Luiz da Silva Pereira Oliveira distinguishes eight different qualities of noblemen: (i) noblemen of a well-known manor; (ii) noblemen by lineage; (iii) noblemen listed in the Livros d’El Rei (the King’s Books); (iv) noblemen created by the special grace of the King, which are different from those listed in the Livros d’El Rei; (v) notable noblemen; (vi) noblemen with great estates, or of great quality; (vii) principle noblemen; (viii) noblemen entitled to coats of arms (see: Luiz da Silva Pereira. Privilégios da Nobreza, e Fidalguia de Portugal. Lisboa – Na oficina de João Rodrigues Neves, 1806, p. 224.). However, there were many more kinds of nobility at the time of the monarchy and one person could have several qualities.

Rule of the House of Bragança

During the turbulent years between 1640 and 1910, the House of Bragança ruled as kings and queens over Portugal. The family played a key role in establishing Portuguese independence from its powerful Spanish neighbors and saved Portugal from total destruction by the vast armies of Napoleon. The Braganças also ruled over the huge empire of Brazil from 1822 to 1889 and created a unified nation, thus preventing the country from splitting into small warring states (see: Professor Malyn Newitt: 2019).

When Portugal abolished the monarchy in 1910, it also abolished the nations’s prosperity. As a monarchist, I agree with Dom Duarte Pio, Duke of Bragança, when he states:

Kings are always better heads of state than presidents. We rule for life and don’t represent particular interest groups. Our influence as kings is evident. People normally don’t know who the president of Italy is but everyone knows the name of the princes of Monaco and Liechtenstein, two of Europe’s smallest nations.

Reuters Lifestyle, 9 July 2007.

Dom Duarte has proven the correctness of his statements. In 1997, he suggested to the Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Habibie to hold a referendum on the independence of East Timor. After Habibie became president of Indonesia in 1999, a referendum was held that resulted in the independence of East Timor. As a token of gratitude, president Ramos-Horta conferred the Timorese citizenship upon Duarte Pio and awarded him the Grand Collar of the Order of Timor-Leste.

Traditions at the Bragança-court

The Bragança-court was a closed institution with a very stable inner circle. At the Court, the family traditions and values of the Portuguese aristocracy played a crucial role in keeping up its cultural identity. Not living in accordance with these traditions and values, lead to revoking of an individual’s status and that of his descendants:

(…) the central core of family values, expressed in the discipline of the aristocratic house, an essential secular aspect of the fidalgo “ethos”, was maintained until the end of the eighteenth century. This last aspect cannot be dissociated from the spread of culture or the forms used for the construction of nobiliary identities in Portugal in the period of the dynasty of Bragança, which began with the rebellion of 1640. Contrary to the well-known models based on Norbert Elias and the French case, but which has been questioned by the historiography (cf. especially Duindam 1995, Adamson 1999), the extremely closed society of the court of the new Portuguese dynasty only promoted the spread of a cosmopolitan culture within its circles in a very limited fashion. Even in this select and restricted universe, it was the traditional standards of family behaviour, linked to the institution of entailed estates, which continued to prevail.

Monteiro, Nuno Gonçalo – 17th and 18th century Portuguese Nobilities in the european context: a historiographical overviewE-journal of Portuguese History. Vol. 1, Nº 1 (2003), pp. 12.

Nobility at the Court

Dom Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza, Head of the House of Braganza, issues the insignia belonging to the Hereditary Knight of the Royal House of Portugal, with the privilege of the Grand Collar, to Prof. Dr. phil. h.c. Dr. rer. nat. h.c. Moritz Hunzinger, one of the most senior founding entrepreneurs in the German media sector (Kiev, 2021). Hunzinger is a well-known philanthropist and communications expert who has successfully brought together leaders from the worlds of politics and business.

In ancient times, Portugal had no tradition of titled nobility. The nobility consisted mainly of ricos homens (rich men), infanções (infants) and cavaleiros (horsemen). Between the 13th and 15th centuries, the ricos homens formed the highest category within the Portuguese nobility. In former Portuguese colonies, like the Moluccan Islands, the Malay translation, Orang Kaya (=rich man), of Rico homem is still used to designate members of the regional nobility (see: Ellen, 1986). The next category was formed by the Infanções, and finally the Cavaleiros. From the 14th century onward, the different categories of nobility and the equivalent titles began to formalize under royal authority (António Manuel Hespanha, A Nobreza nos Tratados Jurídicos dos Séculos XVI a XVIII; Vol. Nobreza e Aristocracia, Edição Cosmos, Lisboa). The 1806 monumental work Privilegios da nobreza, e fidalguia de Portugal, by magistrate (Almanach do anno de 1805, Lisboa, Impressão Regia, 1805, p. 414) Dr. Luiz da Silva Pereira Oliveira, analyzes and explains the system of the Portuguese nobility. His work shows how complex the Portuguese system is.

In 1572, King Sebastião (1554 – disappeared in 1578) ordered the reform of the status of the noblemen who resided at his Court. Since 1572, the hierarchical foro (=privilege)-system listed 12 degrees of distinction (Olival 2002, p. 80). Only the first three were associated with noble birth (fidalguia): noble knight (fidalgo cavaleiro); noble squire (fidalgo escudeiro) and page (moço fidalgo):

(…) deu ele regimento ao mordomo mor, datado de três de Janeiro de 1572, e nele ordenou que os Cavaleiros Fidalgos fossem em diante nomeados Fidalgos Cavaleiros, e que os escudeiros Fidalgos passassem à denominação de Fidalgos escudeiros; e não havendo nisto mais diferença que a de antepor o vocábulo Fidalgo ao de Cavaleiro, ou de escudeiro, há contudo hoje uma notável distinção e desigualdade entre uns e outros, e vem a ser: que o Fidalgo Escudeiro, ou Cavaleiro, é verdadeiro Fidalgo, e o Escudeiro, ou Cavaleiro Fidalgo não o é ell e fica diferindo tanto um do outro, como o ouro do dourado.

(… ) he gave a regulation to the chief steward [of the royal house], dated three January 1572, and in it he ordered that the Knights Nobleman were henceforth called Noble Knights, and that the Squires Nobleman passed to the denomination of Noble Squires; and there is no more difference than putting the word Noble before the word Knight, or Squire, there is however today a notable distinction and inequality between one and the other, which is: that the Noble Squire, or Knight, is a true Nobleman, and the Squire, or Knight Nobleman is not and is different so much one from the other, as gold from golden.

Luís da Silva Pereira Oliveira, Privilégios da nobreza e idalguia de Portugal (1806), pp. 221-222.

After the abolition of ricos homens, the King introduced the titles of infanções, cavaleiros and escudeiros. The grandees (Grand noble) were (among others) the hereditary dukes and counts. Bishops and Cardinal-abbots were also given the status of grandee by elevation or inheritance. Other titles did not include the dignity of grandee. Titles were created “de juro e herdade” (forever), for two or even three generations, through the male or female line, or “em sua vida” (for life). Extinguished titles reverted to the Crown. Fidalgos da Casa Real were created by the House of Bragança (Fidalgo da Casa de Bragança) already before the family became the rulers of Portugal. Subsequently, these titles were created by the Crown. Transmission was only possible through the male line.

The rare titles of Senhor (=Lord, for example Senhor do Caniço in the Ornelas family), Dom, or lesser titles as Cidadão do Porto, were granted by royal warrant. In modern times, the Conselheiro de Sua Magestade Fidelíssima (king’s counsel) was a title granted for life. Other titles, such as Fidalgo de cota de armas por sucessão (armigerous nobleman) or mercê nova (newly created nobleman) were granted by the King. The recipient of such titles became a nobleman. During the monarchical period, it was forbidden to carry a coat of arms without authorisation. The Instituto da Nobreza de Portugal still registers coats of arms, which are inherited through male or female succession, according to the rules in force at the time of Dom Manuel II, the last king of Portugal (source: Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. António da Costa de Albuquerque de Sousa Lara). The website of the Instituto da Nobreza de Portugal provides a good an complete overview of the structure of the complex Portuguese nobiliary system.

Fidalgo was a right that was inherited through birth. The Kings had no power over this dignity. The king could neither abolish nor create a Fidalgo. Therefore, it is said: the King can create a noble person but not create a Fidalgo (source: Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. António da Costa de Albuquerque de Sousa Lara). 

The aforementioned renewed structure of the Fidalgos da Casa Real was the inspiration for establishing the institution of the Hereditary Dames and Knights of the Royal House of Portugal by the Duke de Bragança.

The current Portuguese government correctly states that monarchs in exile do not lose their dynastic rights:

Mesmo em exílio, a sucessão real mantém-se, com todos os privilégios, estilos e honras que cabem ao chefe da Casa Real não reinante.

Even in exile, the royal succession is maintained, with all the privileges, styles and honours befitting the Head of the non-reigning Royal House.

Legal Assessment of the Department of Legal Affairs of the Portuguese Foreign Office, dated 17 April 2006.

The government has stated that Dom Duarte is the legal successor to the Headship of the Royal House of Portugal, although a second line of succession exists:

De acordo com aquele direito costumeiro, a sucessão na chefia da Casa Real Portuguesa deu-se do seguinte modo:

• D. Pedro IV de Portugal, I do Brasil, irmão de D. Miguel, abdicou do Trono Português.

• D. Maria II, seguinte na linha de sucessão, assumiu o trono.

• A descendência de D. Maria II manteve o Trono até 1910, aquando da Implantação da República.
• D. Manuel II, último Rei de Portugal, morreu no exílio, sem descendentes, nem irmãos legítimos.

• A linha colateral mais próxima, mantendo a nacionalidade portuguesa, de acordo com as normas sucessórias era a linha que advinha de D. Miguel, irmão de D. Pedro IV. Desse modo, o filho de D. Miguel, Miguel Maria de Assis Januário tornou-se legitimamente o novo chefe da Casa Real de Bragança por sucessão mortis causa de D. Manuel II.

• Ainda no exílio, sucedeu a D. Miguel [agora, de Bragança], seu único filho varão D. Duarte Nuno de Bragança e a este o actual chefe da Casa Real, D.Duarte Pio de Bragança.

• Em 1950, por Lei da Assembleia Nacional, a Família Real portuguesa foi autorizada a retornar.

According to that customary law, the succession to the Head of the Portuguese Royal House took place as follows:

• Dom Pedro IV of Portugal, I of Brazil, brother of Dom Miguel, abdicated the Portuguese Throne.

• Maria II, the next in line, assumed the throne.

• The descendants of Maria II retained the throne until 1910, when the Republic was established.

• Manuel II, the last King of Portugal, died in exile, without descendants or legitimate brothers.

• The closest collateral line, maintaining Portuguese nationality, according to the rules of succession was the line that came from Miguel, brother of Pedro IV. Miguel’s son Miguel Maria de Assis Januário legitimately became the new Head of the Royal House of Braganza by succession upon the death of Manuel II.

• Miguel was succeeded in exile by his only son, Duarte Nuno de Bragança, and by the current Head of the Royal House, Duarte Pio de Bragança.

• In 1950, by Law of the National Assembly, the Portuguese Royal Family was allowed to return home.

Legal Assessment of the Department of Legal Affairs of the Portuguese Foreign Office, dated 17 April 2006.

The government also confirmed that, based on consuetude, Dom Duarte has the prerogative to bestow titles and honours, although these are not recognised by the Portuguese state:

Do mesmo modo, a mestria das ordens nobiliárquicas e honoríficas monárquicas compete ao legítimo sucessor dos Reis de Portugal, o Duque de Bragança. Apenas a ele compete conferir foros de nobreza e títulos honoríficos. Deve, porém, ressalvar-se que, para efeitos de documentação oficial, apenas são reconhecidos pelo Estado os foros e títulos conferidos antes de 5 de Outubro de 1910 e desde que o direito ao seu uso seja devidamente provado, nos termos do Decreto n.º 10537, de 12 de Fevereiro de 1925.

In the same way, the Duke of Bragança, the legitimate successor to the kings of Portugal, has the authority to confer noble ranks and honorary titles. He alone has the authority to confer nobility and honorary titles. It should, however, be noted that, for the purposes of official documentation, only those conferred prior to 5th October 1910 and provided that the right to use them is duly proven, under the terms of Decree no. 10537 of 12th February 1925, are recognised by the State.

Legal Assessment of the Department of Legal Affairs of the Portuguese Foreign Office, dated 17 April 2006.

Only the titles of nobility granted by a reigning monarch before 5 October 1910 are given legal recognition and protection by public law, because they are part of a person’s name:

33. Salienta Menezes Cordeiro que ” o nome ou nome civil serve a individualização das pessoas mas, além dele, a sociedade reconhece fórmulas complementares de designação, que completam essa individualização” (“Títulos Nobiliárquicos e Registo Civil: a Inconstitucionalidade da Reforma de 2007″,R.O.A., Ano 69, 2009, pág. 19-57). Assim, a lei concede proteção ao pseudónimo ( artigo 74.º do Código Civil) e, se assim sucede, por maioria de razão há de ser concedida proteção ao título nobiliárquico a que a pessoa legitimamente tenha direito, tratado como complemento do nome que pode anteceder o nome do comerciante individual (artigo 38.º/3 do Regime do Registo Nacional das Pessoas Coletivas aprovado pelo Decreto-Lei n.º 129/98, de 13 de maio). No entender do mencionado Professor os títulos nobiliárquicos constituem figuras equiparadas ao nome – ou, no dizer de Carvalho Fernandes, ” figuras afins do nome civil” (Teoria Geral do Direito Civil, Lex, 1995, Vol I, 2.ª edição, pág. 156) – que ” de acordo com a posição hoje pacífica […] é apresentado como um direito de personalidade” (loc. cit., pág. 54).

Menezes Cordeiro points out that “the name or civil name serves to individualise persons but, in addition to this, society recognises complementary designation forms, which complete this individualisation” (“Titles of Property and Civil Registration: the Unconstitutionality of the 2007 Reform”, R.O.A., Year 69, 2009, pp. 19-57). Thus, the law grants protection to the pseudonym (article 74 of the Civil Code) and, if this is the case, there is even more reason to grant protection to the title of nobility to which the person is legitimately entitled, treated as a complement to the name that may precede the name of the individual trader (article 38/3 of the Regime of the National Register of Companies approved by Decree-Law no. 129/98 of 13 May). According to the referred Professor the titles of nobility are equivalent to the name – or, in the words of Carvalho Fernandes, “figures similar to the civil name” (General Theory of Civil Law, Lex, 1995, Vol I, 2nd edition, page 156) – which “according to the current position of undisturbed us […] is presented as a personality right” (loc. cit., page 54).

Supremo Tribunal de Justiça, judgment of 15 May 2014, no. 150/13.3YHLSB.L1.S1.

Therefore, the fons honorum of Dom Duarte is embedded in the Portuguese legal system. This includes the right to bestow the honours of Hereditary Dames/Knights of the Royal House of Portugal.

The concept of Hereditary Dames/Knights of the Royal House of Portugal includes, among others, explanations, descriptions, medals, drawings, ceremonies and diplomas. It is protected by intellectual property law because it concerns an original work of literature and art, in accordance with the Berne Convention and the Portuguese Decreto-Lei n. 334/97, de 27 de Novembro de 1997. The latter is the implementation of the Council Directive 93/98/EEC of 29 October 1993 harmonising the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights.

Cultural preservation: the Hereditary Knight of the Royal House of Portugal

In monarchical Portugal, services rendered to the Crown were essential in ensuring social achievement (Olival 2002, p. 80). In line with this tradition, the Royal House of Portugal still bestows awards to loyal contributors to charitable activities of the Royal House.

Today such a privilege is usually only granted upon those in proven, continued, dedicated service to the Portuguese Royal House who normally have already been awarded the highest ranks of Knighthood in one of the Dynastic Orders or else as a gift granted directly from the Duke of Bragança Motu Proprio in recognition of extraordinary services rendered.


Donations received from the Knights and Dames of the Portuguese Royal House help the Royal Charities actively supporting organizations operating in impoverished locations in Portugal and also in the Diocesan Missions of former Portuguese Oversea Territories such as São Tomé e Príncipe, Angola, Mozambique and East Timor. They also help support various cultural and historic projects in Portugal.

Honorary consul of Brazil in Fatima Dr. phil. h.c. Carlos Evaristo, The fons honorum, prerogatives and privileges of the Portuguese House of Bragança (manuscript, s/d)

The designations of Hereditary Knight of the Royal House of Portugal and Hereditary Dame of the Royal House of Portugal, issued by the current Duke of Bragança, are part of the aforementioned Foros of the Royal House of Bragança. These honours do not fit into any of the categories of the post-1572 (after the reform) nobiliary classes, because the legal structures in which the privileges were embedded at the time have been abolished by the Republic of Portugal. However, they are modern versions of a much more ancient institution of the House of Braganca: Fidalgos da Casa de Bragança and Fidalgos da Casa Real. An example is Fernão de Souza, mayor of Montalegre, in Trás-os-Montes, born around 1421, who in 1451 was created nobleman of the House of the Duke of Bragança and in 1473 of the Royal House of Aviz (mentioned with other examples in: Manuel Abranches de Soveral, Machado de Vila Pouca de Aguiar. Ascendências e parentescos da Casa do Couto d’Além, em Soutelo de Aguiar, Porto 2000. Ed. MASmedia. ISNB 972-97430-2-9. DL 152876/00. 202 pp. Integra uma 2ª parte sobre os Borges da Mesquita, de Atei). Another example is D. Gomes de Melo (c. 1580-1645), who was a nobleman of the House of Bragança, Portuguese Ambassador in Holland and England, and Commander of the Order of Christ (mentioned with other examples in: Susana Varela Flow, D. Francisco de Melo Manuel da Câmara: biografia, património, estatuto social e fidelidades (1626-1678), Análise Social, 215, l (2.º), 2015 ISSN online 2182-2999).

This privileged class was created by the House of Bragança (Fidalgo da Casa de Bragança) already before the family became the rulers of Portugal (pre-1640). During the Bragança-monarchy, Fidalgos da Casa Real belonged to a more prominent form of nobility than the ‘normal’ nobility. They were registered in the “Livros d’el-Rei“, like, for example, Manoel Rodrigues da Costa, in the mid-seventeenth century one of the richest and most authoritative noblemen of the kingdom (Caso n.º 2 N R 67 – Manuel Rodrigues da Costa Pr. n.º 9948 L – 11/11/1658-27/6/1672 A d F de 21-6-1671; cited in: Saraiva, A. J., Salomon, H. P., & D., S. I. S. (2001). The Marrano factory. The Portuguese inquisition and its new Christians, 1536-1765. Brill, p. 66). As the principal nobility of the realm, Fidalgos da Casa Real also had the capacity to obtain charters of coats of arms:

Segundo o direito heráldico português, as cartas de brasão de armas não estavam ao alcance de todos os nobres. Somente mereciam a distinção os fidalgos hierarquicamente superiores ao fidalgo de cota de armas. Ou seja, somente poderiam pleitear a distinção os fidalgos de grande qualidade, fidalgos de solar, fidalgos de linhagem, fidalgos notáveis e fidalgos assentados nos livros d’El Rei, denominados “fidalgos principais” ou “nobreza principal do reino”. Nesse grupo seleto ainda estavam os fidalgos do conselho, fidalgos cavaleiros, fidalgos escudeiros, fidalgos capelães e moços fidalgos. Embora pudessem ter brasões, os fidalgos de cotas de armas se localizavam na segunda ordem, onde estavam os nobres de linhagem (com quatro avós nobres), os cavaleiros fidalgos, desembargadores de El Rei, os cavaleiros das Ordens Militares, as pessoas denominadas por dom. Por fim, a terceira ordem se compunha de “pessoas de nobreza ordinária”, como os simples letrados, pessoas de grau de letras, professores régios de gramática latina e grega, de retórica e os cavaleiros, escudeiros e homens bons.

According to Portuguese heraldic law, charters of coats of arms were not attainable by all nobles, rather those fidalgos who were hierarchically superior to the fidalgo of arms. In other words, only high status fidalgos could ask for the distinction, namely the fidalgos de solar (fidalgos who were the direct successor of an old noble house), fidalgos by lineage, ‘notable fidalgos,’ and fidalgos entered in the King’s Books, who were called the ‘principal fidalgos‘ or the ‘principal nobility of the kingdom.’ Also included in this select group were the fidalgos of the council, fidalgos cavaleiros, fidalgos escudeiros, fidalgos capelães (chaplains) and moço fidalgo. Although they could have coats of arms, the fidalgos of arms were of the second rank, along with nobles by lineage (with four grandparent nobles), cavaleiros fidalgos, the judges of the High Courts, the knights of the Military Orders, and those granted the title of Dom. Finally, the third order was composed of ‘people of ordinary nobility,’ such as those who were educated, people with degrees, royal professors of Latin and Greek grammar and rhetoric, squires, and ‘homens bons’ (city councilmen)

R. Raminelli, Justifing nobilities. Old and new colonial elites 1750-1807. In: História (São Paulo) v.35, e97, 2016 ISSN 1980-4369, p. 4; Marquês de São Payo. Do direito heráldico português. Lisboa: Centro Tip. Colonial, 1927, pp. 12-13.
Coats of arms of principal families of the Portuguese nobility in the Thesouro de Nobreza; 1675.1/40 (fl 27). Source: Wikipedia Commons.

In order to be registered in the Livros d’el-Rei, Fidalgos da Casa Real had to provide four documents: (i) their baptism certificate, (ii) their parents’ marriage certificate, (iii) a certificate proving that their father or grandfather already had this status and (iv) a sworn attestation by two nobles, proving the nobleman’s identity, birthplace and residence, his filiation and that of his parents and grandparents, and finally that his father or grandfather was already a Fidalgo da Casa Real (Luís da Silva PereiraOliveira, Privilegios da Nobreza, e Fidalguia de Portugal, Lisbon, 1806, pp. 229-230).

The designations of Hereditary Knight of the Royal House of Portugal and Hereditary Dame of the Royal House of Portugal do not enjoy state recognition and bestow no privileges as in ancient times, but nonetheless, remain monuments of Portugal’s monarchical history and part of its rich cultural heritage. The current Portuguese government confirmed that, based on custom and tradition, Dom Duarte still has the prerogative to bestow titles and honours, although these are not recognised by the Portuguese state. Therefore, the fons honorum that creates Hereditary Knights of the Royal House of Portugal, is recognized by the Portuguese government. This places the modern designation Hereditary Knight/Dame of the Royal House of Portugal in a unique position. Their character and legal status are more or less comparable to the Dutch orders awarded for services rendered to the Dutch Royal House. However, the Portuguese variant implies that the holder of the award also belongs to the traditional, hereditary nobility of the Royal House of Bragança.


Dom Duarte’s role in continuing the cultural and historical heritage, passed on to him by his ancestors, can be appreciated. One way of keeping these traditions alive is to bestow honours and titles upon worthy individuals. The institution of Hereditary Dames/Knights of the Royal House of Portugal is an exponent thereof. I have examined a diploma (diploma no. 7, issued on 8 May 2021) and noticed that it underlines the bond between the Royal House and the recipient of the honour.

I advise individuals who wish to publicly express their affiliation with the House of Bragança, to designate themselves as “Jane Smith, Dame of the Royal House of Portugal” or “John Smith, Knight of the Royal House of Portugal “. The fact that the title is hereditary is an internal (family) matter: “with the right of succession to his designated heir and his heirs, forever“, as the diploma stipulates. Post-nominals are not advised, since it would be hard to find the exact meaning of the letters for persons not familiar with the designation.


In my opinion, it is necessary to draw up statutes for the Dames and Knights of the Royal House of Portugal. It should be perfectly clear what the rights and obligations are of both the issuer and the recipient. Some essential articles could include for example:

I. The Institution of Dames and Knights of the Royal House of Portugal is a knightly order of the House of Bragança.

II. The Dames and Knights of the Royal House of Portugal are under the jurisdiction of Dom Duarte Pio, duke of Bragança and count of Ourém.

III. Membership of the knightly order is based on proven, continued and dedicated service to the House of Bragança.

IV. The degrees are divided as follows: Knight-Grand Collar, Knight-Grand Cross, Knight-Grand Officer, Knight-Commander, Knight-Officer, Knight.

V. The members of the Order belong to the nobility of the House of Bragança.

R.A.U. Juchter van Bergen Quast


The author wishes to thank Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Humberto Nuno Lopes Mendes de Oliveira, Universidade Lusíada de Lisboa, as well as Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. António da Costa de Albuquerque de Sousa Lara, Academia de Letras e Artes de Portugal, for their insights and their editing work.


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Regulations regarding the acceptance of foreign orders and titles by British nationals

The Facebook group Orders of Merit and Knighthood is an international community of people, familiar with the world of chivalric orders. Triggered by my article The ‘wisdom of the crowds’ regarding knightly orders and titles of nobility and in particular my conclusion that Sir Levett Hanson (1754–1814) was not a self-styled Sir, a very interesting discussion evolved:

It is my understanding that the use of “Sir” in the UK was exclusively reserved for domestic knighthoods only. For example, even the Royal Guelphic Order, founded by the Prince Regent, viz. Hanover, conferred on a fair few British military personnel, did not entitle the recipient to use “Sir”. Many were then subsequently dubbed as Knight Bachelor so they could be entitled to use the prefix. Permission to wear a foreign order does not grant permission to use “Sir”. The question must be why would Levett Hanson be so entitled? The College of Arms cannot confer such a right. Why would the UK make an exception for him is surely the question?

Dr. Craig Paterson, PhD: Facebook, Orders of Merit and Knighthood group, post of 23 April 2021

This article investigates to what extent British nationals need(ed) permission to officially wear foreign orders and titles of nobility. I have listed the regulations regarding the acceptance of foreign orders below. Subsequently, I will demonstrate how these regulations have been applied in four particular cases. I will do the same for the regulations regarding foreign titles of nobility. From this, I will draw conclusions regarding the research question.

Regulations regarding foreign orders

Prior to 1812, British subjects often assumed foreign titles and honorific prefixes, the exception being that persons in the military (like Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté  and General Sir Charles Imhoff) required the King’s warrant to accept and wear a foreign decoration and assume the honorific prefix, which included “Sir” (source: communication from Mr. Stephen Lautens GCJ, B.A., J.D.). Since then, the regulations regarding these matters have become stricter.

There is one case in the pre-1812 period where the right to use the prefix Sir, based on a foreign knighthood, was established in law. On 21 November 1790, Robert Peat, creator of the “Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem” (see: Notes and Queries – Series 12 – Volume 5.djvu/29), was made a knight in the Order of Saint Stanislaus by the King of Poland. In 1804, Peat was permitted by King George III (The London Gazette, 13 October 1804, Issue 15745, Page 1284) to accept and wear the order’s decoration. In 1808, Peat appeared in court after he had become the victim of an assault. During the trial, the defense objected to designating Peat as “Sir Robert”, because he had not been knighted in Britain. The Lord Chief Justice however, stated that knighthood was a universal honour and that therefore the prefix was appropriate (Sporting Magazine: Or, Monthly Calendar of the Transactions of the Turf, the Chase and Every Other Diversion Interesting to the Man of Pleasure, Enterprize, and Spirit, Volume 31, p. 256).


His Royal Highness the Prince Regent deemed it expedient to announce, in the Year 1812:

5. That no Subject of His Majesty could be allowed to accept the Insignia of a Foreign Order from any Sovereign of a Foreign State except they shall be so conferred in consequence of Active and distinguished services before the Enemy, either at Sea or in the Field; or unless he shall have been actually employed in the service of such Foreign Sovereign.

Royal Collection Trust, A Concise account of the several foreign Orders of Knighthood and other marks of honourable distinction, especially such as have been conferred upon British subjects / Nicholas Carlisle. 1839 RCIN 1027890, XVIII.


In March 1813, the Prince Regent was pleased to command that the following Proviso should be thereafter inserted in all Royal Warrants for the acceptance of Foreign Orders:

6. That His Majesty’s License and Permission doth not authorize, and shall not be deemed or construed to authorize, the assumption of any style, appellation, rank, or privilege, appertaining unto a Knight Batchelor of these Realms.

Royal Collection Trust, A Concise account of the several foreign Orders of Knighthood and other marks of honourable distinction, especially such as have been conferred upon British subjects / Nicholas Carlisle. 1839 RCIN 1027890, XVIII.


1. That no British Subjects shall accept a Foreign Order, or wear its Insignia, without having previously obtained a Warrant under the Royal Sign Manual (directed to the Earl Marshal of England), granting them His Majesty’s permission to accept and wear the same.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office, British and Foreign State Papers, 10:1019-20


1.   No subject of Her Majesty shall accept a Foreign Order from the sovereign of any foreign country, or wear the insignia thereof, without having previously obtained Her Majesty’s permission to that effect, signified by a Warrant under Her Royal Sign Manual.

2.   Such permission shall not be granted to any subject of Her Majesty, unless the Foreign Order shall have been conferred in consequence of active and distinguished service before the enemy, either at sea or in the field ; or unless he shall have been actually and entirely employed, beyond Her Majesty’s dominions, in the service of the foreign sovereign by whom the Order is conferred,

The London Gazette, Issue 21711, published on the 15 May 1855. Page 1916.


1.  It is The King’s wish that no subject of His Majesty shall wear the Insignia of any Foreign Order without having previously obtained His Majesty’s permission to do so, signified either:

a. By Warrant under the Royal Sign-Manual, or

b. By private permission conveyed through His Majesty’s Private Secretary.

2.  Permission given by Warrant under the Royal Sign-Manual will enable the Insignia of the Foreign Order to be worn at all times and without any restriction.
Private permission will only enable the Insignia to be worn on the occasions specified in the terms of the letter from The King’s Private Secretary conveying the Royal Sanction.

The London Gazette, Issue 28493, published on 12 May 1911. Page 3638


Notice is hereby given that, in line with the long-established convention concerning foreign titles, British nationals who have been awarded an honour by another country may not use any associated title, that the award might bestow, in the United Kingdom.

Only those British nationals, including dual nationals, awarded a British Knighthood or appointed to a British Order of Chivalry as a Dame, may use the title ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame’ in the United Kingdom.

Buckingham Palace, The London Gazette, Issue 61598, published on 1 June 2016. Page 12364


Birmingham Museums, Samuel Colman, Portrait of Sir Edward Thomason (1769-1849), date: 1840-1849, Sir William Thomason; The Birmingham manufacturer Is here shown wearing decorations awarded to him by foreign sovereigns.

Sir Levett Hanson (1754–1814) lived in an era before formal regulations regarding the use of the prefix Sir became into force. Based on the fact that in 1780 Hanson received the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Philip (German: Orden Sankt Phillipps zum Löwen) from the (sovereign) Counts of Limburg-Stirum and in 1800 became Knight Vice-Chancellor of the Order of Saint Joachim, the College of Arms confirmed his entitlement to the prefix of Sir (source: Calendar of Knights; Containing Lists of Knights Bachelors, British Knights of Foreign Orders, Also Knights of the Garter, Thistle, Bath, St. Patrick and the Guelphic and Ionian Orders). In fact, Hanson was a double-Sir and not a self-styled Sir, as has been suggested by some individuals. Hanson’s use was in line with tradition, which was confirmed by the College or Arms. The College did not constitute a legal fact (creating a ‘Sir’), but only declared that the use of the prefix was legitimate (a declaratory judgment).

The first known British subject to be invested into the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George was Captain William D’Arley, who received the decoration from King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies in 1801. D’Arley was authorized to use the title Sir with the King’s permission (sources: Sainty, G. S. (2019). The Constantinian Order of Saint George: And the Angeli, Farnese and Bourbon families which governed it. Madrid: Boletín Oficial del Estado, 2018; Sir Levett Hanson, An Accurate Historical Account of All the Orders of Knighthood at Present Existing in Europe, volume 1, London, 1802). D’Arley was in captain of marines and therefore needed official permission to wear the decoration.

Sir Edward Thomason, British inventor and manufacturer, was knighted by King William IV (source: The Edinburgh Gazette, 3 July 1832, Issue 4081, Page 189). In addition, Thomason received a number of foreign decorations: Gold Medal of Merit (Prussia, 1823); Cross and decoration of the Order of Merit of Francis I (Naples,1830); Order of the Dutch Lion (1831); Order of the Red Eagle of Prussia, fourth class (1831); Cross of the Order of Isabel the Catholic (Spain, 1833); Order of the Lion and Sun (Persia, 1833); Constantinian Order of Saint George (Naples, 1833); Order of the Saints Maurice and Lazarus, Sardinia, 1834); Order of Christ (Portugal, 1835); Royal Guelphic Order (Hanover,1838). I could not find permission for any of these foreign Orders (source: Edward Thomason, Sir Edward Thomason’s Memoirs During Half a Century, London 1845).

King George V (front, centre) with his prime ministers at the 1926 Imperial Conference. Standing (left to right): Monroe (Newfoundland), Coates (New Zealand), Bruce (Australia), Hertzog (Union of South Africa), Cosgrave (Irish Free State). Seated: Baldwin (United Kingdom), King George V, William Lyon Mackenzie King (Canada). Photo: WikiCommons.

On 2 November 2014, Mr. B. – a British citizen and Magistral Delegate for Inter-Religious Relations of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St George and Secretary General of the Royal Order of Francis I – was knighted in recognition of the longstanding charitable and inter-religious work undertaken through his institutional roles within the charitable Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St George. HE Sir Rodney Williams, KGN, GCMG, Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda and official representative of HM Queen Elizabeth II in her right as Queen of Antigua and Barbuda, acting on advice of Her Majesty’s Antigua and Barbuda Ministers, invested and presented to Mr. B. the insignia of Knighthood in the rank and dignity of Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of the Nation (KGCN). The Most Distinguished Order of the Nation is an Order of Chivalry instituted by Queen Elizabeth II in right of Antigua and Barbuda through the National Honours Act which received Royal Assent on 31 December 1998. The award gives to recipients the right to use the prefix Sir. Mr B. used the prefix during public events in England. On 1 June 2016, a joint statement was published in the London Gazette by Buckingham Palace, the College of Arms and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, stating that British citizens could not use the title of Sir without being knighted by the Queen. In July 2016, the Grenadian government cancelled the awards issued to Mr B. and the other recipients. The Antiguan government followed with a similar act, published the Gazette, of 21 July 2017. Obviously, both governments acted under pressure of the aforementioned 2016 statement. These politically inspired actions are a violation of the Balfour Report, issued by the 1926 Imperial Conference of British Empire leaders in London, which declared that Britain and its Dominions were constitutionally equal to each other, rather than subordinate. The report defines the group of self-governing communities composed of Great Britain and the Dominions as “autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.”. The findings of the report were made law by the British Parliament in the 1931 Statute of Westminster. In Mr. B.’s case, this law was violated.

Policies regarding foreign titles

In addition to his excellent research regarding the acceptance of foreign orders by British nationals, François Russel Velde carried out an thorough investigation into the British governmental recognition of foreign titles. In this section I will summarize his findings and add relevant facts, images and legal considerations.

The College of Arms in London has a complete record of all the Royal Grants going back to Stuart times with very elaborate and well kept indices of the original foreign Letters Patent. In each case these are accompanied by a copy of the Royal Warrant issued (source: Home Office 45/13725, 440302/2, quoted by FV). Velde’s research shows that throughout history there have not been many applications for recognizing foreign titles in Britain and the approval has been very restrictive. Approval was mostly based on financial considerations (the wealth of the applicant). Being of ancient noble descent was hardly relevant. This can be shown by the following cases.


Lieutenant F.I. van Haeften (HU 125432) Not found in CWGC Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Jonkheer Frans Izaak van Haeften (1876-1964), Lieutenant Scots Guards. The family was ennobled in 1844 by King William II of the Netherlands. Van Haeften’s application was turned down in 1912 (Home Office 144/1206/222229), although the family was well-established in Britain: Arthur Patrick William Seely, 3rd Baron Mottistone (1905-1966), married on 2 Sep 1939 (div. 1949) Wilhelmina Josephine Philippa van Haeften, daughter of Jonkheer Frans Izaak van Haeften, of The Hague, Netherlands, by his wife Mabel Annie Brocklehurst, only daughter of Sir Philip Lancaster Brocklehurst, 1st Bt., of Swythamley Park, Macclesfield, co. Cheshire.

Velde’s research reveals that there are only three applications that were approved between 1832 and 1882. Lionel Nathan Freiherr von Rothschild (1808 – 1879) was a Jewish banker and politician. In 1838, Queen Victoria authorized him to use the Austrian imperial title in Britain (source: Bulletins of State Intelligence 1838, p. 220) that was issued to his father Nathan Mayer Freiherr von Rothschild (once the richest man on earth) in 1822 (Schembs, Hans-Otto: Rothschild, Nathan Mayer (von). Artikel aus der Frankfurter Biographie (1994/96) in: Frankfurter Personenlexikon (Onlineausgabe),

Isaac Lyon Goldsmid was a partner in bullion dealer and refiner Mocatta & Goldsmid and made a large fortune. In the 18th and 19th centuries, ″Mocatta″ was a broker to the Bank of England and the East India Company (Bloomberg, 2019). After settling a monetary dispute in South America at the instruction of Queen Victoria, Goldsmid was ennobled (on an individual basis) in 1846 by Queen Maria II of Portugal with the title Baron da Goldsmid e da Palmeira. His ninth child Rachel Goldsmid was married to Count Henry D’Avigdor, who was created Duke d’Acquviva by the San Marino government on 21 April 1861. On 15 October 1841, the Goldsmid Baronetcy, of St John’s Lodge in the County of Surrey, was created on behalf of the aforementioned Isaac Lyon Goldsmid.

Salomon Benedict Worms (1801-1882) was a banker and head of the bank G. & A. Worms in London. Emperor Francis Joseph I of Austria conferred upon Worms the Imperial Order of the Iron Crown, 2nd class (German: Kaiserlicher Orden der Eisernen Krone) on 27 June 1870 for defending the interests of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The Imperial Order of the Iron Crown was one of the highest orders of merit of Austria and Austria-Hungary until 1918. Until 18 July 1884 the recipient of the 2nd Class in the Order was ennobled with the title Freiherr (Baron) in the Austrian or Hungarian nobility. Because Worms was a foreigner, he could not apply for ennoblement on the basis of the Order’s statutes. The baronage was therefore granted by the emperor himself by special pardon in his decision on 27 March 1871. By deed of 23 April 1871, Worms was granted the title Freiherr and the predicate von. On 10 August 1874, Queen Victoria allowed Worms to use his Austrian title in Great Britain (more information can be found in: Jewish Chronicles and Jewish World, 27 Oct. 1882).


Regulations regarding the recognition of foreign decorations and titles in Britain have evolved. Sir Levett Hanson (1754–1814) lived in an era when there were no formal regulations regarding the use of the prefix Sir. It was common practice to assume the prefix when a foreign knighthood was granted. Hanson’s use of the prefix was confirmed by the College of Arms. It is irrelevant whether the College had authority to confer the right to use the prefix (which was not the case). The College simply recorded and accepted the use of the prefix by Hanson. This declarative legal action proves that Hanson obtained official and relevant approval; nothing more and nothing less.

Regarding the incorporation of foreign titles of nobility in Britain, the aforementioned examples show that there was no transparent policy to predict the outcome of an application. This changed in July 1930, when George V abolished the use of foreign titles by British Subjects. The King revoked the Royal Warrants listed in the fourth column of the linked Annex which had allowed the use of the foreign dignitaries and titles set out in the second and third columns of the Annex. The current holder of the permission, his son and grandson where named could continue to use the title for his own lifetime. Apart from these exceptions, official recognition is not given to the use of foreign titles by British citizens and the government does not address any British citizen (whether by naturalisation or otherwise) by such a title.

While there is nothing to prevent a British citizen in the United Kingdom from using a foreign title for private purposes, such a title cannot be officially recognised. When the Secretary of State receives an application from a person who appears to hold a foreign title, the official (caseworker) is instructed to:

  1. Seek confirmation of its authenticity from the Honours Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; and
  2. Write, as follows, addressing him by his title, to warn him that the Office will not receive official recognition: “The Secretary of State thinks it right to point out that if you become a British citizen your foreign title will not receive official recognition in this country and that in accordance with the established practice it will be omitted from the certificate. I am to request that you will specifically acknowledge your acceptance of this position.“.

Enquiries will not be put in hand until the applicant has acknowledged his acceptance of his legal position. Similarly, if an alien who uses a foreign title enquires about becoming naturalised and appears to be residentially qualified, the answer to his enquiry will include a warning about the use of his title if naturalisation is granted and a request for a letter confirming that he accepts the position (Source:

The fact that someone receives the aforementioned warning implies that his foreign title is officially recognised: after checking the authenticity of the foreign title, the applicant is addressed by his title, and warned that when he become a British citizen, his foreign title will not be incorporated in official (British) documents. This means that the British officials accept that the applicant holds an authentic foreign title.


Lancien, Didier (ed.); Saint-Martin, Monique de (ed.). Anciennes et nouvelles aristocraties: De 1880 à nos jours. New edition [online]. Paris: Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l’homme, 2007 (generated 26 avril 2021). Available on the Internet: <;. ISBN: 9782735118502. DOI:

Velde, F.R. Foreign Titles in the UK. Accessed May 30, 2021.

Velde, F.R. Foreign Orders in the UK. Accessed May 30, 2021.

Sainty, G. S. (2019). The Constantinian Order of Saint George: And the Angeli, Farnese and Bourbon families which governed it. Madrid: Boletín Oficial del Estado, 2018

Hanson, L. (1802). An Accurate Historical Account of All the Orders of Knighthood at Present Existing in Europe, volume 1, London.

The ‘wisdom of the crowds’ regarding knightly orders and titles of nobility

Webster, Joseph Samuel; Sir Levett Hanson, Kt (1754-1814), Traveller; St Edmundsbury Museums.

I have always been surprised by the fact that discussions about the legitimacy of Orders of Knighthood trigger so much emotion. Although the topic is quite interesting, it does not have a great impact on society as a whole. Personally, I prefer to approach questions regarding legitimacy with a liberal view. In my opinion, Orders of Knighthood are legitimate when they do not misrepresent themselves to the public. This is not a widely accepted view. In many cases, specialized groups of internet participants have more radical views. Within such groups, witch hunts often evolve, whereby entire religious and ethnic groups are discredited. The forms of aggression are manifold and vary from expressions of disgust and contempt, to threats, slander, insults, and hatred. If the aggression is met with approval by other users, it can escalate and elicit a so-called online firestorm; a wave of negative and angry online comments in social media (Pfeffer et al. 2013).

It is interesting to see to what extent the judgments of such groups are reliable.


Wikipedia uses the term ‘self-styled’ regularly to discredit Knightly Orders and related topics. Wikipedia defines ‘self-styled orders’ as follows:

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. Most self-styled orders arose in or after the mid-18th century, and many have been created recently. Most are short-lived and endure no more than a few decades.

Wikipedia entry ‘Self-styled order

Obviously, the anonymous writers (‘Wikipedians‘ as they are called) of the aforementioned article think that they have enough authority to approve or disapprove the legitimacy of Knightly Orders. Labeling entire groups and entities as ‘self-styled’ implies claiming such authority:

If you describe someone as a self-styled leader or expert, you disapprove of them because they claim to be a leader or expert but they do not actually have the right to call themselves this. [disapproval] Two of those arrested are said to be self-styled area commanders. He fiercely criticised self-styled educational experts for ignoring Shakespeare. Synonyms: so-called, would-be, professed, self-appointed.

COBUILD Advanced English Dictionary.

Wikipedians consider themselves experts regarding Orders of Knighthood and related topics. It is hard to verify their expertise, but this does not hinder Wikipedians to label a number of groups, entities and persons as ‘self-styled’, or even ‘illegal’, as shown in the three examples below:

Levett Hanson (1754–1814), who styled himself as ‘Sir’ Levett Hanson, was an English-born author and courtier who was active at a number of European courts.

The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, (Latin: Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani, OSMTH), is a self-styled order and international NGO. 

The Vilatte Orders are awards or decorations associated Joseph René Vilatte which include the Order of the Crown of Thorns (OCT) and the Order of the Lion and the Black Cross (OLBC). Both are condemned by the Holy See and Italy lists both as illegal decorations.


Social media

On Facebook, discussions about the legitimacy often escalate and become very aggressive and emotional. A recent post in a group called Orders of Knighthood and Merit shows that the atmosphere in this group is often very unpleasant:

Dear chivalrous Friends,

I thought about writing something here for a long time, but in the last few days the tone in the posts in this group has become unbearable.

Facebook is supposed to be fun and the first rule of this group is that you should be friendly with one another. But now I have the feeling that I am in a kind of police state.

I am a member of the SMOM and the PMM and the tone here is not acceptable. I will leave this group and I advise some people here to be more humble. In my opinion the most important of the chivalric virtues. That’s the problem today. Everyone talks about chivalry but doesn’t live it. That’s annoying.

I wish everyone here in the group all the best, a little humility and charity. Because charity also begins here in facebook.

A member of the Facebook group Orders of Knighthood and Merit, a private group with 668 members (4 April 2021)

Both Wikipedians who write about Knightly Orders and the members of the Facebook group Orders of Knighthood and Merit are supposed to have a more than average knowledge about their subject of interest. This article investigates to what extend the opinions produced by these individuals can be seen as reliable in light of the theory that a crowd possesses more knowledge than an individual.

‘Wisdom of the crowds’?

The wisdom of the crowds is the combined opinion of a group of individuals. It is believed by some that this ‘wisdom’ outperforms the opinion of a single expert (Surowiecki, 2004). Crowds wisdom works best when there is a single correct answer to a question:

Groups will do better than individuals in choosing a correct answer, and big groups better than little ones, as long as two conditions are met: the majority response “wins,” and each person is more likely than not to be correct. Social scientists have extended Condorcet’s theorem to questions having more than two possible answers. If people—workers, managers, customers—are more likely to choose the right answer than any of the wrong ones, then the plurality’s answer is highly likely to be right if the group is large enough.

Cass R. Sunstein. 2006. When Crowds Aren’t Wise. Harvard Business Review (Sep 2006).

However, when each individual in a group is more likely to be wrong than right because relatively few people in the group have access to accurate information, the likelihood that the group’s majority will decide correctly falls toward zero as the size of the group increases. Adding more Wikipedians to an article can improve article quality only when Wikipedians use appropriate coordination techniques, which often is not the case. In most cases, no coordination techniques are applied, which degrades the article severely (Kittur, 2008). This is why designations of anonymous Wikipedians regarding ‘self-styled orders’ are probably always incorrect. Wisdom on social media does not come from the crowds, but from a few experts (Baeza-Yates, 2015). To put it simply: I prefer to undergo medical treatment by one qualified doctor instead of by ten Wikipedians. The following two case studies show that crowds can produce unreliable articles.

Case study 1: meaning of the term ‘knight’

Wikipedians describe an “Order of chivalry” more or less correctly.

An order of chivalryorder of knighthoodchivalric order, or equestrian order is an order of knights typically founded during or inspired by the original Catholic military orders of the Crusades (circa 1099–1291), paired with medieval concepts of ideals of chivalry.

Since the 15th century, orders of chivalry, often as dynastic orders, began to be created in a more courtly fashion that could be created ad hoc. These orders would often retain the notion of being a confraternity, society or other association of members, however, some of them were ultimately purely honorific, consisting of a medal decoration. In fact, these decorations themselves often came to be known informally as orders. These institutions in turn gave rise to the modern-day orders of merit of sovereign states.

Wikipedia entry ‘Order of chivalry

Wikipedia’s definition of a ‘knight’ however is incorrect.

knight is a person granted an honorary title of knighthood by a head of state (including the pope) or representative for service to the monarch, the church or the country, especially in a military capacity.

(…) knighthood is generally granted by a head of state, monarch, or prelate to selected persons to recognise some meritorious achievement, as in the British honours system, often for service to the Church or country. 

Wikipedia entry ‘Knight

This description contradicts Wikipedia’s aforementioned description of Order of Knighthood that correctly implies that knights in the European Middle Ages were formally professed cavalrymen.

A more accurate description is given by Britannica:

Knight, French chevalier, German Ritter, now a title of honour bestowed for a variety of services, but originally in the European Middle Ages a formally professed cavalryman.

Britannica entry ‘Knight’

The contributors of an article in Britannica are fully traceable and the article’s history is transparently recorded. The additions of each author are specified. There is no ‘wisdom of the crowd’ involved, but instead, Britannica applies – in line with Baeza-Yates’ findings – the wisdom of a few experts. This is why Britannica is far more reliable than Wikipedia.

Case study 2: Disqualification of persons and groups

Sir Levett Hanson

Wikipedia’s labeling of Sir Levett Hanson (1754-1814) as a “self-styled Sir” is unreliable. Instead, there are good reasons to accept that Levett Hanson correctly used the prefix of “Sir”:

In 1780 Hanson became the Councillor to the Prince of Limbourg, the Duke of Holstein, at Ghent. He was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Duke’s Order of St. Philip, from which he derived his title “Sir”. His “diploma” recording his knighthood and entitlement to the title “Sir” was duly registered with the English College of Arms, an extract of which can be seen below, taken from the 1828 book by Francis Townsend, FSA, the “Calendar of Knights; Containing Lists of Knights Bachelors, British Knights of Foreign Orders, Also Knights of the Garter, Thistle, Bath, St. Patrick and the Guelphic and Ionian Orders“, listing all knighthoods and orders of knighthood recorded in the English College of Arms’ records. Townsend served as the English College of Arms’ Windsor Herald. Hanson, a serious student of knightly orders, would have been careful to make sure any honours of dignities bestowed upon him were carefully recorded with the proper authorities.

Website of the Order of Saint Joachim
Francis Townsend W. Pickering, 1828 – Knights and knighthood – 224 pages, Calendar of Knights: Containing Lists of Knights Bachelors, British Knights of Foreign Orders, Also Knights of the Garter, Thistle Bath, St. Patrick and the Guelphic and Ionian Orders; from 1760 to the Present Time, P. xxxiii. The work shows the prefix of “Sir” in Hanson’s entry.

Traditionally, the prefix of Sir is used for men who are titled “knights” of, for example, orders of chivalry, and later also to baronets, and other offices. The first known British subject to be invested into the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George was Lieutenant Colonel John Pritchard in 1798. Captain Sir William D’Arley was also invested in 1801, receiving the decoration from King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. In the same year, he obtained a Royal Licence from King George III of Great Britain which permitted him to be styled as “Sir William” and to wear the Order’s decoration at Court (source:

In addition, Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage (1848, p. 261) also designates Hanson as “Sir”: “SIR THOMAS GERY, F.R.S. and F.S.A.; b. 30 Nov. 1741 ; m. 1 Sept. 1774, Mary, dau. of Robert Hanson , Esq. of Normanton, co . York , and heir of her brother, Sir Levett Hanson, Knt., by whom (who d. 13 Sept. 1830) he had issue (…)“.

Hanson is not a self-styled ‘Sir’ but a knight, styled as ‘Sir’ by the College of Arms and by Burke’s Peerage. Wikipedia’s article should be revised.

Hanson was not the only member of the Order who was allowed the prefix “Sir”. General Sir Charles Imhoff was granted the Royal Warrant to accept and wear the Grand Cross of The Order of Saint Joachim on 18 May 1807 on recommendation of the English College of Arms. In addition, Imhoff obtained the right to use the prefix “Sir” in England by virtue of the award (source: The London Gazette, 30 May 1807; issue:16033; page:731). Other British subjects who were members the Order of Saint Joachim and recognized as such can be found in (among others). The Peerage of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland: In Two Volumes. Scotland and Ireland, Volume 2, p. 1211 by John Debrett, 1812.

Sovereign Military Order Temple of Jerusalem (OSMTH)

The OSMTH cannot be seen as a self-styled or pseudo-order, as Wikipedia states. Its direct predecessor (the Order of the Temple) was approved by the emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, in his imperial decree of 1807. On 13 June 1853, it was given recognition by Napoleon III.  In 1918, the Order was re-registered in France in accordance with French law. The former Grandmaster of the OSMTH, Dom Antonio Campelo Pinto de Sousa Fontes (1878-1960) was the direct link with the Order that was founded by Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat (1773-1838) and that was recognized by Napoleon. In my opinion, it is therefore a legitimate commemorative order. Wikipedia’s description of the OSMTH is incorrect and should be revised (source:

Vilatte Orders

Wikipedia states that the Orders, associated with Archbishop Joseph René Vilatte (1854 – 1929) are “illegal” in Italy (see above). To back-up this statement, Wikipedia refers to Italian law:

A 1981 Italian law punishes violators who use honors with a fine of up to L. 2,500,000 (€ 1,291.14); and punishes violators who confer honors with imprisonment from six months to two years and a fine from L. 1,250,000 (€ 645.57) to L. 2,500,000 (€ 1,291.14)

Wikipedia, note a in the article about the Vilatte orders

Obviously, the Wikipedians who wrote the article are not lawyers, but nevertheless, claim authority to discredit a religious group as being illegal. The legal framework that governs honors in Italy is rather complicated as I have shown in an earlier article. Regarding the Valette Orders, Italian law does not apply since the Orders are located in the United Kingdom. Wikipedia refers to the general law defining administrative offences (Legge 24 novembre 1981 n. 689, in Gazzetta Ufficiale 30 novembre 1981, n. 329) that regulates the apparent and formal complicity of administrative sanctions, the former to be resolved with the application of a special provision (even in the event of complicity between penal and administrative sanctions), the latter with the application of the more serious sanction, increased up to threefold (Arts. 8 and 9). The Valette Orders are not “listed” by the Italian government as illegal. Therefore, Wikipedia’s disqualification is an act of defamation. The whole article should be rewritten in a neutral and professional manner. Also, modern research should be taken into account.

For over 70 years Archbishop 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 – Archbishop Vilatte was above all a missionary, and a campaigner for his vision of Catholic orthodoxy. 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 of San Luigi 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. Both orders are at least 130 years old and well-documented. Therefore, they have a respectable history and tradition and should not be defamed as self-styled. 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 (source: 

Case study 3: Deliberately misleading the public

The headship of the House of Savoy is disputed by two cousins: Vittorio Emanuele, Prince of Naples, who claims the title of King of Italy, and Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, who claims the title of Duke of Savoy. The most prestigious order of chivalry of the House of Savoy is the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation. The status of the Order is comparable to the Habsburg Golden Fleece, the English Order of the Garter and the Papal Supreme Order of Christ. The Order of the Annunciation was reserved exclusively for distinguished persons who, apart from exemplary service, have to be Roman Catholic. The Wikipedia-article concerning the order is quite detailed and obviously written by a person with insight knowledge:

The Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation (ItalianOrdine Supremo della Santissima Annunziata) is a Roman Catholic order of knighthood, originating in Savoy. It eventually was the pinnacle of the honours system in the Kingdom of Italy, which ceased to be a national order when the kingdom became a republic in 1946. Today, the order continues as a dynastic order under the jurisdiction of the Head of the House of SavoyAmedeo, 5th Duke of Aosta, who is the order’s hereditary Sovereign and Grand Master.

Wikipedia entry: Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation

Because the Wikipedian who wrote the article is obviously well-informed, it is misleading that the article does not mention the fact that the fons honorum for issuing the Order of the Annunciation is claimed by the Prince of Naples. I find it hard to see how the Duke of Aosta even has a claim, since the Prince of Naples is the only son of the last King of Italy. The Duke is not. The last will and testament of the King makes no mention of another successor than his own son. The late Queen Maria Jose always acknowledged that her son was head of the dynasty. In other words, there is no reason for transmitting the succession to anyone else than the Prince of Naples. This is also the general view and the view of persons familiar with the matter.


Wikipedia is sometimes a good starting point for further research, but often the information provided is unreliable, since it is produced by anonymous and unorganized Wikipedians. Although the information on Wikipedia may be correct, it may also be incorrect. This is the case in the article about so-called self-styled orders. Perfectly legitimate persons, groups or entities are discredited by Wikipedians as ‘self-styled’. This is probably inspired by the admiration of some Wikipedians of certain individuals who are considered thought leaders in their communities.

Instead of using the term ‘self-styled’ it is better to specify a formation date and describe a group as factual as possible. The Wikipedia article about the Order of Saint Lazarus is an example of a more neutral contribution to the body of knowledge regarding Knightly Orders. It starts as follows:

The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem (Latin: Ordo Militaris et Hospitalis Sancti Lazari Hierosolymitani) is a Christian ecumenical fraternal order statuted in 1910 by a council of Catholics in Paris, France, initially under the protection of Patriarch Cyril VIII Jaha of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. In the 1920s it expanded its jurisdiction enrolling members from other countries in Europe and in the Americas. It re-established the office of grand master in 1935 linking the office to members of the Spanish royal family. It assumed an ecumenical dimension in the 1960s to expand its membership to individuals of other Christian denominations in British Commonwealth countries.

Wikipedia article ‘Order of Saint Lazarus (statuted 1910)

Other articles about less-established knightly orders should be rewritten in the same, neutral style.

The same is true for contributions in Facebook groups regarding nobility and orders of knighthood. Instead of launching aggressive attacks on rival groups, contributors should realize that nobody has the ultimate authority when it comes to legitimacy, simply because their is no ultimate framework to derive such conclusions. Even in physics, there is no final theory of unifying the whole of physics, let alone in social sciences; there still is no explanation that needs no other explanation to support it (Weinberg 1994). Do certain Facebook contributors think that their opinion is some kind of ‘God particle’ (Lederman 1993); a vital missing opinion that is needed to describe the world of knighthood and nobility?


Surowiecki, J. (2004). The wisdom of crowds. New York: Anchor Books.

Kittur, Aniket & Kraut, Robert. (2008). Harnessing the wisdom of crowds in Wikipedia: Quality through coordination. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, CSCW. 37-46. 10.1145/1460563.1460572.

Baeza-Yates, Ricardo & Saez-Trumper, Diego. (2015). Wisdom of the Crowd or Wisdom of a Few?. 69-74. 10.1145/2700171.2791056.

Pfeffer, J., Zorbach, T., Carley, K. M. (2013). Understanding online firestorms: Negative word of mouth dynamics in social media networks. Journal of Marketing Communications, 20, 117–128. doi:10.1080/13527266.2013.797778

Weinberg, S. (1994). Dreams of a final theory. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

Lederman, L. M., & Teresi, D. (1993). The God particle: If the universe is the answer, what is the question? Boston: Houghton Mifflin.


In questions of legitimacy, every commentator draws the line of acceptability immediately beneath his own feet.

The attacks on other orders are born of insecurity. In any group, identity is created not only by internal cohesion, but by comparison with out-groups. By continually saying that they are better than others, and reinforcing this by attacks, the group increases its sense of identity. Members also know that as long as they remain within the group’s boundaries of acceptability, they are safe, but if they go outside what the group finds acceptable, they too will be attacked. In this way, the group keeps control of its members.

For some people, the brokering of Orders through introduction fees and passage fees is a lucrative business. There are some formerly reigning Royal Houses that will award membership of Orders and even titles of nobility in return for donations of large sums of money, sometimes towards their charities, sometimes towards their own purposes. This gives rise to an element of protectionism. Firstly, they do not want competition because the value of their product depends on its scarcity and perceived high value. Secondly, they do not want competition to undercut them and bring the price for the product down. This again is a big reason behind a number of the attacks.

I will add that it is not usually the Heads of Royal Houses who get involved in this but the agents or middlemen who they appoint to represent them. One Royal House has several competing agents all of whom are authorized to introduce members to the Royal Orders. They will of course pay a fee to the charities of the Royal House. But they will also pay a fee to the agent, and that will be quite significant.

A person familiar with the matter, 20 April 2021

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.

It should be noted that since the second half of the 16th century, Africans were also able to become members of the Portuguese Order of Christ (Olival 2002, p. 78-79). Naturally, they had to be Christians.

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.


Guimaräes, Vieira José. A Ordem De Cristo. Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional, 1936.

Olival, F. (2002). The Military Orders and the Nobility in Portugal, 1500-1800. Mediterranean Studies, 11, 71-88. Retrieved June 5, 2021, from

Barber, Malcolm (1995). The new knighthood: a history of the Order of the Temple (Canto ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. xxi–xxii. 

Dutra, F. (1970). Membership in the Order of Christ in the Seventeenth Century: Its Rights, Privileges, and Obligations. The Americas, 27(1), 3-25. doi:10.2307/980616.

Matthews, Herbert Lionel (2015). The Yoke and the Arrows: A Report on Spain / Herbert L. Matthews. Place of Publication Not Identified: LiteraryLicensing.

Heywood, Linda, and John Thornton. 2013. “The Kongo Kingdom and European Diplomacy”. In Kongo across the Waters, edited by Susan Cooksey, Robin Poynor, Hein Vanhee, and Carlee S Forbes, 52–55. Gainesville FL: University Press of Florida.

Thornton, John K. 2015. “The Kingdom of Kongo”. In Kongo: Power and Majesty, edited by Alisa LaGamma, 97–117. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Thornton, John K. “Elite Women in the Kingdom of Kongo: Historical Perspectives on Women’s Political Power.” The Journal of African History, vol. 47, no. 3, 2006, pp. 437–460. JSTOR, Accessed 18 Feb. 2021.

Gray, Richard. “A Kongo Princess, the Kongo Ambassadors and the Papacy.” Journal of Religion in Africa, vol. 29, no. 2, 1999, pp. 140–154. JSTOR, Accessed 18 Feb. 2021.

Vanhee, Hein. & Vos, J. 2013. “Kongo in the Age of Empire”. In: Susan Cooksey, Robin Poynor, Hein Vanhee & Carlee S. Forbes (eds), Kongo across the Waters. Gainesville, FL : University Press of Florida, pp. 78-87.

MacErlean, Andrew Alphonsus (1912). The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church, Volume 4. Robert Appleton Co. pp. 667–668.

Gilmour-Bryson, Anne. “Templar Trial Testimony: Voices From 1307 to 1311.” On Land and By Sea 2008: 163-174.

Rosa, Maria de Lurdes (2006). “Velhos, novos e imutáveis sagrados… Um olhar antropológico sobre formas ‘religiosas’ de percepção e interpretação da conquista africana.” In Lusitania Sacra, 18: 13-85.

Martin, Sean (2005). The Knights Templar: The History & Myths of the Legendary Military Order. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press.

Rossi Vairo, Giulia. “The dissolution of the Order of the Temple and the creation of the Order of Christ in Portugal.” Ordines Militares Colloquia Torunensia Historica. Yearbook for the Study of the Military Orders [Online], 21 (2016): 43-60. Web. 18 Feb. 2021.

Nunes, João Andrade. (2019). O Ocaso da Mesa da Consciência e Ordens (1821-1833).

Seixas, Miguel Metelo de (1996). As armas do rei do Congo. In Os Descobrimentos e a Expansão Portuguesa no Mundo. Lisbon: Universidade Lusíada: 317-346.

Malcolm Barber, The Trial of the Templars. Cambridge University Press, 1978.

Nicholson, Helen J. The Knights Templar: A Brief History of the Warrior Order. London: Robinson, 2010.

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 to 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.


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  • Siebmacher J. (1979): Johann Siebmachers Wappen-Buch. Band 28. Die Wappen des Adels in Salzburg, Steiermark und Tirol. Faksimile-Nachdruck der Ausgabe Nürnberg 1701–1806. München: Battenberg. Bauer & Raspe: Neustadt an der Aisch.
  • Stahl-Botstiber A. (1987): Salome Alt und das Frauenbild ihrer Zeit. In Salzburger Landesregierung Kulturabteilung (Hrsg.), „4. Salzburger Landesausstellung – Fürsterzbischof Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau – Gründer des barocken Salzburgs“, S. 55–58. Salzburg.


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 matter 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


Pankhurst, Richard. “Italian Fascist War Crimes in Ethiopia: A History of Their Discussion, from the League of Nations to the United Nations (1936-1949).” Northeast African Studies, vol. 6 no. 1, 1999, p. 83-140. Project MUSEdoi:10.1353/nas.2002.0004.

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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 of 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 the 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 Addington 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 apparent: 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). A son of Leonard – Heero 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. The most senior living member of the House of Stewart, descending in a legitimate male line from Robert II of Scotland, is Arthur Stuart, 8th Earl Castle Stewart, who does not pursue a claim either.

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 single successor to the dynastic rights of William III is difficult, or even impossible. Rival claims to the title ‘Prince of Orange’ have been made by German emperors and kings of the House of Hohenzollern.

Another claimant 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 some dynastic authority to recognise the title “Earl of Dunbar” as confirmed by William III. This authority is based on dynastic succession. In addition, the Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms has the authority in her capacity of legal successor of William III. This authority is based on constitutional law. However, there is no single person who has the undisputed authority to recognise the title and therefore it is likely that it will remain a dynastic title of courtesy.


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.



On the prevalence and legitimacy of “free assumption” of arms in continental Europe see Pastoureau, Michel, Traité d’héraldique, 2nd edn (Paris: Picard, 1993)Google Scholar, 60, 66, 84. In some eastern European countries, notably Poland, identical coats of arms may be borne by all members of the same herb, or “clan”; see Rowell, S. C., “The Central European Kingdoms,” in Abulafia, David, ed. The New Cambridge Medieval History, Volume V (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 776Google Scholar. In Scotland, members of the same clan may bear a common badge, usually consisting of the crest and motto of the clan chief. However, Scottish coats of arms, as distinct from clan badges, are borne by individuals; see Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Scots Heraldry, 2nd edn (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1956), 46 Google Scholar.

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 Kamakahelei 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.