The Order in the 20th Century
(as seen by the
Obedience of Malta)
During the regency of the 44th
Grand Master, H.R.H. Francisco de Paula de Borbón y de la Torre, Duke of Seville
and Grandee of Spain, the Order came to be run by the Spanish Marquis of
Cardenas de Montehermoso. He, as appointed Grand Referendary until his death in
1965, effectively directed the Order's affairs. The Duke of Seville died on 6
December 1952 and was succeded by his son, H.R.H. Don Francisco Enrique de
Borbón y de Borbón, Grandee of Spain, elected 45th Grand Master. Because he was
an active military officer in the Spanish army (Colonel) and resided in Spain,
he was unable to dedicate himself to the Order as fully as he would have wished,
so in 1956 he appointed the late H.E. Duke de Brissac, living in Paris, as
separation of the administration (Paris) and magisterial (Madrid) seats of the
Order became the source of much friction and misunderstanding. This eventually
resulted in one faction of the government of the Order withdrawing its support
from Don Francisco de Borbón and summoning a "Chapter General" of the Order with
the result that on 20 May 1967 H.R.H. Charles Philippe de Bourbon-Orléans, Duke
of Alençon, Vendôme and Nemours, great-great-grandson of Louis Philippe, King of
the French, was elected 46th Grand Master, and H.R.H. Prince Michel de
Bourbon-Orléans, son of H.R.H. Henri Count of Paris, was nominated Coadjutor.
Don Francisco Enrique de Borbón y de Borbón, who had strongly contested the
Chapter's decision, was named Grand Master emeritus.
The action of this
so-called "Chapter General" was of questionable legitimacy because the
Constitutional Decrees of the Order, which had been universally accepted before
the split, state that once a Grand Master has been appointed he can only be
removed from the position by his death or by his abdication. The Spanish knights
remained under the Grand Magistracy of Don Francisco. Later on the 45th and the
"illegal" 46th Grand Master came to an agreement, as Don Francisco accepted the
election of his "cousin".
itself in theory to oecumenism, the official position of the Order on this issue
remained rather hazy. The 46th Grand Master saw the wisdom of change and opened
the ranks of the Order to all Christian denominations. As a result of the
initiatives of the late Robert Gayre of Gayre and Nigg, an anglo-scottish
Lieutenant-Colonel of the Education Corps, the English Tongue had been founded,
comprising the new Jurisdictions of England, Scotland, Ireland and Canada, the
Commandery of Lochore and within the Commonwealth, the majority of whose members
belonged to Protestant denominations. Gayre's energy and ability placed him in a
central role in the Order's government, he have been appointed Grand Commander
of the Order.
All these reforms
were badly received by the officers in Paris. They resisted the Grand Master's
authority, which they viewed as an infringement of their own rights. On 15 April
1969 an again dubious "Chapter General" unilaterally elected the Administrator
General, the Duke of Brissac, as "Supreme Head" of the Order. This unfortunate
action created a schism in the Order. There were now two branches, but a great
number of Jurisdictions continued to view the Duke of Nemours as the only
legitimate Grand Master. In view of the new situation in France and in order to
guarantee the Order international status and independence, the Duke of Nemours
decided to transfer the Grand Chancellery of the Order to the island of Malta.
He continued to work effectively for the Order until his death on 10 March 1970.
The vacancy in the Grand
Magistracy continued for some time, as the Coadjutor, H.R.H. Prince Michel de
Bourbon-Orléans, did not take up his rights to the succession. Proposed by the
Grand Commander, LtCol. Robert Gayre of Gayre and Nigg, H.R.H. Don Francisco
Enrique de Borbón y de Borbón, meanwhile retired from his military duties, had
been elected by a Chapter General in 1973 as the 47th Grand Master. He appointed
his eldest son, H.H. Don Francisco de Paula de Borbón y Escasany, Duke of
Seville, as Coadjutor.
While each branch
followed its own course, many knights from both sides became even more concerned
about the situation which was prejudicial to its prestige, diluted its good work
and gave ammunition to its detractors. Partisans of reunification from both
sides of the Order negotiated the conditions with prudence and determination.
Recommendations made from both sides led to a an agreement, named "Declaration
of Washington", which was signed 1979 by both Grand Masters and most of the
Heads of Jurisdictions of both branches. In a spirit of knightly confraternity,
it was decided that each side would give up its vain quarrels and would work to
achieve reunification. Each side would retain its structure and identity; that
governed by Don Francisco de Borbón would be known as the "Malta Obedience", and
that of the Duke de Brissac would be known as the "Paris Obedience". The
spiritual unity of the Order was to be assured by H.B. Maximos V. Hakim,
Greek-catholic Patriarch of Antiochia, as Spiritual Protector. After the death
of one Grand Master the other should resign and both Obediences should elect one
new Grand Master.
In spite of
considerable hard work by many people in both factions to bring about a
reconciliation, the attempt failed: The Grand Magisterial Council 1986 of the
Malta Obedience was due to be held in Oxford, England. Certain that the goal of
reunification would be attained at last that proposed meeting was renamed by the
organizers as "Joint International Reunion". But contrary to the expressed
wishes of the Grand Master the culmination of the Oxford meeting was a "Chapter
General" to elect a new Grand Master for the unified Order. This was also
illegal, as such an election obviously contravenes the Constitutional Decrees as
stated above. Don Francisco de Borbón forbade all members to attend the Oxford
meeting and according to the Constitution the Spiritual Protector had no
authority to call together such a meeting.
The result of this "Chapter
General" was that H.E. François Marquis de Brissac was elected as head of the
Paris Obedience, which called itself "United Order", whilst the true Grand
Master, H.R.H. Don Francisco Enrique de Borbón y de Borbón, remained head of the
Malta Obedience. Once again the Order was split, but this time with different
allegiances. Today there is still controversy about the legitimacy of the Oxford
meeting, and thus the Grand Mastership.
H.R.H. Don Francisco Enrique de
Borbón y de Borbón died on 18 November 1995.
He was succeeded by the Coadjutor,
H.R.H. Don Francisco de Paula de Borbón y Escasany, Duke of Seville and Grandee
of Spain, who was declared according to the Order’s Constitution 48th Grand
Master of the Malta Obedience in January 1996 by the Supreme Council
year 2004 was a new beginning, a time full of hope and confidence: In summer
negotiations have been initiated with the leaders of the new Obedience of Paris.
Both a Declaration of Friendship and a Convention about the formation of an
"Alliance of Branches of the Order of St. Lazarus" - according to the example of
the "Convention of Nieder-Weisel" made in 1961 by the four branches of the Order
of St. John - have meanwhile be signed. And since November 2004 the two main and
legitimate branches of the Order are under the umbrella of H.R.H.
Charles-Philippe Prince d'Orléans, Duke of Anjou, as their common and sole Grand
Master, enjoying the traditional "fons honorum" by the Crown of France.
Last update 01 04 2006