Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Military Virtues Every Catholic Must Have by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Egalitarianism and Vulgarity by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Egalitarianism and Vulgarity

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

I was asked to develop the topic of how one can become more anti-egalitarian, in order to be more counter-revolutionary. 

For this purpose, I believe that the most important thing is to have a clear idea not only of egalitarianism considered as an abstract evil, a philosophy, but also as concrete and practical evil, a moral evil. Thus, one must understand the evil of egalitarianism and have a fitting repulsion of it. 

What is the moral evil of egalitarianism? What is the proper attitude one should take before this moral evil? 

Three Kennedy brothers

Suit and tie became the target of egalitarian critics
Consider, for example, a person who is vulgar. I refer here not to one who adopts a vulgar lifestyle just because he lives in our prosaic epoch or who uses certain slang words – words that are increasingly appearing in today's vocabulary and that I flatter myself to imagine that none of my listeners here use - but, he goes far beyond this. 

When this vulgar person sees, for example, a youth in a jacket, buttoned shirt and tie passing, he says to him, "This irritates me! I don't mind the shirt, but the tie has to go. Why not wear the shirt without the tie?" 

If the youth takes off the tie, that person will still look angrily at him and say, "Why don't you take off your jacket?" If the youth removes his jacket, he says, "Why don't you wear your shirt outside your pants instead of tucking it in?" And if, finally, the youth complies and pulls out his shirt, he says, "Why aren't you wearing blue jeans?" 

I am not speaking here about an egalitarian person who is envious of someone else who has more than he does. This is not the case; the problem of money is not a question here. Rather, the egalitarian man is a person with a mentality that feels connatural with things insofar as they are vulgar, and he feels revulsion for things to the degree that they are elevated. And the more elevated something is, the greater the revulsion he has for it. He feels incongruity with what is elevated because he likes vulgarity. 

His actions are motivated not from envy, but from vulgarity, because what is elevated and distinguished irritates him. On the contrary, what is vulgar arouses sympathy in him. 

Egalitarian attitudes 

A person like this, even if he were rich, would not want to buy refined objects. He drives a dirty and slapdash car because he likes it; for him that car is a symbol of the world, life and the universal order; it is what he likes.

A messy, disordered, and cluttered room

Comfortable with what is disordered and dirty
If he were given a splendidly ordered room, with a magnificent rug, gorgeous drapes and very refined furniture, in a few hours he would have dirtied and disarranged everything. He would leave cigarette butts everywhere, an unfinished bottle of beer on top of the table. He would flop hard onto the bed and break its springs. He would leave his dirty clothes on the floor. He is an enemy of everything that is beautiful, ordered and well arranged. Why? Because he has a hostility or allergy against what is ordered and well arranged. 

When a person like this looks at the past and considers some of the forms of courtesy born from Christian Civilization, such as, "Truly, Sir, I am pleased to be at your service" or "If Your Ladyship would permit me," he reacts by saying, "What foolishness! What rubbish!" "There's no purpose to all that." 

If he were to see a carriage pulled by two pair of magnificently harnessed horses, adorned with paintings over gold and dark red upholstery, with artistically elaborated wheels - like the carriage for gala events of the Queen of Norway - and with windows of crystal and plumes on the top, postilions, etc, his first thought would be to look for a stone to throw at the carriage while he boos at it and shouts some insult. He would think this a very coherent action since he believes that such a carriage must be destroyed. 

This is the mentality of so many tourists who visit the statues of Aleijadinho: They break the fingers, write their names on the stone and do countless damage to those works of art because they want to destroy everything that is elevated. 

The evilness of such attitudes 

This mentality is worthy of repulsion, because it professes a love of evil for evil's sake. It is actually to love evil for the evil, the dirty for the dirty, the warped for the warped, the ugly for the ugly and the error for the error.

Barabbas, by James Tissot

Barabbas was preferred by the Jews
Without a shadow of a doubt, one can affirm that it was this kind of love for what is detestable that inspired the choice of Barabbas, and not Jesus, on the part of the multitude of Jews that had gathered before Pilate. Imagine the physiognomy Barabbas had. At that time, bandits did not comb their hair and arrange themselves as they often do today. 

One can imagine the horrendous face, frenzied gaze and dirty hair of Barabbas. Then, alongside this monster stands Our Lord Jesus Christ, majestic, most dignified and sublime, even in that moment of misfortune. The crowd looks at the two, and calls out, "We want the monster." It is a depraved act, showing squalor of soul. It is like seeing the Demon and God, and preferring the Demon. 

Now, it is this squalor of soul that constitutes egalitarianism. For this reason, we have to understand – without entering into more elevated theological considerations – that egalitarianism should be the object of the most implacable rejection of the counter-revolutionary soul. 

Anti-egalitarianism attitudes 

The disposition of soul of an anti-egalitarian person is that of one who seeks the more sublime in all things, not in order to have them, but in order to know them and to admire them.

The Golden carriage of Queen Elizabeth II

The anti-egalitarian man wants to admire the marvelous, like the Golden Carriage of Queen Elizabeth II
For example, when an anti-egalitarian person hears about the crystal windows on the carriage of the Queen of Norway, he thinks, "What a pity I cannot see this!" His first thought is not to enter the carriage and enjoy it, but only to admire it from the outside; this would give him happiness. This is how the anti-egalitarian person would act. 

On the contrary, an egalitarian man would say, "It's overdone. Why doesn't it have ordinary windows? Why should that pretentious woman have ordered those crystal windows?" This is an egalitarian response. 

To always desire to see, understand and love what is more sublime and elevated and, therefore, to have a type of severance of soul with what is less sublime and elevated – this is the keynote proper to a spirit that is not egalitarian. 

A distinction between poverty and vulgarity 

It should be noted, however, that while the anti-egalitarian and hierarchical spirit always seeks the more elevated things, it does not despise or hate what is simple. If a person without an egalitarian spirit is poor and lives with composure in his poverty, he deserves respect. What the counter-revolutionary rejects is the vulgar. 

The house of the Holy Family in Nazareth was poor, but it was not vulgar. Everything in it was well arranged - everything in order, clean, and elevated, even in its poverty. The anti-egalitarian person does not despise this; he considers poverty good when it has decorum and is in order. What he hates and despises are things that are wrong, disordered for the love of disorder, dirtiness, and vulgarity – which is a very different thing. 

Characteristics of the anti-egalitarian spirit 

Here would be, then, a first point for reflection: We must try to cultivate continuously in ourselves a state of soul that seeks the elevated, that loves the sublime. In its turn, this leads our spirit to heights of love of God. This is the first note of the anti-egalitarian spirit.

A food snob

"I didn't develop a taste for this when I was growing up"
The second point, which is in some way contained in the first, is that we should have the humility to recognize our social deficiencies and not pretend that there are things about ourselves and our tastes that could be perfected. The lack of this humility is often an obstacle that causes the shipwreck of many counter-revolutionaries. 

Many are accustomed to highly regard the social class or worldly circle in which they were born as if it were the model of society and the pattern of good living. For this reason, they consider that to have anything more than what that circle has is an unnecessary luxury, foolishness: "If I am accustomed to something and X likes something else that is more refined, then he is extravagant, an idiot, because the habits I acquired when I was a boy are the proper pattern of human life." 

It is interesting to note that this is found not only in the higher classes but in every gamut of society. There are bourgeois, very rich ladies who, hearing about more refined dishes, will say, "I did not develop a task for this dish when I was growing up. Why should I taste them now or make them for my family?" This is a bad excuse to avoid becoming more refined in taste and elevated in customs. Despite the money they have, they think that what they were raised with is good enough and nothing more is needed. Thus they close themselves to the good influence of civilization without even examining it. However, all of us have an obligation to increasingly love God and whatever reflects Him in creation or in civilization. Therefore, we should be open to those refinements of Catholic culture and civilization that we did not receive when we were growing up, and be willing to admire them. 

We all have a tendency to dislike a pattern of life that is superior to our own; it is a propensity that comes from self-love: "If something suffices for me and I have a perfectly fine life, then why does that person have to want more? Does he think that he is more than I am?" This is what generally is passing through our minds, if not something worse. 

From this state of soul, a radical scorn for what is more elevated and refined infallibly comes, always accompanied by the taste for what is lesser and more vulgar. Quantity is preferred to quality, practicality to dignity, spontaneity to discipline, sloppiness to ceremony, dirtiness to cleanness. 

In an ambience where this state of spirit reins, someone who does something called for by the most elementary civility - for instance, he steps ahead and opens the door for his superior – he is either criticized as a fool or someone sarcastically says, "That's because he had a very refined upbringing." This is to justify the lack of good manners that dominates the general atmosphere. This false concept of a "refined upbringing" as something superfluous and excessive is born in its turn from the already mentioned egalitarian concept: "What suffices for me should suffice just as well for everyone else!" 

It is necessary, therefore, to understand that often there are demands of perfection and heights of good taste that, even if we do not understand them, do not characterize a foolish man, but rather the shrewd man who perceived what escaped me. In this point we must take an attitude of humility in the face of something that we are not capable of perceiving and comprehending. 

I believe that we still have some progress to make in these two directions. I offer these considerations to you so that we can progress in the love of inequality and in the combat against egalitarian. 

Please Say Children, not Kids - by Marian T. Horvat Cultural

Let's Not Forget the Greeting - A Manual of Civility for the Use of Youth - Cultural

Monday, December 24, 2018

Different Types of Nobility by Plinio Correa de Oliveira

Catholic Manual of Civility translated and edited by Marian T. Horvat

Video - Christmas in French salons - Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites

Since no door in the town of Bethlehem was opened to the Holy Family, the Infant Jesus was born in a poor stable manger heated only with an ox and ass.

In reparation for such lack of hospitality, every year at Christmas, French noble houses open their doors to the Christ Child, his holy Mother, and to the patriarch Saint Joseph.

In sumptuously decorated rooms, in an ambiance filled with amiability, courtesy, etiquette and elegance, the salon society comes to kneel before a manger that has nothing of a salon.
However, that is where we find the Child-God, along with Our Lady and Saint Joseph, prince and princess of the House of David.
O Jesus, so humbled on our account!
O omnipotent majesty!
Charm, beauty, grace, and wonder – all render homage to the King of Kings.
O little Child, o powerful King, extend thy reign completely over us!
This is the prayer and submission of the most refined salons on earth to the Divine Monarch Who conquered the whole world from that humble stable manger.
In the heavens, the court of angels rejoices together with the courts of men, glorifying the Divine Child, King and Redeemer.

( translation)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Maintenance of nobiliary traditions of SMOM


© Guy Stair Sainty

The greatest problem confronting the Order in the maintenance of the existing system of noble proofs is the accelerating decline of the ancient nobility as a percentage of the population as a whole. The date at which social prominence and public achievement ceased to be recognized by the conferment of hereditary nobility varies in different states; the end of the First World War marked the cut-off date in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Russia and Poland, 1870 in France, 1910 in Portugal, 1931 in Spain (although the present Monarch has conferred a few titles) and 1964 [1] in Great Britain (although recognition of gentility continues through the grant of arms). [2]

The SMHOM has always recognized nobility conferred by the Vatican and the Republic of San Marino, and (with ample historical precedent, notably the recognition by the Catholic powers of conferrals and confirmations of nobility by the exiled Stuart kings) by the late King Umberto II of Italy after 1946. The creation of such nobles did not reflect the social progress of new leading citizens, however, but rather the more arbitrary contributions made to the Holy See, the Republic of San Marino or individual services to King Umberto personally. The prominence and social position of those Italians whose comparable predecessors from 1870 to 1946 would have been ennobled has not been recognized by a conferral of nobility, while a small group that is not necessarily representative of this group has been ennobled, giving any future descendants the right to enter the rank of Grace and Devotion.

Although titles were conferred in France from 1808 to 1848 and from 1852 to 1870, and the descendants of the recipients of such titles may be considered to have been ennobled, the French nobility as a privileged class ceased to exist in law after 1790. The rank of untitled (and unprivileged) noble was also conferred between 1814/15 and 1830, and the right to the nobleparticule continued to be confirmed on presentation of the proper proofs but the latter did not actually enlarge the nobility. By a coincidence of dates, the French proofs have effectively limited Honor and Devotion to families ennobled under the ancien regime, while families ennobled after the revolution are only eligible for Grace and Devotion unless the postulant can prove eight quarterings. Other families sometimes landed for generations, such as the Carnot family from Nolay, Morvan, which were prominent in the region from the late fourteenth century and gave a President to France a century ago, can never enter the nobiliary ranks under the present rules although clearly "gentry" by the English standard. Within little more than a decade the heirs of titles conferred by Napoleon will be eligible for membership in the noble grades, although many Napoleonic titles were given for distinguished military service and did not recognize entry into the social elite. 

After 1830 first Louis-Philippe and then Napoleon III only conferred a relatively small number of titles; thus those seeking ennoblement could only look to the generosity of the Holy See. The Papal practice of conferring noble titles on non-citizens of the Papal States accelerated considerably after 1870. Since Vatican titles were conferred on the basis of service to the Church or a particular bishop and often in return for substantial financial generosity, these conferrals seldom reflected the actual social standing of the recipient of the title and they were generally unrecognized by the government of France, [3] although some of the recipients were highly distinguished and some were members of existing noble families. Between 1870 and 1914 the Vatican created four French princes (one was canceled because the recipient, a M. Laforge, failed to pay his fee and was subsequently jailed for fraud), nine dukes, twenty-one marquesses, approximately two hundred counts (many of very modest standing and created for the life of the recipient) and seven barons; among them was a Nice shopkeeper who had obtained the post of Dominican ambassador to the Vatican and a San Marino barony, who was created "Duke Astraudo" (he was a donat of the SMHOM), and the American born son of the tramway concessionaire of Paris created "Duke Loubat". The last princely title to be granted by the Vatican was actually conferred in 1951 on a Frenchman, Gérard de La Salle, but the reason for this gentleman receiving the highest rank in the Papal nobility was not disclosed by either the Vatican or the recipient. [4]

Unlike Great Britain, where distinguished citizens have not only continued to be recognized as nobles by grants of arms but have also received hereditary titles, Frenchmen of comparable standing have not been so honored. Thus while British Field Marshals and Admirals of the Fleet who distinguished themselves in the First and Second World Wars received hereditary titles, the descendants of French Marshals remained members of the bourgeoisie. At the time of the French Revolution, one third of all existing French noble families had been ennobled during the previous century; reflecting the social changes following the Revolution, Napoleon added some two thousand five hundred and forty-five families to the nobility (mostly from the bourgeoisie), the Restoration Monarchy another twelve hundred (also from the new middle class), and the July monarchy and second Empire a further one hundred and twenty-five (of which perhaps half of the total of three thousand eight hundred and seventy families are now extinct in the male line).

Thus, although modern French society is not so very dissimilar to British (apart from the religious differences), in Britain between twelve and fifteen thousand families have been added to the armigerous gentry or titled nobility during a period in France when both the number of noble families and their proportion in the population has declined considerably. In the Order of Malta the French have solved this dilemma to some degree by admitting a higher proportion of Magistral Grace knights than the British have done (remembering also that the French proofs are far stricter than the British), but in many of the European Associations the Magistral Grace knights make up only a tiny proportion of the membership and, so far, the officers of these associations have not indicated that they see any need to reflect the social changes of the past seventy-five years.

When considering the social changes that have taken place since the end of the First World War, it is instructive to compare the Order's composition in 1938 and 1986 (two years for which complete rolls were published). In 1938 there were three thousand one hundred and seventy-six members of whom one thousand nine hundred and fifty were knights or dames of Honor and Devotion (sixty-one per cent of the total); these knights and dames of Honor and Devotion would have been required to prove a considerably more demanding standard than is required for the same rank today. In 1986, out of just short of nine thousand five hundred members there were two thousand eight hundred and thirty-six members of the same class (only thirty per cent of the total). In the former year there were six hundred and forty-five Magistral Grace knights (twenty per cent of the Order, many of whom could actually have made the proofs for Grace and Devotion, which did not then exist); in 1986 four thousand one hundred and ten (forty-three per cent) were knights or dames of Magistral Grace, with a further seven hundred and eighty-nine (or eight point three per cent) enrolled in Grace and Devotion. In 1938 there were three hundred and ninety-three donats or twelve per cent of the Order (of whom two hundred and forty-eight or sixty-three per cent were Italian); in 1986 there were one thousand two hundred and thirty five donats or thirteen per cent of the Order (of whom eight hundred and sixty-five or seventy-five per cent were Italian).

Thus, while the proportion of donats, and their national distribution, has remained more or less constant, the number of knights and dames of Honor and Devotion have declined dramatically as a proportion of the memberships with a reciprocal increase in the number of knights and dames of the lesser ranks of the third class. The number of lady members has also changed; in 1938 they were six per cent of the total and (with the exception of the members of the American Association) were all enrolled in Honor and Devotion, but by 1986 they had almost doubled as a proportion of the membership to nearly eleven per cent of the Order (dames cannot be made donats). Meanwhile there has been a decline in the number of members of the first class (professed knights, novice knights of Justice and conventual chaplains), who totaled less than half of their 1938 number of ninety-six (a fall from three per cent of the total to less than half of one per cent). While the total number of members to whom the title of "grand cross" has been accorded has increased - in 1938 there were two hundred and ninety-five, and in 1986 there were four hundred and seventy-six - this actually represents a decline from nine to five per cent of the total membership as the grand cross is rarely given in the rank of Magistral Grace. The number of honorary chaplains, ninety-two in 1938 and three hundred and fifty-two in 1986, has risen modestly from just under three to three point seven per cent.

The changes in the proportion of noble and non-noble members in individual associations is even more dramatic in some cases and it is worth noting that, during this period when the Order trebled in size, the total number of knights and dames of Honor and Devotion has only increased by forty-five per cent and in some national associations barely at all. This is particularly noticeable in Italy, where the number has only increased from seven hundred and eighty-eight to eight hundred and forty-one (a rise of under seven per cent). A similar problem exists in the German Association, where the total number enrolled in Honor and Devotion grew by only twenty-one per cent. Of course a small proportion of these have become knights of Obedience but not enough to alter significantly this relationship (and in any case the number of professed members has fallen). In the now separated Grand Priories of Austria and Bohemia the total number of Honor and Devotion knights and dames has risen from one hundred and seventy-two in 1938 to two hundred and thirty-three, a growth of thirty-five per cent, while the number of knights and dames of Magistral Grace and donats has fallen from one hundred and twenty-one in 1938 to ninety-nine in 1986 - partly a reflection of the composition of the Bohemian Grand Priory since 1945.

In stark contrast, the Spanish Association, which in 1938 had one hundred and ninety-seven members in Honor and Devotion, ten per cent of all the members of that class, and no Magistral Grace members or donats, in 1986 had five hundred and thirty-five Honor and Devotion and Obedience (ex-Honor and Devotion) members who represented nearly twenty per cent of the whole class - an increase of one hundred and sixty-seven per cent. The British Association, which had thirty nine Honor and Devotion members in 1938, by 1986 had one hundred and thirty-eight Honor and Devotion (or Obedience, ex-Honor and Devotion) members - an increase of two hundred and fifty-three per cent which makes it the only Association whose increase in numbers in that class exceeded the growth in size of the Order as a whole. These disparities can be explained primarily by the liberality of the British and Spanish proofs and the size of their Nobilities, whereas the Italian, German, Austrian and Bohemian proofs are much more restrictive and make it more difficult to find qualified candidates.

The principal reason for retaining the requirement of nobility for admission into the higher ranks of the third class of the Order of Malta is to maintain the historic composition of the Order as a Catholic élite. This encourages a sense of familial loyalty, gives an incentive to the scions of families long associated with the Order to join by particularly distinguishing them, and instills thereby a real esprit de corps. Many of the members of the European Associations are related and this is particularly so in the British where Catholics have always been a small percentage of the gentry. Limiting the highest offices of the Order to members who have been promoted from the first and third ranks of the third class (the noble grades), ensures continuity, honors the Order's historic traditions of family service and reflects the fact that, although international, the Order was primarily European and that for hundreds of years membership had been restricted almost exclusively to the nobility.

Before the French Revolution the majority of members tended to be drawn from families of ancient lineage who were seldom endowed with great wealth, but there were always a number from great families - such as princes of Lorraine and Rohan - and families such as the Fugger counts who had risen to the pinnacle of society more recently. The modern Order includes among the members in the noble ranks a far greater proportion from the families of great magnates, reflecting the fact that the gulf which formerly existed between the most powerful nobles and the lesser noble families has largely been eradicated. In modern urban society there is little to distinguish the lifestyles of descendants of great noble families from the upper class which has built up its prosperity and social standing within the last century, while only those landed magnates who have retained their estates and castles continue to live in the fashion of their ancestors, with commensurate influence in their local communities.

In those states where it is possible to make a precise definition of nobility, and where the noble class still encompasses a substantial proportion of the most influential citizens and present or future political, social and economic leadership, a definitive standard of proof in respect of the ranks of Honor and Devotion and Grace and Devotion should be maintained, provided the regulations succeed in achieving uniformity within the membership of each rank. If the Order is to maintain successfully its very special and unique identity as a noble Order of Chivalry, then it must indeed include the historic elite who have maintained their rank for generations and whose standing as nobles has not been achieved solely by diligent genealogical research.

The reality also has to be faced that the nobility plays a decreasingly significant leadership role, except accidentally, and that it owns a declining proportion of the nation's land and wealth (and in Eastern Europe none at all). The abolition or democratization of the European Monarchies has meant that representatives of the nobility are more likely to be found actively involved in business or the professions than at court, in government or the military - a complete reversal of the position two hundred years ago when the Order's military duties required the knights to be trained officers.

The original purpose of a strict application of noble proofs was to ensure that the nobility, which historically provided military leadership and whose martial skills were essential to the Order, were not tempted to abandon their military role by the prosperity to be derived from commerce and would instead aspire to promotion in the Order to qualify for the tenure of a lucrative commandery. Membership was not limited exclusively to nobles, since the contribution of non-nobles was important to both its military and its hospitaller function. In the modern world the Order no longer enjoys a military role and raising the necessary funds to continue its hospitaller duties will inevitably prove to be both a higher priority and a greater burden if the Order is to continue its humanitarian mission on a comparable or greater scale. The nobility today owns a rapidly decreasing proportion of every European nation's wealth and it is on the generosity of the wealthy that the Order depends to finance its humanitarian mission. Unless more suitable and qualified representatives of the newer wealth owning and prominent classes are recruited the Order may find it increasingly difficult to finance its charitable activities and to continue to be an influential, international, traditional Catholic force in the modern world. It has thus become apparent that a reform of the nobiliary qualifications is necessary, while it is equally important to preserve the historic character of the Order as an élite, nobiliary institution.

The abolition of all noble privileges everywhere but Great Britain and the prohibition of the use of noble titles in some states (where they are used only socially), along with the permanent establishment of a wealthy upper bourgeoisie whose lifestyle is indistinguishable from that of most of the nobility, has meant that it has become more common for nobles to marry outside the nobility. The invention of the rank of Grace and Devotion has enabled noble postulants who cannot meet the requirements for Honor and Devotion to join in a noble rank, rather than in Magistral Grace, but most European Associations have shown themselves unwilling to allow the Grace and Devotion rank to represent more than a minority of the membership. Those families which have provided Honor and Devotion knights for generations are understandably reluctant to accept demotion merely because of one or two missing quarterings when in other respects the family has maintained its social and economic standing; thus some worthy potential postulants bearing names long associated with the Order's history may be discouraged from applying.

The rules themselves, often being based on a long-distant historic precedent, can distort their original purpose - for example, in France, the two hundred year rule in each of four quarters still includes only ancien régime families, but within nearly twenty years all those families ennobled by Napoleon will become eligible for Honor and Devotion. Since those who can prove eight quarterings need only prove one hundred years in the French Association and in the Spanish and British Associations only four quarterings are necessary, it is possible for candidates who descend from nineteenth century nobles to enter as knights or dames of Honor and Devotion. Whatever the merits of this development, the heirs of nineteenth century nobility are much more likely to be descended from distinguished public servants or the founders of industrial fortunes than from landed, military families. 

The founders of the National Associations in the nineteenth century may not have realized that the rules then in force would permit the descendants of their contemporaries who had been enriched by industry, or obtained advancement from revolutionary regimes, sometimes acquiring titles and estates from ancient families impoverished by revolution, to enter the Order in the rank of Honor and Devotion within a century. The diversity of the rules in the different associations has meant that there is little homogeneity in the composition of the rank of Honor and Devotion between different national groups (and within countries which had several different nobiliary jurisdictions, such as Italy and Spain). The justification for retaining the requirement of proof by quarterings is that the best evidence that a family has maintained its status is that its members have married into other families of comparable rank. If homogeneity is to be maintained then there is an argument to be made for extending the requirement for Honor and Devotion for at least two of the four quarterings to three hundred years.

In the eighteenth century British Catholic exiles rarely joined the Order of Malta (as they would have competed for benefices with members of other Langues, something forbidden in the statutes), and never in the titular English Grand Priory, since the Order could not function in Great Britain and had been wholly deprived of its wealth there; instead such Jacobite exiles who had entered the service of European sovereigns were admitted into the national Military-Religious Orders such as Santiago, Calatrava, and the Constantinian Order, in which they might obtain valuable endowments while serving that particular sovereign. Only when they were assimilated into the local populations were descendants of Jacobite exiles admitted to the localLangue. The deprivation of the nobility's wealth in Eastern Europe has meant that those nobles living in exile are in a similar position to the Jacobites. The vast majority of members of the Eastern European nobility have been divested of their estates and property and have no influence in their countries of origin. Indeed, in many cases, they have become assimilated with their economic peers in the countries in which they have settled and might be unlikely candidates for the Order in their local national associations. [5]

If the Eastern European Associations of the Order are to play an effective part in the work of the Order then it is essential they adjust their rules to take account of the changes of the past half century. These Associations should be recruiting able and talented members in their homelands and it may be necessary to increase the proportion of non-noble members if they ever hope to play the kind of role in contemporary society as the German and Austrian knights and dames. In Eastern Europe the Order can play an important part in assisting the smooth development of democracy and the permanent rejection of totalitarianism - the total inadequacy of existing hospital care and the moral vacuum following the downfall of communism has proved that there is a considerable need for the Orders of Saint John to play their traditional hospitaller and leadership role.

The Polish and Hungarian Associations both have substantial numbers of members living outside Poland and Hungary, particularly in the United States. Some of these members were born in exile and are citizens of the countries in which their parents settled. Nonetheless, they usually join the National Association of their ancestors rather than the Association where they reside. The New World Associations generally oppose those who can prove noble ancestry entering in the rank of Honor or Grace and Devotion. This is because the European noble ancestry of these exiles from Communism is generally irrelevant to their standing in the community where they now reside. Neither they nor their ancestors have made any significant contribution to their adopted country and the members of the local Associations can see no reason why they should be placed in a higher rank than the descendants of families which for generations have played a prominent part in their country's history, who are restricted to Magistral Grace.

Grace and Devotion is presently limited to those noble or gentry families which are not eligible for Honor and Devotion, but which have maintained nobility or gentility for more than a certain period of years. In countries where conferrals of nobility have ceased, families which attained a certain prominence and with that a status comparable to the British gentry and have maintained that status for one hundred years or more, should arguably be eligible for Grace and Devotion. This would ensure that the same balance is retained between the composition of the Order in Great Britain, Europe and the rest of the Catholic world. Without such a reform time will result in even greater anomalies than are presently apparent in the composition of the different National Associations. The same standard can then be applied in countries with a noble tradition as those without, thus eliminating one of the principle arguments utilized by those who wish to abolish the requirement for proof of nobility altogether. In the countries of the New World there may be very few candidates eligible for the rank of Honor and Devotion, but many which for a century or more have maintained a position of social prominence and leadership in the community who could be eligible for special distinction by admission into the rank of Grace and Devotion. The alternative is to relax the requirements for Honor and Devotion and abolish the rank of Grace and Devotion - there is little historical justification for dividing the noble ranks into higher and lower categories.

It is inevitable that the numbers of Magistral Grace knights and dames, as a proportion of the total membership, will continue to grow. Some consider that it may not be to the Order's benefit if they continue to be disenfranchised from participating in its government by their exclusion from the second class. If there is greater leniency in determining the qualifications for the rank of Grace and Devotion, however, by introducing a subjective standard for adjudicating whether a candidate's three preceding generations are of the required status, then it will be possible to enlarge the number of qualified candidates without diluting the historic noble traditions. It will still be possible to maintain the nobiliary character while the SMHOM can itself establish a body charged with defining whether a candidate who would previously have only been entitled to Magistral Grace, could be entitled to Grace and Devotion.

The Grand Master has always enjoyed the right to waive some or all of the nobiliary requirements by motu proprio, although historically this privilege has rarely been exercised; instead the rules have simply been side-stepped. However, there are valid precedents for those candidates whose social position is self-evidently so prominent (such as a second or third generation British peer whose ennoblement was within less than one hundred years), after directing a petition to the Grand Master indicating the reasons why an exception should be made, to be given the benefit of the Grand Magistral motu proprio. If, however, a candidate is descended from a noble or gentry family but for several generations (or even centuries in some cases) this family has sunk into economic and social obscurity, ceasing to play a role appropriate to the responsibilities of its earlier rank, then one may question whether this candidate should be admitted automatically to a rank which places him ahead of another candidate whose family has been prominent for several generations but did not consider applying for a grant of arms (there is, however, a strong case to be made for giving special consideration to the descendants of the English or Scottish recusants who maintained their Catholic faith through two centuries of persecution, whether or not they were armigers).

In Republican Europe there will in the future be more and more families who will be able to demonstrate such prominence for several generations and who, had the Monarchies survived, would have been ennobled; these too may perhaps be suitable candidates for the reformed class of Grace and Devotion. Since membership of the Order of itself has always been held to confer personal nobility, there is a strong argument for maintaining that the descendant of a Magistral Grace knight admitted more than one hundred years ago or for the fourth generation descended therefrom to be entitled to apply for Grace and Devotion, particularly if the intervening generations were also members of the Order.


[1]There are one thousand and ninety-five surviving hereditary titles created in Great Britain between 1870 and 1964 (55% of all hereditary British titles), of which six hundred and fifty-five were created after 1918, and thousands of grants of arms during the same period. Meanwhile there were no additions to the French nobility after 1870 and none to the German, Austrian, Hungarian or Russian after 1918.

[2] The present Queen, acting on the advice of the government of Mrs (now Baroness) Thatcher, has conferred three hereditary peerages in recent years (and one royal dukedom), but only one of these peers has an heir to the title. No baronetcies were conferred from 1964 until 1990, when Mr Denis Thatcher was created a Baronet following the resignation of his wife as Prime Minister. The title of baronet does not include the right to an hereditary seat in the legislature. 

[3] Some recipients of Papal titles received confirmation of their titles under the Third Republic but only for their lifetime and not as hereditary titles, even though the titles were granted as hereditary titles by the Holy See. 

[4] Since 1958 titles conferred by the Holy See have been conferred in private letters from the Secretary of State and neither the names of the recipients nor the ranks bestowed (usually Count) have been published. 

[5] Of the formerly exiled Associations only the Hungarians and Roumanians continue to hold investitures outside their own country. Eventually non-citizens of those countries may be required to apply to and meet the standards of the National Associations of the countries in which they have settled and of which they are citizens. 








Nobility, the new world and the Order of Malta


© Guy Stair Sainty

Today the U.S. Associations together represent twenty-five per cent of the membership, without including the Canadian, Antipodean and South and Central American Associations. The application of the "European" standard of noble proofs to New World citizens has been criticized both in the New World and by those outside who are familiar with these societies. There never has been any correlation between the right to bear an ancient coat of arms and social or economic standing in the New World (just as if there was once such a relationship in Great Britain, it exists no longer). North American armigers may be divided into three categories: firstly the descendants (generally protestant) of the handful of cadet members of English or Scottish landed families who settled in North America between 1630 and 1850, but whose social position in the new world was generally unrelated to the status of their families in their place of origin; secondly the descendants of members of the European nobility who settled in the United States after the end of the first World War, but whose rank as nobles is irrelevant to their social status and who are only rarely represented among the economic, political or social leadership of the United States; and thirdly the descendants of those wealthy American families who may have obtained a British grant within the last century - while these families may still enjoy wealth and prominence, the conferment of arms on Americans was unusual and was not a recognition of their American achievements or social position. Thus, since most American Catholics are not of English or Scottish origin, with very few exceptions potential applicants who can provide proof of descent from a genuine European noble or armigerous family are of fairly recent immigrant stock. In South America those of noble descent are predominately descended from Spaniards who settled there before the end of the eighteenth century, or whose families were ennobled by the Viceroys before independence. The social progress of families which have achieved prominence in the nearly two hundred years since then has not been recognized by the conferral of nobility and whatever their standing, or the contribution of their families, few are eligible for the noble ranks.

In the United States it is possible to identify at least one group which represents the military leaders of two centuries earlier, namely the Society of the Cincinnati. This was formed by the officers of the revolutionary army under the immediate command of General George Washington to commemorate their common struggle to "cause the separation of the Colonies of North America from the domination of Great Britain and, after a bloody conflict of eight years, to establish them free and independent sovereign states" on 13 May 1783. [1] Membership was open to all officers of the American "Continental" Army (including those who had resigned with honor after three years service), provided they subscribe one month's pay, and "as a testimony to the memory and the offspring of such officers as have died in the service, their eldest male branches shall have the same right of becoming members, as the children of actual members of the Society". By article 27 of the statutes, membership was also extended to those French officers above a certain rank (recently adjusted to include all French officers who served in the war) and a single representative among their descendants; despite the admission of French members falling into abeyance between the revolution and the 1920's, today the two hundred and fifty French members represent slightly more than twelve per cent of the total membership (and include several knights of Honor and Devotion in the French Association of the SMHOM). The rules have now been altered so that on the extinction of the direct descendants in the male line, and of the descendants of any collateral branch, the right to membership as the representative of an officer may (with the permission of the Society) pass through the female line. [2] The Society is headed by a President-General, who serves along with a Vice-President-General, Secretary and Treasurer, and there are Societies in the original thirteen States as well as France (and Associations in Texas and California for existing members resident in those States), each with their own President, some with slight variations of the admission rules to take account of the particular history of that State. [3] The only other Society to have been formed contemporaneously with the events it was designed to commemorate and whose badges can be worn on military uniform is the Aztec Club of 1847, the Military Society of the Mexican War. [4]Membership of the Cincinnati through male line descent may well be taken as evidence of a right to Grace and Devotion in any reformed system. 

If the purpose of the application of nobiliary regulations in the SMHOM is to continue to distinguish those families which have played a leadership role in society for generations and encourage their younger members to join the Order, then the current system has not been wholly successful in the New World. For the Order to continue to attract representatives of those families which have provided Europe and the New World with their political, military, diplomatic and financial leadership, a system of selection needs to be devised to reflect the changes in society over the past two centuries.

The adoption of a new standard in the United States would be a great improvement and, although requiring some subjectivity of judgment, would probably be easier to evaluate and administer than the present system, which involves candidates for promotion to Grace or Honor and Devotion in elaborate research in often inadequate European archives and the application of a necessarily flexible standard of proof. Until the present rules are reformed the descendants of those families (whether originally or by conversion Catholic), which have played a prominent role in American society for generations and who, had they been of comparable prominence in Great Britain, would probably have been ennobled or petitioned for a grant of arms, will continue to be excluded from the noble grades and therefore from making the promise of Obedience. Unless they make full profession as knights of Justice, they will likewise be excluded from the highest offices in the Order. This contributes to a resentment against the authority exercised over their Associations by the senior members of European Associations with little prospect of a citizen of the New World, however distinguished his family, of sharing that authority.

Postulants (candidates) for the honor of Knight or Dame of Malta are usually chosen from those who have either inherited or earned a prominent place in society. Because the Order needs to maintain its membership and its humanitarian mission, it needs young members as well as those with greater experience of the world who are distinguished by what they have achieved in their own lifetimes. These younger candidates, not old enough to have shown the "merit towards the Church, the Order and their neighbor" required of those admitted in Magistral Grace, can generally only enter in the noble ranks. The average age of members of the three US Associations is substantially older than that of most of the large European Associations because there are relatively few candidates who can show such merits before reaching their forties. The practice of offering membership to older lay men and women who have distinguished themselves in their service to the Church or society has led to the misconception - which all three US Associations have done much to dissipate in recent years - that the Order is a reward for past services. Some Catholic Bishops have proposed deserving Catholics for membership in Malta or the Holy Sepulcher to acknowledge specially distinguished service to the Church, rather than rewarding such services by recommending individuals for membership in the Papal Orders. [5] While some children of active US members have been received at a relatively young age - particularly in the Western Association which also has the highest proportion of members in the noble ranks - they represent only a tiny proportion of the total. 

The modest number of North American members admitted or transferred after admission to the first (Honor and Devotion) or third (Grace and Devotion) ranks of the third class is not only due to the relatively limited number of potential candidates able to provide the necessary nobiliary proof. Opposition from some US knights and dames who are opposed to the concept of noble ranks has also inhibited eligible candidates from applying. There is a misconception that requiring proof of being descended from a noble family or giving preference to those so descended is somehow contrary to the US Constitution. That all the members are part of an Order in which nobility has been, and still is, a requirement since soon after its foundation is viewed by some as irrelevant in the United States, a supposedly egalitarian society. Yet, while the United States recognizes that "all men are created equal" it does not give equal rights to all to become US citizens. Neither does it confer equal rights on all its citizens, since the two greatest offices of State, of President and Vice-President, are denied to those who have acquired citizenship other than by birth.

The concept of officially acknowledging the inheritance of particular advantages is not unknown in the United States. The notable privilege of automatic admission to the national military service academy of their choice is conferred by law on the children of recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Furthermore, by a joint resolution of Congress [6] the members of the Society of the Cincinnati, [7] the Society of the War of 1812, the Aztec Society (Mexican War of 1846) and the Loyal Legion can wear the ribbon designating such membership on military uniform, although the service was actually provided by an ancestor. [8] Thus, recognition of ancestral achievements and loyal service in the person of the descendants of those who provided such service is accepted. Even if the United States Congress was to enact a law requiring all public and private organizations not to discriminate in favor of those of noble descent, the Order of Malta would be exempted from compliance by virtue of the privileged constitutional treatment given to religious organizations (which, for example, exempts the Catholic Church from "equal opportunity" laws that might otherwise require the admission of women to the priesthood). 

There is no conflict between equality before the law as citizens, and recognition that in the United States - as in every Western society - there are families which generation after generation have played a leadership role. Family traditions of service are not contrary to the American ethos, indeed they are generally admired. Those who are inspired to serve their country, the Church or their community in emulation of traditions established by their antecedents are surely worthy of commendation. Membership in the Order of Malta is a particular honor to which those who descend from such families enjoy privileged access. In return they accept the responsibility of service that accompanies such a privilege.

The status of nobility was conferred on those who, if not already of noble extraction from time immemorial, had risen to prominence in the service of their country or sovereign. Such distinguished service was recognized by the Crown or State and the historic achievements of their families may have been marked by the adornment to the name of a title, the particule [9] or coat of arms, which continue to serve as reminders to future generations of the privileges they enjoy and the obligations they impose. Those who have joined the Order's pilgrimage to Lourdes and observed the enthusiastic participation of the many young volunteers who accompany malades from across Europe can surely not ignore the fact that a large proportion are representatives of noble families which, in many cases, have provided generations of service in the ranks of the Order or to their country. Since their name confers the particular advantage of applying for membership in the noble ranks of the Order of Malta, an interest in serving is insured on the part of those who enjoy such specially privileged positions.

It should not be forgotten that distinguished Catholic Americans, several of whom were members of the SMOM, received titles of nobility from the Holy See as recently as the 1950's. Among the better known examples are the late Rose FitzGerald Kennedy, a Papal Countess and mother of President John F. Kennedy, and Bernardine Donohue, a Papal Countess created by Pius XII, whose husband Daniel J. Donohue is a Gentleman of His Holiness and member of the American Association of the SMHOM. In the 1920's one of the founders of the American Association, Nicholas Brady, received the title of Papal Duke while another, George Macdonald, sometime President of the Association, was created a Papal Marquess. A councilor of the same Association, Edward L. Hearn, was created a Papal Count by Pius XII. The Allied governor of Italy after the surrender in 1943, General Edgar Erskine Hume, [10] was a Virginia gentleman of ancient family who was made a Bailiff Grand Cross of Honor and Devotion on the basis of his proven noble descent and created Count of Chérisy by King Umberto II of Italy. These ladies and gentleman were all loyal Americans and good Catholics who considered their titles great honors of which they were rightly proud. 

The present Grand Master has been particularly encouraging of those American knights who have submitted proofs for the noble categories by establishing descent from a European noble family [11]according to the relatively liberal British standard. There are now several members in the ranks of Honor and Devotion and Grace and Devotion in the Western Association, two in the Federal and one in the largest of the three, the American. Furthermore, a number of other members of the three US Associations could prove "noble" descent [12] in addition to those who have already satisfied the requirements. The stronger the representation of Americans in the "noble" ranks of the third class, the more influence the American Associations will have in the higher echelons of the Order which remain closed to non-nobles. Support for the maintenance of the nobiliary system is unanimous among the members of the Sovereign Council as well as the leadership of the European Associations. The Order is unlikely to abandon its nobiliary requirements as this special characteristic contributes much to the Order's influence and prestige in the modern, secular world. 

The limitation of the noble ranks to those who could prove descent from a European noble family has meant that candidates from privileged North American Catholic families, which have give distinguished service to their country for generations, have often been unable to satisfy the standards demanded for entry, other than as knights or dames of Magistral Grace. Unlike comparable families in Great Britain, their social prominence was seldom recognized by ennoblement or a grant of arms in the colonial era and almost never after independence. Over the nearly four hundred years of the pre- and post-colonial history of the United States and Canada an identifiable privileged class has come into existence. The Order has not yet found a way to recognize this, however, by according it membership in the noble grades.

A reform of the rank of Grace and Devotion, permitting an alternative to the requirement for proof of descent from a European noble family, could enable the North American Associations to recognize and distinguish those families which have provided several generations of leadership in their country or the Catholic Community, or several generations of membership in the SMHOM. For five years from 1969 until 1974, special rules were approved for proofs of nobility in Canada on an experimental basis; a revision of such rules in response to criticisms of some aspects and a separate revision recognizing the particular circumstances of American Society could be drawn up for the future. Under the Canadian reforms admission in Grace and Devotion could be obtained in one of four ways.

(1) Proof of noble descent in the direct male line for a period of one hundred years (the usual "British" proof) or not less than three generations, including the applicant's own generation - this latter reform was criticized because it was possible for someone to obtain a new grant and his grandson or granddaughter immediately become eligible

(2) When an applicant's grandfather and father have been received into the SMHOM as knights of Magistral Grace, he or she could be received in Grace and Devotion without submitting further proofs of nobility [13] - this reform was criticized for the same reasons as the first, it being suggested that the reform should permit only the fourth generation to enter as Grace and Devotion. 

(3) Nobility of office, by which the candidate, his or her father and grandfather must have held one of a variety of qualifying offices - some critics felt these qualifications were too broadly drawn, including not only judges, senators, members of parliament, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, provincial premiers, full university professors and deputy ministers in a federal or provincial government, but also those holding the military ranks of naval commander, army lieutenant-colonel, air-force wing commander and university doctorates.

(4) Personal Nobility, permitting the concession of Grace and Devotion to certain high officers, namely Governor-General, Chief Justice of Canada, Lieutenant-Governors of Provinces, Members of the Queen's Imperial Privy Council, Judges of the Supreme Courts, and Chancellors and Presidents of recognized universities, provided they could prove "honorable descent" for two or more generations. The reformed rules required that candidates seeking admission in Grace and Devotion under 3 and 4 should first have entered as knights or dames of Magistral Grace and could only transfer after a minimum of two years at the request of the Association.

A similar reform which placed greater emphasis on service to the Church, State or Society within each generation of the applicants family (but, not necessarily, his or her direct antecedents) and extended the qualifications for (1) and (2) by one generation could possibly satisfy those critics who fear reform would dilute the Order's nobiliary heritage. This would make it easier to bring in younger members and establish similar traditions of successive members from the same families which have served the Order so well in Europe. Despite the size of the three US Associations, the Order has been unable to establish an hospitaller and humanitarian role in the United States comparable to its achievements in Italy, Germany and France. This is virtually impossible without a large reservoir of younger volunteers. Without a reform which insures the opening up of membership to the younger scions of distinguished families, much of the humanitarian work of the Order in North America is likely to continue to be limited to financial contributions to worthy causes. If the noble ranks were enlarged the North American Associations would more closely parallel the European in structure and could provide more candidates for the classes of Justice and Obedience and the higher ranks of the Grand Magistery.

In establishing how such a system might work it is worth looking at the family histories of one particular group of Americans, those who held the office of President of the United States. [14]There have been forty-two individuals who have held this office since the election of George Washington in 1789. Of these, only one, George Washington himself, was certainly an Armiger. Two other Presidents, James Monroe and James Polk were probably descended from Armigerous families, while two others, James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln, may have been. While the American ancestors of both Monroe and Polk had played a distinguished role in the life of Maryland and Virginia in the case of Monroe, and North Carolina in the case of Polk, the ancestors of neither Buchanan nor Lincoln, however, played any significant role in their country's history and they did not live in a style approximating that of the colonial gentry. Of the remaining Presidents the male line ancestors for several generations of Presidents John Adams (and his son John Quincy Adams), Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, William Harrison (and his great-grandson Benjamin Harrison), John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce, Theodore Roosevelt (and his distant cousin and nephew-in-law Franklin D. Roosevelt), William Taft and Calvin Coolidge, all played a prominent role in the society of their adopted country and would certainly have qualified as eligible for the class of Grace and Devotion if the Canadian "Gwyn" proofs had been applied. 

If the class of Obedience is opened up to knights (or dames) of Magistral Grace, as has been proposed, there may be considerable pressure on the numbers. There are many worthy American knights who already fulfill the spiritual obligations required in their daily lives. The heads of the US and Canadian Associations may then be placed in the difficult position of having to choose between equally meritorious candidates. The broadening of the ranks of Grace and Devotion, on the other hand, could enable the present number of candidates for Obedience to be expanded while still insuring that it remains a nobiliary category. The majority of North Americans are presently excluded from entering the nobiliary ranks, whatever the past and future achievements of their families since their arrival in the New World. Until this barrier is lifted there will continue to be opposition from North Americans to the application of the requirements for proof of nobility for certain ranks of the Order.

With one Canadian knight of Justice, one professed Polish knight resident in the US and two knights of Justice in simple vows (one each in the Federal and Western Associations), it will soon be possible to form a Priory in North America. This would also include the knights (and dames, should the class of Obedience be opened up to ladies) of Obedience. There are already a number of potential candidates for the class of Grace and Devotion presently enrolled among the membership, and many more who could be eligible for this rank if there is a reform of the rules for the New World. It may then be possible to insure a substantial representation of North American knights (and dames) without radically changing the historic composition of the upper ranks of the Order.

The future of the Order of Malta's humanitarian work and its traditional example of leadership in the Catholic community depends on the enthusiasm and generosity of an expanding membership and on continuing to attract those who represent the most privileged and influential of modern Catholic society. The election of Fra' Andrew Bertie has meant that, in practice, the lingua franca of the Order is now English and the new Grand Master has already demonstrated an unprecedented willingness to listen to the views of the membership and that he is sympathetic to the concerns of the American knights, many of whom have felt excluded from full participation in the Order. With a better understanding of American society on the part of the great officers of the Order, so will an environment of closer co-operation be easier to realize. Only with the active participation of the whole membership will the Order's influence and importance in the Catholic world continue to grow and flourish, and only thus will it succeed in fulfilling its traditional Catholic, moral and humanitarian role in the New World and Eastern Europe as effectively as it does in Italy, Germany and France. 


[1] The stated intention was to "preserve inviolate those exalted rights and liberties of human nature for which they have fought and bled, and without which the high rank of a rational being is a curse instead of a blessing". Also "An unalterable determination to promote and cherish, between the respective States, that union and national honor so essentially necessary to their happiness, and the future dignity of the American empire". 

[2] The membership can be enlarged by the addition of the single representative descendants of those officers who are not already represented by a member. However it is not merely sufficient for an applicant to prove that he descends from the recorded officer but also that he is a worthy representative and applications are voted on by the committees of the societies of the states from which the original officer came. 

[3] In addition to the Society of the Cincinnati (the only such group formed at the date of the event or circumstance to be commemorated) there are numerous other societies (whose requirements for membership vary considerably in scope) commemorating descent from a particular class or group, nearly all permitting descent through the female line and which, unlike the Cincinnati, are not limited by the number of descendants of each ancestor who may petition to join. The principle societies for gentleman are: The Society of Colonial Wars - for any male adult lineally descended in the male or female line (or failing such, collaterally descended) from an ancestor (a) who served in the armed forces of the Colonies or in the forces of Great Britain when participating with the Colonies, between the settlement of Jamestown 13 May 1607 and the battle of Lexington 19 April 1775; or (b) who held high office (defined in the statutes) in any of the Colonies between those dates; this has various state organisations and recently a parallel Society of Daughters of Colonial Wars; The Society of Sons of the Revolution - for any adult male descended from someone whose actions in the war of independence would have made them liable to conviction of treason against Great Britain while remaining always loyal to the Colonies; The Society of Sons of the American Revolution - for any adult male descended from an ancestor who rendered material aid to the cause of independence; The General Society of the War of 1812 - for any adult male descended lineally from someone who served in the U.S. armed forces in that war; The Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States - for the descendants of officers who served the union cause in the war between the states (the badges of these Military societies may be worn on military dress uniform); The Society of Mayflower Descendants - for adult males and females lineally descended from persons who sailed on the Mayflower; The Society for Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence - for adult males and females descended from the signers of the Declaration. Of a slightly different nature is the Society of Saint George, founded in the 1770's for gentlemen of English descent. The principle societies for ladies are: The Society of Colonial Dames of America - for adult ladies descended lineally from some ancestor of "worthy life" who settled in the colonies prior to 1750, and who himself or one of his descendants held before 1783 a prominent office in the colonial government, rendered efficient service to his country during the colonial period, or founded an important institution which has survived to the present day; The Society of Daughters of the Revolution - for adult female lineal descendants according to the same rules as the Sons of the Revolution; The Society of Daughters of the American Revolution - for adult females lineally descended according to the same rules as the Society of Sons of the American Revolution but also from the mothers of those who rendered the qualifying service; the Daughters of the Cincinnati - a recently founded but parallel organization to the male Society of that name. There were many more such organizations at the beginning of the century often with badges resembling decorations, but support for such groups has declined and only the largest and most prominent have survived. 

[4] Founded as an association of gentlemen in Mexico City by the then current American officers serving with the army of Occupation and today composed of the descendants of those officers, both direct and collateral. This was the first major American conflict fought on foreign soil. The President is the Hon Richard B. Abell and the Society meets annually in addition to meeting to commemorate the battle of San Jacinto where General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, President of Mexico, was defeated. 

[5] In the US Associations, in particular, the hierarchy has much greater influence than elsewhere; the Church's responsibilities towards the Order are actually limited to celebrating its Masses, superintending retreats and reporting whether postulants for admission are Catholics in good standing. Their admission as Chaplains ad honorem is a privilege conferred by grace of the Grand Master.

[6] September 23, 1890. 

[7] The foundation of the Society of the Cincinnati gave rise to concerns (notably expressed by both Jefferson and the Marquis de Mirabeau), that this would somehow give rise to the creation of permanent inequalities in society. This did not prove to be the case and the sole exclusive privilege of membership, of wearing the ribbon and badge on military uniform, has certainly not caused any permanent rift among the citizenry. 

[8] With the exception of the Society of the War of 1812 these bodies were founded by the officers for themselves and their descendants. 

[9] Such as "de" or "von". 

[10] General Hume was President-General of the Society of the Cincinnati. 

[11] This is not limited to those who have received a noble title, but also includes those of the British and Continental nobility or gentry who are descended from ancient but untitled families, noble by origin or creation. 

[12] Among these were the late Peter J. Grace, who would certainly have qualified for the rank of Grace and Devotion and another former President of a US Association still serving the Order. In addition there are a number of descendants of Colonial families, British gentry and European nobles who are presently members in the rank of Magistral Grace.. 

[13] It must be emphasized that such descent did not confer any right of admission.

[14] The principle source for this study is Debrett's Presidents of the United States, by David Williamson, 1989.







Nobility, the New World and the Order of Malta

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The conflict between British and Continental concepts of nobility and the Order of Malta - Barony of Cartsburn

Chivalry and Honour: Reforming the rank of Grace and Devotion of the 3rd class of the SMOM

It is possible, by considering those offices whose tenure under the ancien regime conferred hereditary nobility, or were limited to hereditary nobles, to draw up definitions of offices that today may be considered their equivalent. If a candidate descends from someone who held such an office more than, for example, 100 years ago and since then his or her family has maintained its social position, then it could be argued that such a candidate might qualify for Grace and Devotion under a revised criteria.

Christmas 2023 - Puer natus est nobis!