The Story of the Hospitaller Order of
St. John of Jerusalem,
Knights Hospitaller

Under Royal Charter of Peter II,
King of Yugoslavia


Originally published June 1975

THE STORY of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, sometimes called the "Royal Yugoslavian Order of St. John" first requires its identification, not an easy task. In the labyrinthine maze of chivalric and quasi-chivalric orders which exist today there is no more persistant -and confusing-problem than the insistence of various bodies to style themselves "Order of St. John of Jerusalem", ''Order of Hospitallers" or "Order of Malta". In a sense this is a tribute to the prestige and fame of that great and distinguished order which grew out of the Hospitale Hierosolymitanum which, with only occasional interruptions, had existed since the Holy Land had become an object of pilgrimage about the time of the Emperor Constantine the Great. Afters its destruction by the Kalifa Biamrillah and its reinstitution shortly through the good work of some merchants of Amalfi about A. D. 1023 and after its conversion to an Order under the fons honorum of the Crown of Jerusalem in 1100 as the Ordo Militiae Sancti Joannis Baptistae Hospitalis Hierosolymitani, the body first developed into a fraternity of charitable devotees then acquired the status of a religious Order (1113) through action of Pope Paschal II and finally evolved into a great military organization. Known familiarly in History as the Hospitallers, the Order was one of the mainstays of the Crusades and the Christian States that they produced.
Introduction: the beginnings of the Order
To ca 1113

The Hospitaller Order acquired the status of a ruling power by receiving substantial territory in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, including a portion of the great city of St. Jean d'Acre, as fiefs of the King's of Jerusalem. After the Crusading spirit waned in Europe and the Muslims pushed the Crusaders first to the littoral and then out of the Holy Land altogether, the Order transferred its allegiance to, and became a vassal of, the Crown of the Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empire and acquired the island of Rhodes as a fief of the Empire. This was undoubtedly the Order's finest hour and, as the "Knights of Rhodes" its fame spread throughout the known World from Britain to China. The Hospitallers survived the fall of the Empire (1453) and continued as rulers of Rhodes as a sovereign power until 1522 when that island finally succumbed to the Turks. Following the loss of Rhodes the Order received the island of Malta as a fief from the Emperor Charles V. It continued to exercise the rule of that place until conquered by the forces of Republican France under General Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798.
From St Jean d'Acre to Bonaparte
To 1798

To chronicle the contributions of the Order to Christian civilization in the days of its greatness in Palestine and on Rhodes and Malta is not the purpose of this article. Suffice it to say that after several vicissitudes (including residence in the Russian Empire with the Emperor Paul I as its grand master) through the assistance of Pope Pius VII the Order was restored, if not to its Sovereignty, at least to its form as an Order of Chivalry within the fold of the Roman Catholic Church and as the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem called of Rhodes called of Malta, familiarly known as the S.M.O.M. , and functions today as the undoubted successor of the old Order under the fons honorum of the Papacy and exercises sovereignty over its headquarters Palace in Rome.
Russian interlude to S.M.O.M.

The rending of the body of the Church through the seperation between the Holy Sees of Rome and Constantinople in the 11th Century and the Reformation in the 16th Century inevitably was reflected by the rending of the Hospitallers also. An autonomous Lutheran branch (called in everyday parlance the Johanitter) has existed since 1521 and is today under the fons honorum of the Crown of Prussia. The only interruption of the continuity of this body was between 1812 and 1852. Since 1945 the Swedish branch of that body has been independent under the fons honorum of the Crown of Sweden and since 1946 the Dutch branch under the fons honorum of the Crown of the Netherlands.
Effect of the Reformation on the Order
Prussia, Sweden and The Netherlands
1521, 1852, 1945, 1946
From 1553 to at least 1603 and probably 1642, an independent Presbyterian branch existed under the jurisdiction of the Crown of Scotland. From 1802 to 1885 an independent Roman Catholic branch existed under the fons honorum of the Crown of Spain. From 1814 to 1826 a French branch, also Roman Catholic, operated autonomously and continued until at least 1854 and possibly until the 1870s to operate independently. Finally, since 1831 a British branch (known familiarly as the Venerable Order of St. John) has existed as an independent national order under the fons honorum of the British Crown. While, since those bodies were not under the authority of the Papacy they were not recognized as valid elements of a "Catholic" Order by Rome but since the Protestant bodies claimed only to be a part of a "Christian" Order and since all of them held valid civil and legal succession from the old Order they must be recognized as the legitimate children-orders of the ancient Hospitaller order.
Scotland, Spain, France and the
Venerable Order of St John
1553, 1802, 1814, 1831

The Legitimate Children of the Order

We now return to the subject of this article, the story of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem called Knights Hospitallers which as it holds the Royal Charter of King Peter' II of Yugoslavia enjoys the honorific of "Royal Yugoslavian". If the phyletic bodies described above are the children of the old Order the body last alluded to-the Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem under the fons honorum of the Crown of Yugoslavia - can be considered as the natural child of the old Order.
The Natural Child - Knights Hospitaller

Many chivalric purists shudder at the mention of this group. Many of its own members are embarrased about its origins, customs, earlier nomenclature and policies. The facts are, however, that this Order has been functioning for two and a half centuries, give or take a half dozen years. Even without its recent Royal Yugoslavian Charter this continuity establishes it even in strict legitimist eyes as an "honorable pretension" valid against all the World except the incumbens de jure (in this case the S. M. O. M. ). The Charter of King Peter II definitely fixed its status as that of an independent international order of chivalry under the High Protection of the Crown of Yugoslavia and eschews any intent to cast an aspersion on the S.M.O.M. as the Sovereign Roman Catholic Order continuous from the ancient Order in Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta.
An independent international order

We have stated that this Hospitaller Order has been functioning for almost two and a half centuries and we have stated that it can be described as the natural child of the old Order, that is, a genuine descendent-body but not a successor- body. These statements are related and they relate to the circumstances of the origins of this Order which were essentially extraordinary.
Introduction: Our Order

The 18th Century was an age of fraternities and secret societies. These ranged from the Jacobins (with their political overtones) through the Masons and Illuminati (with their over-tones of socio-fraternal cult) to the Rosicrucians (with overtones of a religion). In 1715 the Crown of France (by action of the Regent, Fhilippe, Duc d'Orleans) endeavored to harness this attitude for its own political purposes by the creation of, or the recognition of the Ordre du Temple. Originally the intent seems to have been to assist in a Jacobite restoration in Britain. This purpose appears to have been abandoned shortly and the newly recognized Temple Order languished. About this time certain French Masons appear to have adapted the Temple Order as a vehicle to further their own political and social ends.
Ordre du Temple, Masonry & the Jacobins

During this time there were also a number of Knights of the Order of St. John who became Freemasons. Later one of these, from the Grand Priory of Bohemia, actually succeeded in organizing Freemasonry on the island of Malta itself, under the veil of the new Anglo-Bavarian Langue, much to the resentment of the population and in the face of the hostility of the officials there. Several of the Knights who had become Masons left Malta and went to France. There they met, and mingled with, their compeers and their new Temple Order. It was not long before it was realized that building around an existing and prestigious Order, even though clandestinely transmitted, was preferable to building a new body based on an ancient and long suppressed order. Soon, the new group began claiming transmission of Hospitaller knighthood through its members who had come from that Order. By 1736 this new body was using the term "Knights of Malta" for its members and in 1743, in Paris, formed some kind of an organization to, among other things, regularize the transmission of membership.
Freemasonry, the Anglo-Bavarian Langue

However irregular the original transmission of Hospitaller knighthood may have been those who received it were at the same time admitted to an order (the Temple) holding fons honorum from the Crown of France and thus legitimate knights. Since they considered themselves to have received succession from the Hospitaller Order in Malta they did not scruple to call themselves "Knights of Malta". In his monumental book "Fifty Years in the Malta Order" Robert E. A. Land1 raises the question of "whether what they did entitles us to claim transmission of the Malta Order from them to the new. . . creation; or to put it another way, admitting that the Paris creation of 1743 has been handed down from their day to ours, are we of the modern Order in the Twentieth Century entitled to the legitimate rank of Knights of Malta?"
The transmission of knighthood

After having explored several modes by which such transmission might have been made with varying degrees of validity, Land, who certainly reflected the views of the members of the Order in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, reached the opinion that such transmission was valid. He based his attitude on the precept that within the Order "one private Knight in touch with the leaders would confer the Order of Knighthood on a number of the brethren, and they on others, and so on from Knight to Knight up to the present time. This is the way, as it seems to us, that the Order of Malta was perpetuated. "
Co-optation argument of Land

This was Land's thesis on the lineal descent from the ancient Order of Malta of that Order of which he was one of the main leaders. He never doubted but that he was a legitimate Knight of St. John. During all of the fifty years in which he was active in the Order, he constantly endeavored to bring it closer and closer to the chivalric ideal. Whatever flaws outsiders might see in this logic, the members of the Order certainly believed themselves genuine Knights of Malta for most of the two and a quarter centuries from 1736 to 1964.
Genuine Knights of Malta

The principal distinguishing characteristics of the Malta Order of 1743 and thereafter was not, however, its irregular line of descent but the social level of its membership. Unlike the other organizations that claimed to be knightly orders, this one did not, after the first few years of its existence, confine its membership to the noblesse. In Spain, France or Germany it would have been unthinkable for one not of the noblesse - in England equally out of the question for one not a gentleman-seriously to claim to be a knight. This was not so much so in Scotland. There, that clan spirit which caused every Campbell to feel himself the equal in blood of the Duke of Argyll or every Wallace the equal of The Wallace of That Ilk was more prepared to accept the idea of an order open to all freemen whose members used the title "knight".
Social level of membership: Scotland

In Scotland, therefore, there was fruitful soil for this order to grow among the lesser gentry and, after a time, among the yeomanry. The history of the so-called Scottish Order and its daughter-bodies is in fact the story of an increasing bifurcation between advocates of what can best be described as a "popular" - type fraternal order and those who advocated an "elite" body of chivalry.
Fraternal order vs chivalry

It was the increasingly nagging doubts of this latter group in the 1960s about their status that, among other reasons, impelled them to seek a Royal Charter from the King of Yugoslavia, who was known to possess the knighthood of the ancient Order of St. John by chivalric succession, as follows: Ferdinand von Hompesch, Paul I of Russia, Giovanni Baptista Tommasi, Innigo Guevara-Suardo, Prince Camille de Rohan, Marquis de Saint Croix Molay, Philip de Chastelain, Rev. Sir Robert Peat, Sir Henry Dymoke, Bart. , Sir Charles Lamb, Bart. , Sir Alexander Arbuthnot, the Duke of Manchester, the Prince of Wales (afterwards King Edward VII), the Prince of Wales (afterwards King George V), the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, the Duke of Glouchester, King Peter II.
Chivalric succession of King Peter II

In our own times one is made a knight and admitted to an Order by one having the authority to do so either by the accolade or by Letters Patent (diploma). It is considered to be the same thing.
In 1738 the Pope issued the Bull Eminenti, by which, Roman Catholics were, for the first time, forbidden to attend Masonic meetings under the penalty of ipso facto excommunication. Since quite a number of the members of the Temple-Malta Order were Masons this created a problem for them. Many elected to remain members of those orders and thus Protestantized themselves and the orders. In 1792 the grand master of the Temple Order died and shortly thereafter that order, and the Malta Order, attached to it, were speedily destroyed by the forces of the Revolution in France. As the Temple Order had provided a kind of umbrella for the Malta Order the latter, or more specifically those elements of the latter in the British Isles, were adrift.
Papal Bull Eminenti and the French
Revolution: 1738, 1792

In 1795 an event occurred the result of which was to further pull the Order from the patter of knightly Orders. In that year James Wilson founded the Orange Insitution. The genesis of this association from earlier Protestant political societies through the Royal Boyne Society is not relevant to the story of the Malta Order. Suffice to say that the Orange organization was instituted out of predecessor groups with similar strong ideas about the Protestant succession, and, though not in any way affiliated with Freemasonry, was heavily influenced by Masonic forms and ideas. What is relevant to the Malta Order is that the latter body had failed to develop a real central organization in the fifty plus years since its organization. Thus, adrift from the Temple Order and with no central administrative machinery of its own it was not too difficult for the Malta group to be, in effect, "captured" by the new Orange Institution. Specifically what occurred was that on September 16, 1797, the main elements of the "Knights of Malta" formally allied themselves to the Orange Institution under the name of the "Royal Black Association of the Religious and Military Order, Knights of Malta".
The Foundation of the Orange Institution

Alliance with the Orange Institution 1797

The Malta-Orange affiliation was less than a merger as each body kept its separate and independent organization, but more than an alliance as the one body, the Black (i. e. Malta) required that before an applicant could be admitted to it, he must first be a member of the other body, the Orange. The affiliation was thereby more of a dependent alliance. It was not a happy relationship. The Orange body was suspicious and distant in its relations with the Malta Order. The latter was restless and uneasy in its relations with the Orange group. It was a near-fatal relationship to the Malta Order.
The Dependent Alliance

The restiveness of the Malta part of the alliance was shown in 1807 when it was decided to establish a central government for the Order of Malta. This attitude was certainly encouraged by the fact that in 1805 after the death of Grand Master Tomassi the Sovereign Order in Italy had elected as the next grand master Bailiff Fra Giuseppe Caracciolo di Sant 'Eramo. This event took place by unanimous action of the General Assembly on June 17, 1805. Caracciolo assumed office and began the distribution of briefs of nomination to knighthood; however, on October 21, 1805, Pope Pius VII by brief deferred his appointment indefinitely . Caracciolo's acquiesance to this "interference" was held by strong Protestant viewpoint to be equivalent to abdication and the central government of the Order was held to have lapsed, having been surrendered to a "foreign" sovereignty.
Establishment of Central Government

In any event in 1807 the son of British King George III, Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, was separately chosen Grand Master by the two allied bodies - 2nd of the Orange Order, "75th" of the Malta Order.
Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland

While the "personal union" of the Orange and Malta Orders was dissolved by the renunciation of the two grandmasterships by the Duke of Cumberland in the face of a Parliamentary inquiry in 1820 a successor was provided for the Malta Order by the election of William Leedom of Armagh, Ireland who ruled until 1825. After a two year interregnum and a disputed succession the matter was resolved by the recognition of George Donaldson of Glasgow, Scotland as grand master by all elements of the Order. From him an unbroken succession descends.
Establishment in Glasgow

From the meeting on St. John's Day in Glasgow in 1831 the Order had a continual growth with only temporary setbacks. It was planted in Canada in 1829, in England in 1842, in Australia in 1868 and in the United States of America in 1874. Though now completely Protestant and still allied with the Orange order it was itself a separate Order.
Growth and spread of the Order
1831, 1874

As it grew attempts were made to regularize its procedures. In 1855, for example, the style "Black Knight", which had become the customary term for basic members of the Order, was changed to "Knight of Justice" in order to be more in consonance with historical tradition. The Canadian members were particularly concerned about traditional forms and correct usage. Land, on his visit to the Imperial Grand Council in 1877, noted that the members in Canada were of a higher social type and of better education than those in Scotland. They demanded more accurate and chivalric procedures.

Regularization of procedures

As noted, the Order was first introduced in Canada in 1829 by means of a regimental "lodge" attached to British troops stationed at London, Canada West (afterwards Ontario). In 1841 Grand Master George Donaldson resigned his office in Glasgow and set out for Canada with authority to organize the Order in North America. Within ten years a half dozen commanderies had been established. By 1846 the unit now known as the Grand Priory of Canada was in existance and, except for brief periods from 1855 to 1858 and from 1864 to 1870 the organized Order continued in Canada until 1937 when it lapsed to be restored once more in 1970. By 1876 the Grand Commandery of the United States (now known as the Grand Priory of America) had been established.
The Order in Canada

The path was not without its thorns. The growing Order had to grapple with and resolve several problems. The first problem was that of a continuing identity with the Orange organization. On June 19, 1875 the imperial parent body of the Order in Scotland unanimously approved a decree to grant full power to rule and govern the Order in the whole American Continent to the Supreme Encampment of America. The grant was brought to a quick test. On July 13, 1875 the American Supreme body abolished the requirement that to be made a Knight of the Order one had first to be an Orangeman.
Internal problems and the end of the "Orange"

In 1878 when the American body further moved to restore the Order to a position more closely resembling its original structure, specifically by eliminating some extra and Orange- inspired ranks, relations with the parent group in Scotland became strained. In 1880 this led to a complete separation. The American body, feeling that the Scottish body had abandoned the chivalric concept in favor of that of a denominational "lodge"-type fraternity exercised the independence it had received in 1875 and changed its official name from "Religious and Military Order of Knights of Malta" to Knights of St. John and Malta. The following year, on the basis that the central government in Scotland had departed from the body of chivalry and consequently left the Order in interregnum, the view was advanced that the American organization had succeeded to the government of the Worldwide Order and bestowed the title of "Grand Master" on its Supreme Grand Commander. That this view was widely accepted, other than in Great Britain, is evidenced by the recognition of the new grand master and central government by commanderies as far off as Australia, and by the fact that by 1882 that unit of the Order now known as the Grand Priory of Europe was established in Prussia.
Break with Scotland

The Knights of St. John and Malta had their reverses, however. In 1882 a few commanderies in the northeastern United States seceeded and returned to the allegiance of Scotland. After some confusing switching back and forth this body was definitively recognized in 1889 by Scotland as its American arm. It assumed the name of "Ancient and Illustrious Order of Knights of Malta", repudiated the chivalric principle and adopted the mode of a "popular" - type fraternal order. It had a phenominal growth reaching 100, 000 members by its fortieth year, 1929. Though it declined greatly after the depression it still survives today and reputedly still has several thousand members.
The "Ancient and Illustrious Order"

The chivalric order of Knights of St. John and Malta, in spite of the loss of a few of its commanderies in 1882 began a period of steady growth in both numbers and in good works. The road from 1882 to 1896 lead steadily upward. In those years several basic crises were met and resolved. The first of these was a crisis of mission. What was to be the purpose of the Order? It had turned its back on 'cultism' and had officially opted for 'chivalry' but how was that noble ideal to be practised, other than by a more restrictive admission policy.
Growth: 1882 - 1896

The leadership of the Knights of St. John and Malta, and the membership generally did not want to become a political society. At first the leadership thought that a sectarian program would win the support of the Protestant clergy and social elite. For several years this seemed to be the hope of the leaders of the Order. This support failed to materialize, however. The Order had lost its base among the workingman-Orangeman and though it actively sought a professional class of membership and was, indeed, successful in building to over 800 members in twenty commanderies, this was below the expectations of the officers and the Chapter General. After 1886 there began to be consideration of a benevolent or charitable program. This was definitely adopted in 1890. From that year until 1910 - twenty years - the Order's benevolences totalled $906, 275, according to the figures published annually in the World Almanacs for those years. This provided, according to the charity plan, as direct charity to needy persons outside of the Order $90, 627.
The Search for Programs & Activities
1886 - 1910

The Order reached its apogee in July, 1896, when it stood at 4846 members (which included 144 grand crosses, 1056 knights and 3646 esquires). The first administration of William Buckett, 1896-18972 saw a slight drop in the fortunes of the Order. This was followed by six years of slow but steady decline during which membership dropped a full third from forty eight to thirty two hundred members and from 96 to 59 commanderies. The last three of those years (1900-1903) had been under the administration of Charles Hayward of Wilmington, Delaware.
The Apogee of the Order: 1896

Charles Hayward - this stormy petrel of the Order - had begun his term with great popularity and managed two reelections but each time with decreasing majorities. Finally defeated in 1903 by Dr. John P. Ogden who had served from 1901 as Chief Medical Officer, Hayward sought election as a Trustee of the Order in 1906 and was badly defeated. He had threatened, if defeated, to "pull out" of the Order. Following his defeat Hayward and many of his partisans did just that.
Split in the Order: 1906

In late 1906, supported by some dozen commanderies and four hundred members Hayward launched the "Order of Knights Hospitaller". Though the loss of this many members was a severe blow to the Knights of St. John and Malta, from which it never really recovered, it did not seem to do much for the illegal offshoot Order of Knights Hospitaller which, after this auspicious start, declined rapidly. In January, 1908, meeting at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, this body decided to make overtures to a number of prominent personalities, including several Roman Catholics, on the basis of being the only "true lineal descendant"3 of the old Order. It is thought to have supported the theory of descent from the Russian Order. Land, writing in 1923, said that he believed it to have "expired" by that time but is not sure of its real fate.
The "Offshoot" Order

John Ogden's two years as Grand Master and Grand Commander were successful. Three commanderies were restored, bringing the number to 62. It was in the five year administration of his successor, Joseph Burrows, of New York City, that the Order received a series of blows which caused its virtual collapse in 1910. The first of these was a struggle over the control of the office of Grand Chancellor of the Order-in those days a paid chief executive officer - who, theoretically under the direction of the Grand Master, had virtually been running the Order since the administration of Robert Hallgren began in 1884. Two successive autocratic Grand Chancellors4 had produced demands from the membership for a more blanced administration with attention spread more generally across the whole range of Order programs. Recourse was had to Robert Land. Through his immense influence at the Chapter General held September 3 and 4, 1907 in Philadelphia, Henry C. Siegman was elected Grand Chancellor.
New Growth and Internal Struggle

Siegman was a bitter disappointment to his sponsors. Not only did he fail to produce the required leadership, but he continued his precedessor's policy of concealing from the Chapter General and officials of the Order the increasingly unbalanced state of the insurance reserves and the increasingly unbalanced budget of the Order. Eventually, following an internal audit report the Grand Master exercised his power of removal. By this time it was too late, however, and the Superintendent of Insurance of New York State5 ordered an investigation. Ex-Grand Chancellor Siegman committed suicide three hours before he was scheduled to testify before the Superintendent.
The Siegman Incident

The resulting scandal was a disaster to the Order. Forty-seven commanderies simply ceased operations. Two thousand of the twenty-five hundred members then in the Order were lost. The Military corps were abandoned (October 31, 1910) and the charity programs dropped. Edmund B. Collett of Toronto, first Canadian to head the Order since John Cowan left office in 1894, who had succeeded the hapless Burrows at the Chapter General held in Rochester, New York, September 5th through 7th, 1910, issued a warrant of autonomy to the Grand Priory of Canada (October 28, 1910) which gave it the right to operate independently of the Order with its own Chapter General, (Provincial) Grand Master and structure. As seven of the remaining fifteen commanderies were in Canada, this effectively bisected the Order. Further, on December 30, 1910, the Grand Almoner, Arthur T. Lamson with the Grand Chancellor, John J. Sheridan, former Trustee H. C. Kinckle and three prominent knights, Harry J. Bowen and Alexander McLennan (both afterwards Grand Chancellors) and William B. Stites formed a new body called "The Knights of Malta" and received from Grand Master Collett a grant of autonomy and independence similar to that given to Canada. This body, built principally around the Bergen (County) Commandery located at Westwood, after a first brief success, declined and its members returned to the Knights of St. John and Malta. Unfortunately they did not formally close out their New Jersey corporation which remained on the books as dormant but not dissolved. This left a way open for two individuals to appear years later and by picking up the back taxes "capture" the corporation and thus give a semblance of legitimacy to their own organization, one of the many "Orders " of St. John which sprang up after the 1910 debacle of the Order.
Scandal, Canadian Independence , and the
New Jersey Corporation

To return to the story of the main, though truncated body of the Order, the Knights of St. John and Malta. There were only three commanderies left under Grand Master Collett by early 1911. Two of these, the Commanderies of Los Angeles and the Golden Gate (centered in San Francisco) followed the Canadian pattern though without formally asking for autonomy. They simply went their own way. They changed their titles from "commanderies" to "castellanies" and survived until 1920. The remaining commandery, Brooklyn, received permission from the New York State authorities to continue functioning. The State, however, demanded that the Chapter General cease functioning. In its place a convention, entitled "Supreme Commandery" met annually in September until 1913.
The truncated body of the Order: three
Commanderies survive

Former Grand Commander William Buckett was elected Grand Master by the last session of the Chapter General which met March 14, 1911, in Brooklyn. He waited for Collett's year to expire and was "presented to the people" in September, 1911. Since the office was restored to its life tenure he occupied the chief place in the Order until 1925. That the Order did not die out is largely due to his efforts and to those of Arthur Lamson and John J. Sheridan who returned to it in 1912 after their "Knights of Malta" effort had failed. The Order's survival is also heavily indebted to Dr. W. A. Hobday, once of Buffalo, New York who had moved to Los Angeles, California and in 1906 became Commander of Los Angeles, a post he held until 1918. It was Hobday who enlisted the interest of "Bobby" Loucks who succeeded him as Commander in 1918 and who revived the Commandery in 1926. Loucks became a member of the Sovereign Council of the Order in 1928, Prior of California in 1934 and President of the Council in 1938. He in turn was responsible for recruiting the young men, including the author, who formed the first Serving Brothers Council in Southern California in 1936.
Survival : 1911 - 1938

It is not possible in a paper of this restricted length to illustrate the ups and downs of the Order's long road back from 1912. Suffice it to say that from 72 members that year they rose to a peak of 143 in 1927 and following the depression and World War II dropped back to a low of 22 in 1945 before beginning a new growth which reached 415 at the beginning of the present administration in 1972 and today numbers over 600 members.
The Ups and Downs

Two events of outstanding importance to the Order occurred, however, during these years of restoration.
The first of these happened in the summer of 1921. The Grand Master (at that time still William Buckett), struggling to keep the Order alive, insolvent, embarrassed and discouraged, was surprised to be approached by an individual from Washington D. C. by the name of Nicholas. Nicholas claimed to be in touch with several "Knights of St. John" who were residents of California and Texas and who claimed to represent the surviving element of a Commandery, formerly centered at Guadalajara, Mexico. Nicholas said that had told him that their body descended from a part of the Spanish Order of St. John which had not wished to return to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in 1885. Though Catholics, these knights, Nicholas said, were interested in meeting with the Protestant Knights of St. John and Malta with the object of pooling their strength to establish a truly ecumenical St. John body in North and South America, Grand Master Buckett, perhaps clutching at straws, became interested in this matter and negotiated with the other party. Conversations continued for several years and eventually, after Grand Master Lamson had journeyed to Dallas and Los Angeles, the "Spanish" knights were assimilated into the Order under its new name of "Sovereign Order of St. John and Malta".

The result of this turn of events was a great upsurge in enthusiasm as the Order was declared ecumenical. A large number of Roman Catholics and some Eastern Orthodox joined the Order within a year or two and almost immediately achieved high office.
New Enthusiasm

Following the Order's reorganization, a major effort was begun to rebuild its membership and organization along strict chivalric lines and with limited eligibility requirements. Initially, Pennsylvania was picked for the first effort and in 1923 a Priory was established there which survived until 1948. At its peak in 1931 it comprised six commanderies. The next efforts were directed to New York and California. A priory established in New York in 1926 survived only until 1928.
Reorganization in Pennsylvania, New York
and California

California proved more fertile ground. The Priory established there in 1926 has survived continuously since that date.
The second major event of the Order's recent history took place in 1964. It was the granting of the Royal Charter by King Peter II of Yugoslavia. Peter II, as Crown Prince and as boy King had seen the precious relic of the hand of St. John the Baptist, the patron Saint of the Order, in the Royal Palace in Belgrade where it had been taken following the abdication of the last Russian tsar. Knowing it to be associated with the historical Order of St. John, His Majesty became interested in the history of the Order. When approached during the years of his exile following World War II by officials of the Order with an invitation to join its ranks, he therefore, readily accepted. Once a member of the Order King Peter II became more and more active in the organization. In 1962 He accepted the office of High Protector of the Order, and on March 19, 1964 granted to it a Royal Charter and formally brought the Order under the Royal Headship of the Crown of Yugoslavia.
The Royal Yugoslavian Charter

The Protection of the House of Karageorgevich This Charter did not make it a Yugoslavian State Order but rather recognized it as an independent international Order under the fons honorum of the King of Yugoslavia. Provision was made so that, in the absence of a reigning king, a prince of the Royal House of Karageorgevich could be selected to serve as representative of the Crown under the title of High Protector.
The Protection of the House of Karageorgevich
From 1965 to 1968 King Peter II also served as Grand Master of the Order. He continued to devote his great interest and support to the Order until his death in November, 1970. In September, just two months before his death, He had given instructions for the election of a new Grand Master and the further extension of the Order.
King Peter II of Yugoslavia

During the years from 1964 to 1974 according to published reports of the Order and its various constituent units some $15,000 was raised for charitable purposes. During these same years the Order also expanded from two to five grand priories, from eleven to twenty-one priories and from 9 to 36 commanderies. The present administration comprises a Grand Master and eight members of a Sovereign Council. It is an operative Order and an exclusive one. Membership is attained solely by reception of qualified persons upon invitation by the Order. Members assume certain chivalric obligations. The Order is pledged to increase its efforts in both the charitable and educational fields.
As a Protected Order: 1964 -

This is the story and identification of one of those bodies proudly bearing the name of St. John, the Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem under Royal Charter of Peter II, King of Yugoslavia.

1 Grand Master and Grand Commander of the Order and its outstanding leader in North America from 1874 to 1926.

2 Buckett's second administration was 1911 - 1925.

3 Raines Ulman in his paper "The Malta Branches" (p. 7)

4 Jonas L. McElroy 1884-1896 and Francis Houghtaling 1896 - 1907.

5 Which official of the State of New York (in which the Order had been incorporated since 1883) held jurisdiction over the Order as it provided insurance annuities to its members.

Created 2nd April 2002.

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The King Peter Order

Order of St John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller.