The History of the King Peter Orders

© The Reverend Dr Michael Foster SSC MIWO

Disclaimer: This history here presented is compiled from such sources as were available to the author. He will willingly correct and errors, omissions and make such necessary additions as to correct the history.  He apologises  beforehand for any errors, inadvertent  or otherwise, and will make such corrections as are needed to produce an accurate account. A bibliography of sources is given at the end of this history.


In the 1950s a group emerged in the United States of America claiming Russian origins dating to 1908, mimicking the historic pedigree of the 1928 gathering of the Russian Hereditary Commanders in Paris. The American group from the 1960s onwards fragmented.  The involvement of King Peter II of Yugoslavia in some of these groups brought in his fons honorum, and the subsequent membership of at least one authentic descendant of a Russian Hereditary Commander provided a link with the tradition of the Russian Grand Priory.

The exact history of the Priories and groups claiming to have emerged from the Russian Grand Priory via the 1908 myth is certainly difficult and complex to trace. Some individuals have featured in several organisations. Organisations have merged, or allied themselves, then split and sub-divided into competing organisations. Various groups had created their own legal Incorporations. The Incorporations served to provide some legitimate status for the local or national organisations. When groups merged, often the Corporations remained intact, allowing for a revival of an independent organisation.

All of this has further compounded the problems that historians face in any attempt to recover an accurate picture. Given the complexity of the task, omissions, mistaken identity, and erroneous details, may well have found their way into the information which has been gathered, especially where secondary sources have been relied upon.

Chevalier Andrew Ramsey, a Jacobite Catholic Scotsman of humble origins, was at one time secretary to the French writer and Churchman, Fenelon, and a Knight in an Order connected to the Order of St. Lazarus. In a speech to a group of French Freemasons, in 1736, Ramsey provided an medieval antecedent to the Masons with the Order of St. John. This provided the beginnings of Masonic 'Orders of John'. This antecedent, whilst gaining popular belief in the past, is rejected by any academic account of the beginnings of Freemasonry - even by those within Freemasonry.

Some "Orders of St. John" resulting from this development preserve in their histories, justification of the connection via Freemasonry to the historic Order. The Orange Order (or Society as it was first known) was formed in 1795 to maintain Protestant ascendancy in Ireland. The development of the Lodges of the Society were heavily influenced by Freemasonry. By 1797, a new organisation emerged intimately connected with the Orange Order; the Royal Black Association of the Knights of Malta. The claim by members of the "St. John/Malta Orders" tracing their origins through the Black Association, is that, Knights of Freemasonry formed the basis of the Black Association. In common with other British Institutions, branches were formed in Scotland, Ireland, England and Canada, and spreading out from there. The International Headquarters was known by title of "Imperial Parent Grand Black Encampment of the Universe", with its centre based in Glasgow.

The Black Association was represented in Canada, as early as 1829, with other groups existing there in the 1840s. By 1868, the organisation had spread to New York. From 1870, the Order in North America began to flourish. In 1874, Robert Ernest Augustus Land was elected as Grand Commander of the Order of the Knights of Malta, and on June 19th 1875, the North American organisation the 'Supreme Grand Black Encampment' of North America was granted autonomy in its affairs by the Imperial Parent. By 1881 the American Organisation had become independent with the loyalists to the Scottish Parent having to re-organise.

The independent organisation led by Robert Land, with its headquarters in Toronto, was known as the "Knights of St. John and Malta". The Order took on the role of a friendly society in providing insurance for its members, which became a formal part of the Order in 1882, becoming a compulsory element for the members by 1896. This led to a steady decline in membership, which in its turn led to a faction setting up independently in 1906, led by Charles Hayward as the "Order of Knights Hospitaller". In January 1908, Hayward's group held a meeting at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, in an attempt to enlarge its membership with prominent persons. By 1921, the organisation had ceased existence.

In 1910, owing to 10 deaths, and the inability of the Scheme to make proper payments, the Order of the Knights of St. John and Malta was subjected to an investigation by the Superintendent of Insurance of the State of New York, which issued an order of liquidation. As a result of the investigations, the Order's Grand Chancellor, Henry C. Siegman committed suicide. These events led to a near collapse of the Order. The Grand Priory of Canada became independent, and Arthur T. Lamson in a bid to create a continuing organisation led a further group called "The Knights of Malta", which allegedly registered itself as a Corporation in the State of Jersey in 1911. However by 1912 the group had become defunct, with the members re-joining the main organisation, which despite, the disgrace over the insurance problems, and severe loss of membership, had managed to continue its existence.

In 1928, the Knights of St. John and Malta increased its membership, by the reconciliation with the Canadian Priory, and by the addition of Knights who claimed to have been part of the historic Spanish Order. The name of the Order was changed to "The Sovereign Order of St. John and Malta". By the 1950s, the central administration of the Order had fallen into abeyance, leaving two Commanderies operating independently, that of Pennsylvania, led by Franklin A. West, and California (known as the Priory of the Pacific) led by Robert Formhals.

In the late 1950s an organisation emerged led by a Charles Louis Thourot-Pichel; "The American Grand Priory of The Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta". Pichel had a reputation of allegedly selling false titles, and other criminal activities. It has been alleged that the incorporation of 1911, which had been gained by the "Knights of Malta" as led by Arthur T. Lamson had lain dormant, even though the group had ceased to exist. It has been claimed that armed with real historical records of the Scottish American Order of St. John and Malta, Pichel revived the Corporation, in effect giving an immediate pedigree to a new organisation. The gap between 1911 and the 1950s was ably bridged by access to the records of the Knights of St. John and Malta, with the addition of historical myth by placing the organisation within the Russian tradition.

The archivist of the Scottish American Order, had been a Dr. Bullock who was consulted by Pichel. Dr. Bullock died, with the records held by Pichel. Armed with these records, Pichel developed a whole prehistory for a new group he founded or with which he was connected. Adding to the claim to have been founded in America in 1908, he improved on the Orange Order background by mimicking the foundation of the Paris group, complete with its Hereditary Commanders. The names of the alleged founding fathers of Pichel's group had died long before the claims were made. Pichel had the additional benefit of being acquainted with the history of the Paris group, written by Professor Baron Michael de Taube.

The whole story of Pichel's inventiveness was recorded by Pichel's closest associate for many years, Crolian Edelen de Burgh. In a letter addressed to Harrison Smith, the Historian to the King Peter Order in Malta, Mr Edelen, wrote on January 22, 1980:

"My problem with the history is that all seems to be false from 1908 to 1932 as published by Pichel. I know his Minutes are false. Dr Bulloch was never Grand Chancellor of the Order. He was the Archivist of the old Scottish-American Order of St John and kept these records at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. When he was old and blind, in the early 1950's, Pichel went to him with a story that he was writing a history of the Knights of Malta and needed some records from the Archives. Dr Bulloch let him borrow whatever he fancied and then obligingly died while Pichel had the most important records. We took the material, twisted it around, took names of noblemen from the Times Index and created an Order stemming from the Grand Priory of Russia, all a hoax....

The Scottish-American Order went out of business in New York about 1909 following a suicide of the Grand Chancellor, as well as a scandal involving payment (or non-payment) of life insurance policies on the lives of members. Some members in New Jersey tried to save the situation by securing a charter as the "Knights of Malta" in Trenton in 1911. Their effort failed and by 1912 was abandoned. Then Pichel came along in the 1950's and claimed to be the duly elected officer of that Corporation to give his Order some evidence of antiquity and to substantiate the false Minutes (from 1908-1932)".

There is one very important correction that must be made in regard to the Edelen/Smith correspondence and that is Pichel could not have borrowed any items from Dr Bullock in the 1950s, as Dr Bullock died in 1934! However this fact does not destroy the value of Edelen's revelations, as on the methodology of how Pichel created a past to his “Order” Edelen was correct, and subsequently Edelen was able to correct his own mistake. The items were in fact borrowed from Mr Clarence E. Orth of the Ancient and Illustrious Knights of Malta, Pennsylvania, and this is verified in writing by Mr Clarence E. Orth in a letter to Edelen 17th February 1984. Orth wrote;

"In the late 1950's at the request of a Colonel Thourot Pichel, Shickshinney, Pa. I spent a great deal of time and considerable expense in gathering items for what I then believed would be an authentic history of our Order. I forwarded many historical items of history for his pursuance which were never returned to me. After much correspondence I visited Shickshinney and was greatly surprised of his low standing in his community. Some labeled him a cheat and a con man. When his book was finally published I found that every thing he wrote was distorted and. untrue. Therefore, in your search for items do not accept his writings as authentic. I found at that time that the most complete information I sought came from the Government of the island of Malta or from the Sec'y. of Historical Documents, London, England."

The reason Pichel was able to get away with the fables for so long, was that; first: Orders of St. John did exist in the United States at the turn of the century, and second: the activities of the Russian Priory had been continued in Paris by those who were part of a living and continuous tradition, and who claimed the status of Hereditary Commanders. This was verifiable historically.

The reviving of the 1911 Corporation allegedly took place circa 1953, when the Corporate name was changed to "Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem Inc". The first independent verifiable evidence for Pichel's Order is an Incorporation of 1956, in Dover, in the State of Delaware registration 0503716 4100, 18th August 1956. Oddly enough the Incorporation of 1956 was enacted by three women; Mary M Lafferty, Jean P Joel and Ruth Biddle. Charles Pichel and his colleagues do not appear as Officers of the Corporation until 30th June 1960! (From the records in the State of Delaware). At a guess the Incorporation was an 'off-the-shelf' company, bought by Pichel in 1956. The amendments to register Pichel's name being made four years later in 1960. The alternative is that the three women were the Chief Officers of the "Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem Inc" 1956-1960!

From the Constitution of the Order, predated to 1912, and from the minutes of an invented 1913 meeting which Pichel provided, the American Priory advanced the view that the last legitimate free election of a Grand Master of the Order was Emperor Paul I as the 70th Grand Master and that a separate Papal Order "of an analogous nature" had been created in 1802. This meant that the Russian Grand Priory remained the only legitimate survival of the Order, and therefore was the Order.

The American Grand Priory had re-invented the Order, complete with the office of Grand-Master, providing for a self image similar to that of the Roman Catholic Order, complete with the claim that it alone could be identified as the true surviving organisation to emerge from the events that followed the death of Emperor Paul I. His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovitch, Emperor Nicholas II's brother-in-law and cousin, was credited with being elected by the American Priory as the 71st Grand Master of the Order, with the additional title of Grand Prior of the Russian Grand Priory. Thereafter, a list of Lieutenant Grand Masters was provided to fill the gap to Pichel's day. At some point the headquarters of the organisation was moved to Shickshinny, Pennsylvania.

In 1958, The Order of St. John and Malta, as led by Franklin A. West, merged in with Pichel's organisation. West had been convinced of the genuineness of the continuation of the 1911 Corporation, and that Pichel was the legal Chancellor to the original Order, of which West's group was a part. The enlarged organisation rapidly expanded, and by 1959 had become international. The American Grand Priory, through connections with members in France, set up a French Priory registered under French Law on the 15th September 1959. This was followed by a Priory in Switzerland. Two Grand Priories were created, One covering the USA and South America, and the other covering Canada. In 1960, the Grand Priory of Europe was created.

Colonel Paul de Granier de Cassagnac, the Prior of France had become the Lieutenant Grand Master of the Pichel group, but had aspirations to become the Grand Master. In October 1960, an election was arranged. With half the votes in, and a favourable return,  Cassagnac issued orders to Pichel to prepare the seals and other equipment for shipment to France. The end result went against Cassagnac, but Cassagnac's actions had angered Pichel who sought to remove him from Office. At this time, the exiled King Peter II of Yugoslavia, was a member of the Pichel organisation (introduced by Cassagnac), and sought to reconcile Cassagnac and Pichel. The reconciliation led to a period of stability, and in September 1961 Cassagnac was elected as Grand Master.

On the 30th January 1962, Cassagnac held a meeting of the European members at the Chateau de Granson and appointed King Peter as the High Protectorate of the Order. As a result of this action Pichel dismissed Cassagnac as Grand Master on February 22nd 1962. Those supporting Cassagnac, including King Peter, held the view that Cassagnac was still the legitimate Grand Master. Cassagnac was succeeded in the Shickshinny group by Lieutenant Grand Master Count Felix von Lucker (1962-1966). In 1963, the California Group of Knights led by Robert Formhals, representing the Scottish-American Order, joined Pichel's organisation, making up for losses to Cassagnac.

King Peter had the advantage of being an Orthodox Monarch and was related to Emperor Paul I. Of significance, was the fact that the relics of the Order had been under the protection of the Royal House of Yugoslavia until the Second World War. West and his followers joined the Cassagnac Order, "The Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitallers" and on September 23rd 1962, with King Peter's backing, Cassagnac was re-affirmed as Grand Master by an election. On the 1st October 1963, King Peter provided Cassagnac's Order with a Charter.

The Charter was a first measure, and the leaders of the Order realised that it needed a new Constitution. The Constitution, devised for the Cassagnac Order was issued, and signed by King Peter on the 19th March 1964. With the Head of a Royal House, institutionalised as Protector to the Order, the expansion continued and in 1964, a Priory was set up on Malta under the leadership of Professor Gaston Tonna-Barthet. Negotiations were also underway between King Peter and the Group led by Formhals. In New York, a further organisation had been incorporated in 1964, by Otto Schobert alias Baron de Choibert, Eimi Eisenstatter, Ernst Jochen and Michael Gordon, "The Sovereign Order of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem - Knights of Malta - O.S.J. Inc". The origins of this group also owed itself to the Pichel-Shickshinny organisation. Attracted by the 'fons honorum' provided by the King as Protector, this group also joined King Peter.

The advisers to the King, had in mind, his election as Grand Master. However Cassagnac refused to step down. On the 30th January 1965, King Peter was elected by a new Corporation under Franklin's West's Presidency as the "73rd" Grand Master of the "Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, The Hospitallers, Knights of Malta". The Formhals' group had agreed to integrate with the OSJ as led by the King, but within a new framework, essentially - a new Order, separate from the Orders of Pichel and Cassagnac. Pressure had been put upon Cassagnac to reconcile his group, with that of the King's, but Cassagnac, refused to join, holding that the Order as led by him was the legitimate Order.

Cassagnac continued with the support of the French Priory, but with a severe loss of membership. Following the death of Cassagnac in 1966, some discussion took place to reconcile Cassagnac's Order under King Peter, but the overtures were rejected by the Cassagnac Order. Cassagnac was succeeded by Justice Louis Espinasse as Lieutenant Grand Master.

In 1967, some American members of the Cassagnac Order withdrew to establish their own Order "Sovereign Order of the Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta". One of the leading members was Brancovan, known by various aliases (Robert Baden von Badische, Robert M.N.G. Bassaraba von Brancovan - Prince Khimchiachvili, Prince Robert Brancovan etc. Some authors suggest his real name is Isaac Wolff, and that his title has been claimed without warrant from his mother's family). Prince Carol Hohenzollern who was the son of King Carol II of Romania by Zizi Lambrino (the King's wife, but by an invalid marriage according to Romanian Law) was made Grand Master. The "Order" was based at the United Nations Plaza.
In 1968 Prince Carlos left the Brancovan group to become Grand Master of Cassagnac's Order, but left in 1971 to set up his own Order. In the Cassagnac Order, Prince Carlos was succeeded by General Count Pierre de Rémond du Chélas. Upon Chélas' death in 1994, Baron Yves de Villepin took over as Lieutenant Grand Master, to be elected as Grand Master in 1995. He resigned ten years later in 2005, with "Acting Grand Master" Commander Johan A. Johansen of the Den Danske Malteserorden in Denmark (see below) filling the vacancy ad interim.

On June 18th 1965, the election of the King as Grand Master had been ratified by the "Provisional Universal Sovereign Council" of the "Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, The Hospitallers, Knights of Malta". The 'ratification' of the King's election as Grand Master was accepted by royal proclamation, 21st June 1965, to be effective from St. John's day 24th June 1965. Other groups were attracted to King Peter's Order, such as members of the Shickshinny organisation under Edelen, and individual Hereditary Commanders of the historic 1928 group. For the briefest of periods, of only some twenty months, this produced the largest of the Orders claiming a pedigree via the Russian Grand Priory (although via Pichel's myth). The potential for good was enormous.

However disputes marred any achievements and on the 15th February 1967 King Peter dismissed Franklin A. West, President of the OSJ Council. The King claimed that West had already been acting independently for a number of months, with his own followers. Effectively the corporation which was responsible for the American Grand Priory, was under the control of West. Formhals and others worked hard to bring about a reconciliation, but on the 9th October 1967, Franklin West died. As part of the regrouping of the American Grand Priory (essentially creating a new organisation separate from that as led by West), in January 1968, Prince Serge Serguiévitch Belosselsky-Belozersky, the eldest son of Prince Serge Constantinovitch Belosselsky-Belozersky one of the original signatories to the re-establishment of the activities of the Russian Grand Priory, at Paris on the 24th June 1928, convinced about the pedigree of the King's Order, accepted the position of Lieutenant Grand Master.

The Order fragmented into three camps; the Corporation under West's successor, Dr. Urosh L. Seffer, continuing under the title "Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller"; the portion, that made up the old Order of St. John and Malta, became the "Sovereign Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem"; and the "Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, The Hospitallers, Knights of Malta", which represented the King's group, and came under Prince Serge Belosselsky-Belozersky as Lieutenant Grand Master. The latter two groups were loyal to the King. After a good deal of negotiation, reconciliation was brought about on the 22nd September 1968. King Peter accepted a new Constitution prepared by the Seffer group, which gave King Peter the new status of Royal Head (instead of Grand Master) and removed him form the government of the Order. Also the Sovereign Council was replaced by a "Grand Magistracy". The acceptance by King Peter was issued by Royal Proclamation and signed by the King, and by Urosh Seffer, Robert Formhals, and James Jacobs as representing the three groups.

The title adopted by King Peter for the Order "The Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, the Hospitallers, Knights of Malta" was a cause of concern to the Roman Catholic Order in America. In late September 1968, counselled by the Cardinal Archbishop of New York, in deference to the Roman Catholic Order, and in a spirit of reconciliation, King Peter dropped the word "Sovereign" from the Order's title. The change his title from "Grand Master" to "Royal Head", had also helped to reduce the tension. This action also conformed his Order to that of other non Roman Catholic Orders which accepted the Grand Magistracy of the Roman Catholic Order.

In 1969, as a help to King Peter, Prince Sergei S. Troubetzkoy, who claimed to be a Russian Hereditary Commander (the title belonged to a distant cousin), and who had been up until then, the "Grand Prior of the Russian Langue" in the Pichel organisation, was recruited as the King's Lieutenant Grand Master, to replace Prince Serge Belosselsky-Belozersky who had resigned.
In mid 1970, consideration was given to a further change of title "Royal Yugoslavian Order of St. John", thus by-passing arguments on legitimacy of descent via the Russian Priories, to accepting the organisation as a Royal Yugoslavian House Order. The change of title, and Yugoslavic direction given to the Order, did little to commend itself to members of Russian descent and created further factions. Due to King Peter's long illness caused by a kidney ailment and his absence from any direct control in his Order, the beginnings of further schism were created. Sadly King Peter died on the 5th November 1970.

Following King Peter's death, groups hitherto united by the King held together for a year, but then fragmented with conflicting claims to be the true continuation. The decisive break for the two main factions came on 17th March 1971, with a split between Formhals, and Prince Sergei S. Troubetzkoy. The Formhals group at first used the term "Royal Yugoslavian Order of St. John of Jerusalem", but by 1977 used the title "Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller". Troubetzkoy's group used the title "Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller". Support for Troubetzkoy came from Europe, in particular, Malta, England, Belgium, and Switzerland.

Prince Andrej, King Peter's brother assumed the status of Protector to the Royal Yugoslavian Order of St. John of Jerusalem of which Robert Sanguszko-Formhals became the Grand Master in 1972. It was Prince Andrej which continued the Yugoslavian dynastic tradition to the Order. The King's son, Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia had been made a Grand Cross with gilt star of the Roman Catholic Order. He resisted all efforts to be recruited by the King Peter Orders, and going further, he repudiated those groups as Head of the Royal Yugoslavian House.

In 1971, at a meeting of the Grand Magistracy, the Priory of Malta had been elevated to the status of a Grand Priory. The claim of the Priory at Malta, is that its elevation was by Royal Warrant of King Peter 22nd February 1970, which provided the status and title of "Russian Grand Priory of Malta". The location of the Priory, given its history as the home of the historic Order also paid its part in the prominence of the Priory.

In 1973 the Russian Grand Priory of Malta, declared itself a World Headquarters of King Peter's Order under its Lieutenant Grand Master, Prince Sergei S. Troubetzkoy. The membership of Count Dr. Christian Orssich, in this group provided some identification of this group, as being in succession to the group led by King Peter. Membership extended to Great Britain, Ireland, Andorra, Italy, Portugal, Spain, San Marino, Southern France, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Denmark.

Due to the prestige of King Peter's leadership, his Order had attracted into membership a number of Russian Hereditary Commanders, on the basis, that it was founded by such a group in 1908 based on Pichel's myths. In 1975 the Lieutenant Grand Master, Prince Sergei S. Troubetzkoy, proposed a joint organisation with that of the Hereditary Commanders in the USA. Besides the reluctance of a number of the Hereditary Commanders in the USA, the Grand Priory of Malta had gone its own way and had been in contact with Prince Andrej, and preferred to retain its identity as a King Peter Order. Following the discussions, in 1977 the Tonna-Barthet group in Malta in liaison with a dissident American Priory of the Formhals' group, elected Prince Andrej as a Grand Master. Prince Andrej had defected along with the American Priory. This fact assisted the King Peter Order under Malta, in gaining recognition from the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry in 1978, as a Yugoslavian Dynastic Order. The defections were two way, and Urosh Seffer along with his followers joined the Formhals group. By 1979, the group under Troubetzkoy had reconciled with Malta and had elected Prince Andrej as the Grand Master.
Even after the loss of Prince Andrej, the Formhals group continued. By 1992 Robert Formhals, then styled 'Prince Grand Master' had died and was succeeded in his Order by Prince Grand Master Baron Richard Flach de Flachslanden.

Up until 1977, the Troubetzkoy group had continued with a "Grand Magistracy" as the ruling body. Practically, the various Priories were operating semi-independently. In the period of 1978 to 1981, the Leaders of the Troubetzkoy group, questioned their constitutional basis, and agreed that the 1964 Constitution was the legal Constitution of the Order. Over a decade had passed between its original issue, and the late 1970s revival of the Order. In 1981, an Australian Bailiff, Sir Hubert Opperman complained about the King's Charter of 1963 (and Constitution of 1964), "I have yet to meet anyone who has actually read it and recognises the Constitution of 1964". Patrick L. Conner, Barrister at Law, Brisbane Australia, raised the question as to who were the original beneficiaries of the Charter and Constitution . The answer (not given by Conner, who did not have the information to hand) was Cassagnac's Order. The evidence is provided by the dates of issue of both.
The reality is that the fons honorum provided by the King, would only apply to those, to whom the King intended it to apply, and post 1965, this would be with the group he led as Grand Master. With his death, the matter became academic, especially as the King's son, and Head of the Yugoslavian Royal House, eschewed any support for the continuing Orders, which operated in the King's name. However, the 1963 Charter and the 1964 Constitution still provided for their adherents some hope, that they were continuing the Order, of which King Peter had once been Grand Master.

In 1983 a rift began between the Sovereign Council under Prince Andrej and the Grand Priory of Malta under Tonna-Barthet. An attempt to replace the leadership in Malta failed, and for a period further schism was avoided. One of the problems, was that the Sovereign Council did not recognise Malta as being the World Headquarters, and tensions existed with Prince Andrej operating away from Malta in close liaison with the Grand Commander, Walter Pincket who was based in Belgium.

Sometime late 1986, or early 1987, the problems resurfaced, with Prince Andrej declaring Tonna Barthet to be expelled from the Order, and purporting to appoint Joseph Storace as Grand Prior of Malta. Those in support of Tonna Barthet sought to declare Prince Andrej election as Grand Master to be void. On the 25th/26th May 1987 a meeting (claiming to be a Sovereign Council meeting) was held whereby a group of Knights led by Anthony Zammit sought a coup d'état against Prince Andrej. The person at the centre of this drama, Tonna Barthet died some days before the meeting was held.

The Sovereign Council met in September 1987 and supporting Prince Andrej ejected Zammit from membership. Following the normal modus operandi, Zammit became Lieutenant Grand Master with his council claiming to be the true continuation of the OSJ under King Peter's Constitution. Despite the events concerning Tonna Barthet, Malta remained loyal the the legitimate Sovereign Council.

After the death of Prince Andrej on May 6th 1990, a Regency Council was set up in Brussels to cover the duties of the Grand Master. This signalled a revival of the previous dissension. The Grand Priory in Malta, no longer being the power base, dissented from any curtailing of its perceived powers. At the Sovereign Council Meeting in Brussels, August 1990, the Grand Priory of Malta seceded under its Grand Prior, Bailiff V Captur who had succeeded Tonna-Barthet, and became the centre of an Independent network of Priories in Europe and elsewhere. A group in Malta remained loyal to the HQ in Belgium under the leadership of Godwin Drago. Prince Christopher, Prince Andrej's eldest son, accepted membership of the Regency Council to maintain the Order's dynastic patronage, but sadly, was killed on 14th May 1994 in a road accident on Islay in the Hebrides.

By September 1990, Zammit had managed to gain the Patronage of Prince Karl Vladimir, Prince Christopher's younger brother. This allowed Zammit's claim that his group represented the true continuation to be strengthened. Previous to this, in August 1990 Prince Karl Vladimir had accepted the Presidency of the Council of Administration of OSJ, as Chartered in Belgium, but was replaced by the senior regent, Walter Pincket. Zammit died in 2001, and his position was taken over by Prince Karl Vladimir who was declared Grand Master.

Some eighteen months before his death, Prince Andrej had sent a letter to his cousin, HM King Baudouin, dated 30th November 1988, whereby he sought recognition from the Belgian Crown for the Order as an International Charity with a status akin to the Red Cross. After Prince Andrej's death the negotiations with the Belgian Crown and its Administration were continued by the Council of Regents, which included Prince Christopher, Prince Andrej's eldest son. The request was granted 23rd April 1991. The Order of St. John under the HQ in Belgium was registered with, the United Nations, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the European Union.

At a meeting of the Sovereign Council May 1994 in Jerusalem, the Grand Priory of America (covering all North and South America) hitherto organised under its own Constitution, gave up its autonomy and became organised under the King Peter Constitution. This move swamped the membership, and weighted the leadership of the OSJ towards North America. This, and the election of Bailiff Raymond J. Addington OBE of Canada as Lieutenant Grand Master at the meeting, brought about a shift of focus to Canada. Due to this, in 1996 there was a further rift in the Order, between the HQ in Belgium and the HQ in Vancouver Canada, with Walter Pincket being relieved of his post as Grand Commander in 1996 (as far as the Canadian HQ is concerned), and was replaced by another Canadian, Robert G Brodie who had joined as a Knight of Honour in 1992. In September 1997, the HQ in Belgium, suspended the Grand Priory of America's membership of the OSJ, as existing under the Royal Charter in Belgium. In June 1998, the OSJ Sovereign Council meeting under the Vancouver HQ, appointed Robert G Brodie as Lieutenant Grand Master to replace Raymond Addington. The final breach came on the 31st December 1998, when the OSJ America was excluded formally from the OSJ Belgian Royal Charter. In July 1999, the OSJ Belgian Royal Charter (maintaining its full international status) for a period (1999-2005) allied with an Order led by Count Nicholas Bobrinskoy claiming to have succeeded the Paris Group of Russian Hereditary Commanders.

In 1967, as noted above some American members of the Cassagnac Order withdrew to establish their own Order "Sovereign Order of the Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta". One of the leading members was Brancovan. After joining the King Peter Order in 1969, in 1970 Brancovan went on to set up another Order with James Jacobs, before setting up his own as Lieutenant Grand Master in 1972, becoming Grand Master in 1974. Brancovan became a defendant in a Court case in the USA; Alhadeff v. Georg, 30th November 1983, the Court decided in favour of the plaintiff and against the defendant who had supplied the plaintiff with a "passport" and made him a "Knight of Malta" for which he had charged $20,000. The Court in its judgment determined that, despite the variants in the name, there was an intention to make the plaintiff (who was Jewish) believe that the defendant's "Order" was somehow a secular branch of the Roman Catholic Order; evidence such as the similarity of the name, the coat of arms as used on stationery, the decoration awarded, references to the alleged support of various public persons, all served to support the plaintiff's case. The Brancovan organisation appears to have ceased existence following the Court case. It is this Order which Count Nicholas Bobrinskoy joined in 1972, for a very short period before joining the King Peter Order under Prince Sergei Troubetzkoy, and then beginning his own "revival" of the Russian Grand Priory.

This theme of a person joining one Order and leaving it to become a leading official in another, before starting their own was to to be repeated in the creation of the "OOSJ"; The Sovereign Order of the Orthodox Knights Hospitaller of Saint John of Jerusalem, former Russian Grand Priory in St Petersburg. Although Count Alexis Bobrinskoy who lived in England until his death early 1971, had been a member of the Paris Group of Russian Hereditary Commanders, Count Nicholas Bobrinskoy his younger half brother appears to have had no knowledge of, and certainly no involvement in, the Paris Group, or any self-styled Order of St John until he joined the Brancovan group in 1972. Within a month of joining Brancovan, it appears from the correspondence of Prince Troubetzkoy, that Count Nicholas was then recruited into the ex-King Peter Order as led by Prince Sergei Troubetzkoy, and is listed as the Prior of a New York Priory in 1972, by Robert Formhals as being part of the Troubetzkoy OSJ.

In 1974, it appears that both Bobrinskoy and Troubetzkoy had some involvement in an Order founded in Cyprus in 1972; "Most Sacred Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers", then known by the title; "Hospitallers of the Orthodox Tradition of the Russian Grand Priory of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, the Orthodox Hospitallers of Saint John", to which was allied the; "Hospitallers of the Orthodox Tradition of the Russian Grand Priory of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta", of which Count Nicholas was listed as the Lieutenant Grand Prior. This alliance of 'Orders' was short lived (probably not lasting a year) and by 1977, Bobrinskoy had incorporated the "The Sovereign Order of the Orthodox Knights Hospitaller of Saint John of Jerusalem" as a revival of the Russian Grand Priory, shortly afterward, according to Troubetzkoy, resigning from the group Troubetzkoy led. In 1992, after discussions taking place over four years to form a joint 'Order' with the Cassagnac Order were aborted.
Since November 2004, this 'Order' includes "Union des Descendants des Commandeurs et Chevaliers Héréditaires du Grand Prieuré de Russie de l'Ordre de Saint Jean de Jérusalem" registered in Alsace, in January 2005, amongst others by Prince Vladimir Bariatinsky seeking to identify with the historic "Union" of the Russian Hereditary Commanders group in Paris, begun in 1928.

Only scant information survives about the origins of the Den Danske Maltesorden. The founder was Colonel Paul Mikhailovitch Bermondt, who was a White Russian adventurer who sought under the German/Polish General Rüdiger von der Goltz to create a German controlled Latvia and to restore a Russia Czar in the Baltic Provinces, in 1919. Defeated he fled to Denmark. He adopted his maternal uncle's name and rank, to become Prince, or Count, Colonel Paul Mikhailovitch Avaloff. In Denmark circa 1920, Bermondt set up the "Sovereign Imperial Russian Chivalric Order of Malta" (Souveraner kaiserliche-russischer Malteser-ritter-orden). Although it is alleged that Bermondt acquired the patronage of King Alexander of Yugoslavia, by name, Bermondt's Order lay claim in part to the Russian tradition. However, neither Bermondt, nor his maternal uncle (Avaloff), were Hereditary Commanders of , or had been previously connected to, the Russian Grand Priory. Bermondt's creation was simply of analogous nature. Also there is no evidence of contact between Bermondt's group in 1928 or afterwards with the Russian Grand Priory following the resumption of its activities in exile in Paris.
Sometime in the mid 1930s, Bermondt had sought to gain the support of Grand Duke Cyril, but this was refused. There is no evidence that thereafter any support or patronage was given by members of the Romanoff family to Bermondt's Order. At some stage in the inter-war period, Bermondt and his Order, moved to Germany, where it was suppressed by the Nazis.

In 1950 a refutation to the claims of Bermondt's Order was given jointly by the successor to the Russian Throne, and a legal expert in Russian Law. Grand Duke Andrew and Baron Michel De Taube jointly repudiated any claim of the Bermondt Order via the patronage of the King Alexander of Yugoslavia, to be a "so-called" restoration of the Russian Grand Priory as being "null and void in the legal context".

On the 31 August 1934, in Copenhagen a private non-political Christian organisation was created called the "Sovereign Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem of Denmark". From this venture, on the 24th June 1946, one of the members - Mr. Grundall Sjallung founded the Grand Priory of the Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem in Denmark. In 1976, the membership of this group was eventually reconciled with the original group founded in 1934.
In 1948 a Danish Architect - Charles P Christensen formed his own Order of St. John. In 1951 Christensen obtained a decree issued in Leipzig, Germany from "The Sovereign Russian Imperial Order of Knights of Malta", which was signed by Max Schiffel von Frauenstein who had been a member of the Schismatic Order created in 1946. In that year the Grand Master of the Sovereign Russian Imperial Order of Knights of Malta was given as Prince Paul Avalov-Bermondt. Thus Christensen's group inherited the mantle of the original group founded by Bermondt.

Den Danske Maltesorden - The Danish Order of Malta, the name by which the group is now known, joined forces with Cassagnac's French group sometime in the late 1960s, early 1970s. After Christensen's death in 1963 Carl Wilhelm Lehman became Prior until 1969, followed by Poul Hall Jensen to 1990, then Ove Petersen until 1994, Johan A. Johansen until 1996. The present Prior is David K Svarre. Claimed by the group, as the first Prior in 1934 was Poul von Reitzel, followed by Charles P Christensen in 1939.

In the early 1950s a break-away group was formed by Jens Ole Rostock, alias 'Count of Hermosa', known as the "Sovereign Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in Denmark". The group today is known as Den Danske Johanniterorden. A further schism occurred in Den Danske Maltesorden in 1984, when in 1984 about half the membership seceded and joined the 1934 'Order'.

With such a complex and interwoven history, both a Russian foundation of post 1917 (via the Bermondt foundation of 1920), and the 1934 foundation are taken as the origins of Den Danske Maltesorden. The Bulletin of the Russian Grand Priory of Malta (organised under the King Peter Constitution and independent since 1990), in such manner confuses the two foundations. It states that the group "is a descendant of the old Souverain Kaiserlischer Russicher Malteseorden, under Pavel Michallaiwitsch Awaloff, which was forbidden by the Nazis in Germany but was recreated in Denmark in 1934, where it has continued ever since as an autonomous Priory."

Youenn de Quelen, Prior of the French Priory (part of the Order established by Colonel Paul de Granier de Cassagnac in 1962) had written a discussion document for the formation of an Ecumenical Alliance of St. John Orders with the King Peter Order (Vancouver Headquarters).

According to Quelen's thesis, the Order continued from Russia to the USA, in 1908, and then the American Organisation became the main organisation from 1917 onwards. There was no break. The main Order of St John is that of which de Cassagnac was Grand Master, and from which the Pichel and King Peter's organisations, owe their origins.
Quelen then argues that in Europe, - with a break of 11 years, the Russian Hereditary Commanders founded the Paris Group (1928-1917 = 11 years), and from this group emerges the Count Awaloff Organisation in Denmark, with DDM which became in 1967 part of the Regular OSJ, and DDJ. He further argues that the Hereditary Commanders can only create an Order, if the Order had ceased. But the Order did not - it continued in the USA (the Pichel myth), therefore the Paris Group of 1928 is inferior.

Whilst the two Danish groups; Den Danske Maltesorden and Den Danske Johanniterorden might share this inferiority, the French Order's (claiming to be 'the regular OSJ') Web Site, provides a status akin to themselves;
"The Order of Saint-John of Jerusalem - OSJ, who kept its name stands by the Ecumenical tradition structured in Russia early November 1798 (election of the Czar Paul I as Grand Master) and in the United-States after 1917:
This Branch is come back again in France since 1959.
N.B. OSJ is allied to two other Branches that are Scandinavian and also out of emigration of Russian Knights after 1917:
-Den Danske Maltesorden.
-Den Danske Johanniterorden.".

The additional myth, to supplement that of Pichel's - still held strongly by the French Order, is that the Danish Orders, are part of the Russian tradition, emerging directly from the Russian Knights.
Much of Quelen's thesis follows the classic Pichel arguments, which ignore any survival of the Order via the Roman Catholic, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and ignores the Russian Grand Priory's acknowledgement of the Grand Magistracy as held by SMOM from 1809 onwards. Where Quelen and Pichel are wrong is that historically, and in reality, what survived out of Russia in exile, after 1917 was not "The Order of St John of Jerusalem/Malta", but the Russian Grand Priory. The Russian Grand Priory via the Paris group only became a sub Order, much in the same fashion that the JohanniterOrden of Germany is a self-contained Order, but acknowledging the primacy of SMOM.

In September 1998 the Petit Conseil and other Bailiffs of 'The Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller' (led by Lieutenant Grand Master Robert G. Brodie) attended the Chapter General of the 'The Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem' (Cassagnac's group led by Grand Master Yves de Villepin) in Nantes France. Initial discussions were held regarding the possibilities of forming an alliance. Early 1999, the two groups held further discussions also involving two dependent groups of the Cassagnac Order "Den Danske Malteserorden' and "Den Danske Johanniterorden". The proposal was to form the "Ecumenical Alliance of the Orders of Saint John". Whilst the aims of creating an alliance were abandoned, on the 11th June 1991 at the Dacia convention in Copenhagen, a Concordat between the four Orders was agreed in principle. This was finalised and signed by the "Orders" on the 30th October 1999 in Copenhagen. By this time due to legal action by the Roman Catholic Order in France over the name and mark of the Order, the Cassagnac group had changed its title to "The Regular Order of St John of the Holy Land".

None of the "Orders" which were a party to the Concordat (French, Danish, and North American) had any connection with the Russian Grand Priory, or could historically trace their pedigree to the Russian Grand Priory, except via Pichel's myths, or via the Bermondt Order. The Concordat is essentially a reconciliation of Pichel filiants.

Historically there existed an Order of St John of Jerusalem, within the tradition of the Hospitallers, as led by King Peter II exiled King of Yugoslavia. Whilst King Peter had a personal connection with the Russian tradition, with the Yugoslavian Royal Family providing a home for the relics of the Order following the death of Empress Maria in 1928, there was no connection of his Order with the historic Order of St John of Jerusalem. Undoubtedly his Order could claim to have been a real part of the tradition of the Hospitallers by the good works it had undertaken, in a world that needs more such works and not less. However this did not make good any lack of historical pedigree, and the question of the pedigree is rightfully raised in response to the historic claims made by his Order, both during the King's life and by the fragmented groups following his death. The King's Order, via his certain fons honorum was a true Chivalric Order, and this is not questioned here, but the tradition of this Order did not survive his death being disowned by his lawful heir and successor, Crown Prince Alexander.
What should not be challenged is the right of such groups operating as vestiges of the King's Order to exist, especially if such groups operate within the true hospitaller tradition providing aid to those in desperate need. The right of Association for common lawful purposes is a fundamental human right. Using names, titles and badges not prohibited by law in the countries in which such groups operate, is an extension of that human right. What can be challenged, as is the function of this essay, are the claims to a historic pedigree, where such a pedigree does not exist.

Such groups also provide a testimony to the Russian tradition, which does exist. Pichel's myth, mimicked the very real continuation of that tradition within the Paris group representing the Russian Grand Priory in Exile. The Paris group was led by one of the senior dynasts, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovitch who was a Cousin of the successor to the Russian throne, Grand Duke Kiril. In 1939 the Paris Group allowed the creation of a Priory in Denmark (known as Dacia - not to be confused with a self-styled Order of the same name), which has continued the tradition beyond the demise of the Paris Group with the loss of all its leaders by 1975.


1. OSJ Sovereign Council Minutes 1977 to date.
2. Barthet, Gaston Tonna. Constitution of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, given by His Majesty King Peter II of Yugoslavia 19th March 1964, Progress Press, Russian Grand Priory, Malta, 1974.
3. Bobrinskoy, Count Nicholas, Informal and Confidential History of the Revival of the Order of the Orthodox Knights Saint John of Jerusalem, The Sovereign Order of the Orthodox Knights Hospitaller, Saint John of Jerusalem. New York, 1996.
4. Brett-Crowther M.Sc., Ph.D., D.I.C. S.Th. , Dr. Michael Richard. Orders of Chivalry under the Aegis of the Church. Lambeth Diploma of Student in Theology (S.Th.) Thesis, 1st December 1990.
5. Cave-Brown-Cave, Bt, KCSJ, Sir Robert. The Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem Knights Hospitaller, A Short History, 900 Years of Chivalry (1099 to date), The OSJ Historical Committee, The Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem Knights Hospitaller. Vancouver, B.C. Canada 1997.
6. Commission International Permanente D'Etudes Des Ordes De Chevalerie. Registre des Orders de Chevalerie, The Armorial, Edinburgh, 1978.
7. Formhals, Robert W. Y. White Cross : Story of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, with particular emphasis on the Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller since 1964 under Royal Charter of Peter II, King of Yugoslavia. Sanghals Publishers, Camarillo, California, USA, 1979.
8. Gayre of Gayre and Nigg, Lieutenant Colonel. The Knightly Twilight, Lochore Enterprises, Malta 1973.
9. Gilmour, T. H. Knights of Malta. Ancient and Modern. Imperial Parent Black Encampment of the Universe and Grand Black Lodge of Scotland, Scotland 1903.
10. Hodges, Douglas. J. Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem Knights Hospitaller Historical Information, The Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem Knights Hospitaller, Grand Priory of Australia, 1989.
11. Land, Robert Ernest Augustus. Fifty years in the Malta order; being data dealing with the foundation of the ancient order, its history, constitution and ritual. Privately publishing by the estate of R. E. A. Land, Toronto, Can., 1928.
12. Muraise, Eric, (Colonel M. Suire) Histoire Sincere Des Ordres De L'Hopital, Fernand Lanore Paris 1978.
13. Order of St John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller. Deliberations of the Sovereign Council of the Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem August 8-11, 1990. English Translation August 1990.
14. Partner, Peter, The Murdered Magicians, The Templars and their Myth, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1982.
15. Williamson, David Geoffrey. The Counts Bobrinskoy A Genealogy, James V Poat Edgeware Middlesex 1962.
16. Sainty, G.S. The Orders of Saint John, American Society of the Most venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem, New York 1991.
17. Smith, Harrison PhD. Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Progress Press, Malta 1964.
18. Smith, Harrison, & Storace, Joseph E. Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Second Edition, The Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Russian Grand Priory of Malta, Akker Print, Delft, The Netherlands 1977.
19. Tonna-Barthet, Gaston. A short History of the Knights of Malta. Giov. Muscat & Co Ltd, Malta 1964.
20. de Quelen, Youenn, "OSJ synthesis for the necessary conditions for mutual recognition of Orders stemming from the Tradition of the Russian Grand Priories of the former Order of the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John of Jerusalem." Version 00. n.d. (circa early 1999) Paris.
21. Correspondence from the OOSJ to the British Grand Priory OOSJ.

Amended 16th June 2006.

King Peter OSJ Home Page

Order of St John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller.