Under the Constitution of King Peter II of Yugoslavia


by the Reverend Dr Michael Foster SSC MIWO

The purpose of this article, is to examine the claims of the historical legitimacy of those Orders which are operating under the Constitution given to an Organisation in 1964, by King Peter II of Yugoslavia, an exiled King.
What is not in question, is the valuable humanitarian work undertaken by many of these "Orders".
The world needs more such groups and not less.

However as such groups advance claims of historical legitimacy - then such claims ought to withstand scrutiny.
The author also admits, that King Peter II possessed a "fons honorum" - and that Knights created under the authority of the King were in fact Knights.
What is in question is the subsequent status of any group of Knights claiming to operate under the Constitution given by the King, after his death in 1970, given that the Head of the Yugoslavian Royal Dynasty will not support any continuing group, thus removing the "fons honorum".

In the late 1950s an Order of St John claiming to be founded in 1908 by Hereditary Russian Commanders (a mythical claim) emerged in the United States of America. The driving force for this group was Charles Louis Thourot-Pichel. In 1962 this group split into two, the schismatic half being led by the Lieutenant Grand Master, Colonel Paul de Granier de Cassagnac.
Cassagnac was able to gain for his group the Royal Protection of King Peter II of Yugoslavia, exiled in 1941 due to the German invasion of Yugoslavia, and subsequent restoration under Communist rule. In January 1965, the supporters of King Peter, elected him as the Grand Master of the Order of which Cassagnac was Grand Master. Cassagnac refused to stand down, and King Peter formally resigned in April 1965, from the Cassagnac Order, to lead his own Order as Grand Master. By the late 1960s a number of groups with mythical historical claims, including the group organised by Charles Pichel, joined with King Peter's organisation.

A claim had been developed by King Peter's group, that King Peter was the 'hereditary Protector' of the Order, via the Order's relics which were passed on to King Alexander his father for safe keeping. Due to this claim, King Peter's group claimed of the Order in 1798;

"from which date until 1917, was placed under the Hereditary Protection of the Head of the Imperial House of the Romanoffs and since the Russian revolution when the precious relics of the Order particularly the arm of St John and according to the wish of the last Czar Nicholas II, were transferred to the protection of the Royal House of Yugoslavia (Karageorgevitch)." (OSJ Constitution signed by King Peter II of Yugoslavia, 19th March 1964).

In 1970 following the King's death the OSJ (the initials used by the King Peter Group) in accordance with the King's wishes had set up a regency Council to cover the duties of the Grand Master. King Peter's son, Crown Prince Alexander refused to support any of the groups claiming to be his father's organisation. This has been described by one of the many King Peter Orders as Prince Alexander declining this part of his father's moral inheritance (OSJ Sovereign Council Minutes, August 8-11, 1990, English translation, page 10).

By 1972 the organisation had split into two.

1. One half led by Robert Sanguszko-Formhals; The Royal Yugoslavian Order of St. John, later known as The Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, and;
2. The Order of St. John, Knights Hospitaller (known by the acronym of "OSJ") based with its HQ in Malta.
The King's brother, Prince Andrew, initially supported the Royal Yugoslavian Order, led by Formhals as its Royal Protector (1970-1977), and then switched to supporting the OSJ as Grand Master (1977-1990).

Further divisions arose;

3. In 1987 Anthony Zammit a member of the OSJ Council sought to depose Prince Andrew, but only succeeded in forming yet another group, claiming to be the authentic OSJ as Constituted by King Peter.
In 1990 Prince Andrew died and the OSJ elected a regency Council based in Belgium. At the same time the Sovereign Council of the OSJ sought to reconcile the Zammit faction to no avail. Following this Zammit was was fortunate enough to gain the backing of Prince Karl Vladimir Karageorgevitch one of Prince Andrew's sons. This in their eyes enhanced their status as claiming to be the true continuation of King Peter's OSJ.
4. 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. By 1990, Victor Xuereb had become Lieutenant Grand Master of this new "Order".
In 1991, the Belgain based OSJ became Incorporated by way of a Royal Charter granted by the King of the Belgians (a standard method of Incorporation for top charities in Belgium).
5. In 1998 a further split arose within the OSJ between the Headquarters in Belgium and the new Headquarters in Canada following the election of a Canadian Lieutenant Grand Master in 1994, which now operates under Grand Master Robert G. Brodie.
In 1999, the OSJ under the Royal Belgic Charter, had ceased to identify itself as being part of the King Peter Order, and had joined the Russian Hereditary Commanders group by then headquartered in New York.
6. In 2001, or possible earlier, Alfred Kugler - alias "'Prince 'Alfred von Habsburg-Hohenberg" who had been a Prior under King Peter, created the "Ordo Sancti Joannis Hospitalis Hierosolymitani Inc."

These "Orders" had led to others, and for a full list see

In relation to any claimed Karageorgevitch patronage of an Order of St. John, there are two main problems with the various claims;

1. The Patronage of the Yugoslavian House.
The presence of  Prince Karl Vladimir Karageorgevitch  (or of any other Junior Royal) as Patron/Grand Master to one of the OSJ groups is meaningless;

King Peter II of Yugoslavia was indeed a Leader of an Order of St. John, known by the acronym of OSJ. Whilst led by the King, it claimed to be a continuation of the Russian Grand Priory, via Russian Hereditary Knights in 1908 (some time after the King's death this claim has been subsequently dropped by the OSJ, as not being historically verifiable). When the King died in 1970, his Order fragmented and since then, as illustrated above has continued to produce offshoots.
King Peter gave to his Order a Constitution on the 19th March 1964. The continuation of his Order can only be judged by that Constitution and not by any patronage of Juniors of the Yugoslavian House. - The Constitution does not give them a place.

From the Constitution:-

1) The Head of the Royal House of Karageorgevitch is the Hereditary Protector of the O.S.J. His role is fixed by the venerable traditions and customs of the Order.
2) Only the Protector has the privilege to appoint Hereditary Knights of the Order.
3) The Grand Conservator of the Order (see & 7/1-B) is the permanent representative of the Protector within the Order and the chairman of the Council of His Majesty the Protector.
4) The Protector's Council (Intimate Council of the Crown) is made up of the Grand Conservator, two other Bailiffs of the Order chosen by His Majesty, a dignitary representing the Grand Priory of America and of three Commanders, appointed by the Protector on suggestion of the Grand Prior of America and the Commanders on that of the Petit Conseil.

Hereditary Protectorship.
There was never a hereditary protectorship for the Order of St. John as a whole. The "venerable traditions and customs of the Order" did not provide for an hereditary Protector. There is no historical documentation to verify such a notion. The Order appointed on an individual basis, Monarchs as Protectors, but this 'Protectorship' of the Order was haphazard. For example, the Order bestowed that title on two Kings of England (Henry VII and Henry VIII). The title was not passed down, but bestowed individually. As well as the Emperor Paul I being a Protector of the Order, so too and at the same time, was the Western Emperor. A Protector was a powerful patron. The Order did not, nor could not subsist in the Protector. The bestowal of the title of Protector to Emperor Paul I, was a gift of the Order, and not part of the Convention establishing the Catholic Grand Priory of Russia 4th/15th January 1797. It is correct, that Emperor Alexander followed his father as Protector, and it is this fact that has encouraged the view amongst certain writers that the Protectorship of Paul I was hereditary.
It must be remembered that there had been no regular authority of the Order since its ejection from Malta, and that Emperor Alexander I, was not appointed Protector by the Order, but assumed the role of Protector of the Order after his father's murder in 1801, had left a power vacuum in the Order. Alexander, who was concerned to further good foreign relations and undertook to restore the Order to its previous constitution, stated that fact himself;

"WE, ALEXANDER the First, by the grace of God, &c. &c. being desirous of giving a proof of our particular esteem and affection towards the sovereign order of St. John of Jerusalem, declare, that we take the said order under our imperial protection ; and that we will employ every possible care and attention to maintain it in all its rights, honours, privileges, and possessions."  (PROCLAMATION OF HIS IMPERIAL MAJESTY the EMPEROR of all the RUSSIAS; Source:Boisgelin, Louis De, Knight of Malta, ANCIENT AND MODERN MALTA, G & J Robinson, London, 1804, Volume 3, Book 3, Appendix No XX).

There was a form of hereditary Protectorship, but limited within each nation where it existed. In various nations, the Crown was protector to the Order within those nations. This national form of Protectorship did not extend to the whole Order. Russia is a classic example of this.

Whilst the Convention of 1797 did not cover Paul I 's role as Protector to the whole Order, Article I of the Convention provided an implied protectorship for the Order in Russia;  

"His imperial majesty the emperor of all the Russias, as an act of justice, and at the same time to prove, his sentiments of affection and high consideration for the illustrious order of Malta, approves, confirms, and ratifies, in his own name and that of his successors for ever, in the most ample and solemn manner, the establishment of the said order of Malta in his dominions".

The Convention covered the Order in Russia, and not just a Priory, which would then include the second Priory, Paul created in 1798. However, likewise, Article XXVII of the 1798 Declaration which instituted the New Establishment of Commanderies for Russian Nobles (later known as the Russian Grand Priory), implied a protectorship;

"Lastly, we confirm in the most solemn manner, in our name and in that of our successors for ever, all and each of the articles of the present foundation; the said articles to have their full effect, and to be inviolably executed. Concluded at St. Petersburg, the 29th of November, in the year of our Lord 1798, and in the third of our reign."

The Hereditary Protectorship quoted above from the O.S.J. Constitution of King Peter II, therefore must be of a new creation along with that Constitution. Even within this, it is quite plain from the Constitution that the only valid Protector is the Head of the Royal House. Also, according the the Constitution, it is only the head who is the trustee to the relics.

The very claim of King Peter's Protection raises the question "if Emperor Nicholas II passed on the hereditary protection from the Royal House of Romanoff to the Royal House of Karageorgevitch along with the relics, why did the American Grand Priory wait until 1962, when King Peter was readily accessible after the Second World War?".  Colonel Maurice Suire puts this more simply;

"It is surprising, if Peter II had possessed an hereditary right to the protectorship of the OSJ, that he accepted this dignity from the hand of Colnel de Cassagnac" Muraise, Eric, (Colonel M. Suire) Histoire Sincere Des Ordres De L'Hopital, Fernand Lanore Paris 1978, page 178 - free translation from the French.

King Peter envisaged his Son would take over - but this was not to be, and Crown Prince Alexander not only refused such a position, but has repudiated all groups which have emerged from his father's organisation. As the above part of the Constitution is voided, due to the fact that the Head of the Royal House declines a part, the only other relevant section of the Constitution reads as follows;

What is not mentioned in the text of this Constitution is settled by ruling of the Sovereign Council.

This means the Council of the Order is the remaining means of determining legitimacy. Even here there is a problem - who now represents the Council of the King Peter Order - given the many groups which claim to be "The King Peter Order".
At least one of the schismatic OSJ groups claims to be the authentic King Peter Order, due to the fact that they have a member of the Yugoslavian Royal House as a Patron. There may indeed be psychological comfort from having a Junior Karageorgevitch Royal - but constitutionally it is meaningless.

King Peter's death placed the OSJ into turmoil. The fact that the head of the Karageorgevitch House repudiates those groups which claim his father's Constitution, frees the OSJ from that line. Either the OSJ is a Yugoslavian Royal Order - in which case it is truly orphaned, and without any 'fons honorum' as it has no recognition from the Royal House, or it is an Order which is self contained in its 'fons honorum' which once had the Head of the Karageorgevitch House as its Protector! - The problem with this view is that, it was only via King Peter, that the OSJ had been transformed into a Knightly fraternity. Once it had been realised that Pichel's history of a 1908, was mythical, and this claim to a pedigree had been abandoned, the claim that the OSJ could be identified as being part of the historic Order was via the Relics of the Order. This claim is examined next.

2. The Relics as a means of indicating Patronage of the Order of St. John.
The basis for this patronage, is the claim that the relics of the OSJ were passed from the House of Romanoff to the House of Karageorgevitch during the Russian Revolution, and furthermore that the trusteeship of the relics belongs to the Head of the Karageorgevitch family. This claim is further compounded with the view, that with the relics, went the will of the last Emperor to pass on the Protectorship of the OSJ to the Karageorevitch House.

Some of this reasoning is found in King Peter's Constitution;

2) The O.S.J. bases its traditions since 1798 on: - The two Russian Grand Priories (Orthodox and Catholic) - The Grand Priory of Poland, - The Commanderies of the Eastern and Oriental Christian Countries, from which date it was placed under the Hereditary Protection of the Head of the Imperial House of the Romanoffs and since the Russian revolution when the precious relics of the Order particularly the arm of St John and according to the wish of the last Czar Nicholas II, were transferred to the protection of the Royal House of Yugoslavia (Karageorgevitch).

This claim when examined against the facts fails to be convincing.

1) To save the relics of the Order of St. John in Russia from desecration and destruction by the Communists, they were taken by Father Bogoyavlenski in 1919 to Reval in Estonia. Later they were handed over to General Count Alexei Ignatiev for delivery to Copenhagen, Denmark, to be given to the Mother of Emperor Nicholas II, Dowager Czarina Marie Feodorovna. They were kept at her villa in Hvioze. Shortly before her death in 1928, the old Empress bequeathed the relics to her niece Yelena Karageorgevitch daughter of Peter I of Yugoslavia and sister to King Alexander I. A variant account states that the Relics were given to Alexander I, by a special deed of Trust (The Times of Malta 28th May 1997 page 60, provides the information that the relics were bequeathed to Princess Yelena. The Sunday Times of Malta April 26th 1998, page 42 ART, provides that they were entrusted to King Alexander I. See also King, Edwin J. Revised by Luke, Harry. The Knights of St. John in the British Realm: Being the Official History of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. Order of St. John, St. John's Gate, London, 1967, footnote page 136).

What is certain, is that the relics did end up in the care of the Yugoslavian Royal Family and were kept in the private Chapel of the Royal Palace in Belgrade. King Alexander had trained at the Military Academy in St. Petersburg at the Corps de Pages  (King Peter of Yugoslavia, A King's Heritage, London 1955, page 14), and was acquainted with the Orthodox tradition of the Order of St. John. Alexander died in 1934, and Regent, Prince Paul took his place. On the 27th March 1941, by a military coup d'etat Alexander's son, Peter became King. In April 1941, with the advance of the Germans the Relics were placed in Ostrog Monastery near Niksic in Montenegro. After the end of the War, the Government placed the relics in the Museum at Cetinje where they were kept in the reserve collection and never exhibited (The Sunday Times of Malta April 26th 1998, page 42 ART). Despite the fact that the relics remained in Yugoslavia, a myth emerged within the OSJ, that the Monastery gave the relics to the Nazis who removed them, never to be seen again).

Any actual trusteeship of the relics under the Karageorgevitch family did not occur until after 10 years following the Emperor's death. The gap between the death of the last Emperor and the relics entering Yugoslavia (ten years) does not permit any argument that the Emperor intended the relics to go to Yugoslavia, even less so, could any "will" of the Emperor to pass on the Patronage of the Order of St. John to the Yugoslavian Royal House be proved. If it was the will of the last Emperor, that the relics were to go to Yugoslavia, why did this not happen in 1918? The other obvious stumbling block, is the fact that the relics may have been bequeathed to King Alexander's sister, and thus, the specific trusteeship would not pass on to King Peter II.

The actual custodianship of the relics for the Yugoslavia Royal House was only 13 years, and King Peter's actual claimed custodianship as King, only a matter of months!  It also must be remembered that King Peter, son of King Alexander did not involve himself in the OSJ until 1963! Some 22 years after he became custodian to the relics, or more to the point, some 35 years after they are entrusted to a member of the Yugoslavian Royal House.

2) It is helpful to know that when King Peter joined the OSJ, the group which he had joined, claimed to have had its origins in New York in 1908, founded by Russian Hereditary Commanders. This claim which was only advanced in the late 1950s onwards, mimicked the historic continuation of the Russian Grand Priory by the Russian Exiles in Paris from 1928 onwards. Later  following the admission in 1980 of the invented beginnings by a member of Pichel's group, the rationale to be a continuation of the Russian Grand Priory switched to the relics theory. Potted Histories of the OSJ and Knighthood Diplomas issued in the King's name in the 1970s bore witness to the 1908 myth, later abandoned.

3) Emperor Paul I was made honorary Protector, this was a gift to his person not his Royal Line (as was true of all other appointments of the Protector). However the Convention on 1797 between the Order and Emperor Paul I, and the subsequent creation of the Russian Grand Priory in 1799 made the Emperor of Russia, the protector to the Russian Grand Priories. All Paul successors (i.e. successors to the Russian throne) were bound as protectors to the Russian Order - not to any other branch of the Order.

In summary, the relics theory cannot reasonable be upheld;
a) the Order King Peter led was not a continuation of the Russian Grand Priory;  
b) King Peter was not a successor to the Russian throne - the Romanoffs are still in existence, it is the successor to the Russian throne who is protector to the Russian Grand Priory, and ;
c) even if the trusteeship of the relics defied logic and were a pointer to the true Order, it will be either the Head of the Royal House which provides this, as decreed by King Peter! - this is his Son, Alexander who is a member of the Roman Catholic, Sovereign Military Order of Malta (or SMOM) !, or it will be the direct descendants of Princess Yelena. 

1) The OSJ under the Constitution of King Peter II - shifting pedigrees!
King Peter by his leadership of an "Order" within the tradition of the Hospitallers of St. John, provided by his own fons honorum and transformed it into a true knightly fraternity. His Constitution provided for hereditary succession to the Head of the Royal House. This was not to be, and the Order - with a succession of Knights via the King's own "fons honorum" was orphaned.
With the gradual realisation, that at best Pichel's history of the years 1908 to the 1950s, could not be verified, and at worst, that it was a fable, the groups operating under King Peter's Constitution placed a greater reliance upon King Alexander of Serbia's attendance at the Corps des Pages academy, and the subsequent passing on of the relics of the Order to his keeping. The relics were seen as symbolising the Order's "moral contents". Their transfer to the Karageorgevitch Royal House was then seen as a by-passing of Grand Duke Kyrill Mikhailovitch, successor to the Russian throne, in favour of King Alexander. Thus the continuation of the Russian Order can begin with King Peter II, not relying upon any arguments about the re-establishment or otherwise of the Russian Priory.
A member of the Vancouver OSJ, whilst not entirely rejecting Pichel's myths had provided a further claim for a foundation by Russian Hereditary Commanders. In an internal memo from their historian Sir Robert Cave-Brown-Cave to Grand Commander Robert Q Phillips dated 29 March, 1999, Cave-Brown-Cave argues;

"...some hereditary commanders, Belosselsky-Belozersky, Troubetzkoy Ignatief, etc who appealed to H.M, King Peter to give them first a charter, then constitution. King Peter later become Grand Master, and brought a 'fons honorum' to the O.S.J. This remains through our constitution. King Peter's O.S.J. also has the moral tradition of the Russian priories as custodian of the holy relics of the ancient Order of St John.".

Thus an attempt is made to link the pedigree of the King Peter Order with the Russian Grand Priory via the Russian Hereditary Commanders. The thesis that the Hereditary Commanders appealed to King Peter for a Charter, then a Constitution seems to be a bid to reinforce the original aims of Pichel's myths i.e. to give the Order a pedigree to the ancient Order via the Russian tradition. The problem with Cave-Brown-Cave's assertions are that;
(a) it was to Grand Master Colonel Paul de Granier de Cassagnac that King Peter gave a Charter, then a Constitution (not the Russian Hereditary Commanders).
(b) Prince Serge Belosselsky-Belozersky and Prince Sergei S. Troubetzkoy were not members of de Cassagnac's Order, but joined the King's Order, after the split with de Cassagnac. Also whilst both claimed to be Russian Hereditary Commanders, Troubetzkoy was not. Also, Belosselsky-Belozersky membership was shortlived, and there is no evidence for a continuing membership beyond 1969. Troubetzkoy was recruited directly from the Pichel Order in 1969.

However this might seem to leave a thread - Count Leonid Ignatieff, but even here there is a problem. Whilst Count Leonid Ignatieff was a member of the de Cassagnac's Order, like he was not an Hereditary Commander. His surname does not appear in the Annales Historiques de l'Ordre St. Jean de Jérusalem à Saint - Petersbourg 1799 or 1800, listing the Commanders of Family, or in any subsequent Ukases between 1799 and 1810 creating further Hereditary Commanders. To support any notion that he was a Hereditary Commander, will require evidence of inheriting such title, via a female of the family, due to an extinguished male line. In his History (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, page 22.), Cave-Brown-Cave provides Ignatieff as a Hereditary Commander and attributed this to the Annales of the Order of 1800. Cave-Brown-Cave who graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1951 with a double major in History and Economics has failed to consult the original of a document from which he quotes. Had he done so, he would have seen that he has intruded the Ignatieff name which does not exist in the original list!

Whilst the ingenious thesis of Cave-Brown-Cave has failed, it is worth noting additional information. Not so easily uncovered is the fact that Prince Sergei Sergeivitch Troubetzkoy was not an Hereditary Commander - his older brother appears to have been a member of the Paris group, but the entitlement for succession by right of primogeniture was to a distant Cousin! Prince Belosselsky joined King Peter's Order sometime before 1968. In 1968, the King Peter Order broke into three factions, to which one of them Prince Serge Belosselsky-Belozersky became Lieutenant Grand Master, only to resign a short period after. The King Peter Order reconciled and Prince Sergei Troubetzkoy became Lieutenant Grand Master. After the King's death, the Order split again with Troubetzkoy leading one of the factions. Prince Belosselsky may have belonged to Troubetzkoy's group, certainly by 1977, he had become chairman of the "The Sovereign Order of the Orthodox Knights Hospitaller of Saint John of Jerusalem, former Russian Grand Priory in St Petersburg" (known as the "OOSJ" or "Bobrinskoy Order") founded inter alia by Count Nicholas Bobrinskoy. It appears from the correspondence of Prince Troubetzkoy, that Count Nicholas was 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. Thus Prince Serge Belosselsky-Belozersky cannot have been too convinced about the history of the King Peter Order to have abandoned it, at least by 1977. He died in 1978.

Cave-Brown-Cave is not the only person to employ the fleeting membership of a seemingly genuine Russian Hereditary Commander. "Sir" John Grady who broke with the Pichel/Shickshinny Convent, increasingly unhappy with the Pichelian myths obtained from Prince Sergei Troubetzkoy a signed document which passes on the mantle of the Russian Grand Priory to John Grady's organisation. This is dealt with elsewhere on this website.

Any validity of the OSJ to be an Order of Knights comes from King Peter, but any claimed link to the historic Order of St. John does not exist, and the brief membership of a solitary Russian Hereditary Commander misled by mythical claims cannot redeem this!

In considering the present OSJ and its various offshoots following the King's death in 1970, there may well be an argument for a residual validity to remain, even lacking the support of the Royal Serbian House. There is no real argument to support this. However such a thesis is entertained by members of the OSJ! To retain any possible and doubtful validity, this would be by adherence to the King's Constitution as the continuing and legitimate organisation, organised under that Constitution. If the membership of the OSJ fragments,  (which is the case) then this validity becomes fainter to a point where it becomes without meaning. Seeking the patronage of a Junior member of the Royal House of Yugoslavia is perhaps an attempt to re-charge this validity, but, as it has been argued above, this attempt is meaningless.

There is no shortage of groups operating under the King Peter Constitution. The claim of any schismatic group to be organised under the King's Constitution, as a parallel or duplicate organisation is not enough to demonstrate validity - the organisation must be the legitimate continuation of the organisation the King led as Grand Master. Given the number of times the organisation has fragmented, it may be difficult for any one single group to prove that it alone can be identified with the group King Peter led.

2) Trusteeship of the Relics.
The Trusteeship of the relics may give a special place to the Head of the Karageorgevitch House within the Russian tradition of the Order of St. John, specifically, and within the general traditions of the Order. This does not constitute Protectorship, or provide any other means of validating historical legitimacy to any Order claiming to be of  'St. John'.

Even if we were to suspend reason and accept the relics theory, it becomes self defeating as far as the King Peter Orders are concerned. It must be remembered that King Peter, did not inherit an Order of St. John, of which he was to be Patron. He joined an existing "self styled" Order, which claimed a pedigree of 1908, and claimed to be founded by the Russian Hereditary Commanders, claims which have now been admitted as myths by a former member of the Order, Crolian Edelen de Burgh, in a private letter to Harrison Donald Smith, the Order's leading historian in 1980, and to a "Sovereign Council meeting of the OSJ in 1980.
If it is argued that by being the theoretical Trustee of the Relics (since the end of the second world war, the Serbian authorities are the actual trustees), and then providing patronage to a group, King Peter authenticates that group as the/an true Order of St. John, then pure logic demands that this is true of Crown Prince Alexander. The present Head of the Yugoslavian House, Crown Prince Alexander, is a member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (the Roman Catholic Order), thus the SMOM is identified as the true Order!

3) The continuing Russian Tradition.
The creation of an "Order" which mimicked the historic group of Russian Hereditary Commanders, who gathered in Paris in 1928,  and the subsequent King Peter Orders, at least give witness to the Russian tradition. Even though some Russian Hereditary Commanders have had contact with, or even been members of the King Peter group, quite separate from the issue of the King Peter tradition of St. John, is the continuation of the authentic Russian tradition via the Hereditary Commanders of the Russian Grand Priory. This tradition has continued via an initiative in 1928, with the creation of a group in Paris and then in 1939, with the creation of a sub- Priory in Denamrk, known as the Priory of Dacia. Whist the Paris Group came to an end, individual members continue that tradition in liaison with the Priory of Dacia. This work is not to be confused with the organisations operating under King Peter's constitution.

The hand of history made good the mythical claims of a self-styled Order by the patronage of an exiled monarch. That same hand of history had removed that patronage, leaving the "Order" orphaned. Clinging to the Constitution the King gave to the Order has allowed the succeeding organisations to live off the memory of that brief in-between period. The shift to the relics theory (the main focus of this essay) has allowed those organisations to develop amnesia concerning the false myths which gave rise to the initial claim to be part of the Russian tradition. The connection of these succeeding organisations with the historic Order of St John is fatally flawed since Pichel’s organisation and ergo, Cassagnac’s, then the King's was based on a hoax . Add to this the subsequent rejection by King Peter’s heir, Crown Prince Alexander, then any claims by these groups to be a Yugoslavic/Serbian Royal Order is ended.

Created in the last century following the romantic revival of chivalry, colouring such organisations as the Boy Scouts, were hundreds of "Chivalric Orders". In this revival, chivalry was no longer seen as the exclusive property of the nobility. Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur of the mid 1400s was the basis of Alfred Tennyson's Morte d' Arthur of 1830-1832, and the Idylls of the King 1859. Tennyson's work was both part of the revival and further fueled it. Such "Orders" are known as "self-styled Orders" (polemical authors use such terms as "false" or "bogus" which have other connotations). Much good has come from these organisations, which has drawn the support of many worthy people. The King Peter Orders are akin to such organisations. The difference is that they advance claims of chivalric and historical legitimacy, claims which today are not valid.

Updated 1st March 2006.

King Peter Orders of St John.
Self-Styled Orders of St John

OSJ Research Web Page.
British Grand Priory Web Site Map
Click this button to go back to the referring Web Site

Order of St John, Knights Hospitaller.