THE HOSPITALLER KNIGHTS OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, SPAIN.
In 1802, a separate Order had been created from the Spanish Langues, with the secularisation by King Charles IV of Spain. The Order's property was confiscated in the Revolution in 1820, and restored under Royal control with the aid of the French Army in 1823 and remained so until its confiscation in 1841. In 1848 the Spanish Government sold the property of the Order by Auction, and the Order, a vestage of what it had been, became a Royal Merit Order awarded for services to the State. The Spanish Red Cross, part of the International Red Cross founded at the Geneva Convention in 1864, had replaced the Hospitallers as an active agency in humanitarian works.
In 1875, a member of the Executive Council of the Red Cross, Don Eduardo Palou y Flores, a Spanish Senator and a Knights of the SMOM gained the support of a number of other Spanish Knights and revived an active Spanish Hospitaller Order, independent from the Papal Order. The Order was controlled by a Supreme Council and led by Flores. Chapters were created in Madrid, Cádiz, Seville and Barcelona. The first hospital of the Order was the Hospital of Our Lady of Atocha in Madrid.
A limited legitimacy was given to the Order in 1876 when King Don Alfonso XII approved of the statutes and rules of the Order. These were confirmed in 1881. Pope Leo XIII granted the Order spiritual benefices in a Brief signed on the 27th April 1880. Conscious that they were continuing the Hospitaller tradition, the badge of the Order was designed as a red-enameled medallion displaying a white Maltese Cross, with a gold fleur-de-lys in each intersection of the four arms, and ensigned with a Crown. As a result of protests from the Government, to distinguish their badge from that of the Royal Order, a small capital 'H' was placed in the centre of the Cross.
Perhaps not unconnected with the independent initiative, was the fact that negotiations were undertaken between the SMOM and the Spanish Government with the result that on the 4th September 1885 the Government once again recognised the SMOM and the Grand Master Giovanni Battista di Santa Croce #1. The King of Spain recognised the exclusive rights of the Grand Majesty to receive Knights into the ancient Langues of Castile and Aragón. Reciprocating, the SMOM agreed to recognise those who had received the Royal Merit decoration as Knights of Honour and Devotion, with dispensation over proofs of nobility. The result of the new found recognition of the Papal Order in Spain was that the independent Order was devalued in status.
Senator Flores sought to reconcile his group with the SMOM, but in vain. Lacking the prestige of an Order fully validated by the Spanish Crown and the SMOM, the independent Order became reduced to one Chapter in Cádiz. In 1952, the Chapter in Cádiz revised the statutes which were approved by the Spanish Ministries of Interior and Health. The group reformed as 'The Knights Hospitaller of St. John the Baptist of Cádiz' #2.
#1 Sire, H.J.A. The Knights of Malta, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1994,
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