Hugh Revel Master of the Hospital of St John
of Jerusalem 1258 - 1277
By the Reverend Michael Foster SSC. MIWO.
Humphery-Smith, Cecil R. J. Hugh Revel - Master of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, 1258-1277, Phillimore & Co, Ltd, West Sussex, 1994. ISBN 0 85033 895 6
Hugh Revel - Master of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.
In the last decade, the number of new books published in English specifically about the Order of St John of Jerusalem/Order of Malta, (as opposed to those treating the Military Orders together) are far and few between - not more than a dozen. Even if the books on the Military Orders are added the total less than doubles. As part of this select number of books, Cecil Humphery-Smith's contribution is to be more than welcomed.
The publication of the research, which forms the basis of the book, was inspired by the election of the Order's present English Grand Master, in 1988.
Eighteenth Century works on the Order, seek to ascribe a nationality to each of the Grand Masters throughout the history of the Order. Sometimes, an ascription is based on scanty records, and is a "best guess". The authors of such works as they pass into distant history, become cited as "ancient authorities", and may posses a worth not warranted by critical scholarship. Uncritically errors are passed on by modern rewrites of these historical works.
A discovery by Cecil Humphery-Smith, of a remark made in 1620 in a pedigree compiled by the Heralds on their visitation to Devon, in England, credits Hugh Reynell or Revel (an Anglo-Norman - Englishman) as Master of the Hospital. This revelation indeed questioned the accepted claims of previous ages about Hugh Revels French nationality. Undertaking further detailed research in the fields of genealogy, heraldry, and medieval history, the author reaches his judgment that "The documentation in these investigations leads to the conclusion that Hugh Revel was indeed an Englishman" page 79. The point is reinforced on page 87. A solid case is certainly made.
To imagine the book is solely about proving Cecil Humphery-Smiths thesis would be quite wrong. In total out of 96 pages, 51 pages are devoted to the history of the Order and its context of the Crusades. It also provides some insights into a period that provided ill fortune, in that the Order and fellow Crusaders were being driven from the Holy Land during Hughs incumbency.
Among some the incidental facts mentioned in the book, are that of hinting at the evolution of the Cross of the Order (preface xi xii), and the battle between the Knights Templars and Knights Hospitaller, the latter being victorious! page 42.
The book is not a popularist work on the Order (repeating what is already well known), but does venture new ground and adds to our knowledge on the Order, therefore its reading requires a little work Never-the-less, the book is more than a worthy addition to a collection on the Order, but for those studying the interests of the Order and its connections with England, this book is a must.
Fr Michael Foster.
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