The English Order of Christ in the 1890s.

Source: Vane Bt. KCOC. Sir Francis Fletcher, Agin the Governments, Sampson Low, London 1929, pp 81 - 83.

Sir Francis Vane wrote his biography in 1929. He was born in 1861 and died in 1934.


Recently I had been elected a member of the Hardwick Debating Society in the Temple, of which my friend, Percy Atkins, was a leading light, and so was in touch with a large number of the younger barristers and students. My plan was to put a scheme to them which was in effect accepted with enthusiasm. This requires explanation. A year after I was married, the King of Portugal did me the honour of conferring on me the rank of a Knight Commander of the Order of Christ. The history of this great Order is of peculiar interest, for it is the sole in descent from the great mediaeval Order of the Temple, and the Knights have the privilege of wearing the insignia and the robes of the Templars. The two Sovereign Orders of the Temple and of St. John of Jerusalem were instituted in the twelfth century to perform active military service: I, Defence of the Weak; 2, relieve suffering; 3, protection of Christian civilisation against the barbarians, especially at the Crusades. As a matter of fact, while the Order of St. John of Jerusalem continues to work among the wounded and the sick, the Order of the Temple (or Christ) since defending Spain and Portugal against the Moors in the fourteenth and fifteenth Centuries has not had a definite work to perform. Therefore it seemed possible that we might revive its practical utility by creating a body of associates under the Council of Knights for the purpose of going among the poor and helping by personal service and sympathy.
With the active sympathy of the late Frederick Philbrick, Q.C., who was a member of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons, I called a meeting of the English Knights of Christ at Mr. Philbrick's chambers in the Temple. No more appropriate place could be imagined than in the Temple, the old Seat of the Templars. This took place on the 21st December, 1892, under the chairmanship of Sir Philip Cunliffe Owen, and this was the first meeting of Templar Knights there since the suppression of the Order in England in the fourteenth century. The resolution which I put forward to enrol "associates or servant brothers" to carry out active philanthropic work was carried unanimously. At the same time I made direct application to the King of Portugal, the Grand Master of the Order, to allow the British Knights to form such a body, and received in reply

82                  AGIN THE GOVERNMENTS

this permission in these words : "I am desired by His Excellency the Portuguese Minister to inform you that His Most Faithful Majesty has been pleased to give his kind approval to the formation of the Association referred to in your letter." Among the English Knights were many of high distinction-Sir Philip Cunliffe Owen, the Duke of Norfolk, Sir Walter de Souza, Arthur Diosy, Sir Albert Rollit, and Sir Arthur Trendall. We carried on this work for a year or more-but unfortunately, in 1895, I was forced to go abroad owing to my wife's ill-health, and while away I am afraid it fell through. But all the machinery for the revival of this active Chivalry is there, and I should very much like to recommence it.
It should be interesting for Britons to know that to this Order of Christ and Temple is largely due the discovery of the Cape and India by the followers of Vasco di Gama. When the latter great sailor had arranged for his expedition to round the Cape, it was discovered that the only thing which he missed was adequate capital. He then applied to Prince Henry the Navigator, who was at that time Grand Master of the Order, to obtain a loan from them, then by far the richest corporation in the country. This was done on certain conditions-which, from the point of view of the Knights, were these: 1, That the expedition (two ships) should fly the red cross of the order; 2, That twenty per cent of the anticipated wealth of South Africa and of the Indies should be set aside in repayment for the sum advanced. Vasco da Gama and his merry men arrived at Delagoa Bay, having rounded the Cape, on Christmas day, 14 . . . hence the name of Natal-hoisted the flag there of the Order, and then proceeded across the Indian Ocean to the Western Coast of India. I regret to say that up to now I have never received the proportion of the twenty per cent of the wealth of South Africa and India which is due to me as a Commander of the Order! The men who helped me most in this adventure of reviving Chivalry as a practical scheme, were Arthur Diosy, Sir Arthur Trendall, and Sir Philip Cuncliffe Owen. Arthur Diosy, whose energy was dynamic, was the son of Martin Diosy, the Hungarian patriot, who came to England


with Kossuth.

Created 18th February 1998
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