Hereditary Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem 1914.

Source: Journal of the Central Asian Society Vol. I, 1914 Part II, pp 35, 36:
British Library Shelfmark: Ac.8820.C

Copy in:
Archives of the British Association, Russian Grand Priory of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

This page is copyright ©

Publication: Journal of the Central Asian Society Vol. I, 1914 Part II, pp 35, 36.

Published by: The Central Asian Society, 22 Albemarle St, W

British Library Shelfmark: Ac.8820.C

Author of the article: Lt Col. Arthur C. Yate FRGD., FRHist.Soc, Beckbury Hall, Shifnal, Shropshire.

Journal of the Central Asian Society Vol. I, 1914 Part II



To Part I. of the Journal for 1914 of the CENTRAL ASIAN SOCIETY I contributed a short note, giving a brief summary of the close ties which, from a historical point of view, entitled Rhodes to the strongest sentiments of sympathy and interest on the part of the Christian nations of Europe. I pointed out the magnificent part which the old Order of the Knights Hospitallers had played in the retention of this island in the face of Islam from A.D. 1310 to 1523. I then

Journal of the Central Asian Society Vol. I, 1914 Part II


drew attention to the fact that there existed to-day in Europe three branches of this great Order-the Roman, with its "Cheflieu" at Rome ; the "Johanniter" at Berlin; and the Grand Priory of England at Clerkenwell. I pointed out that there was no unity between these branches, no sign of initiative on the part of any one of them, and that, while their great social influence might enable them to appeal to the courts, aristocracies, and Governments of almost all the Christian nations in Europe, not a thing was being done, not a move made. A sentimental interest was affected in an old Hospitaller castle in Cyprus-whose Lusiguan Kings bullied the Knights - but for Rhodes not a hand was moved.

Although I got little encouragement and scarcely even succeeded in rousing a feeble interest, I however, with the kind assistance of one or two friends whose sympathies were not lukewarm, pursued my aim until I was able to ascertain, on the authority of the Foreign Office, that it had been decided by the Six Great Powers-"Les Six Grandes Impuissances," as some diplomatic wag has christened them-that Rhodes was to go back to Turkey. Italy holds it at present, and Italy will not part with it till she gets all she wants in return. So there is still hope. When the Six "Grandes Impuissances" cannot agree, an international agent, like the Hospitallers, may step in.

I forgot to add above that the great affection for and interest in the Order displayed by Paul the First of Russia one hundred and fifteen years ago, is by no means dead. There exist in Russia to-day "Hereditary" Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. These men are undoubtedly adherents of the Eastern or Greek Church. No such thing as a "Hereditary" Knight of the Order of St. John is known elsewhere. Russia, without the authority of the Order, invented it. We presume that these "Hereditary" Knights hold the hand of St. John the Baptist, the most treasured relic of the Order, presented to the Grand Master about 1485 by the then Sultan of Turkey and shamelessly despoiled by Napoleon in 1798. The Knights took the relic, shorn of its jewelled casket, to Russia, and there it still is, if report be true. And yet not all the sympathy and sentiment which unites Catholic, Protestant, and Greek Churches to the hallowed memory of Rhodes in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries, can move Christendom to emancipate Rhodes!


Bold and Italics added for emphasis.


Those who seek to dismiss the survival of a Russian johannine tradition, employ various tactics;

(a) that Ukases (Decrees or Senate rulings) of 1810, 1811, and 1817 abolished the Order.
Whereas in fact the first two note that the Order is to continue. The third disallows a Russian Army Officer from wearing the decoration awarded by the Roman Catholic Order of Malta, no longer represented in Russia.
There are scores of Portraits of members of the Russian Grand Priory wearing their medals past 1817! (See Mikhailovitch, Grand Duke Nicolas, Portraits Russes, St. Petersburg; Tome I, Fascicle 1, Fascicle 2, Fascicle 3, Fascicle 4, 1905, Tome II, Fascicle 1, Fascicle 2, Fascicle 3, Fascicle 4, 1906, Tome III, Fascicle 1, Fascicle 2, Fascicle 3, Fascicle 4, 1907, Tome IV Fascicle 1, Fascicle 2, Fascicle 3, Fascicle 4, 1908, Tome V Fascicle 1, Fascicle 2, Fascicle 3, Fascicle 4, 1909).
(b) With the failure of the above, the ground shifts to arguing that even if the Priories were not suppressed, they were left to die out.
With the Court Almanacs still listing knights, not only throughout the 1800s, but right up to 1914, and a member being given permission to wear their decoration in 1912 (remember it was the refusal to allow a Knight to wear his medal that allowed SMOM to proclaim the Order suppressed in Russia - To quoque!).
(c) There are no hereditary knights. This is a mis-reading of the jus patronatus Commanderies.
Whereas in fact the Ukase of 1799 governing the Family Commanderies makes the matter clear, that those who qualify to succeed to the Commandery have hereditary rights. In addition official Court Documents and Official records employ the term "Hereditary Commander". Now in addition to the Russian records, is a witness in Yate's account to the facts published outside of Russia.

In the late 1800s, as he was then, Captain Arthur Yate had visited Russia, with a special interest in the border with Afghanistan. He was employed in intelligence gathering. The Report, he made in 1891, during his intelligence gathering has been kept by the United Kingdom War Office. The Booklet sets out the arguments in favour of building a railway to Seistan, rather than Kandahar, to allow the defence of Herat against Russia; "The Transcaspian Railway and the Power of the Russians to Occupy Herat Captain AC Yates 1891-04-29 PRO WO 106 178"

Arthur Yate was an acquaintance of Rudyard Kipling, and the younger brother of Colonel C E Yate MP. He wrote memoirs on his travel in Russia for the Scottish Geographical Magazine, entitled Travel Memoirs, 1916-1920, and Baku and the Caspian, 1920.

His note on the 'Hereditary Knights' of St John of Jerusalem, demonstrates how the Russian tradition was alive and well in Russia in 1914.

There are a number of articles in Encyclopædias and other books, which mention the existence of the Order in Russia, contemporary with the time of publication, published in the period 1820s-early 1900s.

Some people may argue that those of the beginning years simply lag behind in details, and that plagiarism thereafter can account for the rest.

Plagiarism is certainly true for three books;
(a) Burke's book of 1858 (details cribbed from Loumyer 1844 - pushing the same information some 14 years later), although Burke's book contains some data not found in Loumyer, and dated to 1831.
(b) Chambers' Encyclopædia which has exactly the same details as Alzog's book, and whilst the English version of Alzog is later than Chambers, Chambers may have gained the details from a much earlier edition of the German original of Alzog's "Handbuch der Universal-Kirchengeschichte" first published in Mainz, 1841. The translation of Alzog's work into English was from the 9th Edition of 1872.
(c) Francis Lieber, and his Encyclopædia Americana (1832) also relied upon the German publication; "Conversation-Lexicon" 7th edition (1827-1829), by F.A. Brockhaus, published in Leipzig.
None of these examples of plagiarism mean that the original work is unreliable. Of significance with Professor Johannes Alzog's work, is that he was a Roman Catholic Priest and a respected academic and historian.

Such as the book by Karnovich, is a Russian book (it states of the Order in Russia; "Because the Paris treaty confirmed the possession of the island of Malta to England, what remained of the Order were the Priories of Bohemia and Russia, and a quite existence") and it is unlikely that the author cribbed from books in English.

What is certain, of all the books listed in the second list below (post 1810 books), is that they all mention the Order as existing in Russia. However absent is any detail concerning 'hereditary knights' from these accounts. Loumyer, who provides the most detail, mentions the Family Commanderies as "fondations privées" "private foundations". The St Petersburg Court Almanac of 1914, provides one Knight (Paul Demidoff - the main founding member of the Russian Grand Priory in Exile) as a 'Hereditary Commander', as a single entry - so it is doubtful that this was the source for Yate's claim, which states that there are 'Hereditary Knights' in the plural!

The publication in which this claim for Russian hereditary knights appears (Journal of the Central Asian Society) is the most unlikely source for such a claim. This fact plus the fact that it was published some 40 years before Pichel came on the scene, means the claim pre-dates any controversy, thus providing an independent witness to the Russian Tradition which had survived into the 20th Century, a platform for its further continuation.

Yate's witness to a surviving Russian tradition, provides credibility to the other accounts of the survival of the tradition in Russia. The bibliographical details of these works are provided in list 2. below.

Essential Bibliography. All the books pre-date any modern controversy on the Russian Tradition.

1. History of the Order under Paul I.
• Boisgelin, Louis de. Ancient and Modern Malta, and the History of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, 3 Volumes. G & J Robinson, London 1804.
• Hardman, William, of Valetta, A history of Malta during the period of the French and British occupations, 1798-1815, by the late William Hardman. Ed. with an introduction and notes by J. Holland Rose. Longmans, Green, and co., London, New York, 1909.
• Montor, Chevalier Alexis Francois Artaud de. The Lives and Times of the Roman Pontiffs. Translated from the French by Reverend Dr Neligan. D & J Sadier & Co. 31 Barclay Street, New York, 1867
• O'Hara, Valentine. Anthony O'Hara, Knight of Malta, Memoir of a Russian Diehard, Richards, London 1938.
• Paget, Right Hon. Sir Augustus B. Paget, G.C.B. The Paget Papers, Diplomatic and other Correspondence of the Right Hon Sir A. Paget. G.C.B., 1794-1807, 2 Vols. Longmans, Green and Co. New York 1896.
• Pierling SJ, Paulo Père. La Russia et Le Saint-Siège, etudes diplomatiques. Libraire-Plon, Plon-Nourrit et Cie., Imprimeurs-Éditeurs. 8 Rue Grarancière - 6e., Paris. 1912.
• Ryan, Frederick W. The House of the Temple, A Study of Malta and its Knights in the French Revolution. Burns, Oates and Washbourne Limited, London, 1930.
• Sutherland, Alexander. The Achievements of the Knights of Malta. Constable and Co, Edinburgh, and Hurst, Chance and Co. London. Two Volumes 1830.
• Taube, Professor Baron Michel de. Le Tsar Paul Ier et l'Ordre de Malta en Russie, Revue d'Histoire Moderne, Paris May-June 1930.
• Torr, Cecil. Rhodes in Modern Times, including a Prologue by Kollias, Dr Elias E, and new material by Brisch, Gerald. 3rd Guides, Archaeopress, Oxford, 2003 (reprint from 1887).
• Torr, Cecil. Small Talk at Wreyland, Second Series, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1921.

2. Mentions of an existing Russian Order in the period 1812-1918.
• Alzog, The Reverend Dr Johannes Baptist. Translated by The Reverend Dr F.J. Pabisch and the Reverend Thomas S. Byrne, Manual of Universal Church History, R. Clarke & Co. Cincinnati Ohio, 1874 Volume II.
• Bomberger, John Henry Augustus and Herzog, Johann Jakob, John, St., Knights of, in The Protestant Theological and Ecclesiastical Encyclopedia, Volume II, Lindsay and Blakiston, Philadelphia  1860, page 758.
• Brière, L. de la. a Knight of Malta, writing in L'Ordre de Malte, le Passé, le Présent, Paris, 1897
• Burke, Sir Bernard (ed). The Book of Orders of Knighthood and Decorations of Honour of all Nations. Hurst and Blackett, London 1858.
• Chambers's Encyclopædia, W. and R Chambers, London 1863, Vol V. Page 729.
• Hume, Edgar Erskine, A Proposed Alliance Between the Order of Malta and the United States, 1794: Suggestions made to James Monroe as American Minister in Paris, in William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine, 2nd Series, Vol 16, No 2, April 1936, pages 222-333, William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA.
• Karnovich, Eugeme, Knights of Malta in Russia, St Petersburg, 1880.
• Leiber, Francis (Editor) Encyclopædia Americana, Carey and Lea, Philadelphia, 1832. Volume XI.
• Loumyer, Jean Francis Nicholas, Histoire, Costumes et Decorations de tous les Ordres de Chevalerie et Marques d'Honneur, Brussels Auguste Wahlen 1844.
• Magney C de, Recueil Historique des Ordres de Chevalerie, Paris 1843
• Maigne, W. Dictionnaire Encyclopédique des Ordres de Chevalerie, Paris 1861
• Romanoff, Grand Duke Nicolas Mikhailovitch, Portraits Russes, St. Petersburg; Tome I, Fascicle 1, Fascicle 2, Fascicle 3, Fascicle 4, 1905, Tome II, Fascicle 1, Fascicle 2, Fascicle 3, Fascicle 4, 1906, Tome III, Fascicle 1, Fascicle 2, Fascicle 3, Fascicle 4, 1907, Tome IV Fascicle 1, Fascicle 2, Fascicle 3, Fascicle 4, 1908, Tome V Fascicle 1, Fascicle 2, Fascicle 3, Fascicle 4, 1909.
• Perrot, Aristide-Michel. Collection Historique des Ordres de Chevaleric Civils et Militaires. Chez Aime André. Libraire-Éditeur, Quai des Augustins, N. 59. Paris. 1820.
• Yate, Arthur C, The Future of Rhodes, article in the Journal of the Central Asian Society Vol. I, 1914 Part II, The Central Asian Society, London 1914.

Corrected 17th September 2006

Go back to the referring Web Site
Russian Grand Priory Research Page
Russian Grand Priory Home Page
History Menu