Den Danske Malteserorden – The Danish Order of Malta

Article by The Reverend Dr Michael Foster MIWO. SSC.  © 2000

Only scant information survives about the origins of the Den Danske Malteserorden. The founder was Colonel Paul Mikhailovitch Bermondt, a White Russian adventurer who sought under the German/Polish General Rüdiger von der Goltz to create a German controlled Latvia and to restore a Russia Czar in the Baltic Provinces, in 1919. Defeated he fled to Denmark. He adopted his maternal uncle’s name and rank, to become Prince, or Count, Colonel Paul Mikhailovitch Avaloff #1.
In Denmark circa 1920, Bermondt set up the "Sovereign Imperial Russian Chivalric Order of Malta" (Souveraner kaiserliche-russischer Malteser-ritter-orden).

It is alleged that Bermondt acquired the patronage of King Alexander of Yugoslavia #2. By name, Bermondt's Order lay claim in part to the Russian tradition. However, neither Bermondt, nor his maternal uncle (Avaloff), were Hereditary Commanders of, or had been previously connected to, the Russian Grand Priory #3. Bermondt’s creation was simply of analogous nature. Also there is no evidence of contact between Bermondt’s group in 1928 or afterwards, with the Russian Grand Priory following the resumption of its activities in exile in Paris. Sometime in the mid 1930s, Bermondt had sought to gain the support of Grand Duke Cyril, but this was refused #4. There is no evidence that thereafter any support or patronage was given by members of the Romanov family to Bermondt’s Order. At some stage in the inter-war period, Bermondt and his Order, moved to Germany, where it was suppressed by the Nazis #5.

In 1950 a refutation to the claims of Bermondt's Order was given jointly by the successor to the Russian Throne, and by a legal expert in Russian Law. Grand Duke Andrew and Baron Michel de Tauble repudiated any claim of the Bermondt Order via the patronage of King Alexander of Yugoslavia to be a "so-called" restoration of the Russian Grand Priory as being "null and void in the legal context" #6.

On the 31 August 1934, in Copenhagen a private non-political Christian organisation was created called the "Sovereign Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem of Denmark". For a brief period the "Grand Chancellor" of this group was H.R.H. Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark. From this venture, on the 24th June 1946, one of the members - Mr. Grundall Sjallung founded the Grand Priory of the Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem in Denmark. In 1976, the membership of this group was eventually reconciled with the original group founded in 1934.

In 1948 a Danish Architect - Charles P Christensen formed his own Order of St. John. In 1951 Christensen obtained a decree issued in Leipzig, Germany from "The Sovereign Russian Imperial Order of Knights of Malta", which was signed by Max Schiffel von Frauenstein who had been a member of the Schismatic Order created in 1946. In that year the Grand Master of the Sovereign Russian Imperial Order of Knights of Malta was given as Prince Paul Avalov-Bermondt #7. Thus Christensen’s group inherited the mantle of the original group founded by Bermondt.

Den Danske MalteserordenThe Danish Order of Malta, the name by which the group is now known, in 1967 joined forces with Cassagnac’s French group (The Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem). After Christensen’s death in 1963 Carl Wilhelm Lehman became Prior until 1969, followed by Poul Hall Jensen to 1990, then Ove Petersen until 1994, Johan A. Johansen until 1996. The present Prior is David K Svarre. Claimed by the group, as the first Prior in 1934 was Poul von Reitzel, followed by Charles P Christensen in 1939.

 In the early 1950s a break-away group was formed by Jens Ole Rostock, alias ‘Count of Hermosa’, known as the "Sovereign Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in Denmark". The group today is known as Den Danske Johanniterorden. A further schism occurred in Den Danske Maltesorden in 1984, when about half the membership seceded and reconciled with the 1934 ‘Order’#8.

 With such a complex and interwoven history, both a Russian foundation of post 1917 (via the Bermondt foundation of 1920), and the 1934 foundation are taken as the origins of Den Danske Maltesorden. The Bulletin of the Russian Grand Priory of Malta (claiming the 1964 King Peter Constitution and independent since 1990), in such manner confuses the two foundations. It states that the group "is a descendant of the old Souverain Kaiserlischer Russicher Malteseorden, under Pavel Michallaiwitsch Awaloff, which was forbidden by the Nazis in Germany but was recreated in Denmark in 1934, where it has continued ever since as an autonomous Priory." #9. The Order’s own Web Site, argues for the twin foundation #10.

Youenn de Quelen, Prior of the French Priory (part of the Order established by Colonel Paul de Granier de Cassagnac in 1962) has written a discussion document for the formation of an Ecumenical Alliance of St. John Orders with the King Peter Order (Vancouver Headquarters). The document argues;

" Historicity of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem in Russia is well known until 1917, with extension in the Americas in 1908.
1 .4.1.6. Before 1798, Hereditary Knights had already been nominated. The development of the Hereditary Knights entitled by the Grand Master and Czar Paul I was, in very dark times, not to allow any Hereditary Knight to create in any time and anywhere a new Branch of the Order. It was to save the Order against risk of disappearing. So that if the Order disappears, the Hereditary Knights are in right to make it rise again. If the Order disappears only. From 1917, when the Order disappeared in Russia, two Branches went on separately : In Europe : in 1928, so with interruption of 11 years (1917-1928), was created the Association des Commandeurs Hereditaires in Paris. From there stems out the Count Awaloff Organisation in Denmark, with DDM (which becames [sic] in 1967 part of the Regular OSJ) and DDJ. In the U.S.A. the Grand Priory of America goes on its life, becoming the Regular OSJ since 1917. From there are stemming out also the Pichel's separated organizations (from 1962) and the SOSJKH, separated in 1964, following King Peter II of Yugoslavia."

Thus (according to Quelen’s thesis) the Order continued from Russia to the USA, in 1908, and then the American Organisation became the main organisation from 1917 onwards. There was no break. The main Order of St John is that of which de Cassagnac was Grand Master, and according to Quelen, from which the Pichel and King Peter’s organisations, owe their origins.
Quelen then argues that in Europe, - with a break of 11 years, the Russian Hereditary Commanders founded the Paris Group (1928-1917 = 11 years). According to Quelen’s thesis, the Hereditary Commanders can only create an Order, if the Order had ceased. But the Order did not – it continued in the USA (the Pichel myth), therefore the Paris Group is inferior.

Whilst the two Danish groups; Den Danske Maltesorden and Den Danske Johanniterorden might share this inferiority, the French Order’s (claiming to be ‘the regular OSJ’) Web Site, provides a status akin to themselves;

"The Order of Saint-John of Jerusalem – OSJ, who kept its name stands by the Ecumenical tradition structured in Russia early November 1798 (election of the Czar Paul I as Grand Master) and in the United-States after 1917:
This Branch is come back again in France since 1959.

N.B. OSJ is allied to two other Branches that are Scandinavian and also out of emigration of Russian Knights after 1917:
-Den Danske Malteserorden.
-Den Danske Johanniterorden."

The additional myth, to supplement that of Pichel’s – still held strongly by the French Order, is that the Danish Orders, are part of the Russian tradition, emerging either directly from the Russian Knights, or via the Paris initiative.

Much of Quelen’s thesis follows the classic Pichel arguments, which ignore any survival of the Order via the Roman Catholic, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and ignores the Russian Grand Priory’s acknowledgement of the Grand Majestry as held by SMOM 1809 onwards. Where Quelen and Pichel are wrong is that historically, and in reality, what survived out of Russia in exile, after 1917 was not the Order of St John of Jerusalem, but the Russian Grand Priory. The Russian Grand Priory via the Paris group only became a sub Order, much in the same fashion that the JohanniterOrden of Germany is a self-contained Order, but acknowledging the primacy of SMOM.

In September 1998 the Petit Conseil and other Bailiffs of 'The Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller' (led by Lieutenant Grand Master Robert G. Brodie #13) attended the Chapter General of the 'The Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem' (Cassagnac's group led by Grand Master Yves de Villepin) in Nantes France. Initial discussions were held regarding the possibilities of forming an alliance. Early 1999, the two groups held further discussions also involving two dependent groups of the Cassagnac Order 'Den Danske Malteserorden' and 'Den Danske Johanniterorden'. The proposal was to form the "Ecumenical Alliance of the Orders of Saint John" #14. Whilst the aims of creating an alliance were abandoned, on the 11th June 1991 at the Dacia convention in Copenhagen, a Concordat between the four Orders was agreed in principle. This was finalised and signed by the "Orders" on the 30th October 1999 in Copenhagen #15. By this time due to legal action by the Roman Catholic Order in France over the name and mark of the Order, the Cassagnac group had changed its title to 'The Regular Order of St John of the Holy Land'.

None of the "Orders" which were a party to the Concordat (French, Danish, and North American) had any connection with the Russian Grand Priory, or could historically trace their pedigree to the Russian Grand Priory, except via Pichel's myths, or via the Bermondt Order's claim. The Concordat is essentially a reconciliation of Pichel filiants.

#1 Formhals, Robert W. Y. White Cross : Story of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, with particular emphasis on the Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller since 1964 under Royal Charter of Peter II, King of Yugoslavia. Sanghals Publishers, Camarillo, California, USA, 1979, Chapter XV, page 187. The surname is also given as Avaloff-Bermondt, with an alternate spelling of Awaloff, Avalov, Awalov, etc.
#2 Smith, Harrison, & Storace, Joseph E. Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Second Edition, The Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Russian Grand Priory of Malta, Akker Print, Delft, The Netherlands 1977, page 80.
#3 Neither Bermondt, or Avaloff as surnames occur in the Annales Historiques De l’Ordre Souverain de St. Jean de Jerusalem, à Saint – Petersbourg 1799, de l’Imprimerie Impériale. This document lists the Commanders and Hereditary Commanders of the Russian Grand Priory, pages 268 – 288.
#4 Sainty, Guy Stair, The self-styled Orders of Saint John (Part I) Section 2B., accessed 21/04/98
#5 Bulletin of the Russian Grand Priory of Malta, Bulletin No. 104, Spring/Summer 98, page 12.
#6 Royal Library Copenhagen, Denmark. Priorate Dacia af St. Johannes af Jerusalems Orden Arkiv nr: 10266. Jvf. RA. Priv. ark. j. litra P nr. 1006-1. Archive 1-F (16).
#7 Algrant, James J, The Proliferation of Russian and Other ‘Orders’ of St John, section IV c).,
#8 Sainty, Guy Stair, The self-styled Orders of Saint John (Part I) Section 2B. accessed 21/04/98.
#9 Bulletin of the Russian Grand Priory of Malta, Bulletin No. 104, Spring/Summer 98, page 12.
#11 de Quelen, Youenn, "OSJ synthesis for the necessary conditions for mutual recognition of Orders stemming from the Tradition of the Russian Grand Priories of the former Order of the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John of Jerusalem." Version 00. n.d. (circa early 1999) Paris, page 7.
#12°15.htm viewed June 1999.
#13 In the late 1950s, a self-styled Order was founded by Charles Louis Thourot-Pichel. Pichel had been able to revive a defunct New Jersey Corporation of 1911 of a Black Association (part of the Irish Orange Lodges) of a masonic type "Order of Malta". The Corporation ceased to function in 1912. Pichel had gained the records of the defunct Corporation from its Archivist, a Dr Bullock, who died, with the records still in Pichel's care. Meetings of the Black Association Order of Malta had been held as early as 1908, in New York, prior to the New Jersey group's incorporation. Pichel then imitated the pedigree of the Russian Hereditary Commanders meeting in Paris in 1928, but gave his American revival in New York, of a Russian Hereditary Commanders group, twenty years seniority, dating the first meetings to 1908. This information about the mythical claims of Pichel was admitted by a close associate; Crolian Edelen de Burgh early 1980.
In 1962 Colonel Paul de Granier de Cassagnac became Grand Master of Pichel's "Sovereign Order of St John, Knights Hospitaller", but fell out with Pichel creating his own group. Cassagnac had the good fortune to gain the exiled Yugoslavian King Peter II, as the Protector. King Peter gave a Charter, to Cassagnac's group in 1963, followed by a Constitution in 1964. In 1965, King Peter left Cassagnac's group, to become Grand Master of his own Order, taking with him many of Cassagnac's followers. The King's group continued to claim via the Cassagnac/Pichel linage, a pedigree of being founded in 1908 by Russian Hereditary Commanders. Whilst the claims to be a continuation of the Russian Grand Priory were based on Pichel's myths, the King being a Monarch who had not abdicated, was able to provide a 'fons honorum' transforming a self-styled Order into a true Knightly fraternity.
A year after King Peter died (1970) his Order fragmented, with Robert Formals leading one faction, and Prince Serge Troubletzkoy leading another. King Peter's successor, Crown Prince Alexander repudiated the various groups claiming to be his father's Order, and so the connection with the official backing of the Head of the Yugoslavian Royal House came to an end, with the subsequent loss of their fons honorum. However such groups stuck to claims that they were operating under King Peter's Constitution, and therefore his fons honorum.
At first, Prince Andrej, King Peter's brother backed Formhals, but in 1977 he switched to become Grand Master of  the Grand Priory of Malta, which had begun operating independently from Troubletzkoy's group. With the schism healed in 1979, Prince Andrej became Grand Master of the Troubletzkoy Order. In 1987, a leader in Prince Andrej's group - Anthony Zammit separated to become Lieutenant Grand Master of his own Order. In 1990, just after the death of Prince Andrej, and the Order ruled by a Regency Council, the Grand Priory of Malta (claiming the title of "the Russian Grand Priory of Malta") separated claiming to be an Order on its own. In 1991, the Order ruled by the Regency Council gained a Royal Charter from the King of Belgium as an International Humanitarian Charity, with the administration HQ in Belgium. In 1994 the group elected a Canadian Lieutenant Grand Master Raymond J. Addington OBE. By 1998 disagreements between the North American members, and the Belgian Administration, caused a further schism, with the North American faction continuing under their newly elected Lieutenant Grand Master Robert Brodie, but no longer as part of the International Charity registered in Belgium, which represented the continuing OSJ of King Peter. It is this group, which was in discussion with the French group of Cassagnac.
#14 de Quelen, Youenn, "OSJ synthesis for the necessary conditions for mutual recognition of Orders stemming from the Tradition of the Russian Grand Priories of the former Order of the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John of Jerusalem." Version 00. n.d. (circa early 1999) Paris.
#15 "The Crusader", The Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller, Vancouver October 1999. Other details have been provided in an email from Walter Pincket to the Author. 90614Fos.ex.eml Mon, 14 June 1999.

Amended 22nd April 2001
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