Disputes with Parma

In another of several altercations concerning the succession following the resignation of the Grand Magistery by King Charles, some Parmesan knights claimed that the Grand Magistery of the Order was attached to the Parmesan Crown. Duke Philip of Parma had himself decreed on August 10, 1749 that, concerning the status of the Constantinian Order, "the dignity of Grand Master .. .. is invested in the person of His Majesty of the Two Sicilies". He affirmed this position on March 2, 1751, stating that "nothing should threaten the privileges of the Sacred Constantinian Religion of Saint George, of which His Majesty of the Two Sicilies is Grand Master". [Note 5.1] Although there may have been some justification for the Parmesans dissatisfaction following the abolition of the Constantinian Magisterial Council in Parma on June 17, 1780 and the transfer of the Order's administration, Duke Philip continued to recognize his nephew in Naples as Grand Master.

The Empress Marie-Louise claimed the Grand Magistery in 1815, as Sovereign of Parma by virtue of being a Farnese heiress. But she only descended from the Farnese through her grandfather, Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies, who was still living and actively maintained his own position as Constantinian Grand Master. Nonetheless, she immediately found support among the nobility of her new Duchies who, since the seizure of the commanderies of the Order in Parma in 1797, had been unable to join the Neapolitan Order. The new institution which she founded was an Order of civil and military merit, disguised as a noble Order of Chivalry. Using the Steccata Church, the same grades and titles and similar decorations, this award gave the nobility of the Duchy prestige without obligations, as it was not a religious confraternity but a state award. The new Parmesan Order was abolished by a decree of the Provisional Government in 1859 but continued to be awarded by the Bourbon Dukes of Parma until 1907. Following the death of the last reigning Duke in 1907, no further awards of the Parmesan Order were made until the present Duke, Carlo Ugo, revived the award of the Order and appointed a council to administer its affairs; annual investitures are held in Parma." [Note 5.2]

Ferdinand IV & III (later I) of the Two Sicilies

Ferdinand IV and III [Note 5.3] ensured that the dignities of King and Grand Master were maintained independently. In a formal declaration of 8 March 1796 he established that "In his (the King's) royal person there exists together two very distinct qualities, the one of Monarch of the Two Sicilies, and the other of Grand Master of the illustrious, royal and military Constantinian order, which though united gloriously in the same person form nonetheless at the same time two separate independent Lordships". [Note 5.4] The king maintained the ancient style in the bulls, decrees and diplomas concerning the Order, which described him as Sacri Equestris Ordinis et inclitae militaris Religionis Constantinianae Sancti Georgii, sub divi Basili regula, Magnus Magister - a similar form has been maintained in the modern "bulls" of admission, the present Grand Master being described as Carolus Borbonius Calabriae Dux, Dei gratia et jure hereditario Equestris Ordinis et Inclytae Militaris Religionis Constantinianae Sancti Georgii Sub Divi Basilii Regula, Magnus Magister.

A leading historian of the Order, Ernesto Ardizzoni, then President of the Tribunal of Naples, wrote in 1924 that "before 1860 the Kings, Grand Masters of the Order, did not fail on every occasion to affirm their wish to maintain the dignity of Constantinian Grand Master distinct from those prerogatives which derive from the exercise of the Crown, and to hold the Order separate from state institutions ..... before 1860 the Grand Masters of the Order were Reigning Princes purely through historical coincidence, however, and not through juridical necessity". [Note 5.5]

The King of the Two Sicilies was temporarily dispossessed of his Neapolitan Crown between 1806 and 1815, but the Constantinian Order continued to survive and its privileges were confirmed by Papal Bull of 20 November 1807 (Exponi Nobis super fecisti) and an Apostolic Brief of 27 December 1814. The rights of the knights to enjoy ecclesiastical benefices were confirmed in Apostolic Briefs of December 10, 1829 and November 25, 1839 and, even after the deposition of King Francis II, Pius IX confirmed the concession of two commanderies to his brothers the Counts of Caserta and Trani.

Star of a Bailiff, Grand Cross and Knight of Justice

The Constantinian Order had always been an international Order, although Italian based. Duke Francesco Farnese admitted an Irish Jacobite, Benedict Hervey, in 1728, among several other foreign noblemen. The first non-Italian member of the Deputation was also of Irish extraction, one Balthasar Sherlock, a Lieutenant-General in the Neapolitan Army who was admitted in 1762 and promoted Bailiff and Councilor of the Deputation in 1785. Ferdinand I admitted members of the Russian Orthodox faith (including the Czar Alexander I) for the first time, and several Protestants. Among the latter were a small number of British officers, including Captain William D'Arley, who had commanded the British naval vessel which had taken the King to safety in Palermo, admitted as a knight of Grace, in 1801, [Note 5.6] and a certain John Prichard, who was serving as a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Neapolitan Army, admitted as a knight of Grace in 1798. Ferdinand also admitted a number of Frenchmen, who in the latter part of his reign made up ten per cent of the knights of Justice and Grace, including three Bailiffs, the Baron de Damas, future Minister of Louis XVIII in 1810, Jacques Rozel de Folmont in 1817, and the Count de Mesnard, Ecuyer of the Duchess of Berry, in 1824.

Badge of a Bailiff, Grand Cross and Knight of Justice

At his death in 1825 he was succeeded as King and Grand Master by his eldest son, Francis I, Grand Master from 1825 until 1830. The latter was followed by his son, Ferdinand II who increased the overall membership of the Order, admitting many more non-Italians including Spanish, French, German, Austrian and one knight of American ancestry. Ferdinand had sheltered Pope Pius IX at Gaeta in 1848-49, and on July 17, 1851 received confirmation of his privileges as Grand Master in an Apostolic Brief (Maxima et Praeclarissima), confirming the concession of the commanderies of Monticchio and Acqualetta on Prince Giuseppe of the Two Sicilies, Count of Lucera (who died the following September at the age of three).

NOTES

5.1. See Sainty, op.cit., p.35, notes 37 & 38.

5.2 Duke Roberto II of Parma, like the present Duke grandson of the last reigning Duke, accepted the Collar of the Constantinian Order from Infante D. Alfonso, Duke of Calabria, in 1960.

5.3. From 1815 Ferdinand I, King of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

5.4. See Sainty, op.cit., p.40 and note 50. This declaration is of considerable significance as it indicates that the Grand Magistery was not permanently united with the Crown and could not be encompassed by acts purely concerned with the succession to the Crown.

5.5. Senatore Ruffino e l'Ordine Costantiniano, by Ernesto Ardizzoni, Naples, 1924. See Sainty, op.cit., p.41, and note 51.

5.6. He was authorized by British Royal License to use the title of "Sir" by virtue of this honor.

 

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