The end of an era

Following the Lateran Treaty, the Vatican was forced to distance itself from the Count of Caserta, who refused to renounce his historic claim to the Neapolitan Crown. Don Alfonso's heir, Ferdinand Pius, Duke of Calabria, had no surviving male issue, so the question of the future succession of the Grand Magistery was a further problem for the Count of Caserta. The next in line by birth was the Infante and Prince don D. Carlo who had been accorded this title on marrying the elder sister of King Alfonso XIII.

Prince Carlo of Bourbon
Two Sicilies, Infante of Spain

Carlo's eldest son was also an Infante and, before Prince Don Carlo had married, he had undertaken to renounce the eventual succession to the Crown of the Two Sicilies to prevent the union of the Two Sicilies claim with the Crown of Spain, in fulfillment of the Pragmatic Decree of 1759 which forbade the unification of the Two Sicilies and Spanish Crowns (the Act of Cannes of 14 December 1900). This never happened as his brother-in-law, Alfonso XIII, left descendants. With the birth of Alfonso XIII's son and heir in 1907 (and later three further sons) the possibility of Infante Don Alfonso, Don Carlo's son, becoming King became more remote. Thus the requirements of the Act of Cannes were never effected.

The line of Prince Carlo continued to be included in the Almanach de Gotha and the Libro d'Oro della Nobilta Italiana under the Two Sicilies, and the Infante Don Carlo was indicated as eventual heir to the Headship of the Dynasty [Note 7.1] In 1911 a knight of the Order and noted historian, Pierre Pidoux de la Maduere, had written in an article published in the Rivista Araldica that "even if he renounced his rights to this kingdom, H.R.H. the Count of Caserta would remain and must remain Grand Master of the Constantinian Order" and this applied as much to Prince don Carlo as to his father, the Count of Caserta.

The Constantinian Order was a separate institution, with its own succession laws, in any case, and no mention had been made thereof in the Act of Cannes of 1900. Recently discovered correspondence indicates that the Count of Caserta apparently wished the Infante don Carlo to inherit the Grand Magistery after his elder brother, not only because he was the primogeniture heir but also because he believed the Catholicity of the Order could be better guaranteed with the protection of the King of Spain. The Infante agreed with his father and brother that the succession should eventually pass to his own descendants but, because of his own obligations and assuming he would survive his elder brother, suggested that after the death of the Duke of Calabria, it should be held, pro tempore, by Prince don Ranieri, and then revert to his own descendants. The 1931 Spanish elections which led to King Alfonso XIII leaving for permanent exile removed the King as a potential guarantee of the Order's Catholicity, although the Infante don Carlo retained some of his public responsibilities until 1934. [Note 7.2]

The Count of Caserta

The Count of Caserta then confirmed on December 29, 1931, that he would be succeeded by his eldest son, the Duke of Calabria and directed the Deputation to prepare new Statutes to govern the Order in the new post-Lateran Treaty circumstances. He died in May 1934, two months after his ninety-third birthday and sixty-four years after the collapse of the Two Sicilies Monarchy; obituaries noted with astonishment that he had served in the army of his brother, fighting for the independence of his country. With the death of his widow four years later the last link with the ancien régime disappeared. The obituary of the Count of Caserta in the Osservatore Romano, written by the Secretary of the Order's Deputation, Marchese De Felice, touched on the future succession, stating that the Infante don Carlo's son was the eventual heir to the Grand Magistery, apparently confirming the contents of the correspondence between the two brothers and their father.

His successor as Head of the Two Sicilies Royal House was his eldest son Ferdinand-Pius, Duke of Calabria, who had been baptized at the Vatican in 1869 by Pope Pius IX and had served with distinction in the Spanish-American War. Ferdinand had been actively involved with the Constantinian Order since leading a delegation of the Order at the dedication of the Labarum in 1913 and two months after his father's death promulgated the new Statutes that his father had ordered prepared. These statutes still provided for the possibility of the Holy See nominating a Cardinal Protector, but no such appointment has been made subsequently. [Note 7.3] Chapter Five, article One explicitly required that the succession must pass by male primogeniture in "the House of Bourbon", [Note 7.4] not mentioning the Two Sicilies Dynasty. [Note 7.5] Although there have been some modest reforms of the grades, opening up all ranks except that of Bailiff to ladies, for example, these statutes have remained the primary governing instrument of the Order to this day.

Ferdinand Pius, Duke of Calabria

Ferdinand-Pius, Duke of Calabria, initiated an unofficial rapprochement with the Savoy Dynasty when, in 1938, he traveled to Naples on an Italian diplomatic passport (as "S.A.R. Don Ferdinando, Duca di Calabria, Principe di Borbone-Sicilia"), calling on King Victor-Emmanuel III at the Villa Savoia. Following the fall of the Italian Monarchy he received the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation from King Umberto II and later conferred on the King the Collar of the Constantinian Order. The Order was very active in the late thirties but admissions declined with the advent of the Second World War. [Note 7.6] The number of clerics admitted also fell, although relations with the Vatican remained friendly thanks to Pius XII's affection for the Order. The Grand Priors continued to receive a papal placet on their appointment, Grand Prior di Sangro being succeeded by H.R.H. the Rev Monsignor Prince George of Bavaria (who died in 1943) and in 1959 by the long-time Vice-Grand Prior Monsignor Giuseppe Cattaneo della Volta (who died in 1961).

 

NOTES

7.1. The details of the dispute to the Headship of the Royal House of the Two Sicilies are given elsewhere. This dispute has been improperly brought into that over the succession to the Constantinian Grand Magistery.

7.2. At the time of the Count of Caserta's death surviving correspondence demonstrates that the Duke of Calabria regarded the Infante don Carlo's line as eventual inheritors of the Grand Magistery.

7.3. None of the Religious Orders have Protectors, the Order of Malta, for example, having a Cardinal Patron.

7.4. This includes all the descendants of Philip V of Spain by Isabel Farnese, the dynasties of Spain, the Two Sicilies and Parma.

7.5. "The dignity of Grand Master, reserved to the House of Bourbon, as heirs of the House of Farnese, is transmitted by male primogeniture succession; failing heirs, the same succession can be designated by testamentary disposition; if lacking this, all the Bailiffs, Knights of the Grand Cross of Justice, by virtue of the ancient traditions and according to the spirit of the Farnese Statutes, approved by the Holy See, can meet to elect from among themselves the new Grand Master". The 1908 and 1922 Statutes had both mentioned the Two Sicilies without tying the Grand Magistery to the Headship of the Royal House. The deliberate omission by Ferdinand Pius of any mention of the Two Sicilies in these Statutes supports the view that the Grand Magistery was not tied to the succession to the Headship of the Royal House.

7.6. Less than forty new admission were made between the outbreak of war and 1945.

 

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