I have written before about the Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem several times and my personal opinion on their status is on public display right here on this blog. Since writing that original article I have been contacted over the years by many individuals that are members of the various factions of the group. Some have been unchivalrous but most have been very kind in their communications. All, however, tried to prove that the particular Lazarite faction they belong to is legitimate and some even tried to recruit me!
In any case, I have decided to put together a quick reference guide in response to some of the most common arguments presented by the Lazarite supporters.
The fundamental requirement for any chivalric order is to have a fount of honor (fons honorum) backing it up. The requirement exists because the chivalric order is a conferral of a distinct kind of honor that elevates the recipient. Such an honor can be granted solely by one that has the capacity to do so, in other words a source for the honors. In practical terms, this means that founts of honor are:
- Regnant Monarchs of Sovereign States. Examples are the King of Spain, the King of the Belgians, etc.
- The Head of State of a Republic of a Sovereign State. Examples are the President of the USA, the President of the Hellenic Republic, etc.
- Heads of formerly regnant Sovereign Houses. Examples are the Royal House of Portugal, the Imperial House of Russia, etc.
- The 5 Ancient Apostolic Sees of the Christian Church:
- Holy See of Rome, in the person of the Pope. Note: The sovereignty of the person of the Pope is through the recognition of the sovereignty of the Holy See and not that of the Vatican City State
- Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, in the person of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Note: beyond the Apostolic See, he is also co-sovereign of the State of Mt. Athos
- Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, in the person of its Patriarch
- Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, in the person of its Patriarch
- Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, in the person of the Pope & Patriarch of Alexandria
- Note: Though not widely known in the Roman Catholic and Protestant West, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchates are considered sovereign in their own right, particularly the Ecumenical Patriarchate, based on the same principles as those of the Holy See only in a different geographical area.
There is also the unique case of an Order being in itself sovereign: The Sovereign Military Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Rhodes, and Malta. They are today known simply as the Order of Malta or SMOM.
So, let’s examine the Order of St. Lazarus today and their main factions starting with the “Paris-Malta Obedience”, generally referred to as the “Spanish Branch”.
The “Spanish Branch” is currently headed up by its Grand Master Don Carlos Gereda y de Borbón, de jure uxoris Marquis de Almazán. However, he is not a fount of honor and cannot confer honors. Now, if the Order of St. Lazarus were placed under the Spanish Crown, it would become a Spanish Royal Order and effectively a new creation.
I should also note that Francisco de Borbón y de La Torre, de jure uxoris Duke of Seville, under whose Grand Magistry the Order of St. Lazarus was allegedly reconstituted in 1930 (after deciding in 1910 that they are to be governed by its knights without the need of a temporal protector), was also not a fount of honor.
The other main faction is known as the “Orléans Obedience“, under the Royal House of France (Orléans). This one would be considered as a legitimate and valid chivalric order since the Royal House of France is indeed a fount of honor. One can even argue that it would be a sort of revival of the ancient Order that was merged with the Order of Mt. Carmel by the French Crown in the 17th century. However, in a statement made by Henri, Count of Paris & Duke of France, on January 31, 2014 in his capacity as Head of Royal House of France (Orléans) the temporal protection of any group named as “Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem” has been rescinded since Easter 2012. I am including an image of the declaration from the website.
This means that today, there is absolutely no group with the Lazarite name that has any sort of fons honorum to back it up.
Recognition by the Spanish Crown or any other State
This has been brought up so many times that it never ceases to amaze me how some people just don’t understand what they’re saying. Having a registered legal entity in any jurisdiction does not mean State recognition. It simply means that the proper paperwork was filed and the fees paid to set up a corporation (for-profit or non-profit). Nothing more and nothing less.
Then there are the examples brought forward of certain States, for example the Republic of Hungary, thanking or in some other way acknowledging the Order for something. This is interpreted as recognizing the Order as being a valid Chivalric Order. It’s not. This is the same sort of acknowledgement given to such organizations as the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, etc. and using the name the group uses for itself. It does not mean anything else.
However, let’s hypothetically accept that the group is recognized by a sovereign State. What exactly is being recognized? Is the Order of St. Lazarus claiming to be a sovereign entity in its own right like the Order of Malta? Is the Order of St. Lazarus being recognized as an Order of the sovereign State doing the recognition? What exactly is being recognized other than there exists a group that calls itself “Order of St. Lazarus”?
Finally, many insist that by having Carlos Gereda y de Borbón, de jure uxoris Marquis de Almazán, as the Grand Master of the Paris-Malta Obedience it means that the Royal House of Spain approves the Order. This is a preposterous claim! Carlos Gereda y de Borbón is the 6th cousin once removed on his mother’s side of HM King Felipe VI of Spain, not exactly a close relative.
Protection by the Melkite Patriarch
The Melkite Patriarch has repeatedly confirmed his protection of the Order of St. Lazarus and its various factions. Nobody can dispute this fact. However, this does not make the order anything more than an ecclesiastical honor for the simple reason that the Melkite Patriarch is not a fount of honor and is subordinate to the Roman Pontiff. The Melkite Patriarch has asserted that he is “equal” to the Bishop of Rome but, it is patently clear that is not the case:
- The Melkite Patriarch has accepted Roman Supremacy and being fully subordinate to the Holy See of Rome
- Pope Gregory XVI granted Patriarch Maximos III Mazloum the titles of “Patriarch of Alexandria and Jerusalem” in 1838, an action no typically done to one’s equal.
- In around 1891/2, during Melkite Patriarch Gregory II Youssef’s visit to Rome he was forced to the floor in front of Pope Pius IX and the latter placed his foot on the Patriarch’s head, reminding him of his place. The Melkite Patriarch continues to this day to be subordinate to Rome.
This protection is also referenced to cover the gap in the Order of St. Lazarus from 1830 when the Royal House of France decreed it no longer offers its protection to either 1910 (when the Order of St. Lazarus decided it no longer needed a fons honorum) or 2004 (when the Orleans branch of the Royal House of France granted temporal protection, rescinded Easter 2012). It should also be noted that there really isn’t any documentation to cover the period between 1830 to 1910 and much of what is claimed about the period is based on interpretations of insignia seen in paintings that resemble (under certain angles, lighting, and discoloration assumptions) those of the Order of St. Lazarus (maybe).
Finally, support and/or protection of a bishop or archbishop or even the head of a particular Church that makes up the Roman Catholic Church does not grant a group any status above that of ecclesiastical decoration for the simple reason that the fons honorum is not present.
- Zoghby, Elias (1998). Ecumenical Reflections. Fairfax, VA.: Eastern Christian Publications. p. 83. ISBN 1-892278-06-5.
- Parry, Ken; David Melling (editors) (1999). The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity. Malden, MA.: Blackwell Publishing. p. 313. ISBN 0-631-23203-6.
Another argument put forward to support the legitimacy of the Lazarite groups is the very impressive list of members they have. Nobody can argue that having Grandees of Spain, Flag Officers of the Military, Peers of the UK, and Bishops is not a big deal; it definitely is. However, regardless of the length and breadth of the VIP member list, it does not make it a chivalric order. It makes it a great club for networking but not an order of chivalry.
In closing this article, I will repeat what I have said many times before. Most of the Lazarite groups do amazingly good charity work, moreso than many legitimate chivalric order or even NGOs. I am first to recognize this work and commend them for that; they surely deserve congratulations and admiration for that work. However, they could do that same work without the trappings of a chivalric order and losing their credibility.