On April 12 2011 the blog Blog de Heráldica, maintained by Maj. José Juan Carrión Rangel, published an article written by Dr. José María de Montells y Galán, Viscount Portadei and Chief Herald of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem. The article, in Spanish of course, presented a hypothesis by the Viscount regarding a General of the Imperial Russian Army from the 19th century and his probable membership in the Order of St. Lazarus.
Personally, I found this essay to be very interesting as it relates to the history of an organization that has a commendable track record with its humanitarian efforts. Though there has been (and there still is) some controversy regarding the Order’s historical continuity, their truly remarkable charitable work cannot be denied.
Dr. Montells y Galán has graciously allowed me to translate his original article and have it published here for those English speakers that are interested.
It is very well known that the supporters of the claim that the Order of St. Lazarus is extinct, place the year of said extinction in 1831. Even though they base their claim on the French Restoration and after Louis XVII’s return in 1814, he resigned as Grand Master and became Protector of the Order, conforming with his dynastic rights.
Louis XVIII used the insignia of the Order until the end of his life, though he abstained from admitting new Knights. Neither did his successor, Charles X admitted anyone but, during his reign new Knights appear in the Almanaque Real, authorized by the General Chapter of the Order. This royal tolerance of the admissions appear to give credence to the position that the Knight of the Order had the right to perpetuate the Hospital of the Green Cross.
Many of the Order’s detractors interpret an edict of 1824, that is literally referring to the united Orders of St. Lazarus and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, saying that “admissions have not been made since 1788 allowing its extinction” as proof of the royal decision to abolish the Lazarite Order. What is not said, is that the aforementioned edict is uniquely and exclusively referring to the Order of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, reunited with St. Lazarus and not united, and that had ceased to be given out since the closing of the École Militaire in 1788.1
The known expert on Chivalric Orders, Mr. Guy Stair Sainty, proponent of the extinction of the Order, argues: “Indeed, the complete absence of any contemporary documentation such as diplomas or letters of nomination (whereas there are numerous examples from before 1788), of paintings (or later of original nineteenth century photographs) of these individuals wearing the Saint Lazarus Cross, or of any record in contemporary correspondence of such nominations or admissions, is astonishing.”2
In other words: For those that believe that the Order of St. Lazarus became extinct in 1875 with the death of the Viscount of Chabot, last Knight of the Order to be alive in 1831, everything began in 1788 when, according to them, it ceased to be given.3
Therefore you can imagine my surprise when, while browsing the web, I found an image of, what appears to be, an officer of the Russian Hussars with the Cross of Justice of the Order of St. Lazarus worn as a neck decoration. To positively identify him, I reached out to various friends without much success until Alfonso Floresta suggested the name “Vasily Vasilievich Levashov”.
Born in 1783 of a noble family, though illegitimate, he took part in the war against the French in 1805 as Captain of the Imperial Guard. After intervening in the battles of Pułtusk, Yankov, Landsberg, Eylau, Dobre Miasto (Guttstadt) and Passengeyme, he was promoted to Colonel.4
Levashov takes part in the Patriotic War of 1812 as Colonel of the Cuirassiers no 5 in the battles of Vitebsk, Smolensk, Borodino, Tarutino and Maloyaroslavets, receiving on November 21 1812 the Order of St. George for his heroic acts in Borodino, replacing Col. Karl Levenwolde, who had died in combat, in charge of the Regiment of Cavalry Guards.5 Promoted to General, he joined the battles of Lützen, Bautzen and Dresden suffering a sabre wound in Leipzig and later a gunshot to the chest.
On July 15, 1813 he was named Chief of the Regiment of Cuirassiers of the Imperial Guard of Novgorod. In 1817, we find him as an Aide to the Czar. Between April 25, 1815 and May 23, 1822 he served as the Commander in Chief of the Regiment of Hussars of the Guard. Later, he was appointed by the Emperor as the military governor of Kiev and Governor General of Podolia and Volynia. In 1833, the nobiliary title of Count of the Russian Empire was conferred upon him. A year before his death, he was named Presiden of the Counsil of State and member of the Committe of Ministers. He was buried in 1848 in the Dukhovskoi church of the Monastery of St. Alexander Nevsky in St. Petersburg.
There is also another painting of the General Count Levashov, very similar to the one shown above but, with a difference in the decorations. This painting is conserved in the gallery of the Heroes of the War of 1812 in the Imperial Palace of St. Petersburg and was created by the English artist George Dawe. From the painting, one can see that the Count was Knight of St. Vladimir (2nd class), St. Ana (1st class), St. George (4th class). He is also depicted bearing the medal of the campaign of 1812 as well as those of foreign campaigns unknown to me. According to my sources, this painting is located in the Kremlin of Novgorod but I have been unable to conclusively find out who is its creator.
It is very well known that thanks to the hospitality of the Czar Paul I, the Grand Master of the Order of St. Lazarus King Louis XVIII, in exile in Mitau, Lithuania, admitted into the Order sometime between 1798 and 1800 the Czar himself, his sons the Grand Dukes Alexander, the Charevich, Constantine and another twenty Russian dignitaries. Among those were the Count Rostopchin and the Barons Fersen and Dreisen.6
Unfortunately, the complete list of Knights admitted in Mitau by the Grand Master has not survived. Examining the information, it does not seem far fetched that General Levashov was one of them. He was probably assigned to the entourage of the small court of the exiled King, perhaps as a junior officer or page. In 1800, Levashov would have been 17 years old, the age that cadets in France would be awarded the Order of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
What is without doubt is that Levashov is depicted with an unusual insignia of St. Lazarus. The eight-pointed green cross of the time was on the clothing. However, there are several surviving examples of reusing the Maltese cross, only in green. Even more so in Russia where the Order of Malta was liberally being given out by the Czar. In any case (as all this is just a hypothesis), judging by the painting in Nevgorod, the General Count Levashov was a proud Knight of the Order of St. Lazarus.
- The insignia of the Order of Mt. Carmel, separately from that of St. Lazarus, were given to three noble cadets annually.
- From Guy Stair Sainty’s page on the Order of St. Lazarus (http://www.chivalricorders.org/orders/self-styled/lazarus.htm). In this case, he frequently neglects to bring up the political happenings in France during the period in question, that made it necessary to move the archives of the Order to Damascus, the seat of the Melkite Patriarch.
- These dates are important because, as the detractors say, an Order that has been inactive for 100 years becomes extinct. What is certain is that in 1841, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem, Maximos III Michael Mazloum, accepted the spiritual protection of the Hospital of St. Lazarus. Just 10 years after the supposed suppression!
- On November 5, 1808
- The Grand Master of the Order of Malta, at the time the Czar of Russia, was assigned to the Regiment of Cavalry Guards. All within the regiment were noble, even the foot-soldiers.
- According to Stair Sainty, Dreisen was admitted by the Grand Master in Mitau in 1800 as a Knight of Honor, a rank that was not in the statutes enacted by the Grand Master himself. From this, he infers that the Russian appointments are null or suspect.
As the Viscount points out above, this is a hypothesis and has not been proved yet. But, as with most research, you’ve got to start somewhere and this lead seems to be promising.
However, as Arturo Rodríguez López-Abadía points out in a follow up to this essay on the same Spanish blog, the neck decoration may very well be the Prussian Pour le Mérite medal that has a similar design and whose blue color might be made to appear green in a painting with shading.
However, and here is where the plot thickens, there is another painting (found by Carlos Cerda Acevedo) of a different Russian General, Vasily D. Rykov, that appears to be wearing the breast cross of the Order of St. Lazarus. The argument that this is the Grand Cross of the the Prussian Order is invalid because, very simply, the class of “Grand Cross” was established in 1866 whereas General Rykov died in 1827
In addition to the above, the following information (relayed to me in a separate email and originating from Dr. Alfonso Ceballos-Escalera, III Marques de La Floresta) is worthy to be noted:
- In the private collection of the Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, Head of the Imperial House of Russia, are found the Lazarite insignia of her parents, the Grand Duke Vladimir and the Grand Duchess Leonida.
- In the collection of foreign decorations of the Czar Paul I kept in the Kremlin, one would find two medals of the Grand Cross of the Order of St. Lazarus
- The certificates and letters patent for the Russian members are conserved in St. Petersburg. Within this collection, there are documents that show that King Louis XVIII while exiled in Mitau (present day Jelgava in Latvia), had conferred upon Czar Paul I the Grand Cross of the Order of St. Lazarus. Additionally, there are more than two dozen additional certificates for the Czar to distribute among his generals and courtiers.
The link to the original article is: http://blogdeheraldica.blogspot.com/2011/04/brillante-aportacion-al-blog-del-doctor.html
The official international site of the Order of St. Lazarus is: http://www.st-lazarus.net/
The official site of the Order of St. Lazarus in the United States is: http://www.st-lazarus.us/
I am not a member of the Order of St. Lazarus
Images provided by Dr. José María de Montells y Galán, Viscount Portadei and from Wikipedia