Posts tagged ‘Alfonso Ceballos-Escalera’

Regarding the Marques de La Floresta’s authority to certify personal arms

Joseph McMillan, the noted American heraldic scholar (whose arms are displayed above), proposed that as an extension of the recent conversations regarding the Marques de La Floresta, it may be of interest to read the decision by the Spanish Council of State from 1995 (Número de expediente: 2437/1995 [JUSTICIA E INTERIOR]) regarding the Marques’ authority to certify personal arms. The original text can be found here:

Back in 2006, Mr. McMillan had posted a thorough summary of the decision on the Usenet group rec.heraldry in English in a thread discussing the topic. Here is the text in his own words (posted here with his permission and with minimal edits for context & formatting – any emphasis is mine):

This very interesting report clarifies the Marques de la Floresta’s authority (or rather lack thereof) to issue certifications of personal arms.

The document at the site is an opinion of the Spanish Council of State, issued on 30 November 1995, in response to a request from the Ministry of Justice.

On 19 January 1995, La Floresta submitted a brief to the Ministry of Justice asking for the confirmation of his credentials as Cronista of Castile and Leon and for the convocation of a tribunal to examine his qualifications for the title, so that he could receive the certificate from the Ministry of Justice required by the decrees of 1915 and 1951 governing the appointment of Cronistas.

On 26 June, nearly six months having passed without a response, he resubmitted his request, stating that despite exercising the duties of Cronista of Castile and Leon since 1991, it had been made known to him that obtaining the certificate from the Ministry of Justice was necessary for him to continue in this role. He argued that the Ministry had the obligation either to convoke the examining tribunal or to confirm his appointment by use of the transitory provisions of the 1951 decree, as it would otherwise be preventing him, contrary to law, from exercising his profession, and would also cause him to suffer significant damages in terms of both income and reputation.

As part of his submission, the Marques included copies of the decree of the C&L government naming him to the post and of his commission as Cronista of C&L, which stated that La Floresta would posess all the powers and competencies of the ancient Chronicler-Kings of Arms of Castile and Leon, including the power to issue certifications of genealogy, nobility, and the right to use coats of arms.

The view of the Ministry of Justice, as submitted to the Council of State, was that Don Vicente de Cadenas was at that time the only person entitled to exercise the duties contemplated by the 1915 and 1951 decrees. The Ministry went on to say that “the matter of the Cronistas de Armas has been examined on more than one occasion from diverse perspectives, always arriving at the conclusion that the present moment does not appear ideal to raise this matter because of the social repercussions it would obviously have.”

What the Council of State ruled was that the 1982 royal decree that gave the autonomous communities jurisdiction over “the awarding to local corporations of styles, honors, and distinctions, as well as the granting to municipalities and provinces of municipal coats of arms” effectively created a second kind of Cronista, which it called a “chronicler of municipal arms.” The 1915 and 1951 decrees did not apply to chroniclers of municipal arms, since chroniclers of municipal arms do not issue certifications or grants on their own authority; they only make recommendations to the community junta (government), which makes the final decision on the grant of the arms. Moreover, they have no need for qualifications in genealogy and nobiliary law, since their duties do not require expertise in these subjects.

On the other hand, an appointment by an autonomous community as a chronicler of municipal arms does not entitle a person to carry out the duties of a chronicler of family arms, which is the term the Council applies to Cronistas appointed in accordance with the 1915/1951 decrees. The autonomous communities do not have authority over family heraldry or rights to noble titles; that authority continues to reside exclusively in the Ministry of Justice. The Junta of Castile and Leon therefore exceeded its authority when it purported to grant the Marques de la Floresta the powers to issue certifications of personal arms, genealogy, and nobility, and the Marques could not lawfully exercise such powers.

So the Marques’s contention that the refusal of the Ministry to validate his credentials was interfering with his ability to carry out his duties was rejected. He did not need the approval of the Ministry of Justice to carry out his legitimate functions of advising the Community government on matters of provincial and municipal heraldry and vexillology. It went on to say, in very firm terms, that an autonomous community government’s having unlawfully exceeded the bounds of its authority could not logically constrain the Ministry’s free discretion in exercising its own prerogatives under the 1915/1951 decrees.

The Council also stated that:

  1. The Ministry had the exclusive right to decide when and whether to hold examinations in which all aspiring Cronistas could take part. No individual person had legal standing to demand the convoking of the examining tribunal.
  2. The transitory provisions in the 1951 which the Marques had suggested could be used to validate his appointment applied only to persons holding the position of Cronista at the time the decree was issued–the Marques de la Floresta had not yet been born at that time. Moreover, they were required to submit their credentials for validation within 30 days of the publication of the decree. The Marques de la Floresta had not met that deadline.
  3. “It is possible to differentiate clearly between the two competencies [of chronicler of family arms and chronicler of municipal arms] without losing sight of the fact that the circumstances that in large measure were responsible for the issuance of the Decree of 1951, namely the reestablishment of the nobiliary laws in 1948, are replicated today with the [1988] changes to the 1922 decree on nobiliary succession] and with the new stricter norms for the proof of relationships.” [Comment: This could be construed as suggesting that it may be an opportune time for the Ministry to reconsider its position on raising the issue of new Cronistas of family arms.]

The above is an excellent write-up that sheds some light on the topic for those who are interested in the topic.

The heraldic world is not very pretty

I have written extensively in the past about the blog I consider to be the best on the topic of heraldry: the Blog the Heraldica maintained by the Spanish Air Force Major José Juan Carrión Rangel. His blog has evolved from being a simple hobby blog (like this one) to becoming the equivalent of the New York (or London if you prefer) Times of the heraldic world! A top notch blog in its own right and the absolute best on heraldry.

One of the characteristics of a popular communication medium is that everyone wants to publish there so that it reaches a large audience. This means that, like the traditional media, not only do articles that the blogger wrote & believes in get published but also “letters to the editor” as well as “op-eds” from other persons.

The good Major’s blog is no stranger to controversy having published articles/letters written by others that contain ideas or opinions that are not very popular. Many times, these very opinions caused a maelstrom in our small but vociferous global heraldic community, so much so that many Spanish-language heraldic bloggers decided to form an alliance to improve the community.

Unfortunately, as the most recent events on the blog demonstrate, this was but a pipe dream….

On September 18, the noted heraldist José Luis Sampedro Escolar (distinguished member of the Royal Heraldic & Genealogical Academy of Madrid – Real y Matritense Academia de Heráldica y Genealogía) and frequent contributor to the blog wrote a scathing article about the Viscount of Ayala & Marquis of La Floresta, Dr. Alfonso de Ceballos Escalera critiquing his armorial achievement and arguing the legal validity of his certification of personal arms. I won’t go into the details as the article is available to be read in the original Spanish on the blog.

The article was very strongly worded and made no secret that its author had no love lost for the Viscount & Marquis.

When I read it, I expected a similarly strongly worded retort by the equally (if not more so) noted heraldist Dr. Ceballos Escalera, with perhaps this back and forth dragging for a couple more days and then subside. Occasionally, third parties would give their 2 cents too picking a side or arguing with all. This has usually been the pattern.

However, this time there was a different turn of events.

It’s true that the retort came through and the third parties appeared but, what was surprising and a first was the attack on the Major himself.

The blogger clearly marked the article as being authored by another and has repeatedly posted in the past that he takes no ownership of the contents of any articles posted that have been submitted by third parties. He only provides the medium for the article to be published. This is no different than an op-ed in a major newspaper.

I was surprised to see that persons whom I hold in high regard would question the motives of a person that, through his blog, has contributed immensly to the proliferation of heraldic knowledge in the Spanish speaking world and beyond.

That is not to say that the original post by Mr. Sampedro Escolar was not incendiary, because it was.

If the article had remained an analysis of the legal authority of the Viscount & Marquis as the Chronicler of Arms for personal heraldry & genealogy, it would have been just fine. Honestly, this truly is something that should be (and has been) debated and I have my own personal opinions on the matter (that I might share sometime but, meanwhile you can read what the expert on heraldic law Mr. Cerda Acevedo had to say).

Where I think Mr. Sampedro Escolar crossed the line was in his questioning of the rights of Dr. Ceballos Escalera to use the external ornaments of his achievement. This is a personal affront considering the status of the latter and his vast heraldic knowledge. These sorts of allegations cannot and must not be made without concrete evidence, otherwise it is (in my opinion) tantamount to calling him a fraud or ignorant. Particularly when, as in this case, the person in question is rightfully using all the external ornaments.

For a good example of how to handle these situations where one is questioning the legality of a person’s arms or title one can refer to the case of the false Baron of Gavin which case was thoroughly researched and an irrefutable case made, relying solely on the facts and removing any emotion.

Regardless of the content of the posting by Mr. Sampedro Escolar and whether one agrees with it or not, the blog and its owner are not at fault. Any personal attacks are, at best, ill thought.

After some of the attacks, the good Major has rightfully moved to the counter-attack and I cannot blame him. I would have done the same and fully support him in this.

By now, several others have commented on these events and one can say that I’m kind of late to the game. Honestly, I don’t care 🙂  I have a day job that takes priority over any heraldic (and non) ramblings since it pays the bills.

Below are links to commentary by two other bloggers that I respect and recommend to be read:

What is the saddest part of this story is that some of the biggest names in Spanish heraldry, people whose work I truly respect and admire, have ended up in a spitball war.

In a personal email to Maj. Carrion Rangel, I likened this whole thing to a Mexican telenovela and I stand by that analogy. The only thing missing is a love interest (I guess heraldry can assume that role).


General Levashov – A Knight of the Order of St. Lazarus?

COA Portadei

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.




  1. The insignia of the Order of Mt. Carmel, separately from that of St. Lazarus, were given to three noble cadets annually.
  2. From Guy Stair Sainty’s page on the Order of St. Lazarus ( 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.
  3. 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!
  4. On November 5, 1808
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Pour le Mérite

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:
The official international site of the Order of St. Lazarus is:
The official site of the Order of St. Lazarus in the United States is:

Link to an article where I write about my personal opinion on the group


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