Italy’s Knights of St George

England, 1986 (Van Duren)Although the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St George is little known outside Italy, where it enjoys official recognition from the Vatican and the Italian Republic, it has a fascinating history and a notably prestigious membership. Its first grand masters were Greek exiles who in the sixteenth century were accepted by the Papacy as heirs to the Byzantine Emperors and were employed to fight the Turks. Its knights fought in the siege of Vienna, later officering their own Constantinian regiment in the Balkans. Its grand magistry was ceded to the Dukes of Parma in 1697 but soon passed by inheritance to the Kings of Naples, where it was one of the realms two major orders of chivalry until the annexation of the kingdom by the House of Savoy in 1860. As the Vatican recognised the order as dynastic, it has remained in the possession of the royal house of |Bourbon Two Sicilies. Today, while remaining an essentially Itallian order, it also has a strong international flavour, its members coming from Catholic Europe’s former ruling families and nobility and from the new European élite.

The author traces the Constantinian Order’s history down the centuries, unravelling its founders’ origins and showing how the Church enlisted it in the latter-day Crusades of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He examines its role as a court order under the Borbone monarchy and explains how it survived the Risorgimento.