Some Observations on the Requirements for the Category of Justice

by Count of Évora, KCLJ


Originally, all aspirants for admission to Orders of Chivalry had to be Catholic in full communion with Holy Mother Church and prove legitimate noble/gentle birth. Occasionally, the Grand Master would exercise his prerogative and admit motu proprio also somebody with deficient proofs of nobility. Later on, different categories were established, e.g. those of Justice, Devotion, Honour, Grace, and Merit, etc.


In the Cérémonial de la Réception et Profession des Chevaliers de l’Ordre Royal, Militaire et Hospitalier de Nostre-Dame du Mont Carmel et de Saint Lazare de Jérusalem, of 1703, the Grand Master says to the novice: “Vous me demandez une grace qui ne doit être accordée qu’à ceux que le merite en rend dignes autant que la Noblesse de leur naissance, & qui son disposé à la pratique des œvres de miséricorde envers le pauvres de Jésus-Christ, & à verser leur sang pour la défense de la Religion Chretienne, et pour le service du Roi.”


In respect of admission to the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem, the Réglement du 15 Juin 1757, Article I, stated: “Nulle personne ne pourra être reçue & admise à l’avenir par le Grand-Maître des Ordres de Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel & de St. Lazare de Jérusalem, qu’elle n’ait fait les preuves de la Religion Catholique, Apostolique & Romaine, dans la forme usitée dans lesdites Ordres, et celle de quatre degrés de Noblesse paternelle seulment, le Novice compris, fondée sur un principe certain & incontestable de Noblesse, sans qu’il puisse, sous quelque titre & prétexte, ni pour aucune cause que ce soit, être accordé aucune dispense des preuves susdites, tant de Religion que de Noblesse, ni que personne puisse être reçu dans lesdites Ordres avant d’avoir satisfait auxdites preuves.”


Following the re-establishment of the Grand Magistracy in 1925 in Paris, and until the schism in 1969, the actual Members of the Order were, without exception, the Knights professing the Catholic, the Apostolic, and the Roman Faith. There were also several categories of Affiliates of the Order, e.g. Knights of Honour, Knights of Merit, Dames, and Chaplains, etc., with or without noble proofs.


On 29th April 1940, at Madrid, the Grand Master, Don Francisco de Borbón y de la Torre, 4th Duke of Seville, signed new Statutes for the Order. In these, the membership consists of Knights of Justice and Devotion and Knights of Devotion.


Article 8 stipulates: “No one shall be accepted into the Order in the category of Justice who does not present proofs of nobility, carried out to four generations, the candidate included, namely father and mother, grandparents, great-grandparents on either father’s or mother’s side. Nobility may also be established by four generations of paternal nobility, including the candidate, father, paternal grandfather, and paternal great-grandfather. In countries where nobility no longer has a legal existence, these proofs may be replaced by proofs of ancient and notable lineage, establishing that each generation has lived free, honourably and notably.” (English translation from The Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem, A Short History of the Most Ancient Order of Chivalry, Past and Present ; Grand Priory of the Western United States of America, Los Angeles, Ca., 1941)


Twenty years later, the membership consisted of either Chevaliers de Justice, (Catholics of noble linage in the paternal line of a minimum of 100 years during at least three generations) or Chevaliers de Dévotion  (Catholics of distinguished social standing). (Cf P. Bertrand de la Grassière, L’Ordre Militaire et Hospitalier de Saint-Lazare de Jérusalem ; Paris 1960)


The Statutes of 1962 for the English Tongue of the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem contain the following rules in respect of noble proofs: “Members and Affiliates, who wish to be classified as of Justice or Nobility are required to furnish proof of ancient nobility. Such proof consist of either four degrees in the direct paternal line or else of four quarterings [i.e. four noble grand-parents; editor’s note] and shall be certified by a Judge of Arms or the King of Arms in the Council of each Priory or Bailiwick.”


“Special Regulations in the English Tongue. In the English, Irish and Welsh Bailiwicks the proof shall be paternal or pronominal nobility to a period not later than 1688, or four quarters of nobility of which the paternal or pronominal must be at least 100 years of nobility. In the Scottish Bailiwick the proofs shall be dated at least to 1672 or consist of four quarterings as in the afore-mentioned Bailiwicks of England, Wales and Ireland. In accordance with custom in the English Tongue, the wife of a Knight, on admission to the Order, receives her husband’s rank (that is, will become a Dame) and will be placed in her husband’s category of Justice or Nobility. If, however, she is able to furnish proof of ancient nobility, she may be admitted in the category of Justice or Nobility although her husband is in the category of Grace.”


Special Dispensation with regard to proofs of nobility may be made by the Grand Master with respect to each several Priory or Bailiwick, having regard to the historic tradition of the country concerned.  Such dispensation will be valid only within the Priory or Bailiwick concerned. The Grand Master may grant dispensation from proof of nobility in recognition of outstanding service to the Order.”


In 1969, the Malta Obedience abolished the distinction in the Order between Roman-Catholic and non-Catholic Christians. In the Paris Obedience, this distinction remained until the mid-1970s.


Referring to, inter alia, the category of Justice, Prof. Erich Feigl (French Obedience) quotes in his Memento (Wien 1975), p 128,  : “Die Ordensmitglieder ... müssen den Nachweis ihrer adeligen Herkunft erbringen, der sich über vier Generationen erstrecken muß.” (Members of the Order must prove their noble descent for at least four generations)


The Constitution of the Order (Malta Obedience) of 1979, article XV, section 5, stipulates that: “No applicant shall be admitted to the Order in the category of Justice unless, as a minimum requirement, he shall have proved hereditary nobility from each of his four grand parents, or, when the paternal line alone is used, from his paternal great-grandfather. Each jurisdiction within the Order shall establish its own criteria for admission in the category of Justice in accordance with the custom and practice of the particular jurisdiction, which criteria shall be approved by the Grand Master and promulgated by the Grand Chancellor.” It goes without saying that the Grand Master would not approve anything less than the minimum stipulated in the first part of this section. Matters of admission to the Order and allocation of rank and status therein is traditionally the prerogative of the Grand Master, generally delegated to the Grand Chancellery.


In his book The Knightly Twilight, a glimpse at the Chivalric and Nobiliary Underworld, (Union Press, Valletta, 1973) ,p 152, Lt.Colonel Gayre of Gayre and Nigg has the following to say on the subject of Justice:


“The proofs which are required for ranking as for justice vary from Order to Order and country to country.  They are, however, seriously regarded according to the rules of the Order concerned. For example, in the Order of Malta, the normal proofs are:

1. That of four quarters. That is four grandparents have to be noble, and this nobility must go back in each of these four families to the great great grandfather of each line. That is, starting with the candidate, seven generations are involved. This is often called the Italian  proof. The Order of Constantine St. George holds the same system. It is not an easy proof for all that for a candidate especially in the English-speaking world. For there social changes brought about marriages to heiresses who belonged to families which had reached, for all practical purposes, a genteel position in society. Nevertheless they were strictly not gentry, and had no coat of arms, or only one of recent origin.”

“2. That of sixteen and thirty-two quarters. In some countries the proofs within the Order of Malta are even stricter. In Germany 16 quarters are demanded, and in Spain 32 quarters.”

“3. Paternal proof. Because of the fact that in England, in particular, although to some extent in Scotland also, the assumption in ancient times was that a man married within his own rank in society, the official records often listed the male line only. Thus, in the sixteenth and seventeenth century Visitations of the English heralds, it is not unusual to find the woman’s Christian name only given. The English common law practice of a woman losing her surname on marriage is probably another factor which has aided this development.  To meet this situation The Order of Malta established what has been called the English Proof, which means evidence of noble descent in the paternal line dating back to 1485. With the passage of time this has become a more and more difficult proof to establish, as a majority of the noblesse do not now go back beyond the 16th and 17th centuries.”

“In the Order of St. Lazarus this problem was met in the English and Scottish Tongues of the Order by making the demand in the paternal or pronominal line (as we are not dominated by the Salic concept of inheritance) to 1672 in Scotland (when the Public Register of the Lyon Court commences), and 1688 for England and Ireland, when the Stuart Dynasty fell and the House of Orange came to power. The ‘Italian’ form of proof of four quarters may be offered as an alternative.”

“This explanation of what are proofs of nobility, and what are the criteria for arriving at the rank of justice, in the ancient Orders has been necessary, because it will be seen at once how difficult it is to establish. Therefore, it obviously follows that there are very few who can qualify for that grade. Even in the British Venerable Order of St. John, where the ‘proof’ has been reduced to nominal requirements, namely that the father and mother must be armigerous, the majority of knights are, nevertheless, of grace and not of justice.” This requirement has since been further reduced simply possessing properly recorded arms, i.e. being even a grantee de novo. In this context, it is important to remember that the Venerable Order of St John has a unique status in Britain and is not regarded as one of the Orders of Chivalry of the Realm; not unlike the position of the Order of St Lazarus in France before the revolution.




The Grand Bailiwick of England & Wales (Malta Obedience) maintains the requirements as set out above in the Constitution of the Order, of 1979.


The Grand Priory of England & Wales of the Order of St. Lazarus (French Obedience), on the other hand, has followed the example of the Venerable Order of St.John in adopting the same reduced requirements for admission to the Category of Justice. The current Manual for Members of the Grand Priory (p. I-7) states: “There are two categories of membership, applicable to Knights, Dames, Chaplains of Jurisdiction, and higher grades. Those who are noble according to the Laws of Arms of the country in which their personal arms are registered are in the Category of Justice. The remainder are in the category of Grace.” When this matter was raised with the then Bailiff, Robin Gowlland, the inquirer was informed that “the Order was only following instructions from the College of Arms”. Considering that the College of Arms takes no cognisance of the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem, this statement is somewhat surprising!




It would appear that the current Judge of Arms of the Grand Priory of England & Wales recognises solely arms granted or recorded by the College of Arms, to the exclusion even of Scottish arms unless recorded by the College. This stance demonstrates a serious lack of understanding of matters of nobiliary law and is in flagrant contravention of the current position of the Grand Priory of England & Wales, i.e. “Those who are noble according to the Laws of Arms of the country in which their personal arms are registered are in the Category of Justice. Nobility is an objective matter of condition, not one of mere subjective recognition. Gentility is a matter of blood-line over at least three generations, i.e. race. The principle is quite clear to those who breed race horses and pets, but nonetheless often denied in our egalitarian society where the human species is concerned.


Further, it should be noted that in England there appears to be no legal requirement to record foreign arms whereas no arms may be used in Scotland unless matriculated by the Court of the Lord Lyon. The Lord Lyon is a Great Officer of State and a Judge of the Realm, appointed by The Sovereign, in possession of the full prerogative of The Queen in all nobiliary matters; he is not subordinate to  the College of Arms, nor to the Earl Marshal. A Scottish Grant of Arms is a Patent of Nobility. There is no such thing as non-noble arms in Scotland; arms are ensigns of nobility, as is clearly expressed in the grant, and this is the principal reason for the profusion of Scottish noble families in central Europe, France, Russia, and Scandinavia. In most countries, nobility was a prerequisite for making an army career and, with few exceptions, any Scotsman producing his Matriculation of Arms from Lyon Court would instantly obtain a commission as an officer.


Recently, a Member of the Order, of Scottish descent living in England, who had had arms granted posthumously to an ancestor by Lord Lyon and rematriculated in his own name, was refused the Category of Justice by the Judge of Arms of England & Wales because his arms were not recorded by the College of Arms. However, since this gentleman, according to the Laws of Arms, now belongs to the noblesse of the country (Scotland) in which his personal arms are registered, he undoubtedly meets the current requirements of the Grand Priory of England & Wales to qualify for the Category of Justice. It should be added that the College of Arms had declined to record these arms, claiming that Lord Lyon had no right to grant as the grantee was domiciled in England! It must be regarded as grossly unfair that one of Her Britannic Majesty’s subjects should become the victim, within the Order of St. Lazarus, of the “perpetual competition” between the College of Arms and Lyon Court.


As is well known, the College of Arms, still grants arms to US citizens and other foreigners of proven English descent and also devises arms for foreign civic corporations and other institutions, presumably without any reference to their respective authorities.


It is well established  that, since Elizabeth I, the English Establishment, no doubt influenced by its own version of Protestantism, unlike the authorities of most European countries, has taken an often arrogant and superior view in respect of foreign honours and dignities, a view which in some respects conflicts with the very nature of the concept of nobility.


Debrett’s Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage & Companionage of 1960 contains the following article (p 178) on Foreign Titles:


“Foreign titles borne by British subjects afford their holders no precedence whatever in this country. It should also be borne in mind that foreign titles cannot always be valued in comparison with English ones, according to their nominal rank, but their relative value has to be judged by whether their possessors belong to the nobiles majores or nobiles minores of their respective countries. Foreign authorities generally assume that titular distinction accompanied by an hereditary seat in the Diet or Parliament constitutes high nobility, and in France and Germany this was practically co-extensive with the ducal houses only. In England, however, the nobiles majores (or high nobility) are co-extensive with the whole peerage (dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, barons) and, according to good authority, baronets. It, therefore, follows that only those families of the high nobility abroad, such as the herzogs and a few landgraves in Germany, and in France the dukes and two or three feudatory comtes can claim our peerage (dukes to barons) as equals in titular distinction, while marquises in France and the margraves and grafs of the former Empire in Germany – if the latter are the titular chiefs of their families – are equal to our rank of baronet, the next rank (but without parliamentary seat) in England below the peerage ; further, the nobiles minores of Germany and France, varying between in France the rank of comte to that of baron or plain ecuyer gentilhomme, and in Germany the grafs of the Empire down to, and including, the freiherrs (by courtesy) and herr vons, rank according to the antiquity of their families with the families in England who are also of the nobiles minores (knights, esquires, and gentlemen).”


This is not the place to analyse in detail the merits of this article. Suffice it to observe that, from a European point of view, it displays gross arrogance in attitude and ignorance of fact.


The following is a striking example of the English official attitude of the day towards foreign dignities: H.I.&R.H. Prince Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Christoph of Prussia, 4th son of the Crown Prince of the German Empire and Kingdom of Prussia, grandson of the last Emperor, and great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria, was naturalised a British subject in 1947. According to L.G. Pine’s Written and Spoken Guide to Titles and Forms of Adress (Kingswood, Surrey 1959) p 12, “the Home Office informed him that he should be properly be known as Mr. Mansfield”! In 1951 His Imperial and Royal Highness assumed, by deed poll, the surname of von Preussen. Since 1932, no royal warrants naturalising foreign titles have been issued.


On the previous page of the book referred to above, Mr Pine cites the instance of Elizabeth I strongly objecting to Lord Arundell of Wardour having been made a Count of the Holy Roman Empire by the Emperor. Put into its historical, religious and political context, (by Catholic  standards she was a bastard and usurper of the English Crown, guilty of perjury of her Coronation Oath and eventually, by all standards, guilty of regicide) one can see her concern!


In the paragraph above Mr Pine states that: “no honours can be held by British subjects which are not granted by the Queen or which do not flow from her. They must be created by the Crown or recognised by the Crown.” If taken seriously, this would mean that no British subject could join the Order of Malta, or the Holy Sepulchre, or accept a Pontifical honour from the Holy See; no British subject could accept an ecclesiastical rank outside the Church of England if this would imply an honorific status as, for example, that of a Domestic Prelate to His Holiness ; and no British subject could join the Order of St. Lazarus!


An aspect of the above is that the Lieutenancy in England of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, in compliance with a direct intervention from King George V, is the only jurisdiction, known to the writer, of that Order where Knights are not dubbed with a sword. On the other hand, Professed Knights of Malta invested at the Conventual Church of St. John of Jerusalem in St. John’s Wood receive the full accolade as laid down in the Rituale.


However, even after the Reformation, the attitude in England was not always that mean. In the now Anglican parish church at Barking, Essex, there is a fine and well preserved tomb stone with a beautifully executed coat of arms displaying de Faria impaling Goddard. On the shield is a British Knight’s helmet (affronté) with the de Faria crest. The legend reads: “Here lyeth ye body of Sr Timothy de Faria Knt of ye order of Christ of Portugal & Serv.t to Queen Catherin of Engl.nd.  He departed this life ye 15ti of January Anno Dom : 1714/15”. There are many other examples and in his book Italy’s Knights of St. George, The Constantinian Order (Gerrards Cross 1986), Desmond Seward quotes several instances of British and Irish Knights who obtained a Royal Licence to exercise the prerogatives of their Knighthood.


Great war heroes, like the Duke of Marlborough, the Duke of Wellington, and others were showered with foreign honours and dignities, for some including foreign dukedoms and hereditary princely rank in various countries. Britain was proud of the brilliance of her sons then, not mean. George IV wore the collar of the Golden Fleece at his coronation. Queen Victoria regularly wore a miniature bar consisting of the Family Order of King George IV and six foreign decorations; Edward VII was portrayed wearing the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, of which he was an honorary Bailiff Grand Cross. Now the situation is very different and there are British diplomats, decorated by foreign powers, who are not allowed to wear the corresponding insignia generally.


The Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem is not an English Order; nor has it, since the Reformation, been in any manner recognised by the Crown in England. Thus, the College of Arms has no jurisdiction over the Order.


It is noteworthy, however, that on 3rd August 1967 the Court of the Lord Lyon matriculated the arms of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St .Lazarus of Jerusalem and that, on 26th September of the same year, differenced arms were matriculated for the Grand Priory of Canada, the Grand Bailiwick of England, the Bailiwick of Ireland, the Hereditary Commandery of Lochoreshyre, the Commandery of Malta, the Grand Bailiwick of Scotland, and the Bailiwick of Southern Africa.  n consequence, a number of Scottish Members of the Order were able to rematriculate their arms, marshalling the chief of Religion and the Cross of Justice as well as other insignia of the Order. Sadly, due to the schism which occurred in Paris in 1969, this recognition was suppressed until such time that the Order is re-united and the schism healed.


In this context, it is interesting to study the armorial bearings of the current Judge of Arms of the French Obedience Grand Priory of England. The shield appears to be: per pale argent, a cross vert, in the first quarter accompanied by a Tudor rose proper; and, under a chief argent a cross vert, per bend sable and argent, two bendlets sinister within a border counterchanged. Assuming that these arms were granted or recorded by the College of Arms, it would appear that the Judge of Arms has been granted heraldic status of Grand Prior of England & Wales (cf the general practice in England for armigerous Heads of equally armigerous Institutions to impale their arms), in addition to being given the Chief of Religion of a Knight of St. Lazarus above his own arms. This would suggest that, in spite of protestations to the contrary, the College of Arms may have recorded Lazarine armorial charges.


The Grand Magisterial Decree N° 26, of 20th September 1995, of the Malta Obedience of the Order confirms the Regulations for Recording and use of Heraldry within the Order. It is a well considered document, in principle based on sound heraldic tradition. There is, however one aspect which requires review. Seen from a European point of view, Section 5, Categories of Arms eligible for Recording: Assumed Arms, contains two unnecessary stipulations, probably based on unfamiliarity with continental practice: In countries where the assumption of armorial bearings is not prohibited, i.e. most countries where there is no official heraldic authority dealing with personal arms,  the restriction contained in sub-clause d) “They are not to be considered hereditary except in the case of descendents who may themselves be admitted to the Order” and  sub-clause f) “Such arms are to be for use within the Order only” make no sense and should be removed. The concept of sub-clause f) could suggest Masonic origins. It is obvious that, in countries with official heraldic authority dealing with personal arms, any non-armigerous person wishing to use arms is morally and sometimes also legally bound to apply to the relevant authority for a Grant of Arms. The Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem is not a secret society and, as it can not and should not aim to guarantee secrecy in heraldic matters, it can not allow its members the use of “clandestine” armorial bearings, let alone record them. This applies particulary to England and Scotland.


Leaving matters of the Gentry and Peerage of the British Realm aside, an English Grant of Arms does not confer noble status, i.e. the College of Arms confers non-noble arms, of similar status to the burgher-arms of Switzerland and parts of the German-speaking world when duly recorded. Consequently, according to the current reduced requirements of the Grand Priory of England & Wales, an Englishman receiving a grant from the College of Arms would not strictly qualify for the Category of Justice! The notion, therefore, that somebody receiving a new English grant of arms, but not one receiving a Scottish, would qualify for the Category of Justice in the Order of St. Lazarus, is simply absurd. 


As is apparent from various quotations above, and indeed from the very Motto of the Order: “ATAVIS ET ARMIS(By Ancestry and Arms), the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem has for centuries been concerned not to demean the Category of Justice by admitting to it men lacking in the requirements of noblesse of race. Furthermore, the present day egalitarian attitude, which prevails in some Jurisdictions of the Order, is alien to the concept of chivalry and the tradition of the Order. It seems bizarre that, in Britain, Members of sufficient means, to put it bluntly, now should be able to “purchase” a document which would entitle them to the Category of Justice, particularly in England where a grant of arms is not a Patent of Nobility. This renders the Category of Justice meaningless and, to those in the Order who could not afford the cost of a grant of arms, potentially offensive.




The Justice Cross usually consists of a gilded eight-pointed cross, about 55 mm in diameter, with green enamel. When worn on military uniform in Spain, it was often made from green cloth and gold wire and sewn onto the left breast of the coat.


With regard to the position of the Justice Cross, it could sometimes vary, depending on rank, although the norm was that it was worn on the left. In Spain, that seems to have always been the rule. The publication produced in 1941 by the Grand Priory of the Western United States of America, referred to above, states (p 34) that: “The Justice Cross is a plain gold Maltese cross of eight points, green enameled. It is worn on the left breast below the Star by all Knights and Dames of Justice.” In France, however, following the example of the Grand Officers of the Legion of Honour, who wear the plaque of that order on the right, Knights and Dames etc. could wear  the Justice Cross together with their plaque on the right of the chest; Grand Crosses always wore it with their plaque on the left. (Cf P. Bertrand de la Grassière,  L’ORDRE MILITAIRE ET HOSPITALIER DE SAINT-LAZARE DE JERUSALEM, p. 177 ; Paris 1960)


The “MEMENTO” (p.135), of 1975, decrees that the Justice Cross is always worn on the left!: “Das Justizkreuz kann aus emailliertem Metall oder aus Stickerei bestehen und wird stets auf der linken Seite der Brust getragen.”


It has been suggested that some “gong-collector” in the Malta Obedience persuaded Lt.Col. Gayre to put the Justice Cross on the right so they could sport four plaques plus the Justice Cross and still pretend to comply with British dress regulations (sic !). Latterly, it would appear, this fashion has been adopted also by the French Obedience in England & Wales. Since their dress regulations etc. seem to be regarded as confidential, it has not been possible to establish the authority for this development. It may, however, be observed that in the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the Johanniterorden in Germany, Holland, and Sweden, and in the British Venerable Order of St. John, the Justice Cross, without exception, is worn on the left breast.


The move of the Justice Cross of the Order of St. Lazarus to the right breast for Knights, Chaplains, and Dames of Justice is, in the view of the writer, an aberration inspired by a French revolutionary precedent, and for those holding the rank of Grand Cross of Justice unjustifiable and without precedent.


Note of the website editors:

It is a fact that at least during the past 15 years in Spain it was not only usual to admit new members in very high ranks (KLJ and above), also a lot of them have been bestowed with the Cross of Justice. Contrary to the rest of the world the Grand Priory of Spain has kept its own Constitution, which was quite different from the international one. Such was unique within the Obedience of Malta, and it sounds strange and inacceptable. Only after pressure by the Supreme Council (since 1997!) in 2003 the Spanish Constitution has been adjusted to the international one. But it looks like the practice to bestow new members with high ranks in the category of Justice has not been changed.