"The Archbishop of Canterbury received one of the top honours awarded
by the Catholic Church in a ceremony at Westminster Cathedral today.
Dr Rowan Williams is the first Archbishop of Canterbury to be made
Knight Grand Cross the highest grade of the Royal Order of Francis
I. The award is for developing and encouraging dialogue between
Protestants and Catholics both in his time as Archbishop of Canterbury
and in his previous positions.
Others who received awards, included Northern Ireland secretary Paul
Murphy, who was made Knight of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order
of St George, for his work promoting peace in Northern Ireland. Former
Chief of Defence Staff General Lord Guthrie received the Knighthood of
the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St George. Baroness
Thatcher was made Dame Grand Cross, the highest honour of the Royal
Order of Francis I, for lifetime work towards inter-faith dialogue.
The Passage homeless centre was among those recognised for
contributing to the life of the Catholic Church and supporting
charities and humanitarian initiatives.
The ceremony was presided over by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor,
Archbishop of Westminster, and Cardinal Mario Francesco Pompedda - the
most senior cardinal to visit Britain since the Pope's visit in 1982.
Among those who sent messages of support were the Queen and Prime
Minister Tony Blair.
Mr Blair said the aim of fostering dialogue between Christians, Jews
and Muslims was "an integral part to strengthening cohesion between
"I am proud that Britain is a country of many faiths and many cultures
and that this diversity is seen by the overwhelming majority of decent
people as one of our country's strengths," he said. "
> "The Archbishop of Canterbury received one of the top honours awarded
> by the Catholic Church in a ceremony at Westminster Cathedral today.
This is incorrect to begin with: the order of Francis I is not conferred
"by the Catholic Church". It is an order of the kingdom of the Two
Sicilies, a political entity that disappeared 143 years ago. There
are currently rival claimants to be head of the dynasty that once
ruled the Two Sicilies, and one claimant has of late begun to bestow
that order, although it had been discontinued. The fact that it was
clearly a state order, and that it fell into disuse for so long before
being resurrected by one claimant, makes it a little odd.
The other order (Saint George) is a dynastic order which passed by
inheritance in the 18th c. to the founder of the Two Sicilies dynasty.
It continued to be bestowed when the dynasty lost its throne, and is
now bestowed separately by each rival claimant. This doesn't raise
my eyebrows too much: without prejudging the dispute between the
two claimants, the right to bestow that order is part of the claim.
Not entirely; there are two separate claims - the one to being the
representative of the House of Borbon-Farnese, a dignity that descends
by male primogeniture after being vested in the Infante D. Carlos,
duke of Parma, afterwards King of Naples and Sicily, and confirmed
by papal bull of 1738. When he abdicated the Neapolitan Crown in 1759
he retained the Constantinian Grand Magistery, abdicating this ten days
later by naming his son "primogenito legittimo farnesiano" - a delegation
of the right of representation also confirmed by the Pope. Papal con-
firmation was important because the succession to the Constantinian Grand
Magistery was laid out in 2 papal briefs (1699 amd 1706) and a bull of
1718. In 1796 the continued separation was confirmed in a royal decree
which confirmed the separation of the two dignities - the Crown and the
Grand Magistery, each of them (as the decree stated) governed by their
own laws. They had different succession systems, the one semi-salic, the
other exclusively salic with continued representation in the Bourbon-
Parma line, while the Neapolitan throne (or claim) would pass to the nearest
dynastic princess (or her heir male) of the last male descendant of Charles
III. Thus they may be compared with Great Britain and Hannover, which
while united from 1700-1837 were then separated (more or less the same
period of time in which the Constantinian Grand Master also reigned in
Naples). Until 1929 the Constantinian Order functioned much as the Order
of Malta, without the claim to sovereignty, with a Cardinal Protector
appointed by the Pope and professed knights. Since that date the Papacy
has not appointed Protectors (a post no longer existing anyway), although
it did approve by placet the nomination of Monsignor Prince George of
Bavaria as Grand Prior (he was murdered by the nazis while holding this
The senior primogeniture heir is the inheritor of both claims; and has
considered the Order of Francis I, as did his two predecessors and the
most junior princes of the Two Sicilies to be extinct. As a state merit
award for science, industry, the arts, etc, it has no relevance at all today.
The junior line claimant cannot be the representative of the Borbone-Farnese
under any reasonable interpretation of the succession; his Two Sicilies claim
depends upon the supposed validity of the act of Cannes of 1900.
The attempt to tie the two together goes back to 1962 when the then
junior line claimant, Prince Ranieri, changed the statutes of the
Constantinian Order to permanently tie the Constantinian Grand Magistery
to the headship of the House. This was a recognition of the total lack
of merit in the claim to the former.
Guy Stair Sainty