Proclamation of the Emperor Alexander, appointing Count Soltikoff Lieutenant of the Grand-Master

We, Alexander I., by the grace of God, &c. &c., being desirous of giving a proof of our particular esteem and affection towards the sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, declare that we take the said Order under our imperial protection, and that we will employ every possible care and attention to maintain it in all its rights, honours, privileges, and possessions.

For this purpose we command and ordain, that our General, Field-Marshal, Bailiff, Count de Soltikoff should continue to exercise the functions and authority of Lieutenant of the Grand-Master of the said Order, and convene a sitting of the sacred council to make known our intentions that the imperial residence should be still regarded as the chief seat of the sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, until such time as circumstances shall permit the election of a Grand-Master, according to the ancient forms and statutes.

In the interim, we ordain, in our quality of protector, that the sacred council shall have the government of the Order, and shall make known to all the languages and priories this our determination; inviting them, at the same time, for their own proper interest, to submit to the decrees issued by the said council.

We confirm, by this present declaration, our two grand Russian and Catholic priories, established in our empire, in the enjoyment of the property, privileges, and administration already bestowed on them; and it is our will and pleasure that they should be governed, in our name of protector, by the Lieutenant of the Mastership, our General, Field-Marshal, Bailiff Count Nicholas de Soltikoff.

The very first moment that, in concert with other courts, means can be found, and a proper place fixed upon, to convene a general chapter of the sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, the first effects of our protection will be, to procure a Grand-Master to be elected, who shall be worthy to preside over the Order, and to re-establish it as formerly.

Given at our imperial residence of St. Petersburg, on the 16th of March 1801, in the first year of our reign.

(Signed) Alexander.

(Countersigned)The Grand Chancellor Count de Pablus.

Decree of the Sacred Council of the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, in accordance with the preceding proclamation

In order to contribute as soon as possible to the restoration of a Grand-Master, and the primitive constitution to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, the sovereign council of the said Order, in the meeting of the 22nd of June 1801, has inquired into the form of convocation for a general chapter, and finds that the statutes are as follows on that subject:—

” A General Chapter must consist of the Grand-Master, the Bishop of Malta, the Prior of the Church, the Conventual Bailiffs or Pillars of the Languages, the Grand-Priors or Capitular Bailiffs who have a decisive vote, a Solicitor for the Knights of each Language, and a Solicitor for the Commanders of each Priory.”

The sovereign council, in consideration that all the elements of a general chapter are dispersed, and knowing that, in the present situation of things, it would be impossible to assemble them, according to the form expressed in the statutes, has resolved to adopt a mode of election which shall differ as little as possible from the ancient one, prevent delay, spare the priories all unnecessary expense and convenience, and immediately fix upon a chief for the sovereign Order to govern it, and take possession of the island of Malta, whenever circumstances shall make it possible to do so.

For this purpose, the sovereign council enjoins all the Grand-Priors immediately to convene their chapters, and to carry before them the following propositions : —

1st. The provincial chapter shall mark out, among the professed Knights of every language, those whom they think most capable of filling the dignity of Grand-Master with due courage and firmness. The Grand Priors shall acquaint the sovereign council as soon as possible with this opinion, that a list may be formed from all the different priories of those who are candidates for the Grand- Mastership.

2nd. The council proposes to send this list to the court of Rome, and his holiness, as supreme chief of the Romish Church, and as superior of all religious Orders, shall be entreated to select a Grand-Master from among the candidates; specifying at the same time, that this is only to be the case on this one occasion, and without derogating in any degree from the rights and privileges of the sovereign Order.

His holiness shall also be requested to notify this election to all Catholic countries by a pontifical brief, commanding the Knights to obey the Grand-Master thus chosen, according to the statutes of holy obedience.

All the sovereign chapters shall be summoned by their Grand-Priors to declare their opinions formally and with precision, on the question of referring to the Pope to elect a Grand-Master from the number of professed Knights pointed out by the different priories.

By these means the Order will be assured of having a Grand-Master of its own choice, and from among its own members; and the sovereign council may proceed with confidence, according to the wishes and opinions of all the capitular chapters. Moreover, the sovereign council represents to all the Grand-Priors, that it is more important than ever to employ all their authority and prudence to prevent every kind of division and intrigue, to choose a candidate truly worthy of the sovereign command, endowed with the necessary qualities to make the Order of general utility, and to restore a severe discipline.

Lastly, the sovereign council has in its wisdom judged that this was the only method to conciliate the members in general, to avoid all pretences for schisms, and to unite all the scattered members of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

Given at St. Petersburg, the 20th day of July 1801.

Open Source:

A History of the Knights of Malta, Vol 2., Porter, Wintworth., (c) 1858, Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, & Roberts, London.