For all of the nineteenth century, the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem maintained a prudent stance, preferring to stay near the Imperial Court of the Czar, who was the only person ready to offer them help in time of need. This was preferable than returning to Catholic Europe where they had not been defended, particularly out of the fear created by the anticlerical movements which had been spreading from France in particular.

This choice would be aggravated following the crisis of the October Revolution which does not, however, put into question the legal and historical legitimacy of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem – the Knights of Malta.  The Treaty of Amiens made no reference to the new Papal Order, even though it had been in existence for a year when then treaty was signed. The only group mentioned in the treaty who was a participant in the agreement with the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Austria and Prussia was the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, which was protected by the czar of Russia.

There is no competition between the two Orders other than for reasons of the acknowledgement of their different histories and legal rights and the formal and substantial representation from which it derives. It was not by accident that Francis II, the King of the Two Sicilies recognized the “Most Christian Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, called “of Malta”, since before 1400,” in 1859. Documentation of this is found in the Royal Archives, with reference to the Paternò family and the related Paternò Castello Ayerbe-Aragona family. Another document of the Bourbon House dated 1835 specifies that the recognized chivalrous orders are: the papal ones, those “of the Order of the Hospital of Saint John, called “of Malta”, and those of the Military Order of the Collar of Saint Agatha of the Highest House of Paternò Castello Guttadauro d’Emmanuel. There is no reference to the SMOM, not even in the documents of a ruling House connected to the Papal Throne.

At the beginning of the last century, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich was mandated by his cousin and brother-in-law Czar Nicholas II to proceed with the incorporation of the Grand Priory of America, thus reconfirming the Imperial Protection of Russia.

On 10 January 1908, the Priory of America of the Order was officially formed at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.  The corporation charter was underwritten by His Imperial Majesty the Grand Duke of Russia Alexander Mikhailovich, Prince Peter Trubetzkoy, Prince Michele Khilkov, Count Alexander Buturlin, Count Alfred de Choiseul-Gouffier, Prince Paul Ligny, Baron James Harden-Hickey, the Count of Boissiere, Baron de Rosen (Russian ambassador to the United States), Carlo Magno Tower (American congressman and ambassador to Russia, Austria and Germany), Hethelbert Watts (Consul General of the United States in St. Petersburg), Baron Ladislaus Hengelmuller de Hengervár (Austrian Ambassador to the United States) and many others.

Five years later, on 1 September 1913 at 4 p.m., the Sovereign Council of the Order reunited at the Waldorf Astoria to elect Grand Duke Alexander Michajlovic as the 71st Grand Master of the Order and Grand Prior of Europe and America.  The Grand Duke accepted the nomination, with imperial consent.


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