HM King Alexander 1 of Yugoslavia was a direct descendant of the 70th Grand Master, Tsar Paul 1, and was the Royal Protector of the Order from 1917, following the Bolshevik Revolution to 1934 when he was assassinated. King Alexander Karadjordjevic was educated in France, Switzerland, and undertook his military training in the Corps des Pages in St. Petersburg, Russia, during which time he is thought to have become a Royal member of the Order.
The Corps des Pages was originally established as a school for the Royal Court and to promote chivalric ideals and behaviour among the Russian nobility. However, in 1802 the mission of the Corps des Pages was broadened to a full Military Academy, based on the ideals and values of the Order of St. John. To reinforce the new role, the Corps des Pages was moved in 1810 to the palace of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem – the Palais de Malta – where it continued in its dual chivalric and military training role until the Russian Revolution in 1917.
Another incident highlighting the close relationship between the Order and the Yugoslavian Royal House occurred shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution. To save the Most Holy Relics of the Order (the Arm of St. John the Baptist; the Icon of Our Lady of Philermos, attributed to St. Luke; and a fragment of the True Cross) from probable destruction by the Bolsheviks, these were taken in 1919 by Father Bogoyavlenski to Reval in Estonia who entrusted them to General Count Alexei Ignatiev for delivery to the Mother of Tsar Nicholas II, Dowager Tsarina Marie Feodorovna, at her villa in Hvioze, Copenhagen, Denmark.
She kept the Holy Relics at her villa until shortly before her death in 1928, when she bequeathed them to her neice, Princess Yelena Karadjordjevic, the sister to King Alexander I, for protection by the Royal House of Yugoslavia, where they were kept in the private Chapel of the Royal Palace in Belgrade. With the advance of the German forces in 1941, the Holy Relics were placed in the Ostrog Monastery near Niksic in Montenegro. After the War, the Government placed them in the Museum at Cetinje where they have been kept as a special reserve collection and not exhibited.
Accordingly, members of the Russian and Yugoslavian Royal families who graduated from the Corps des Pages would have been constituted Royal (and Ancestral) Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem by imperial Ukase.
King Peter II of Yugoslavia
– Royal Protector, Grand Master and Royal Head – The Modern Order
HM King Peter II greatly admired and loved his father, King Alexander Karadjordjevic of Yugoslavia, and did his utmost to understand and emulate his father’s interests, in particular his close association with the Russian Tradition of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.
Colonel Dr. Bryant was Lieutenant Grand Master from 1913 to 1951, and his signature also appears on the 1912 Constitution of the Grand Priory of America, incorporating the reconstituted Orthodox Russian Grand Priory. Dr. Bryant was succeeded by Baron de Engelhardt-Schellenstein from 1951 to 1955; HE Count Dr Frederick Graf von Zeppelin from 1956 to 1960; and Colonel Paul de Granier Cassagnac from 1960 to 1962.
King Peter Karadjordjevic was a direct descendent of Tsar Paul 1, the 70th Grand Master, and was elevated to a Bailiff of the Order on the 6 September 1958. Subsequently, in 1962, a number of concerns were brought to his attention by Colonel de Granier Cassagnac regarding the governance of the American Grand Priory. In response, and in keeping with the tradition of both Royal Houses to protect the Order, King Peter intervened and with the Lieutenant Grand Master issued a decree to transfer the seat of the Order from America to Europe as a first step to normalise matters.
King Peter then ‘recognised’ the Order by giving Royal assent to the “Charter of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem” on the 1 October 1963, (as had been done by his great-great-great grandmother, HRH Queen Victoria, for the Most Venerable Order in 1888). Following this, he gave his Royal assent to the “Constitution of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem” on the 19 March 1964, replacing the 1912 Constitution. Also in 1964, he re-established a Priory of the Order in Malta. He subsequently reconstituted it in 1970 as the ‘Russian Grand Priory of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem’ under a Royal Warrant.
King Peter was elected the 73rd Grand Master in 1965, and along with the subsequent role of Royal Head of the OSJ, elevated it to a ‘Royal Order of Knighthood’ via the fons honorum of an Orthodox European Monarch; and in ‘perpetuum ad illa fida ad rex propositum’ by the embodiment of the fons honorum in the Royal Charter issued to the Order under Royal Assent and Seal, until the next King of Yugoslavia withdraws or replaces it.
Since 1965, the OSJ has expanded with Grand Priories in various European countries including England, Malta, Italy and Cyprus, the USA and Australia.
The role of Royal Protector transferred to King Peter’s brother, HRH Prince Andrej Karadjordjevic, upon King Peter’s passing in 1970. Subsequently, in 1979, Prince Andrej was elected the 74th Grand Master of the OSJ succeeding HRH Prince Troubetzkoy who was Lieutenant Grand Master from 1969 to 1983. Prince Andrej led the OSJ until 1987 when the Order was briefly controlled by a Council of Regents from 1987 to 1989 under Anthony Zammit as First Regent. Professor Gaston Tonna-Barthet, the Grand Prior of the Russian Grand Priory of Malta, was to have been the Second Regent but passed away shortly before the Regency assumed responsibility for the Order.
HE Conventual Bailiff Anthony Zammit was elected as the Lieutenant Grand Master in 1989 and Grand Master in 1998. After the passing of Prince Andrej in 1990, HRH Prince Karl Vladimir Karadjordjevic, Prince Andrej’s second eldest son, accepted the Presidency of the Council of Administration of the Order. He subsequently became the ‘Royal Patron’ and Deputy Lieutenant Grand Master in 1991, during which he reaffirmed that the OSJ is a ‘Sovereign Order’.
Prince Karl Vladimir was elected the 76th Grand Master in 2001 upon the passing of HE Conventual Bailiff Zammit. Prince Karl Vladimir was born in 1964, the son of Prince Andrej of Yugoslavia and Princess Kira of Leiningen, and is married to Princess Brigitte (nee Muller). He is second cousin to Queen Elizabeth II, and is in the line of succession to the British throne through both his father and his mother. Queen Victoria is both his father’s great-great-great grandmother, and his mother’s great-great grandmother. He is listed in the order of succession from his father’s lineage, which is higher than his mother’s. He is a direct descendant of Tsar Paul 1 of Russia, the 70th Grand Master of the Order.