International Commission on Orders of Chivalry

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The International Commission on Orders of Chivalry (ICOC) is an organization whose stated purpose is to examine Orders of chivalry to determine their legitimacy. It publishes a Register of its findings every two years. Since its foundation in 1960 it has been embroiled in several controversies caused by the different cultural training of the commissioners, finished in 1999.

Formation and history[edit]

The ICOC was founded in 1960 at the Fifth International Congress of Genealogy and Heraldry, a biennial convention for genealogists, heraldic scholars and others working in related fields.[1] The Congress that year was under the leadership of the Swedish Baron Hamilton of Hageby. Its formation was instigated by Lt. Col. Robert Gayre, a Scottish anthropologist and author, who had an interest in heraldry, and was the Commissioner-General in Britain for the so called Order of Saint Lazarus.[2][3] Joining Gayre on the Board of Directors was the Italian Baron Alessandro Monti della Corte,[3] who was also the Chancellor of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, Hungarian author Prof. Gèza Grosschmid Zsögöd de Visegrad, the British heraldry expert and Portcullis Pursuivant John Brooke-Little, Robert Gayre, the British author, genealogist and officer of arms Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk, Bt., Officer of Arms Conrad Swan, Elisabeth Prins, Robert Matagne, Roger Harmignies and Paul Warming.[3]

The purpose of the ICOC was originally to determine the legitimacy of Orders of chivalry as, since the late-19th century, a number of purported Orders had been operating, bestowing (and often selling) chivalric and noble titles. It was believed that an organization like the ICOC, while not possessing any actual powers of enforcement, could research the relative legitimacy of claimed Orders and provide the public with objective information about them to enable them to choose legitimate ones.[4]


In 1964, the ICOC expanded their original focus by adding a new category which they called "Noble Corporations". They expanded further in 1984 with "Other Noble Corporations", in 1998 with "Ecclesiastical Decorations", in 2000 with "Bodies of a Chivalric Character" and "Bodies inspired by chivalry", in 2001 with "Bodies which referred to Orders or awards which had been awarded by state bodies in the past" and again in 2002 with "Revivals of ancient chivalric institutions originally founded as Orders by the dynastic successor of the founding authority; New chivalric institutions founded by the head of a former reigning dynasty; Successors of chivalric institutions originally founded under the authority of a state".[4]


The Commission prepared its second report on "accepted" Orders of chivalry for the 1964 Congress, but when Gayre insisted upon including the Order of Saint Lazarus in the list,[3] many of the other members of the Board of Directors resigned in protest. Gayre replaced them with members of the Order of Saint Lazarus, and those sympathetic to their ambition to be accepted as a legitimate chivalric Order.[3]

In 1970 the ICOC decided to approve the "Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller (or "Royal Yugoslavian Order of Saint John"),[5] a move that further alienated the ICOC from the company of respectable scholarship and increasingly cast suspicion on their own validity.[5]

By 1996, the last year of Gayre's Presidency, the Vice-President of the ICOC was Terence Francis MacCarthy, founder of the self-styled Irish chivalric Order the Niadh Nask, and who fraudulently claimed to be "Prince of Desmond", the MacCarthy Mór. Gayre himself had assumed the fantasy title of "Baron of Lochoreshire",[2] and claimed to be the chief of the Clan Gayre, which he had earlier invented.[6][7] Gayre served as MacCarthy's "Constable" in the Niadh Nask.[8] The other eight members of the Board of the ICOC in 1996 included Patrick O'Kelly, who claimed to be "Baron O'Kelly de Conejera", and six other members of the Niadh Nask.[8]

Since the Niadh Nask was heretofore unknown within the world of chivalric Orders, Gayre and the ICOC expanded the original focus of the group to include a new category, called "Dynastic Nobiliary Fraternities". Hundreds of people, taken in by these claims, joined the Niadh Nask or donated to their "cause", totaling about $1 million. Among those convinced by the hoax were former Irish Prime Ministers Charles Haughey and Albert Reynolds, and John Brook-Little. After Gayre's death in 1996 MacCarthy assumed the position of President and continued using the ICOC as a vehicle to advance his fraudulent nobiliary claims. In July 1999 the falsity of MacCarthy's claims was discovered and reported in the media, and he resigned from the ICOC.[9][10]

Recent developments[edit]

Since 1999 the President of the ICOC has been Dr. Pier Felice degli Uberti, whose first act was to ask all the commissioners their curriculum vitae removing those whose academic standing was not sufficient to the position of commissioner; so the previous Board membership has been replaced, largely by individuals of greater credibility in the heraldry and chivalric Orders community, such as author and nobiliary expert Guy Stair Sainty and genealogical and heraldic expert Cecil Humphery-Smith and historian of the Crusades Jonathan Riley-Smith. The ICOC's most recent Register and Provisional List of Orders was published in 2010.[11]

The ICOC published the following statement on their website: " should be acknowledged that some serious mistakes were made, where organizations were included in the Register alongside historical chivalric orders despite not being such, and because of this it has been necessary to go back to the 1964 Register and use that as a starting point." "These [organizations] include, first and foremost, the so-called 'Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller' (or 'Royal Yugoslav Order of Saint John'), included from 1970, and the so-called 'Niadh Nask,' included from 1996/1998."

In 1999 the ICOC also decided to remove the Order of Saint Lazarus from the Register's list of legitimate Orders of chivalry.[12]


  1. ^ "ICOC: History". Retrieved 2013-08-21. 
  2. ^ a b The Hospitaller Order Of Saint Lazarus by C. Savona-Ventura
  3. ^ a b c d e p. 299, "The Sword and the Green Cross: The Saga of the Knights of Saint Lazarus from the Crusades to the 21st Century" by Max Ellull, AuthorHouse Publishers, 2011
  4. ^ a b "history". Retrieved 2013-08-21. 
  5. ^ a b 2007 ICOC Register
  6. ^ p. 1866, "World Orders of Knighthood and Merit" by Guy Stair Sainty, Burke's Peerage London 2006 (ISBN 0971196672) "...the late Robert Gayre (first Chief of the newly formed Clan Gayre)..."
  7. ^ "The Gatherings of Clan Gayre". The Glasgow Herald. 1975-06-14. Retrieved 2013-08-21. 
  8. ^ a b "The International Commission on Orders of Chivalry". Retrieved 2013-08-21. 
  9. ^ Sean J. Murphy, "Twilight of the Chiefs: The Mac Carthy Mór Hoax", 2004, Academica Press, Bethesda, Md., ISBN 1-930901-43-7
  10. ^ "Twilight of the Chiefs: The Mac Carthy Mór Hoax". Retrieved 2013-08-21. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "ICOC: Premise". Retrieved 2013-08-21.