Matthew Festing

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Fra' Matthew Festing
Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta (more)
Grand Master Matthew Festing prayer 20100409.jpg
Fra' Matthew reads the prayer for the Order in the Merton College Chapel (Oxford, UK)
Reign 11 March 2008 -
Full name Robert Matthew Festing, OBE TD DL
Born (1949-11-30) 30 November 1949 (age 64)
Birthplace Northumberland, England, United Kingdom
Predecessor Fra' Andrew Bertie, 78th Prince and Grand Master
Royal house Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta (SMOM)
Royal anthem Ave Crux Alba (Hail, White Cross)
Father Field Marshal Sir Francis Festing
Mother Mary Cecilia Riddell

Fra' Matthew Festing, OBE, TD, DL (born 30 November 1949) is the 79th Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. He is the second Englishman to be elected Grand Master since 1258, the first having been his immediate predecessor Andrew Bertie.


Robert Matthew Festing is the youngest of four sons born to Field Marshal Sir Francis Festing (Chief of the Imperial General Staff),[1] a Roman Catholic convert and also a Knight of Malta, and Mary Cecilia, née Riddell (elder daughter of Cuthbert David Giffard Riddell, of Swinburne Castle, Northumberland). His mother's family are an old recusant family, descended from the Blessed Sir Adrian Fortescue, who was martyred in 1539.[1] His three brothers are John Festing (former High Sheriff of Northumberland), Major Michael Festing, and Andrew Festing (current President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters).

Education and career[edit]

Fra' Matthew received his early education at Ampleforth College. He graduated in Modern History from St John's College, Cambridge.[1] Having been sponsored though university by the British Army and holding the rank of second lieutenant (on probation) (University Cadetship), on 23 July 1971 he joined the Grenadier Guards as a second lieutenant (on probation). His service number is 486330.[2] He currently holds the rank of colonel in the Territorial Army.[1] He was Acting Colonel of the Northumbria Army Cadet Force.

In June 1998 he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth, for whom he has served as a Deputy Lieutenant in the county of Northumberland.[1]

Fra' Matthew is a patron of the Sandhurst Foundation and a trustee of the Northumbria Historic Churches Trust. Until 2008 he was the Northumberland representative for the auction house Sotheby's.

Order of Malta[edit]

Fra' Matthew was admitted to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in 1977. In 1991 he took Perpetual Vows and became a Knight of Justice. Between 1993 and 2008 he was Grand Prior of England, the first since 1815.

On 11 March 2008, Fra' Matthew was elected Grand Master during a conclave-style meeting at the Order's villa on Aventine Hill in Rome.[1] He is the third English Grand Master of the Order, immediately succeeding the second, Fra' Andrew Bertie. The first was Hugh Revel in 1258.


Titles, styles and honours[edit]

Styles of
Prince and Grand Master Fra' Matthew Festing
Coat of arms of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (variant).svg
Reference style His Most Eminent Highness
Spoken style Your Most Eminent Highness
Alternative style Sir

Titles and style[edit]

The full title of Fra' Matthew is: His Most Eminent Highness Fra' Matthew Festing, Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, Most Humble Guardian of the Poor of Jesus Christ.

The Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta was the sovereign ruler of Malta 1530–1798, and asserts sovereign status to this day. The holder of the office received, ex officio, the title of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire from the Holy Roman Emperor in 1607 (as an honorary title, as the Prince and Grand Master was already a sovereign in his own right outside the Empire), and the style of His Most Eminent Highness from the Pope in 1630, recognizing his status as a Prince of the Church. In the Order of precedence in the Catholic Church, Fra' Matthew ranks as the highest official after the cardinals, and is the only modern leader of an entity within the Catholic Church, in addition to the Pope, to be considered a sovereign monarch (historically, many (arch)bishops also had sovereign princely status).

Honours and decorations[edit]

Honorary citizenship[edit]

Honorary degrees[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Owen, Richard (11 March 2008). "Knights of Malta elect Englishman as new leader". The Times. Retrieved 11 March 2008. 
  2. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 45465. p. 9657. 6 September 1971. Retrieved 2012-09-02.
  3. ^ "Reply to a parliamentary question about the Decoration of Honour" (PDF) (in German). p. 1923. Retrieved 2013-01-13. 
  4. ^ Magyar Közlöny (17). 2009. 
  5. ^ Nomination by Sovereign Ordonnance n°2405 of 14 October 2009 (French)
  6. ^ a b c d e "Новости". Saintanna.Ru. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  7. ^ City of Rapallo

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Andrew Bertie
Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller
2008 — present