Order of Saint Joachim

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Lord Nelson
Lord Nelson's star
Commander's star

The Order of Saint Joachim is considered by some historians a Confraternal Order of Chivalry, although other historians consider it a "self-styled" Order of Chivalry. Its most famous member was Admiral Horatio Nelson.

18th century[edit]

The "Equestrian, Secular and Chapterial Order of Saint Joachim" was established in 1755 by H.S.H. Prince Christian Franz von Saxen-Coburg-Saalfeld, son of reigning Duke Franz Josias. Prince Christian Franz was installed as its first Grand Master on June 20, 1756, a position he held until 1773.[1]

The Order had fourteen founding members who were nobles and military leaders of the Holy Roman Empire:

  • Duke of Württemberg-Oels
  • Prince Piccolomini
  • Count von Clary und Aldringen
  • Baron von Eib
  • Ritter Fachner von Trauenstein
  • Keck von Schwarzbach
  • Count von Kollowrat-Krakowsky
  • Baron von Milchling
  • Baron Moser von Filseck
  • Count von Nostitz
  • Baron Reichlin von Meldegg
  • Wiedersperger von Wiedersperg
  • Baron von Zobel von Giebelstadt

Having seen the consequences of ongoing religious wars in Europe, the Order's founders dedicated themselves to "worship the Supreme Being, show tolerance towards all religions, loyalty towards their princes, support the needs of their military, the poor, widows and orphans." [Perrot: 1821]. The Order was uniquely composed of both Protestant and Catholic nobles and leaders at a time when religion violently divided Europe and the German states within the Holy Roman Empire, and other knightly orders allied themselves exclusively with one faith or the other.[citation needed]

When the Order was founded in 1755, it was originally with the name "The Knights of the Order of Jonathan, Defenders of the Honour of Divine Providence". In 1767 the reference to Jonathan was removed from the name. Finally, in 1785 a further change was made, and the Order's constitution was revised by the General Chapter to rename it "The Equestrian, Secular and Chapterial Order of Saint Joachim".[2]

Albert Pike, prominent American Mason and American Civil War general, erroneously identified the Order of Saint Joachim with Illuminati-related Enlightenment societies. In his 1883 work, "A Historical Inquiry In Regard To The Grand Constitutions Of 1786", he stated that the disbanded Illuminati continued on through the various branches of the Rosicrucian Order, including the later versions of the Gold Rosicrucians, namely, the Order of Perfect Initiates of Asia, or the Asiatic Brethren, and the various Orders of Light, specifically mentioning "The Order of Saint Joachim (St. Jonathan)". Records show that a few Illuminati were members of the early Order of Saint Joachim, specifically Count von Kollowrat-Krakowsky, as well as Freemasons and Rosicrucians. The Order of Saint Joachim had direct connection to the Gülden und Rosenkreuzer (Gold Rosicrucians), founded in 1777, which also had Illuminati and Masonic roots. The Gold Rosicrucians was Hermetic in character, drawing heavily on Eastern and Islamic mysticism. The Gold Rosicrucians was headed by Johann Karl Baron von Ecker und Eckhoffen, who in 1787 was Chancellor of The Order of Saint Joachim. Baron von Ecker und Eckhoffen is named as a member of several other mystic societies, including the Christian Masonry of Bohemia in 1756, and the Asiatic Brethren.[3]

The Order of Saint Joachim was recognized in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by several contemporary sovereigns and states. Leopold II, King of Hungary and Bohemia (later Holy Roman Emperor) formally acknowledged and sanctioned the wearing of the insignia of the Order on May 23, 1790 with a document of Royal Concession. He appointed the Comte Christian von Leiningen, a knight of The Order of Saint Joachim and relative of the Grand Master, to be Chamberlain of the Imperial Palace.[4]

On 27 April 1791 King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia issued a similar Royal Grant recognizing the legitimacy of the Order and permitting the wearing of the insignia of The Order of Saint Joachim on Prussian officers' military uniforms.[1]

19th century[edit]

Sir Levett Hanson of the Order of St Joachim and General Richard Wilford in portrait by artist Nathaniel Hone, R.A., 1777

The Order of Saint Joachim was also closely examined at the request of the British Crown before Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson was allowed to accept the award of the Cross of a Knight Grand Commander. The Order of Saint Joachim was approved as a legitimate knightly order by the English Royal College of Arms, which was confirmed by the King's Warrant in 1802, and granted Nelson permission to accept and wear the honour. Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson was wearing the breast cross of a Knight Grand Commander of The Order of Saint Joachim when he was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The British King's Warrant approving the acceptance and wear of the insignia of the Order of Saint Joachim was granted in several other instances, including to Nelson's brother, Viscount Merton, General Sir Charles Imhoff,[5] and Philippe d'Auvergne, Prince de Boullion, Rear Admiral of the Blue.[6]

Napoleon's brother-in-law, Joachim Murat (March 25, 1767 – October 13, 1815), a Marshal of France, usurped the grand mastership of the Order of Saint Joachim in 1806 when was made the Grand Duke of the newly created "Duchy of Berg and Cleves". During his term as Grand Duke of Berg and Cleves (March 15, 1806 to August 1, 1808 when he left to become King of Naples) Joachim Murat declared himself the Grand Master of The Order of Saint Joachim, and expanded the Order to include members of the French Legion of Honour. His authority was never recognized by the rest of the Order in exile.[citation needed]

Something unique and troublesome to many conventional commentators on Orders of knighthood is that The Order of Saint Joachim did not owe its existence to a royal or noble house, or "fons honorium". Its founder and first Grand Master, Prince Christian Franz von Saxen-Coburg-Saalfeld, was the son of a sovereign duke, but never himself a ruler. The next three Grand Masters were sovereign rulers (Duke de Monfort followed by successive counts of Leinigen), and would technically qualify as a "fons". Instead of being a hereditary position, the grand mastership was elected by its members. Writing in 1843, G.L. De Rochement and J. Bischoff ("Ridderorden": Amsterdam, p. 27) observed that The Order of Saint Joachim "does not owe its origins to any crowned head, even so it is recognized both on the European mainland and in Great Britain as an Order of knighthood." Writing in 1828, English College of Arms Windsor Herald, Francis Townsend, Esq., FSA, stated: "This Order owes its foundation to no crowned head, but has been recognized both in Great Britain and abroad, as an Order of Knighthood."[7]

In 1802, Levett Hanson, an English writer and courtier,[8] and Vice-Chancellor of the Order, published An Accurate Historical Account of all the Orders of Knighthood at present existing in Europe, which Hanson dedicated to Admiral Nelson. The work cast the Order of Saint Joachim as equal to any existing chivalric order.[9] Hanson was a childhood friend to Horatio Nelson during their schooling at Paston Grammar School in Paston, Norfolk, and arranged to have Nelson made Knight Grand Commander of the Order, giving the Order instant cachet.[8]

Hanson had served as Chamberlain to the Duke of Modena, as well as at other European royal courts.[10] Hanson was well-connected.[11] HIs godfather was William Wilberforce, a wealthy merchant who was twice mayor of Hull and grandfather of the reformer.[12] Hanson's brother-in-law was Sir Thomas Gery Cullum, 7th Bart., surgeon, botanist, antiquarian and Bath King of Arms for nearly 30 years.[13] Intrigued at an early age by all things chivalric, Hanson spent his peripatetic life shuttling between European royal courts.[14] His Yorkshire ancestors having been active in the Knights Hospitallers, Hanson was intrigued by the domains in Europe where chivalry and knighthood still held sway.

Critics claimed that the Order seemed to be domiciled wherever Hanson found himself, and that 'Knighthoods' were available to anyone with sufficient funds. "It was long understood," wrote one contemporary observer, "that moyennant a certain not inconsiderable deposit at a banking house at Pall-mall, the distinction was at the service of any one who might have a fancy for it; and that letters-missive were soon forthcoming from Sir Levett, containing due notification of election by the 'equestrian, secular and chapteral Order,' at its last sitting at Bamberg, Hamburgh, Lubeck or wherever that personage happened, at the time, to be domiciliated."[15] Hanson was known to have travelled extensively in Europe during this period, necessitated by the changing boundaries and battlefields of the Napoleonic Wars, eventually settling in Sweden, where he became a fixture at the Swedish court until his death.

Following the Treaty of Vienna, The Order of Saint Joachim continued to be associated with the House of Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha. Ernest III, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (2 January 1784 – 29 January 1844) continued to award the Order of Saint Joachim. A letter from 1821 exists from a Dr. Joseph Romain Louis de Kirckhoff (also de Kerckhov) thanking Ernst I, Herzog von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha for awarding him the Order of Saint Joachim. [16] His son, Ernest II, (21 June 1818 – 22 August 1893) is known to have included the Order's post-nominals "K.J." among his awards and honours. Bulgarian Tsar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria (26 February 1861 – 10 September 1948) a prince of the Koháry branch of the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, was popularly pictured with the insignia of The Order of St Joachim in 1888, although the connection between the two is unknown.

1888 cigarette card published by Kinney Bros. Tobacco Co. from the series “International Cards” - N238 in Burdick ’s American Card Catalogue.

A modern writer on Orders of Knighthood, Guy Stair Sainty, numbers it among the "self-styled" orders but credits it as a charitable institution.[17] He erroneously doubts Nelson's membership in the order and wrongly identified Nelson as a Grand Master of the Order. The post-nominals of a Knight of the Order of Saint Joachim ("K.J.") were recognized in "Debrett's Baronetage of England",[18] and were similarly published in the 1832 "A Key to Both Houses of Parliament".[19]

20th and 21st centuries[edit]

The Order historically has a small membership - 14 at its founding and only 75 at the time Nelson was made a member. It was reorganized in 1929 and 1948 and was led by Helmut von Bräundle-Falkensee [20] (1950-2007) from 1988 until his death on 14 October 2007. He was an Austrian who was also founder and Secretary General of the Austrian Albert Schweitzer Society.[20] After his death, the Canadian barrister Stephen Lautens (b. 1959), who was serving as the Order's Coadjutor Grand Master, was elected the new Grand Master.[21] It has its Chapterhouse in England and additional Commanderies in the United States, Canada and Austria. It is registered as a charity in the U.K. (UK registered charity No. 1047873) and supports the homeless, ex-servicemen, hospitals and children's charities. It is organized as a federal not-for-profit corporation in Canada.

A recent exhibition displaying the heraldry of Admiral Nelson at the College of Arms in 2005 featured a replica of Nelson's uniform with its honorary blazons. Among the orders of merit worn by Nelson, which included the Order of the Bath (whose heraldic expert was Hanson's brother-in-law Sir Thomas Cullum), was the Order of St Joachim. The star, said the College of Arms in its newsletter, was "the bogus Order of St. Joachim created and hawked around the Courts of Europe by 'Sir' Levett Hanson."[22] In a subsequent newsletter several months later, the editors backed off their earlier condemnation, issuing a partial retraction: "The Order of St. Joachim referred to in the last issue," said the College-of-Arms, "was not (as there stated) created by Levett Hanson but dated back to an order founded in 1755 by a group of mostly German princes."[23]

The breast star of The Order of Saint Joachim Nelson was wearing at Trafalgar is attached to the famous "Trafalgar Coat" which he was wearing when mortally wounded at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and is on permanent display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England.[24]

In the British Broadcasting Corporation 2010 project "A History of the World in 100 Objects", one of the objects chosen was the insignia of the Order of St. Joachim awarded to Philippe d'Auvergne, Vice Admiral of the Blue, in 1803.[25]

Screen appearances[edit]

The insignia of the Order of Saint Joachim can be seen being worn by Lord Kiely in Sharpe's Battle.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Hanson, Levett (1802). An Accurate Historical Account of All The Orders of Knighthood At Present Existing In Europe. J. White - (reprint Kessinger Publishing). ISBN 0-7661-5415-7.  Vol. 1 p. 33.
  2. ^ Hanson, Levett (1802). An Accurate Historical Account of All The Orders of Knighthood At Present Existing In Europe. J. White - (reprint Kessinger Publishing). ISBN 0-7661-5415-7.  Vol. 1 p. 38-39.
  3. ^ http://www.loge-carl-zum-felsen.de/entstehung.html Archived April 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Hanson, Levett (1802). An Accurate Historical Account of All The Orders of Knighthood At Present Existing In Europe. J. White - (reprint Kessinger Publishing). ISBN 0-7661-5415-7.  Vol. 1 p. 42-43.
  5. ^ The Gentleman's Magazine. 1853.  May Issue - Obituaries p. 543.
  6. ^ Balleine, G.R. (1973). The Tragedy of Philippe d'Auvergne. Phillimore & Co: London. ISBN 0-85033-124-2.  pp. 107-8.
  7. ^ Townsend, Francis (1828). Calendar of Knights, Containing Lists of Knights Bachelors, British Knights of Foreign Orders, Also Knights of the Garter, Thistle Bath, St. Patrick and the Guelphic and Ionian Orders; from 1760 to the Present Time.  p. XXV.
  8. ^ a b  "Hanson, Levett". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  9. ^ Levett Hanson, Calendar of Knights; Containing Lists of Knights Bachelor, British Knights of Foreign Orders, Francis Townsend, Pursuivant of Arms, London, 1828
  10. ^ Anecdotes and Characters of the House of Brunswick, John Brown, London, 1821
  11. ^ Normanton: Its Old Houses and Ancient Families, Part 2, History of Normanton, Walter Hampson, www.wakefield.gov.uk
  12. ^ Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica, Joseph J. Howard (ed.), republished by Adamant Media Corporation, 2001
  13. ^ After Sir Levett Hanson's death in Copenhagen, the unmarried Hanson's estate passed to his sister Mary, wife of Sir Thomas Gery Cullum, Bt., of Hardwick House (Suffolk). Levett's estate included a portrait of Sir Thomas Gargrave, a famous Yorkshire knight to whom Levett was related.[1]
  14. ^ Anecdotes and Characters of the House of Brunswick, John Brown, T. and J. Allman, London, 1821
  15. ^ Review of the Chandos Peerage Case: Adjudicated 1803, and of the Pretensions of Sir Samuel-Egerton Brydges, Baronet, to Designate Himself Per Legem Terrae Baron Chandos of Sudeley, George Frederick Beltz, Lancaster Herald, Richard Bentley, London, 1834
  16. ^ http://www.stjoachimorder.org/images/SaxeCoburgGothaGM%20Letter1821.jpg
  17. ^ Sainty, Guy Stair (2007). "Self Styled 'Orders of Chivalry'". chivalricorders.org. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  18. ^ Debrett, John (1815). Baronetage of England, 3d Edition.  Vol. 1.
  19. ^ A Key to Both Houses of Parliament. Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green & Longman. 1832. p. viii. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  20. ^ a b "Helmut von Bräundle-Falkensee". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). December 14, 2007. 
  21. ^ "Grand Master & Grand Chapter Officers". stjoachimorder.org. 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  22. ^ College of Arms Newsletter, December 2005, college-of-arms.gov.uk
  23. ^ College of Arms Newsletter, March 2006, college-of-arms.gov.uk
  24. ^ "Royal Naval uniform: pattern 1795-1812 (Nelson's Trafalgar Coat)". National Maritime Museum. 2013. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  25. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/0JfsaZatRLmqHSzF7SCVmQ
  • Hanson, Levett: "The Court of Saxe-Weimar" with German translation in: Schulz, Heide: "The Court of Saxe-Weimar", Heidelberg 2011, ISBN 978-3-8253-5887-7, p. 68-71 and 190-214

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