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Sovereign Military Order of Malta - Grand Master of the Order

Last modified: 2013-11-12 by rob raeside
Keywords: malta | smom | sovereign and military order of malta | christian orders |
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image by Željko Heimer, 8 June 2002
Grand Master Flag

There is a new Grand Master since 11 Mar 2008. The official site showing the arms of Fra' Matthew Festing is at http://www.orderofmalta.org/site/stemmi.asp?idlingua=5 where "at 2 and 3 azure an eagle [is] displayed erminois between three castles argent". A larger image can be seen at http://cilialacorte.com/grandmasters/Festing.html. If I am not mistaken, these personal arms do not appear on any flag or standard.
Jan Mertens, 16 August 2008


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Grand Master of the Order

The previous Grand Master was His Eminent Highness the Prince Grand Master of the Order of Malta, Andrew Willoughby Ninian Bertie. His flag includes a Collar of the Order around the Cross.
Santiago Dotor, 4 May 1999

The white Maltese cross on red is the flag of the Grand Master of the Order. The flag of the Order is a plain (St. George's) white cross on red.
Santiago Dotor, 8 September 1999

I confirm it from Album des Pavillons. The flag of Grand Master is captioned "in Roma". Would this mean that the Grand Master uses a different personal standard when outside of Rome? As the Order is "Sovereign", the Grand Master should have the rank of Head of State and the possibility to make official visits in "foreign" countries.
Ivan Sache, 8 September 1999

I suggest that the caption merely stated where the Grand Master is found when he is at home, for the benefit of those who don't know that the Villa Maltese is located in Rome, at 68 Via Condotti, said to be a minute's walk from the bottom of the Spanish Steps.
John Ayer, 9 September 1999

As the author of this caption, I confirm John's suggestion, this is what I meant. in the caption of this flag in the oncoming "Album des Pavillons" edition 2000 which will be bi-lingual, I have merely written the caption : "Grand Mastre - Grand Master".
Armand Noel du Payrat, 9 September 1999

In "Flags in South Africa and the world", Proceedings of the XVIIth International Congress of Vexillology, there is a rich paper by Adrian Strickland, entitled: "The vexillological heritage of the Knights of Saint-John in Malta" (pp. 277-287) . I have extracted few flags from the valuable paper:

Standard of the Grand Master:

image by Ivan Sache, 28 Febuary 2000

The personal standard of the Grand Master should be square instead of rectangular as shown at the top of this page. The second flag shown above is the Grand Master's motor car used on official occasions.
Ivan Sache, 28 February 2000

According to Payrat (2000) - Grand Master (2:3) - Red flag with white Maltese cross. The construction details are given of this same flag in Flaggenbuch 1939 [Neubecker (1992)]. The size of the circle circumscribing the cross is 28/44 of the hoist (i.e. 7/11). But Neubecker also gives the dimension between two neighbouring vertices of the cross (i.e. the side of the octagon) as 11, but this can't be exactly so (my calculation gives a number on three digits as 10.769, which is close enough).
Željko Heimer, 8 June 2002

During their mandate as Grand Masters, their personal arms would be quartered with those of the SMOM ("Gules a cross Argent" i.e. red with a white cross throughout) with the latter in the first and fourth quarters.
Santiago Dotor, 15 March 2006


Historical standards of the Grand Masters

In "Flags in South Africa and the world", Proceedings of the XVIIth International Congress of Vexillology, there is a rich paper by Adrian Strickland, entitled: "The vexillological heritage of the Knights of Saint-John in Malta" (pp. 277-287) . I have extracted a few flags from the valuable paper:

Grand Masters used to quarter their own personal arms with those of the Order in the first and fourth quarters, as for instance in the standard of Grand Master Pinto (1741-1773):

image by Ivan Sache, 28 February 2000

But arms were also often quartered per saltire, as shown in another standard of Grand Master Pinto:

image by Ivan Sache, 28 February 2000

Other Grand Masters did not quarter their arms, as for instance Grand Master Rohan.

The burgee ("gagliardetto") used by Grand Master Perellos (1697-1720) in less formal occasions seems to be canting.

Ivan Sache, 28 February 2000


Brother Pierre d'Aubusson (1476-1503)

It is often said that Grandmasters used flags having the same pattern as their coats of arms. I have tried to find out, but I've only got proof for two Grandmasters. One of them is Brother Pierre d'Aubusson (1476-1503). He was Grandmaster during the 1st Turkish siege of Rhodes from May until August 1480 which ended with a victory for the Knights of Rhodes. The siege has been described by Guillaume Caoursin, born est. 1430 in Flandres. He was from Rhodes and studied in Paris, gaining the title of a Doctor (phil?). Though not being member of the order, he became vice-chancellor of d'Aubusson.
Caoursin wrote a book, which contained many paintings of the siege. There were two flags depicted: 1) the red flag with a white Greek cross (flag of the order) and the flag and a "war-pennant" with the colours of d'Aubusson.
Description of the flags:
1) Flag of d'Aubusson:

image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 28 May 2006

It is a quarterly divided square flag. In the upper hoist and the lower fly is are red fields with white Greek crosses. In the lower hoist and the upper fly are yellow fields with red moline crosses.

2) "War-pennant" of d'Aubusson:

image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 28 May 2006

I believe, this kind is called a swallow-tail pennant, ending up in two triangles at the fly. At the hoist is the quarterly divided coat of arms of d'Aubusson, followed by a red field with a white Greek cross, followed by two times two smaller red fields with white Greek crosses. None of the five crosses touch the edges of the flag nor do they touch one another. The triangles are yellow with one horizontal red stripe each.

Note: On p.19 of the source are different colours of d'Aubusson: the moline crosses are yellow in white fields, offending against basic rules of heraldry (both metals). So I think the pictures of Caoursin are the better ones.

Source: Guillaume Caoursin: "Obsidionis Rhodiae urbis descriptio" (Latin); Rhodes, ca. 1485 transl: "Description of the siege of the city of Rhodes", p.40
Reprinted in: Elias Kollias: "Die Ritter von Rhodos"; Athens; ISBN 960-213-244-2; p.50
Translated to German by Ute Rinke-Moladakis

Klaus-Michael Schneider, 28 May 2006


Grand Master Andrew Bertie's flag (1988-2008)

[Grand Master of the Order of Malta 1988 (Andrew Bertie)] image by Jaume Ollé


Grand Masters Arms on Stamps

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta releases its own postage stamps (labeled in Italian 'Sovrano Militare Ordine di Malta - Poste Magistrali'). A current series of such stamps shows the arms of the Grand Masters. These stamps could be an excellent source to complete the Grand Masters' banner of arms series partially shown above. Unfortunately, my stamp catalogue only shows small black-and-white 'previews' of the stamps, of little use here.
Ivan Sache, 25 August 2001


 
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