In Defence of (Real) History
Who is Head of the Royal House of Bourbon of the Two Sicilies
and Grand Master of the Constantinian Order?
©2004, 2009 L. Mendola
"Men from a single social and even religious caste formed into an order whose very existence is not suspected by the man in the street."
So Roger Peyrefitte described the Order of Malta in 1959. The following commentary relates to institutions which, if anything, are even more arcane.
This article is published independently and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Royal House of Bourbon of the Two Sicilies or the Grand Master of its orders of chivalry. As it is not the intention of the author of this concise essay to convince anybody of the legitimacy of the Constantinian Order based in Italy, no rebuttals will be issued. Rather, the author wishes to explain something of the situation and set forth a few of the reasons why Carlo di Borbone delle Due Sicilie, Duke of Castro (son of the late Ferdinando), enjoys wide support in the land his ancestors ruled.
Don't expect excessively dry reading, but do expect the arcane. This topic, both eclectic and esoteric, actively interests only a few thousand people, even if its implications are somewhat wider. Nothing presented here will influence your life very much --unless, of course, you are obsessed with the question. This essay is intended for those who have already read other information on the "dispute" involving Headship of the Royal House of the Two Sicilies and the related question of Grand Magistry of the Constantinian Order of Saint George.
An underlying point in my approach to this topic, apart from its purely cultural, historical and legal aspects, is that certain knightly orders (either dynastic or military-religious) attract two kinds of people: those sincerely interested in helping the less fortunate or who feel a personal link to history, and (in stark contrast) those others primarily interested in the accumulation of social status (or perhaps just an occasional dose of social validation) expressed through titles, medals and recognition of ancestral "nobility." The latter are the annoying ones, and in passing one may observe that some of these persons go to great lengths to insult and offend anybody who disagrees with their views.
This essay concerns not only the issues themselves, but also the question of comportment of certain persons advancing opinions contesting the position of the head of the dynasty under discussion. It is to be noted that no attempt is made to judge any individual simply because of his or her convictions or beliefs regarding headship of this non-reigning dynasty. Criticism is directed only at those few "zealots" who have made this dispute their raison d'être through the use of "selective history" and through unjustified personal attacks on people whose view of history and law differs from theirs.
One must wonder how and why some of these men came to be so obsessed with this topic.
North and South
Why is there a dispute?
Parallel Minds and Activities
Did somebody mention Christianity?
Why this article and why now?
What transpired in 1900?
And in 1960?
Politics and Ethics
Grand Magistry of orders
Nobility and Recognition
Recognition by the Italian Republic
Recognition by the Holy See
Recognition by other de jure sovereignties
Dukedom of Calabria
Cast In Stone
Reactions to Eccentrics
Real traditions die hard
Separate but Equal
Grand Masters of the Order of Malta
Why are non-reigning dynasties significant?
Non-regnant dynasties, whether in Italy, Germany or elsewhere, play a role in maintaining the cultural and historical identity of Old World peoples. Though hardly essential to the fabric of society, they represent not only peoples but even places. Control of dynastic orders of chivalry is at the root of certain dynastic quarrels. Some of these institutions are very old, and have a canonical position in Church law. Nowadays the few "military-religious" orders serve chiefly philanthropic purposes and specific social ones (the Bourbons' Constantinian Order supports various charities but also inter-faith dialogue).
From the 1860s until the establishment of the Italian Republic (1946), the "Garibaldi Myth" had taken hold, challenged by few scholars in Italy. It was in the 1950s, in a subtle "movement" supported by scholars such as Harold Acton and Achille di Lorenzo, that the "case" of the Neapolitan Bourbons became part of a wider public examination of history. The work of people like Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, author of The Leopard (a bestselling novel), introduced the aristocratic memory of the "Borboni" to millions.
Anybody who closely examines not only the legalistic ideas advanced by the self-proclaimed "experts" in Neapolitan dynastic law, but also their ethnic and religious backgrounds, may find it bizarre that some of the most vocal of these "experts" have absolutely no ancestral connection to southern Italy (i.e. they are not Italian) or even, in a few cases, to the Catholic Church (i.e. they have converted to Catholicism). This initially surprised me (and still does), and I wondered how to explain that, with all the suffering in the world to be alleviated and all the great intellectual challenges to be addressed, there were people literally obsessed with something that I had always considered, at best, little more than a footnote to my own familial history. This is an important point because, after all, a lawyer could not represent a case in a real tribunal unless his credentials were accepted and his competence demonstrable (i.e. he would have to be certified to argue before the court). The question of jurisdiction and venue is discussed below and it is one of the major factors which banishes many dynastic disputes to the fantastic realm of hypothesis. This is not to say that all legal treatises in this area are misplaced, but that the resulting acrimony of people not directly involved in the dispute is ridiculous.
My own perspective is based on a study of history firmly rooted in reality. An "introduction" to the House of the Two Sicilies, which ruled southern Italy (including Sicily) from 1734 until 1861, was a familial one. A great-grandfather, born in 1867 (and who lived to be 97), was the son of a royal courier who served the king of the Two Sicilies. Another ancestor, born into a noble family, was active on the Bourbonist side of the revolution of 1848, which began in Palermo and rapidly spread across Europe. This "race memory" of the Bourbons of Naples had been preserved in our family, which, by the twentieth century, had no particularly monarchist or "Savoyard" orientation. (This essay isn't about me, so let's move on to something more interesting...)
North and South, Turin and Naples
The House of Bourbon of the Two Sicilies ruled southern Italy (the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily) from 1759 until 1860. Nowadays, Italy's monarchist movements (whether Savoyard or Bourbonist) are essentially historical and cultural in orientation. There will be no restoration of monarchy in this country anytime soon. In the interest of history and tradition, most of those having roots among the more "distinguished" families of southern Italy would probably hold today's Savoys and Bourbons in a certain esteem even if they did not bestow honours (knighthoods) and host balls. Much of this has to do with a traditional concept --or romantic ideal-- of fealty spanning centuries. The Bourbons' ancestors, including the Angevin kings, have been present in southern Italy, in one incarnation or another, since the Middle Ages, and (until 1946) the Savoys had reigned in northern Italy for just as long. One of them was even king of Sicily for a few years early in the eighteenth century.
There are only four Savoy princes (dynasts in the male line of descent from Italian kings), namely Vittorio Emanuele (Duke of Savoy), his son Emanuele Filiberto (Prince of Venice), his cousin Amedeo (Duke of Aosta), and Amedeo's own son, Aimone. In 2006 Prince Amedeo declared himself and his son entitled to a claim to dynastic headship superseding that of Vittorio Emanuele, the only son of King Umberto II (the Savoy succession is explained elsewhere). The Neapolitan Bourbon dynasts are only slightly more numerous than the Savoys. The head of the dynasty is Carlo (Duke of Castro), son and heir of the late Ferdinando, and there are several cousins. A cousin in Spain, Prince Carlos (Infante of Spain who styles himself "Duke of Calabria") claims to be head of the dynasty; Carlos has a son, Pedro ("Duke of Noto"), his only lawful heir. (The genealogical tree is shown below.)
Why is there a dispute???
A VERY important point usually overlooked by supporters of both Infante Carlos and Prince Carlo --in fact, the whole reason for the contestation and consequential dispute, so let's consider the realities of the situation. It was not before 1949 that the Infante Alfonso (1901-1964), son of Carlo (who had renounced almost 50 years earlier), asserted his claim in response to the diligent encouragement of Juan (1913-1993), Count of Barcelona and pretender to the Spanish Throne, father of King Juan Carlos now reigning. Essentially the exiled Juan, knowing that Francisco Franco would open the possibility of restoration of the crown to "any Catholic prince," sought to exclude from consideration the nearest contenders, namely Alfonso and his son, Carlos (born 1938). By claiming dynastic rights to the crown of the Two Sicilies, father and son effectively excluded themselves from the Spanish succession --or at least from serious consideration. Otherwise, Carlos, and not necessarily his cousin Juan Carlos, might have become king of Spain. In retrospect, Alfonso's action was perhaps one of the most inappropriate and flawed dynastic decisions of the twentieth century. As jurist Stephen Kerr has pointed out, Alfonso effectively renounced the possibility of his son succeeding to an actual kingdom for the impossibility of succeeding to one that had not existed since 1861. By 1949, with establishment of the Italian Republic following a destructive war and (Allied) military occupation, it was crystal clear to most observers that Italian monarchical restorations were no longer very realistic.
That's correct: for at least a half-century the line of Infante Alfonso and his father had accepted their position in the royal family of Spain, as a status existing outside the House of the Two Sicilies, without question. Then, out of the blue, in 1960, Alfonso claimed to be head of the Neapolitan dynasty, with his young son Carlos (born 1938) as heir, saying that those unsupportive of his claim --including the entire Two Sicilies dynasty-- were "traitors." Until then, nobody had contested the arrangement made at Cannes, no jurist or historian had suggested that the headship of the dynasty could be separated from the grand magistry of the Constantinian Order except for lack of heirs (extinction of the dynasty) as promulgated by the Farnese Statutes, and no regnant or exiled heads of European royal houses had ever suggested that Alfonso, born in 1901, was the head of the House of the Two Sicilies. Indeed, two kings of Italy (Vittorio Emanuele III and Umberto II) recognised Ranieri (1883-1973) as head of the Two Sicilies dynasty. What we see today is, in fact, the continuation of a retroactive questioning of what was accepted as a dynastic act, based on dynastic law, after at least fifty years of universal acceptance.
If I could make one fundamental legal point, this would be it: In dynastic legal matters involving disputes to headship of non-regnant houses, jurisdiction, venue and enforcement, usually considered fundamental juridical necessities, are completely lacking --dynastic heads themselves representing the ultimate juridical recourse in their respective dynasties. This makes the legal aspects of the disputes hypothetical or even quasi-metaphysical unless and until the dynasty is restored to power. In other words, nobody is empowered to resolve a dynastic headship dispute unless both claimants submit themselves to binding arbitration by a third party. The positions of a successor state (in this case the Italian Republic), related monarchs (i.e. the King of Spain), the nobility (itself actually unrecognised legally in the case of Italy) and the Church (the Papacy in the case of Italian dynasties), though interesting, are not decisive or determining. In times long past, matters such as these were settled on the battlefield by mounted knights or by the claimants themselves, with pseudo-legalistic bickering kept to a minimum. It was a simpler age. Today, when several books have been written on the topic of the Bourbons' "dispute," it is also appropriate to approach the subject from an objective, rational social perspective, particularly considering that some of the "Spanish" advocates have misrepresented a number of facts and realities over the years.
Citing historic precedents and dynastic laws in a position paper or treatise is not, in itself, a negative thing. It is in the review or analysis of the information that one sets foot onto potentially unstable ground. In an actual court of law there are assertions but also rebuttals. (In criminal trials, for example, there is discovery and presentation, followed by direct examination but also cross examination.) A lawyer might write a review or position paper for a legal journal, but only an actual case in a court of law entails juridical procedure, resulting in judgment and perhaps appeal. Cases are sometimes dismissed, set aside or declared null based on problems involving incorrect procedure. As a venue, the court of public opinion leaves much to be desired, as do mock trials and public debates. In a matter involving a dispute between dynasts, these serve nothing except perhaps to explain why somebody endorses the position of one side or the other. Seeking the approbation of this or that king or court is a useless exercise. Granted, this strategy has gained the Infante Carlos a few points in Spain, but it is virtually useless everywhere else. Applying this strategy, he would have to make his case in dozens of countries to gain the kind of "universal" recognition enjoyed by persons such as Otto von Habsburg as generally-recognised dynastic pretenders. Headship of the Royal House of France has been disputed for years, with numerous laws and precedents cited by supporters of one side or the other.
It changes nothing when an "expert" publishes an opinion, and then refers to dissenting individuals (by name) as "nobody." Why is the opinion writer engaging in open debate a "nobody" that he clearly disparages? It's as though the "case" itself (or opinions presented) were insufficient "proof," thus prompting an attack of a personal nature to compensate for the failure to convince others of a particular line of reasoning. I recall one of these individuals attending an investiture of the Constantinian Order in a church to observe the ceremony of the order that he said wasn't a real order! Here are the names of just a few of the (now-deceased) knights of the Constantinian Order attacked, libeled, slandered and defamed by the party in question over the last fifteen years:
• Prince Cyril Toumanoff - High Historical Consultant of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta;
• James Charles Risk, CVO - numismatist, historian and (at his death in 2005) senior Constantinian knight, founder of the American Foundation of Savoy Orders, knight of the Venerable Order of St John, knight of Order of Merit (SMOM);
• David L. Garrison - philanthropist, Constantinian knight, knight of Malta, Papal knight;
• Peter Bander van Duren - editor of definitive book on Papal orders, Constantinian and Papal knight, knight of Order of Merit (SMOM);
• John Brooke-Little - Norroy and Ulster King of Arms (College of Arms, London), heraldic scholar, knight of Malta;
• Charles Stourton, 26th Baron Mowbray - member of the House of Lords, government minister, veteran of the Second World War, knight of Malta;
• His Eminence Mario, Cardinal Pompedda - Yes, they even attack Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, albeit from a "safe" vantage point, i.e. only when the clerics are deceased. (More about this follows below.)
I knew these men. They were exemplary Christians whose honor should be defended even after their deaths. None of them deserved to be slandered simply because somebody did not like the Constantinian Order they were in. One particular party claims to have been "attacked" by at least two of these men. That's nonsense. It's also paranoia.
Personalities, history and credibility
Except where it is relevant to the discussion at hand, we will not enter into a general debate of who deserves, or doesn't deserve, to be in a certain order of knighthood. If, for example, a head of state or head of government is recognised diplomatically (and received) by the Vatican, even if he is Fidel Castro, then it's difficult to state with certainty that the same personage would not have been received by the kings of the Two Sicilies. (Castro is only a hypothetical example; he is not a knight of any Neapolitan order.)
Insofar as credibility of the "case" for either prince (Carlo or Carlos) is concerned, it is well worth remembering that many (if not most) of the arguments advanced in favor of either side have been known and studied for decades. It is ridiculous to presume that a sage "jurist" has introduced some particular thesis just recently, perhaps based on previously "undiscovered" evidence.
As much as one may marvel at the activities (in several countries) of the order bestowed by Infante Carlos of Spain, it is here in southern Italy, in the former Two Sicilies, that the truly bizarre situations are to be seen. One of my favorite examples occurs annually in Palermo on 23 April for the feast of Saint George, the order's patron, when two organisations with the same name observe the same event with masses held at about the same hour in two churches located not half a mile from each other. Carlo's order includes in its ranks the cardinal archbishop of Palermo and a number of officers of the Italian army and carabinieri, as well as the bishop of nearby Monreale and some local politicians, nobs and business people (not a bunch of fakes and charlatans as the "other side" sometimes implies), supporting several charities in the city. I'm told that Infante Carlos' camp also supports some local charities, but several of us in Carlo's order are actively escalating the stakes by donating more substantial sums to worthy causes, pitting generosity against parsimony. So long as it helps to alleviate some of the world's suffering, what's wrong with a little competition? To serve any genuine purpose, real chivalry has to focus on good works instead of medals, ribbons and silly existentialist debates about who is the de jure king of a non-kingdom.
There's something evocative of history in a solemn event of a Two Sicilies order celebrated in a church that was actually associated with it when that order was bestowed in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Nothing juridical or canonical here, but some traditions are worth preserving. If I await the day when a few of Carlos' supporters attend one of our functions, quasi-legal arguments in hand, attempting to convince us that we're all ignorant, misinformed or misguided (or all three), I suppose that I will be waiting a very long time. More often, they use such neurotic tactics at receptions or dinners of other orders, where they harass Constantinian knights. Frankly, one of the things I find appealing about Carlo's order is that these people are not in it.
It isn't just a matter of churches in southern Italy. None of these are actually owned by the Constantinian Order today, and the royal family's palaces are now the property of the Italian state. As I mention elsewhere the family archive was donated to Italy in the 1960s by Princess Urraca, who inherited it from her father. The remaining patrimony and assets of the Constantinian Order and the royal family preserved (or recovered) following the fall of the Two Sicilies is in the possession of Carlo's branch of the family rather than that of Infante Carlos, whose claim only dates from his father's (made after 1949). This includes works of art, furniture, books, coins and medals, sets of King Francesco's royal seals and certain documents.
One of the intrinsic problems with the position expressed by proponents of Infante Carlos is that, however creatively one reads or interprets history, Prince Carlo is still a dynast of the House of the Two Sicilies. Infante Carlos and his supporters may resent him or his knights, but attacking the position of Carlo and his family is a bit like a hunter shooting off his own foot or a cannibal biting his own hand. Despite this, much effort has been made by Infante Carlos' camp to convert Prince Antonio and Prince Casimiro to their way of thinking, even though the "recruiters" have stated repeatedly that the support of Prince Carlo by these two cousins (and others) is irrelevant to any legal dynastic claim.
At all events, the position of the Duke of Castro and the royal family is that Carlos, based on his grandfather's renunciation, is not part of the House of the Two Sicilies. The novel thesis that the Constantinian Order can be separated from headship of the dynasty while dynasts are living has no basis in Neapolitan legal scholarship before 1861, when the King of the Two Sicilies was exiled. It would, in theory, create an unprecedented situation because the head of the dynasty, as pretender, could continue to bestow other dynastic orders while the Constantinian Order would (according to the theory) be bestowed by a cousin. The initial reason that Carlos III of Spain continued to oversee bestowals from Madrid following his departure from Naples (and separation of the two crowns) in 1759 is that his son, Ferdinando, had not yet reached the age of majority. Even later, the long rapport between father and son is a matter of public historical record (Harold Acton wrote of it) and not, as Infante Carlos' advocates sometimes suggest, a new historical discovery on their part. This is just one tiny part of an intentional misrepresentation. Another relates to the position of nineteenth-century Two Sicilies princes as infantes of Spain holding a place in that nation's line of succession, and numerous conclusions based on this. How would the Neapolitans and Sicilians ever survive without a bunch of foreigners (Spanish, English, Irish, Canadian) telling us who is the lawful pretender to the crown of the Two Sicilies?
Did somebody mention Christianity?
The Bourbons' Constantinian Order based in Naples (with offices in Rome) spends at least a million euros annually on charitable projects --everything from relief for Iraq and other countries to localized projects in Italy, and the "Spanish" order supports some charities as well. Founded to combat the late-medieval Turkish invasion of the Balkans, this institution has never existed for the vanity of its knights. Life's complexities often present difficult circumstances (like divorces), and nobody is perfect, but one might hope that modern Christian knights would at least attempt to live according to Christian ideals. It's not about medals and titles. It can be said that most of the Bourbons' knights and dames, on an international level (in the Constantinian Order and the Order of Francis I) are actively dedicated to the causes of charity and ecumenism. That's why most of these people support the organisation. The Neapolitan-Sicilian cultural aspect is a good reason, too, and it's important to some of us, but it's not the main reason.
Let's never lose sight of the fact that being knighted by a king, a prince, or even a pontiff, in itself doesn't make a man a better human being, or even a truly Christian one. Sadly, a number of men in the Constantinian Order of Infante Carlos spend much of their time verbally attacking people in the "other" Constantinian Order while quoting Scripture and Papal Bulls.
Why this article, and why now?
Nobody doubts that some of the individuals decorated by Infante Carlos are decent people, but over the years (decades actually) I have seen some strange things. Some parties in the "Spanish" Constantinian Order have presented selectively-chosen, revisionist "evidence" that supposedly "proves" Infante Carlos to be the "legitimate" claimant to headship of the Two Sicilies dynasty. "Prove" to whom, one wonders? As I've said, no court has jurisdiction in the matter. Particularly offensive is the implicit accusation that individuals highly placed in the Italian government, the Roman Catholic Church and the Order of Malta have somehow acted improperly or dishonestly in giving credence to Carlo's dynastic position. This simply is not true. Qualified persons in these quarters have carefully reviewed the body of evidence and reached their own conclusions, presenting these to the institutions they represent. There was never any deception on the part of Carlo or his supporters. If there were, detractors could simply present their "case" for Infante Carlos (some have), readily available in various publications. One of their tactics (though not the only one) is to send to a Cardinal or other personage an envelope full of "proof" that Infante Carlos is the "real" head of the dynasty; lack of action implies that the packaged information is not considered important enough to necessitate a change in policy.
One might speculate that avarice for decorations or titles fuels the two Constantinian Orders (well, actually three, but more about that later). This is surely a factor, but many of the persons so decorated have plenty of personal (nobiliary), professional, academic, official or military titles already, or are members of other orders of chivalry. Their social status hardly depends on the Bourbons' orders. In Italy, the title "Cavaliere" (Knight) is bestowed by the government on as many as five thousand citizens each year, so it cannot, by any means, be considered a particularly prestigious title.
Ironically, the Two Sicilies orders bestowed by the Spanish side of the family (i.e. Infante Carlos de Borbon) receive much more attention outside Italy than they do here in Italy. Could it be that it's simply more difficult to deceive Neapolitans and Sicilians on their home ground? My observation has little to do with the dispute per se, but I have always wondered just why certain persons outside the former Two Sicilies, indeed outside Italy (some without much Italian blood), get so emotional --even obsessed-- over the subject. For some of them, there seems to be more at stake than loyalty to a royal prince.
Could it be a "human rights" issue? In fact, Infante Carlos de Borbon has been appointed president of the council of the Spanish monastic orders vested in the Spanish Crown. (It has been suggested that King Juan Carlos gave him responsibility for these orders to discourage his bestowing the Two Sicilies orders.) Even without the Neapolitan orders, he would have a reasonably important position in Spain, where he lives comfortably as a member of the Spanish royal family. He comes to Italy on occasion, and nobody seems overtly antipathetic toward him or his charming family. If he feels that his rights are being violated because some Italians (or others) favor his cousin's claims to headship of the Neapolitan dynasty, then perhaps he should lodge a claim with some international human rights tribunal.
Much that is published does not deserve to be dignified by a reply. Like others supportive of Prince Carlo, I have been (and will doubtless continue to be) attacked, on a personal level, from Infante Carlos' faction. This rarely happens face-to-face, knightly courage being a rarity these days, at least in certain quarters. However, it was an encounter with an obsessed man that made me decide to write the words you see before you.
A few years ago, in Palermo, a city of about a million which was once the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily, I was introduced to a well-dressed man in his thirties (who I'll call the "Baroncino" meaning "little baron") wearing the sky-blue lapel rosette of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George of the Two Sicilies. I asked which order he belonged to --the one now headed by Prince Carlo, Duke of Castro (but at that time by his father, Ferdinando), or the one headed by Prince Carlos, Infante of Spain (the similarity in the given names of the two cousins creates enough confusion already). The Baroncino responded that he was in the "Spanish" order headed by Infante Carlos. I replied that I was familiar with the position of the Constantinian Order bestowed by Infante Carlos.
The Baroncino then launched into what can only be described as a self-righteous, self-serving, indignant tirade about "his" order of chivalry having a right and necessity to defend itself against "usurpers." Though put off by his tone, I listened attentively to his emotional "rationale" (to use the term loosely), and then replied that, most unfortunately, "his" fellow "knights" in Italy and elsewhere had often resorted to gossip and libel to make their "point," and that this often involved personal attacks on myself and others. This, not somebody's membership in a "rival" or "shadow" organization, was what some of us found annoying, I explained. In other words, the issue had transcended a historical debate and degraded to the level of particularly derogatory mudslinging.
I gently reminded him that there were, in my opinion at least, far more pressing matters in the world, such as wars in the Middle East which claimed the lives of dozens of innocent children each day, and that the efforts of Christians might be better directed to those very real human problems rather than to a futile debate over who is the "rightful" head of a long non-regnant dynasty and grand master of its orders of chivalry. This remark had no effect on his vehement tone.
I left the conversation not only disgusted but thoroughly convinced that the issue of omission or oversight of certain historical or social information in published treatises (including those available in English) should at least be addressed. I also concluded that the Baroncino's priorities were thoroughly misplaced if, as I strongly suspected, one of the most important aspects of his life was debating the merits of an arcane dynastic dispute. Having witnessed something worthy of a psychological therapy session, I promised myself never to be dragged into that kind of obsession which, if taken to its "logical" but neurotic extreme, might cost one a marriage or, more importantly, one's sanity. It is not my intention to enter into endless (and useless) polemics on the topic, attempting to apply Spanish (or even British) legalistic principles to a matter based on the laws of a nation state (the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies) which has not existed since 1861.
I would simply like to "set the record straight" on a few points that the "Spanish" side of the debate has not always stated clearly. This is based on my own research in original records and a personal acquaintance of people, such as the late Princess Urraca of the Two Sicilies, who knew personages such as Prince Alfonso of the Two Sicilies (1841-1934), ancestor of both Prince Carlo (born 1963) and Infante Carlos (born 1938). It is not based on a retroactive, speculative reading and interpretation of Two Sicilies law but on what existed in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies until 1861, influencing the application of dynastic law long afterward and shaping opinions today.
And the little baron? A local knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre later explained to me that the Baroncino and a group of his Constantinian knights showed up unannounced at a religious function at Palermo Cathedral, wearing church capes and expecting a place in the episcopal cortege. The request was refused, not because the Cardinal-Archbishop of Palermo belongs to Carlo's (not Infante Carlos') Constantinian Order, but because an impromptu request for inclusion in a bishop's procession at an ecclesiastical event was plainly out of place. On another occasion, one of the "Spanish" Constantinian knights associated with the Baroncino's local "delegation" was seen at a local dance club dancing all night in black tie wearing the cross of the order around his neck.
Francesco II, the last king of the Two Sicilies, was exiled in 1861 and died in exile in 1894. His wife, Maria Sofia of Bavaria, lived until 1925. Francesco's dynastic heir was his younger half-brother, Alfonso, known by his first title of Count of Caserta.
Its territory annexed to the Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was merely a memory by Spring 1861, but its history, rooted in the Normans' Kingdom of Sicily founded in the twelfth century, is still an important element in the cultural fabric of southern Italy. The last dynasty to rule the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Naples and Sicily) as a sovereign, independent realm distinct from the unitary Italian state was the House of Bourbon of Naples, whose history is well known, recounted in landmark works by Sir Harold Acton and others. Since 1960 the headship of this dynasty, and certain derivative dynastic rights such as grand magistry of its orders of chivalry (some still bestowed as a matter of familial tradition and recognized by the Italian government), has been disputed. Some people state that it had been disputed for decades before 1960. In fact, the matter had been debated seriously for, at best, a few years before 1960. Every member of the dynasty, except Carlos himself, supported Ferdinando as head of the house and, ipso facto, Grand Master of the Constantinian Order of Saint George, and signed declarations to this effect.
Nobody credible ever proposed the idea that the grand magistry was, or could be, separated from this headship. The provisions of the Farnese Statutes sometimes cited to this effect were not in force in 1800, (just as the American laws permitting slavery no longer existed in 1900); law can evolve over time. Numerous publications and documents of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies I have consulted during the long course of my extensive research in Rome, Naples and Palermo make this clear though, not surprisingly, I rarely see it cited in the various legalistic opinions advanced by detractors of Carlo di Borbone. Their presentation of the "evidence" is selective indeed.
Even a royal declaration by King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies refers to the Constantinian Order as "a dignity of our crown." His statement carried the force of law.
However interesting certain legal positions (either in favor of Carlo or Carlos) may be, the only valid legal opinions in the matter were those of jurists of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, a few of whom lived into the twentieth century when the roots of the current dispute embedded themselves into fertile soil. Well into the 1960s, few Italians connected in any way to the Neapolitan Bourbons took the evolving debates emanating from Alfonso's circles very seriously because most knew something of dynastic law and most knew who the head of "our" dynasty was; foreigners need not have intervened. "Foreigner," in this context, described anybody from outside the former Regno (kingdom).
Though an arcane matter of immediate importance to rather few persons beyond those directly involved (i.e. members of the royal family), the debate has attracted the interest of numerous parties in various quarters, including other dynasties, the Roman Catholic Church and, to a certain limited extent, the governments of Italy and Spain. To reiterate, the underlying issue here is that in international law non-regnant royal families are sovereign de jure and therefore no juridical authority is empowered to settle such a dispute. Because this makes quasi-legal arguments all but useless, few persons are motivated to enter the debate. This article is not intended as a legalistic treatise or case to be argued before an imaginary, non-existent tribunal. (In the real world, quasi-legal opinions of this kind are worth little unless they can be heard and enforced.) It merely attempts to set forth, in a very general way, some of the reasons for Prince Carlo, Duke of Castro, enjoying widespread support, particularly in the land his ancestors once ruled. Esoteric though this issue may be in London, Paris or New York, it could at least be said to be related to the social history of Naples or Palermo. Nevertheless, dynastic disputes, like the disputes in any family, are, by their very nature, unpleasant. The late Prince Giovanni of the Two Sicilies, who resided for many years in Madrid, expressed one of the more pragmatic opinions when he suggested that, at this point the "Neapolitan" and "Spanish" Constantinian Orders should be regarded as two distinct institutions by all concerned, without the need for distasteful, and seemingly endless, debate.
For years I have examined not only the facts, decrees and other documents relevant to the headship of the Neapolitan dynasty and grand magistry of the Constantinian Order, but also the pertinent material authored by several contemporary legal scholars in the Two Sicilies (and two in Spain). Most of these legal opinions are overlooked or condemned by the advocates of Infante Carlos (born 1938), who instead advance "revisionist" theories formulated at least a century following the fall of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. (My favourite among these is the theory that by 1860 the grand magistry of the Constantinian Order could be readily separated from headship of the Two Sicilies dynasty on the slightest pretext.) Why are the opinions of reputable nineteenth-century jurists rarely even mentioned by those supportive of Infante Carlos? Perhaps because their opinions would not bolster the theories and claims advanced by Carlos and his advocates since the 1960s. What kind of reputable scholar ignores contemporary historical evidence? You be the judge...
What actually transpired in 1900?
Long story short: In 1900, the possibility of a restoration, while remote, still existed; the exiled king, Francesco II, had died just six years earlier. His brother, Alfonso (Count of Caserta), was now head of the house. Alfonso's son, Carlo, wanted to marry a Spanish cousin, Maria Mercedes de Borbon. A Neapolitan dynastic law, based on precedents dating at least from 1759 (when Carlo III renounced his Neapolitan throne to succeed to the Spanish throne), clearly established that a prince of the Two Sicilies (i.e. in succession to the throne or dynastic headship) could not also enjoy a place in the succession to the Spanish throne. Carlo signed a renunciation to this effect (the "Act of Cannes"), applicable to himself and his descendants, and was integrated into the Royal House of Spain. The entire dynasty accepted this without question. And why not? There was no dispute and ageing experts in Two Sicilies dynastic law had been consulted. In 1934, upon the death of Prince Alfonso, who was familiar with the situation and, like other members of the family, had accepted it, his eldest surviving son, Ferdinando Pio, succeeded as head of the house of the Two Sicilies. Still no problem, as he was the oldest surviving heir and, unlike Carlo, had not renounced his position in the line of succession. Incidentally, Maria Mercedes died in October 1904 and when Prince Carlo remarried (to Princess Louise of France) shortly afterward, he asked the prior consent not of his father, de jure King of the Two Sicilies (as in 1900) but of King Alfonso XIII of Spain. Logical (and juridically correct), because Carlo was by then a member of the Royal House of Spain, and not the Two Sicilies. Obviously, he considered himself a Spanish dynast at that point --as did everybody else. This is just one of many facts that aren't usually mentioned.
And in 1960?
Ferdinando Pio, the last "undisputed" head of the dynasty, wasn't going to live forever. When he died in 1960, Carlo's son, Alfonso (1901-1964), made known his claim to headship of the dynasty. Alfonso wasn't going to live forever, either. His son, Infante Carlos, continues the claim today. On the other side, the legitimate heir was Ranieri, Carlo's younger brother, succeeded in 1973 by his own son, Ferdinando. Incidentally, there is no law in the House of the Two Sicilies (or, for that matter, the House of Spain) stating explicitly that a dynastically valid marriage requires anything more than Catholic canonicity and approval of the head of the dynasty to be valid. Otherwise, the recent marriage of Prince Felipe of Spain would not have taken place. All of the marriages of male descendants of Alfonso (1841-1934) appertaining to the House of the Two Sicilies (see the family tree shown here) are dynastically valid. Unless, of course, we are to believe that the line of Carlo (1870-1949) is the legitimate one and that, consequently, all the male-line descendants of the kings of the Two Sicilies need the approval of Alfonso, Carlos, Pedro et al. to contract dynastically valid marriages. (More about this under Cynicism below.)
The Act of Cannes was not drafted as well as a formal renunciation should be, but its content and intent were crystal clear. It was also considered necessary by the parties involved. The "second guessing" only came much later. Nobody in the Constantinian Order (based in Naples), be it Achille di Lorenzo, Cyril Toumanoff (for many years High Historical Consultant of the Order of Malta) or anybody else, ever misrepresented the facts. An interesting aside about the gentleman from Saint Petersburg: Prince Toumanoff used to say to me, "I belong to only two orders --the Constantinian Order and the Order of Malta." Like the Prince-Grand Master (Frà Andrew Bertie), he was eventually invested into the Order of Saint Januarius (San Gennaro).
In 1960, when Prince Alfonso made his claim to be head of the dynasty and grand master of its orders of chivalry, there were several hundred knights and dames who had (logically) presumed for years that Ranieri would someday succeed his elder brother, Ferdinando Pio, as grand master, followed by his son, Ferdinando. The perturbed Alfonso undertook to "expel" those knights and dames (mostly Italians) who did not recognise his "authority" (nobody here in Italy seemed moved) and he began to bestow honours himself. At one point, he even threatened to "divest" his various cousins of their ranks in the Constantinian Order and the Order of San Gennaro (Saint Januarius). Logistically, Prince Alfonso had to operate "in the dark" as, obviously, he was not provided direct access to the familial archives (Princess Urraca, Ferdinando Pio's daughter, eventually donated most of this material to the Archive of State of Naples) or the archives of the dynastic orders (then maintained in Naples by the Bourbons' longtime chancellor, Achille di Lorenzo). He didn't even have ready access to the body of law of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. (Consider the communication and archival technologies of the time.) Alfonso was soon dead, and his son, Carlos, sought to augment his chancery records with public sources, mostly what was available in Spain. By the 1970s, essays were being published (particularly in France and Spain) in support of his dynastic claim. The monarchist environment of Spain became still more fertile when the monarchy was restored in the mid-1970s.
Even if, as certain persons supportive of the claim of Infante Carlos de Borbon assert, the Act of Cannes were not actually necessary based on dynastic law as it was understood in 1900, the renunciation thus effected could no more be annulled or refuted in 1960 than (by way of comparison) the abdication of Britain's King Edward VIII, later Duke of Windsor, made in 1936 could be rescinded by him in, let us say, 1970. We should not overlook the fact that the family archives, records and personal property remained in the possession of Alfonso (Count of Caserta) until his death in 1934, inherited by his son Ferdinando Pio (who died in 1960) and then by his son Ranieri (who succeeded in 1960), not by Infante Alfonso (1901-1964). As has been mentioned, it was Urraca, Ferdinando Pio's daughter (who supported the dynastic position of Ranieri, her uncle), who donated much of this material to the Italian state. Why did Infante Alfonso, who claimed dynastic headship in 1960 and died in 1964, not have this material in his possession? The answer is very simple: It was the property of the head of the dynasty (i.e. Ranieri), and Infante Alfonso was a prince of Spain, not of the Two Sicilies.
Whatever the merits of his claim, from the beginning Infante Carlos, like his father, was clearly challenging "conventional thinking" by the "established order" of Italy. Broadly speaking, the aristocratic and political establishments of Naples and Rome did not pay him very serious attention, and he found precious few influential supporters in southern Italy --though the number has increased over the last three decades. In theory, this matter may not seem terribly important (as there is no juridical authority to decide the case) but, on a purely social level, it could be difficult to act effectively if one's credential as dynastic pretender is publicly contested in his would-be realm. While dynastic succession is not a popularity contest, it helps when a would-be monarch enjoys some substantial support among his own people. Even the most powerful monarchs rule not only by the grace of God but by popular (or aristocratic) assent. When they lose that, they may be deposed, whatever constitutional or dynastic law says. In non-regnant dynasties, the passing of generations makes contestations more likely.
Incidentally, today the inherent state of Italian nationality is present in all descendants of King Ferdinando II and could be claimed regardless of some of them coincidentally bearing French, Spanish, German or Polish citizenship. Consider that Spanish succession rights, not Spanish citizenship per se, are at issue. Many Italians (including members of the House of Savoy) have dual or even triple nationality, and many people born abroad in families resident outside Italy since before unification (1860-1870) can claim Italian nationality based on citizenship in a predecessor state (Tuscany, Two Sicilies, Modena, Papal State, etc.). It may be that Carlo (1870-1949) renounced certain Neapolitan citizenship rights upon his integration into the Spanish royal family in 1900, but under modern Italian law Infante Carlos and his son, Pedro, could easily claim Italian citizenship. Indeed, King Juan Carlos, who was born in Italy, could easily obtain an Italian passport. Too much has been made of this matter, often attempting to apply the laws extant in 1900 to those applicable today. Yes, it is true that the situation was slightly different in 1900, for various reasons, but the reader will be spared the complexities. Carlo, Carlos and Pedro are all entitled to Italian citizenship according provisions of the Civil Code of the Italian Republic.
Still, it's tempting to contemplate the metaphysics or existentialism of the matter: A man renounces his place in a royal family in 1900. His son and grandson, born in 1901 and 1938 into another royal family, then seek their "rightful" places as heads of the family that their ancestor left.
Despite the lack of a competent court to decide their merits, some of the various legalistic ideas advanced by Infante Carlos's camp make for interesting reading. The underlying thesis that the poorly-drafted Cannes renunciation of 1900 was simply unnecessary in Neapolitan dynastic law is, without doubt, the most reasonable suggestion in the arguments presented. From a purely legal point of view, it is not entirely without merit, at least theoretically. In practice, the only (and ultimate) authority to decide this at the time (December 1900) was Prince Alfonso (1841-1934). As I mentioned above, his namesake (and grandson), Prince Alfonso (1901-1964) initially claimed to be head of the House of the Two Sicilies only from around 1949, following the death of his father, the Franco government having established that "any Catholic Prince" (i.e. Spanish royal prince) could become king in a restored Spanish monarchy. The exiled Count of Barcelona encouraged his cousin to assert Neapolitan claims rather than Spanish ones in order that the way might be cleared for Juan Carlos (now king) to ascend the throne.
What if the Act of Cannes had never seen the light of day? And what if the Allied invasion of Normandy had failed? What if the Berlin Wall had never been torn down? What if Benito Mussolini, and not Giorgio Armani, had conquered London and New York? For better or worse, history is based on what happens, not what might have been.
Retroactive "truths" and historical revisionism are nothing if not interesting, and they're nothing new. (Indeed, they are a sign of our times.) Quasi-legal positions seem to have less value when the same "jurist" presents the case, answers his own questions and decides its merits! In the real world, isn't that what judges are supposed to do? Anybody can quote laws and decrees to support opinions favoring the thesis that a renunciation is or isn't legal, but the people who are alive and present usually know what takes place in actuality, even if they're not trained jurists. Let's not forget the principle that the legal merits of dynastic decisions carefully considered and involving acts of succession (or renunciation) regarded as legal at the time these are undertaken are not usually reconsidered or reversed sixty years after the fact --and in the absence of juridical venue-- regardless of their merits. Several senior members of the dynasty (including the late Princess Urraca, daughter of Ferdinando Pio) confirmed to me over the years that the Infante Alfonso never openly contested his absence from the Neapolitan succession until the years immediately prior to 1960, and that everybody in the family knew that Ranieri was next in line of succession.
In other words, the entire issue was not even considered until at least some fifty years after Carlo had renounced, certainly after his death (1949). Carlo himself never questioned his own position or that of his son. This is one of the facts that the "Spanish" side never states openly. (And I could cite literally dozens of facts that they rarely, if ever, mention at all.) Of course, this situation is typical of what can happen when the head of a dynasty no longer has a throne. It is not unique to this dynasty; the Romanovs come to mind.
Faced with a potentially distasteful dispute initiated by their cousin, and suspecting that he would exploit the situation, the other Bourbon-Sicilies princes and princesses made declarations in favor of the line of Ranieri. This is not a secret; the declarations have been published, but (obviously) not by the proponents of Infante Carlos. Nobody has ever suggested that the declarations, in themselves, constitute dynastic law, only that they reflect reality and indicate the recognition by the other members of the royal family that Prince Ranieri, not Prince Alfonso, was head of the dynasty and grand master of the Constantian Order of Saint George. The signatories were Prince Gabriele, Prince Antonio, Prince Casimiro,the late Prince Giovanni and Prince Ferdinando (see their genealogical relationships in the family tree above), all of the Two Sicilies dynasts living in 1962. Made on 6 June 1962, the declaration was also signed by the late Princess Urraca, who had also signed, with several other princesses of the Two Sicilies (sisters and daughters of Ferdinando Pio), an earlier declaration in 1960. It is incredible to even contemplate that these royals would have been unaware of the Act of Cannes and its implications. I am inclined to respect their position as expressed in these two well-considered declarations from the early 1960s. Clearly, they considered it important to make their position known and, as already stated, it reflected a situation already known in their family.
Supporters of Infante Carlos have been known to state that the recognition of Carlo (and Ferdinando before him) as dynastic head by other male members (dynasts) of the royal family is irrelevant, yet Carlos has, in fact, attempted (through intermediaries) to enlist the support of Antonio and (the late) Giovanni on several occasions over the last twenty years. Why? Because it may not be legally necessary but it is relevant for credibility.
One regrets that, in the interest of keeping certain sources from opposing scholars, much documentary information is withheld. I just don't wish to do their research for them. A personal attack against me, my point of view and my scholarship will result from this publication. (The Christianity thing again.) If the reader will forgive my cynicism, and perhaps my amusement at detractors' more unorthodox opinions, it must be said that one of the more astounding issues in the longstanding debate is the manner in which cynical bias (including some of my own) so frequently enters into it. Claiming that the marriage of Prince Ferdinando di Borbone to a French noblewoman was dynastically "invalid," Carlo di Borbone (born 1963) is referred to by the proponents of Infante Carlos not as "Prince Carlo" but as "Mister" Carlo di Borbone. Conversely, whatever one thinks about Pedro de Borbon (Infante Carlos's son), nobody says that he isn't a royal prince by birth. According to some people, Prince Pedro is actually a member of two royal families, one Neapolitan and the other Spanish, while, according to others, his first child (born outside marriage) is a member of none.
On the occasion of "Mister" Prince Carlo di Borbone's wedding in Monaco some years ago, Infante Carlos referred to him as "the young man in France." It's rather sad that he apparently did not know who his own second cousin was. (I invite him to read this article and study his family tree, genealogy being important in dynastic law.) Carlo di Borbone maintains a residence in Rome, and he and his wife, Camilla, travel extensively around southern Italy in support of cultural and social projects.
I harbor no antipathy whatsoever toward the Infante Carlos or his family, nor do I doubt his sincerity, but I certainly question his judgement in permitting third parties to attack his cousins. Frankly, if Carlos had exercised at least a little control over some of the dogs wearing his collars, or perhaps chosen a better breed in the first place, the mutual antipathy over an esoteric debate never would have reached this point. So we read about how Prince Ferdinando was not the "real" grand master of the Constantinian Order, his son (now head of the dynasty) is not a "real" prince, and those decorated by Ferdinando are not "real" knights. Not a surprising rationale, in view of the historical perspective involved, but nothing that keeps me awake nights, either. Strangely, vocal members of the "Spanish" Constantinian Order have been known to attend investiture ceremonies (held in cathedrals) of the "fake" Neapolitan Constantinian Order. One wonders why.
Tolerance is a virtue. (I'm still working on it.) Intending no disrespect for those entertaining views different from my own, perhaps based on their careful reading of the evidence and interpretation of dynastic law, some of the more fanatical and revisionist opinions advanced by some vocal supporters of Infante Carlos remind me of the perspectives implied in those who challenge the veracity of the Apollo moon landings. In both cases, one is inclined to wonder whether these individuals, as intelligent people, really believe their own publicly-stated opinions, or whether their position is motivated by some external factor.
A brief word about listings in royalty references: Some listings of royal families indicate Ferdinando (or his son) as the head of his dynasty, while others list Carlos. Editorial choices are often subjective and do not, in themselves, have any bearing on the facts of the situation. What is amazing is that some of these editors mention Ferdinando at all, despite being adamantly persuaded upon by supporters of Infante Carlos to list the Spaniard exclusively.
Politics and Ethics
Sadly, the debate has transcended its initial logic, and not for the better. Though not juridical in nature, loyalties and preferences have influenced opinions, and these have little to do with history per se. Many of the knights of the Neapolitan Bourbon orders really do not fancy being in the same organisation as certain of the knights of the "Spanish" orders. This is not based on Italian-Spanish prejudices, as some have suggested, but on fundamental ethical issues. Simply expressed, many in the Neapolitan orders (of Prince Carlo), regardless of nationality, do not like certain persons in the Spanish orders (of Infante Carlos), either because they have been openly defamed by men in those orders or because they consider certain of them, albeit a minority, to be in some way unnecessarily rude or to entertain a vastly different ethical view. (The Christianity thing, again.) Under such conditions, it is not likely that a "truce" will ever be sought.
Prince Carlo does not endorse any monarchist movement. The Italian-based neo-Bourbon movements are primarily cultural and do not support a restoration of the Neapolitan monarchy. (What annoys the Spanish camp is that the movements recognise Carlo, not Carlos, as head of the House of the Two Sicilies. Meanwhile, the Italian government recognises the Constantinian Order of Saint George, an institution of the Neapolitan dynasty which obviously poses no threat to Italy.) In Italy, a new social or political movement is born every day. Though nobody has accused the neo-Bourbonists of any illegal activity, it has been suggested that any involvement with such regionalist movements is somehow anti-nationalist (opposed to the unification of Italy), as though a civil war might be sparked, or specifically anti-Savoyard. That mentality may exist in the minds of some members of such organisations but, by and large, these are regionalist associations no more adamant than what one might find in Bavaria or Cornwall. Italy is moving toward a federalist orientation, and regions such as Sicily and South Tirol (Trentino-Alto Adige) have a degree of autonomy. Contrary to popular belief, the decree establishing Sicily as a semi-autonomous region was not made by the President of the Italian Republic, but by King Umberto II while acting as "regent" during the Allied occupation before the referendum (June 1946) establishing the republic. This is remarkable because historians have suggested that, if he had not been influenced by the Papacy, King Ferdinando II of the Two Sicilies (whose first wife was Maria Cristina of Savoy) might well have supported a federalist Italian state with himself as sovereign; this was proposed by Piedmontese unificationists and not discouraged by Vittorio Emanuele II, but the Neapolitan king refused. The resulting state would have been similar to the German model.
People sometimes forget that the Bourbons and Savoys have not been at war since 1861, and there have been marriages between princes and princesses of the two dynasties. The closest thing to a saint produced by the House of Savoy in recent memory was the Venerable Maria Cristina, consort of Ferdinando II of the Two Sicilies and mother of his son, King Francesco II. With the Bourbons, the late King Umberto II and, more recently, Amedeo of Aosta, have supported the efforts in favor of her eventual canonisation, something that the late Achille di Lorenzo worked toward for decades. Neither family is particularly political, and both maintain cordial relations with Italian leaders. In Italy, the people who attack one royal family usually would attack the other as well. It behooves royal princes to support each other. The Savoys and Bourbons find themselves in the same social sphere, and members of one family often attend weddings and christenings of the other.
The reburial of the remains of King Francesco II, Queen Maria Sofia and their daughter in the Bourbon Chapel in the Basilica of Santa Chiara in Naples in 1984 was sponsored by Prince Ferdinando, as was the commemoration of the centenary of Francesco's death in 1994. The "Spanish" faction does not appear ever to have sponsored such an event. I suggest that Carlos and Pedro should get to know Naples and Palermo. Has Carlos, "Duke of Calabria," ever set foot in Calabria? Has the young "Duke of Noto" ever been to that Sicilian city? Whatever the legal basis of his claims may be, Infante Carlos rarely seems to make his way much beyond the suburbs of Rome, and yet his supporters, complaining that he is ignored by the southern Italian press, send angry letters to newspapers covering events attended by Carlo. Frankly, I'm under the impression that the claim to headship of the Neapolitan dynasty and/or grand magistry of its orders of chivalry by Infante Carlos is more important to some of his supporters than it is to him. The Spanish monastic orders must occupy much of his time, but Naples is worth a Mass.
On a practical level, it should be remembered that the work of the knights and dames of the dynastic orders is more important than any dynastic dispute. Most of us prefer more productive pursuits to spending our time on endless debates regarding esoteric issues.
Some actions taken by Alfonso or Carlos:
All members of the royal family not supportive of them have been "expelled" from the dynastic orders.
No "unequal" marriages contracted by dynasts without "approval" have been "recognised," even if these occurred long before the dispute of 1960. Hence "Mister"(!) Carlo di Borbone.
Most "uncooperative" recipients of honours (knights and dames) decorated before 1960 were "divested." Except, of course, for royalty of other dynasties, claimed or "retained" in the rolls for their "prestige" value.
Organs of national government of the Italian Republic acting in any way to recognise the Neapolitan Constantinian Order bestowed by Prince Carlo have been criticised (by advocates of Carlos) as corrupt or self-serving, while those of Spain recognising the "Spanish" Constantinian Order or the various foreign (Italian) dynastic claims of Infante Carlos are praised as paragons of fairness.
With respect, does one see how contradictory this stance seems?
I don't wish to seem vague or evasive in the matter of source records that might be presented in a hypothetical case, but it is absolutely astounding that would-be jurists never cite certain documents I have discovered in Italy. I won't reveal many of the precise records or sources here, but a few would certainly have some bearing on legal position papers I have read regarding the Act of Cannes and other relevant issues of dynastic law. That these records are never mentioned implies that the researchers' efforts are lacking. Their legal positions are incomplete. That's true not only for the Spanish proponents, but for some of the Neapolitan ones as well. In some cases, I find myself at odds even with one's translation of a document from the Italian; one can well imagine what some of these "scholars" would do if more items were available!
That said, one of my favourites is a decree pursuant to the Constantinian Order's investiture in Palermo in 1812 in the preamble to which King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies declares that the Constantinian Order is a dynastic institution "della dignità della Nostra Corona..." In English: of the dignity of Our Crown. This directly contradicts the thesis, recently advanced by a handful of supporters of Infante Carlos, that under various circumstances the grand magistry of the Constantinian Order can be separated from headship of the dynasty. Instead, by 1812 the two were united in the crown --unless, of course, you believe that somebody born a century after the fall of the Two Sicilies has the authority to re-write dynastic law as established by a reigning monarch. In fact, only extinction of the dynasty in the male line would make it necessary to elect a non-dynastic grand master. Advocates of Infante Carlos have thus "revised" the more commonly-held view of history to justify their (post-1960) theory that, as the senior lineal descendant of King Ferdinando II by male primogeniture, Infante Carlos could be Constantinian grand master even if he were no longer a dynast of the House of the Two Sicilies (owing to his grandfather's renunciation in 1900).
Grand Magistry of Orders
Beyond the obviously important decrees and Papal Bulls, publications of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, authored by the best jurists and scholars of that kingdom, support the fact that the head of the House of the Two Sicilies is Grand Master of the Constantinian Order --unless, of course, the dynasty becomes extinct, and in that event the Royal Deputation would act to elect a new Grand Master with the approval of the Holy See. These are issues canonical as well as statutory (i.e. clarified in royal decrees), dating from the time of the Farnese Statutes, usually considered the first formal "modern" charter of that order.
Of the other dynastic orders, only the Order of Saint Januarius has an actual canonical standing. It is not military-religious but a court order similar to the Annunciation, Garter and Golden Fleece. Traditionally, the Constantinian Order was more similar in structure and purpose to two "Italian" Catholic orders, namely the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus (Savoy) and the Order of Saint Stephen (Tuscany). The other Two Sicilies orders are strictly civil or military in nature (orders of merit). The Royal Order of Francis I is bestowed on worthy persons regardless of their religion.
In 1960, the Royal Deputation of the Constantinian Order, appointed by Ferdinando Pio (the last undisputed Grand Master) supported Ranieri as Grand Master, over Alfonso, and were promptly "dismissed" by the latter. (Yes, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.)
Nobility and "Recognition"
In the Italian Republic, the Constitution states that nobiliary titles are "not recognised" and that predicati (particules or "territorial denominations") may be used if attached to a surname, hence "Giovanni Rossi, Principe di Sambuca" becomes simply "Giovanni Rossi di Sambuca." Courts step in only in cases of fraud, such as a person claiming descent from a nobleman who is not actually his ancestor and misleading the public for criminal purposes on that basis. There are only four longstanding institutions in "Italy" that recognise titles of nobility in some formal way: the Holy See (and Vatican City), the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the Republic of San Marino, and the royal families (Savoy, Bourbon-Sicilies, Bourbon-Parma, Habsburg-Tuscany). Arcane matters, perhaps, but still important to some people. Without entering into exhaustive detail, we may suffice it to say that these institutions are inter-related to some degree, so it could become very important to an aspirant to "nobility" to be "recognised" by an order of chivalry in a nobiliary grade.
The Savoyard orders no longer have nobiliary categories, but the Order of Malta and the Bourbons' Constantinian Order (or orders) still do. This gives rise to the possibility of a postulant seeking investiture in these orders in a nobiliary category to have his alleged ancestral nobility recognised ipso facto. Unreal? Heraldists and genealogists (including some here in Italy) still see aspirants from non-noble families invested or promoted into nobiliary grades of these orders without any real genealogical basis for their claims. Quite recently, some have even falsified certificates of baptism and marriage without anybody in the Order of Malta ever discovering the fact. The fraud in one case (involving the Grand Priory of Naples and Sicily) was almost too blatant to believe. We know because we checked the church records ourselves! This implies that a person's "loyalty" to an order of chivalry may depend upon whether the order is likely to recognise his "nobility." Maybe having aspirants joust for their positions would not be such a bad idea after all!
Parallel titular recognition between Italians and Spaniards, described below, is also a problem. This occurs when a person in each country claims the same Two Sicilies title of nobility associated with a former fief in Italy.
The Italian Republic
The Italian government has recognised the Constantinian Order in various ways over the years. That's good for visibility and charity fundraising, and it's good logistically when the order cooperates with the Italian Army for the transport of medical supplies abroad, but it is not what makes the order a legitimate institution. What is interesting here is that the Spanish Crown has not taken issue with the Italian policy on a diplomatic level. (This is obviously an internal Italian matter, not a Spanish one, but it should be remembered that King Juan Carlos himself is actually something of an Italophile, having spent much of his youth in Rome. I like to think that King Juan Carlos shares my opinion that there are more important matters at hand than his cousin's claim to a long-extinct crown.) Incidentally, Infante Carlos is accorded diplomatic status (and police escorts) in Italy as a member of the royal house of Spain, not as "head" of the House of the Two Sicilies. That said, Carlo de Bourbon, Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy and Amedeo of Savoy are also accorded the privilege of police escorts on occasion. Let's not read too much into protocol and Italian gentility. And let's not infer too much from one Bourbon prince or another being conferred an order of merit from the President of the Italian Republic referring to him as this or that. These are not official decrees of recognition. In Italy, even the son of the last king is simply Signor Vittorio Emanuele di Savoia.
An ironic aspect of the so-called "Spanish" position is that its proponents would have you believe that hardly anybody in Italy "really" supports Prince Carlo, and that he is only a "false" claimant, et cetera, et cetera ad nauseum. Here in Italy, the order counts among its ranks generals, senators, mayors, men and women of letters, people whose ancestors were high-ranking members of the titled nobility of the Two Sicilies, and the politically-conservative prime minister whose government outlasted any other in a post-war Italy which has emerged as one of the world's most important nations. Nobody has had the wool pulled over his or her eyes; for these people it is perfectly clear that Carlo is head of the dynasty. And some have had decades to decide their positions. I have observed that the few who have resigned from the dynastic orders have done so for reasons concerning personalities rather than law or history. Nobody has forced the hand of anybody else.
In their interest to tell you only part of the story, the "Spanish" faction sometimes mentions that, in the 1990s, some members of Italy's parliament challenged the Italian government's recognition of the knightly orders bestowed by Prince Carlo. That's absolutely true. What they usually fail to mention, however, is that, following a brief suspension of recognition pending an investigation, the Foreign Ministry soon reinstated its longstanding policy to recognise these orders. Then the Defence Ministry issued a circular permitting military personnel to wear the decorations in uniform (based on case-by-case approval), renewing a prior policy. About the same time, the Spanish Foreign Ministry advised the Italian government that, despite an apparent objection on the part of Infante Carlos (or one of his supporters in Spain), there was no objection whatsoever to the wearing of the Neapolitan Constantinian Order by the Italian ambassador to Madrid. Fortunately, the tempest didn't crack the teapot.
The Constantinian Order is recognised as a non-profit charitable organisation in several nations (for example in Italy, the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland). Such recognition does not constitute a juridical position regarding its history or the headship of the royal family. Most nations do not take a strong official position regarding headship of a non-regnant dynasty after the exiled sovereign is deceased, especially if diplomatic relations exist with a successor state. Over the years, both Infante Carlos and Prince Ferdinando have bestowed the Order of Saint Januarius (San Gennaro) and the Collar of the Constantinian Order on various pretenders and exiled monarchs. King Umberto II of Italy accepted both distinguished orders from the Neapolitan (not the Spanish) grand master.
In some cases (though certainly not Umberto's), a royal may have accepted a Neapolitan dynastic order as a simple matter of courtesy, knowing little of the details of the "dispute." The precise circumstances of every bestowal are not known. Where a careful prior consideration was made by the conferee, one might argue his ipso facto recognition that the person bestowing the insignia had a right to do so. Nevertheless, the legal jurisdiction and venue previously mentioned does not appertain to any other dynasty, even if regnant. At best, a reigning sovereign (or his nation's empowered authorities) might decide which foreign dynast is to be recognised diplomatically in his own country. Citing one dynastic head or another as having "recognised" Carlo or Carlos becomes a tangled web of logic and --often-- contradictions. Moreover, no nation (or dynastic head) has issued the kind of declaration (comparable to those recognising sovereign nations or their ambassadors) required in such matters. The general attitude of reigning royalty toward the position of non-reigning royalty would require a volume in itself. Publications such as Royalty Digest (formerly published monthly in the UK) sometimes present articles dealing with such things as non-regnant pretenders, descendants of Queen Victoria, relationships among European dynasties, and so forth.
The Holy See
Some high-ranking cardinals are active in the Constantinian Order. That's good for the order's religious life, but it's not what makes the order a legitimate institution in canon law. This has more to do with various Bulls issued between 1700 and 1860, dating from the time the order was part of the House of Farnese. What about the last fifty years? Has any recent Pontiff taken an official or canonical position in the "dispute" between two "branches" of the house of the Two Sicilies? Can somebody show me a decree, beyond vague bureaucratic statements by hack functionaries, stating explicitly that His Holiness formally recognises either Carlo or Carlos as head of the dynasty? If such a policy were in place, would high-ranking cardinals such as Cardinal Pompedda be affiliated with either of the two sides?
According to the late Archbishop H.E. Cardinale (in Orders of Knighthood, Awards and the Holy See, 1985): "The policy of the Holy See has always been one of non-involvement in the legal disputes between the two branches of the House of Bourbon."
Both the "Spanish" and "Neapolitan" Constantinian Orders enjoy the presence and support of Cardinals and various Bishops. The Holy See has issued no proscription to clergy insofar as either order is concerned. Yet, it's interesting that the Constantinian Order's last Grand Prior, His Late Eminence Mario Francesco Cardinal Pompedda, was Prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Segnatura and President of the Court of Appeal of the Vatican State. In other words, he was a highly trained jurist and expert in canon law, and a Vatican juridical authority. The legalistic arguments of the "Spanish" advocates didn't seem to have dissuaded his support of Prince Ferdinando. Incidentally, the stupid remark on a message board stating that the late Cardinal Pompedda was "forcibly resigned" from his post in the Vatican for accepting a position in the Constantinian Order is nonsense; His Eminence retired on account of his age, as he was 75, the age at which retirement is customary and usually obligatory. (This is typical of the intentionally deceptive misinformation published by Infante Carlos' supporters and "knights." Frankly, there is too much of it to respond to everything, and few of us have the time --or obsession-- to constantly edit open-source sites such as Wikipedia to reflect our own points of view.)
The statutes of the Constantinian Order ascribe to the Pope the right to approve or even appoint a Grand Master under certain prescribed conditions, but the Holy See has not had to act in this capacity since the fall of the Two Sicilies. In the past, Cardinal Protectors were appointed but nowadays "Priors" are appointed.
The House of Parma
A good case could be made for the Duke of Parma claiming headship of a Constantinian Order. An order of this name was lawfully bestowed by the Dukes of Parma when they reigned, and is still conferred today. Its symbolic and historic roots are the same as those of the Neapolitan order. In the event, the Duke of Parma enjoys the right of fons honorum and may lawfully bestow an order which existed in his ancestral realm before it was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.
The House of Savoy
The Royal House of Savoy presently takes no official position regarding the internal familial dispute between two princes descended from Prince Alfonso, Count of Caserta. While some royal princes of European houses have accepted decorations from one or the other (or both) "branches" of the Bourbon family, none appear to have made any formal statements in recognition of either one. His Majesty King Umberto II accepted the Constantinian Collar from Prince Ranieri in 1960 (it had been proposed by Prince Ferdinando Pio in 1959), and was known to express support for Ranieri and subsequently Ferdinando. His Majesty was aware of the dispute and its complexities. Indeed, correspondence with his nephew (King Simeon of the Bulgarians, then resident in Spain) explicitly mentions Umberto's position. (Of course, we need not worry about the advocates of Infante Carlos drawing our attention to that detail, but they do seem obsessed with mentioning that prominent royals such as Simeon are now in "their" order.) In a bizarre twist, supporters of Infante Carlos claim King Umberto for their orders, presumably on the basis of his decoration with the Constantinian Order before the dispute erupted in 1960.
The Sovereign Military Order of Malta
The relationship to the Order of Malta, while it is not of paramount importance juridically or diplomatically, is significant for several reasons. Under the knights, Malta was a protectorate of the Kingdom of Sicily from 1530 until 1798. It was Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, as king of Sicily, who donated Malta and Gozo to the knights in exchange for an annual feudal rent (a falcon). By 1798, when the knights were expelled by the French, the conditions of this feudal tenure were largely symbolic and the order's rule was essentially sovereign, but this didn't stop the King of Naples and Sicily (later the Two Sicilies) from protesting the French and British occupations during proceedings at the Congress of Vienna some years later. The island of Malta had been a Sicilian fief from the time of the Norman rule of a Kingdom of Sicily in the twelfth century, and of course the Knights Hospitaller had had preceptories in Sicily since in the thirteenth century.
Expelled from Malta, the knights of Saint John established headquarters in Sicily and around mainland Italy before the grand magistry was transferred permanently to Rome. By 1900, with the Order of Malta still exclusively aristocratic (but with the Bourbons exiled from Naples), most Constantinian knights were Italians from the South and most, unsurprisingly, were knights of Malta. Until the 1960s the Constantinian Order, then still largely aristocratic (it has nobiliary grades), consisted almost entirely of gentlemen and ladies who were also knights and dames of Malta.
The rapport of the Order of Malta with the House of the Two Sicilies has survived to the present day, and remains important historically, socially and symbolically. The number of knights and dames in the military-religious orders (Order of Malta, Order of the Holy Sepulcher, etc.) has increased greatly since the 1980s, but into the 1960s the Constantinian knights in the Order of Malta could still be said to have constituted a special caste, as it was exceptional for a gentleman to be invested into the Constantinian Order who was not already a knight of Malta.
The Sovereign Military Order of Malta takes no officially stated position regarding the internal familial dispute between two princes descended from Prince Alfonso, Count of Caserta. The last Prince-Grand Master (1988-2008), Frà Andrew Bertie, accepted the Order of Saint Januarius and the Constantinian Collar from Prince Ferdinando during a special ceremony in Naples (I was there), and the present Prince-Grand Master, His Most Eminent Highness Frà Matthew Festing, has been a Constantinian knight for a number of years, and in 2009 he was decorated with the Constantinian Collar and the Order of Saint Januarius in the presence of the Sovereign Council at the Magistral Palace in the Via Condotti in Rome (a photo appears toward the end of this page). Frà Andrew conferred upon Prince Carlo di Borbone, then Duke of Calabria, the insignia of a Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion of the Order of Malta. (A photo taken at the Palazzo di Malta following the ceremony is shown here.) Most members of the Order of Malta's Sovereign Council are Constantinian knights, and (with one or two exceptions) they are familiar with the dynastic "dispute" and its complexities. Angelo de Mojana was Grand Master from 1962 until 1988, and he likewise was a knight of the Constantinian Order. Nevertheless, the Order of Malta does not proscribe knights of Malta accepting the "Spanish" Constantinian Order.
This merits explanation. As High Historical Consultant of the Order of Malta, the late Frà Cyril Toumanoff had issued a concise but direct circular stating the position of that Order vis-à-vis the House of the Two Sicilies, whose diplomatic relations, as we have seen, with the Order of Malta date from the days of the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily. The circular recognising Prince Ferdinando reflected a position formalised during the long grand magistry of Angelo de Mojana, a knight of the Constantinian Order (of Prince Ferdinando), as the Spanish claims did not formally exist until 1960. The Infante Carlos vehemently protested the circular which recognised his cousin, and in the interest of diplomacy the Order's official policy was modified, though Prince Toumanoff was not in any way criticised ad personam. (It should be obvious that I have no such inhibitions in denouncing the claims of Infante Carlos as unfounded. I like to think that I do so, at least in part, as a kind of testament to the highly-respected opinions of Cyril Toumanoff and others who are no longer among us.) The incident exemplifies the complexities in the various "recognitions" claimed by both Constantinian camps, which should be considered only with great caution and with an eye toward context as well as documentation.
Another point should be made here. One particularly vocal guy invested quite recently into the Order of Malta goes to great pains to inform all and sundry that the Constantinian Order bestowed by Carlo, Duke of Castro, is "fraudulent" while his own order (of Infante Carlos) is "real." In effect, the gentleman in question is thereby accusing the Prince-Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta of having accepted a "false" order from a "fraudulent" dynastic pretender. For this reason (in addition to others), investing such persons in the Order of Malta probably isn't a very good idea because, in effect, they are defaming the head of that distinguished order, whose precedence in the Catholic ecclesiastical hierarchy is comparable to that of a cardinal.
The Principality of Monaco
Members of the House of the Two Sicilies have resided in the South of France for a century and have been well-acquainted with the princes of Monaco. Like other dynastic houses, the Serene House of Grimaldi takes no official position in the "dispute." The Constantinian Order has a delegation in Monaco, and Prince Carlo was married there.
The Kingdom of Italy
It may not be very important to any but some rather old gentlemen living today, but the Kingdom of Italy (1860-1946) did not actually outlaw the Constantinian Order or membership in it (or the Order of Saint Januarius). Some assets were sequestered, of course, but issues of Collegio Araldico's Libro d'Oro, an unofficial directory, continued to list the House of the Two Sicilies and its orders, indicating (within familial entries) nobles so decorated from the early 1900s through the 1940s.
Interestingly enough, the Italian policy of exile (never formally enacted into law any more than the invasion of the South was formally declared) of the princes of the House of the Two Sicilies was applied to Prince Alfonso, and to his surviving sons Ferdinando Pio, Ranieri, Filippo and Gabriele, but (after 1901) not to his son Carlo (grandfather of Infante Carlos), who had been integrated into the Royal House of Spain in 1901. Yes, one of the many facts overlooked by supporters of Infante Carlos...
There have been some interesting incidents over the years, some of which are indicative of the attitude of King Juan Carlos of Spain toward the Neapolitan pretensions of his cousin, Infante Carlos. Four immediately come to mind. (I am absolutely certain that Infante Carlos's supporters will dispute the veracity of these but here they are anyway.)
• The King of Spain remarks to historian Peter Bander van Duren, "If my cousin (Carlos) wants to be King of Naples, why doesn't he get in a boat and go conquer it?"
• On another occasion, Prince Carlo (Ferdinando's son) is introduced to his distant cousin, King Juan Carlos of Spain, by a Spanish aristocrat who says, "Your Majesty, I present to you the real Duke of Calabria."
• King Juan Carlos, who was raised in Rome and is familiar with the Curia, met Cardinal Pompedda (at that time the Vatican's highest-ranking jurist) some years ago. At a more recent meeting, not long before the cardinal's death, when the subject of the Constantinian Order arose, His Majesty expressed regret for the pretensions of Infante Carlos and the confusion created.
• The condolences expressed by King Juan Carlos upon the death of his distant cousin, Prince Ferdinando, referred to the deceased as "Duke of Castro," which is how he was styled. The fact that a letter was sent at all (conveyed through diplomatic channels) is remarkable if one chooses to believe the implications of certain people that the King of Spain still "supports" Infante Carlos, if indeed he ever did.
It should be noted that in Italy the Constantinian Order of Infante Carlos is "recognised" by the Foreign Ministry as a "Spanish" order, yet it is not, and has never been, an order of the Spanish Crown.
The Dukedom of Calabria?
This is a point of usage and protocol more than anything, and I don't wish to enter into its intricacies here, but the title Duke of Calabria was intended for the heir apparent (usually the eldest son of the king) rather than the head of the house himself. The practice dates from the medieval Angevin rule of the Kingdom of Naples. Prince Alfonso continued to be known by the title 'Count of Caserta' as he had borne it for decades. Leaving royal protocol aside, the problem is that, on paper, people sometimes confused Carlo, Duke of Calabria (born 1963), with his cousin Carlos, who used the same title. Since the death of his father, Ferdinando, Carlo is Duke of Castro. Incidentally, despite what some people seem to think, the sale, in the twentieth century, of Rome's Palazzo Farnese to the Italian government had nothing to do with the legality or exercise of titular claims by the dynasts of the House of the Two Sicilies.
Cast in stone?
As I write this, on a hot Sicilian summer night in a seaside Baroque palace a few blocks from the medieval Basilica of the Magione (once the Constantinian Order's church in western Sicily), near Steri Castle (where Charles V conceded Malta to some displaced knights), I can only think of history as the current of time. It survives all of us. While fate doesn't depend on the headship of a non-reigning Italian dynasty, the charitable institutions sponsored by that dynasty are more than worthwhile, dedicated to helping others. They make a real difference in the lives of a lot of people, regardless of nationality or creed. Noblesse oblige.
Most of the knights and dames in the orders bestowed by Carlo di Borbone would probably support worthy causes (and various charities) sponsored by his family even if he were not head of his dynasty. Many are members of other organisations or orders of chivalry having the same charitable scope. Issues related to the challenge from Infante Carlos are not very relevant to most of them.
Nobles look to the head of their dynasty as a point of reference, and he looks to the nobility for support. Though it is rarely stated overtly, in the past most of the knights in the military-religious orders (Malta, Holy Sepulcher, Saints Maurice and Lazarus, etc.) who were also knights of the Constantinian Order bestowed by Prince Carlo were cognoscenti who astutely understood the claims of Infante Carlos and his father before becoming Constantinian knights. These gentlemen were especially knowledgeable of heraldry and dynastic history, and as aristocrats (in most cases) most understood genealogy, and the implications of lineages, better than the ordinary person. Such knowledge was, in some measure, one of the many things that distinguished them as aristocrats. It partly explains why Infante Carlos had rather few proponents in the former Two Sicilies until the 1990s, when still another problem emerged.
In recent years a trend of parallel titular recognition has developed, with Spanish citizens claiming titles (borne by Sicilians) in Sicily. There are several fundamental reasons to explain this, but one is that according to European Union (and Spanish) law a noblewoman in Spain may, under certain circumstances, claim inheritance to a title of nobility which in the past (under Two Sicilies law) would have been transmitted exclusively along male lines, and therefore to (for example) her younger brother. Some Spaniards are interpreting this principle retroactively to 1860, and Infante Carlos seems to be supporting these claims even though his ancestor (Carlo III) in the eighteenth century ceded his dynastic rights in the Two Sicilies to his son (the future Ferdinando I) upon assuming the Spanish Crown. This is just one of several relevant matters in which Infante Carlos's practice is at variance with Prince Carlo's, and it is problematical in the recognition of titles when there are, for example, two counts of such-and-such place and the House of the Two Sicilies and the Constantinian Order can recognise only one. This complexity does not exist when the head of the Neapolitan-Sicilian dynasty is not a Spanish prince. Though this specific situation was not foreseen in 1900, it is typical of what can occur when a dynast of one nation's dynasty actively pretends to another (foreign) one as well, and it is but one implicit reason why the Cannes agreement was signed in the first place.
That said, Prince Carlo and Infante Carlos have at least one unfortunate characteristic in common. Both have left decisions regarding nobiliary and heraldic matters to "experts" who are incompetent to make such determinations.
There is an important cultural aspect to certain institutions, and especially to royal dynasties and their orders of chivalry. One expects a dynasty which ruled part of Italy, and its largest knightly order closely linked to Italy (through the Angeli, Farnese and Bourbons of Naples) to have an element of Italianicity. This isn't a legal point, but there's a reason why the Windsors carry the name they do, and issue documents in English. There's also a reason for the Order of Malta issuing official texts of legal documents in Italian (the order's official language), and there's a reason why the Bourbons of Naples are called Borbone. Carlo di Borbone lives in Italy and speaks Italian. Infante Carlos and his son (and heir), Pedro, hardly ever set foot in Naples or Palermo. One of the reasons for most Neapolitans and Sicilians not knowing of the existence of these princes is not (as claimed by their advocates) that there has been intentional misinformation, but that they spend so little time here in southern Italy. A visit to Rome every year or two will not suffice. At their best, paper battles can achieve just so much. Sooner or later the Prince has to meet the People. The French have a saying: 'He who is absent is always wrong.'
It must be reiterated that most knights and dames of the military-religious orders are sincere and charitable Christians. Unfortunately, however, these orders attract more than their share of eccentrics motivated by something other than Christian charity and brotherhood. Though in recent years some military-religious orders have increased their efforts to screen their postulants for what may best be described as outward eccentricities, they do not always meet with success. Beyond the historical facts, statutes and legal principles involved in certain debates is the psychology motivating some of the most vehement individuals. Several interesting profiles are still all too common. The "would-be aristocrat" is a special breed of social climber who claims ancestral nobility where none exists historically. Another profile is the pious Catholic "fundamentalist" who views the Orthodox, Anglicans and other Christian brethren as "heretics." Two "subspecies" of this profile are the "pseudo-theologian" who presumes to enjoy special inspiration from God and the "convert" to Catholicism who chooses his Faith primarily to qualify for Catholic decorations. Another profile is the insecure person or "royalty sycophant" who constantly seeks approval from his social betters. The list continues. The "incomplete man" with a weak identity seeks something to complete his personality, but men with weak characters make weak knights. There is also the "gong head" who seeks to receive as many civil (i.e. non-military) decorations as possible (even Papal knighthoods), ending up with more orders than his career and achievements seem to justify. The "kingmaker" specialises in telling anybody who will listen which non-reigning royal dynast it is that he, the kingmaker, has decided should be the legitimate head of the royal dynasties of France, Russia, Italy, Ethiopia (or others whose headship is contested).
I don't wish to engage in name-calling, but when you read the rantings of some of Infante Carlos' supporters or, worse, when you listen to them, they seem like conspiracy theorists who want us to believe that a secret "conspiracy" has kept "their" prince in the shadows for decades.
Reactions to Some Overzealous Eccentrics
Call it eccentricity on my part, but for over twenty years I've invariably been fascinated by the reactions other 'normal' people have when approached or even harassed by some of the more zealous (or obsessive) "knights" of Infante Carlos de Borbon. Here are just a few exercises in futility from the 1990s:
• When the last Archbishop of New York, the late John Joseph Cardinal O'Connor, received a thick packet of papers supposedly "proving" that the Constantinian Order bestowed by Prince Ferdinando was "false" and therefore should no longer be permitted to hold investitures in Saint Patrick's Cathedral, His Eminence simply ordered the material to be tossed into the trash.
• When the editor of a scholarly journal published in England dealing with orders and decorations received a similar complaint (about some of my articles), he made it clear that his publication could not become involved in such a dispute. He didn't think the matter worth contacting me to discuss, but when I was in London three months later we met for lunch. His only question about the man who had complained about my work: "What is his problem?"
• When a high-ranking knight of the Venerable Order of Saint John was subjected to a tirade about the Constantinian Order then bestowed by Prince Ferdinando, he asked somebody familiar with the man who made the denunciation: "Is Mister (X) a Christian?"
Having said all this, it is worth noting that most of the people who have accepted decorations from Infante Carlos are perfectly decent, rational, respectable individuals. It is not my intention to imply otherwise. Here I refer only to the ones most likely to harass or attack those of us who have been decorated by Prince Ferdinando. The predictable response of the "detractors" to this page will be that I haven't dedicated enough space to the "facts" of the "dispute" and that "personalities" are unimportant. As I've already stated, no authority is empowered to resolve the "dispute" to headship of the House of the Two Sicilies. Instead, in Christian orders of chivalry attitudes and personalities (which result in specific comportment) are extremely important. The perception that a decoration might be a "Divine" recognition of superior moral character is utterly ridiculous; most of the finest Christians I've met have no decorations at all. (How many did the Apostles wear?)
What frequently happens is that when one of the more vocal proponents of Infante Carlos fails to convince somebody in the other camp of the merit of his way of thinking, he resorts to personal insults. We thus become, in the proponent's stated, published or emailed opinion, "stupid" or "dishonest." This kind of thing wears thin after two decades. Understandably, some of us (myself included) refuse to associate in any way with the more obnoxious of these individuals. Recently, when informed that one of Infante Carlos' decoratees had resigned from an organisation of which I am a member, I did not attempt to conceal my pleasure, for now I can more happily attend events at which he won't be present. (His presence will indeed not be missed!) The fact is that, at least in a social context, some of these overbearing individuals have become a poison in an otherwise reasonably pure pond.
Real traditions die hard
If constrained to explain why I support the position of the line of Prince Carlo, I would state (among myriad historical and legal facts) that I knew many learned gentlemen (most now deceased) who were around in 1960 and who were familiar with the circumstances of the succession, and they supported the dynasty without equivocation. What we have seen in the last decade or so is that certain of Infante Carlos' advocates have gained somewhat greater support for their ideas because those knowledgeable grey eminences are no longer around to defend the truth.
But that is not to say that the truth is entirely unknown. Indeed, it is acknowledged and respected by many individuals who merit great respect. I was present in Naples when Frà Andrew Bertie, last Prince-Grand Master of the Order of Malta, accepted the Order of Saint Januarius (San Gennaro) from Prince Ferdinando of the Two Sicilies. His Most Eminent Highness was also a knight of the Constantinian Order, in which he was invested in 1985, three years before his election as Grand Master. Before him, Angelo de Mojana was also a knight of the Constantinian Order of which Ferdinando was Grand Master. The idea, advanced by certain "knights" in Infante Carlos's camp, that we in Carlo's order have somehow misled or deceived the ignorant (whether in the Italian government or elsewhere), just doesn't bear close scrutiny. My position has been (and is) that dignifying the detractors with too much attention is a waste of time, but the continued lies and increasingly squalid personal attacks against decent people finally necessitated the words you are reading here.
Let's suppose that tomorrow the Infante Carlos were to make a convincing case for his claim to grand magistry of the Constantinian Order and/or headship of the Two Sicilies dynasty, perhaps based on some newly-discovered document, the "Dead Sea Scrolls" of the House of the Two Sicilies. Some of us still would not support him because of the charlatans in his camp, and because to us being in the Constantinian Order has never been a simple question of garnering social status or medals and ribbons. I don't care who calls me "cavaliere" or whether I'm permitted to wear a decoration. My ancestors' Italian link to Prince Carlo's dynasty and its lineal predecessors spans centuries, at least to the days when the Duke of Calabria was an Angevin prince, and our link to the Church (the Constantinian Order has a canonical status) is equally strong. To those of us with ancestral roots in the Two Sicilies, the Byzantine history of Sicily, Basilicata and Calabria is compatible with the tradition of the Constantinian Order, whose Angeli grand masters were pretenders to the Throne of Constantinople. This aspect of heritage is tangible to anybody who has ever seen the Byzantine mosaics of Monreale Abbey, Palermo's Martorana or other churches in southern Italy. We hardly need a motley crew of condescending "foreigners" (i.e. non-Italians) and social climbers, including a few who converted to Catholicism simply to qualify for candidature to those orders (such as the Order of Malta and Constantinian Order) bestowed exclusively upon Roman Catholics, to tell us who the head of the Two Sicilies dynasty is, or to "teach" us about dynastic and canon law or our own traditions. That said, there are certainly some respectable individuals in the "Spanish" order who have not participated in the mud-slinging and lies. Truth be told, many of those who are also (simultaneously) active in military-religious orders requiring serious spiritual commitment (such as the Order of Malta) probably do not have much extra time (and maybe less inclination) to dedicate to such activities as attacking those in the "other" Constantinian Order of Saint George.
Tellingly, one or two of the more zealous (or obsessive) exponents of Infante Carlos have approached members of the Two Sicilies royal family supportive of Prince Carlo attempting to sway them toward Carlos's way of thinking. These efforts have failed. One must wonder if, as these exponents have stated, support of members of the dynasty is totally irrelevant, why such effort is being made to change their opinions? In reality, these sycophants (for lack of a better word) do not enjoy any special esteem from their master Infante Carlos himself, or from many of the people they invite into his "Constantinian Order." This is far from the image they paint for outsiders, who are led to believe that "So-and-So Knight Grand Cross" spends all his free time stag hunting with His Royal Highness Prince Carlos de Borbon, Infante of Spain, "Duke of Calabria, Head of the Royal House of the Two Sicilies," while acting as the personal juridical-chivalric consultant for half the Catholic dynasts of Europe, "too ignorant" to understand their own dynastic laws. What seems to frustrate the most venomous attackers is the fact that the Constantinian Order bestowed by Prince Carlo is still very active, and recognised in many quarters, despite decades of futile efforts --and rivers of ink-- attempting to silence it.
Those supportive of Infante Carlos also fail to mention that Infante Pedro (born 1968), the only son and heir of Carlos, fathered a son outside marriage eight years before wedding the child's mother (Sofia Landaluce y Melgarejo) in 2001, thus creating what most scholars would consider to be potential dynastic complications were Infante Carlos's Sicilian claims to be viewed as legitimate. There are some Italians in Carlos's camp. At home in Madrid, King Juan Carlos gave Infante Carlos responsibility for the Spanish monastic orders (Calatrava, Santiago, etc.), reportedly in an effort to dissuade his Neapolitan claims. In a very public way, Infante Carlos bestows Neapolitan decorations such as San Gennaro in the Kingdom of Spain, a monarchy whose only fons honorum should be the reigning sovereign. (Contrast this to the subdued, discreet comportment of King Constantine II in Great Britain.)
Certain activities (and not a few "biographical curiosities") regarding some of Infante Carlos's supporters, especially involving those most adept and practiced at ad hominem attacks, are so distasteful and offensive that I prefer not to describe them here. And I prefer not to debate people with whom I would not even socialise. I am grateful to my Maker that I am outside any organisation in which such personages exercise any significant influence.
Separate but Equal
To consider the two Constantinian orders a single "divided order of chivalry," as some have suggested, seems to be based on mistaken perceptions. My position is that the only solution is the hypothetical dissolution of the claims of Infante Carlos. Here are the reasons:
1) On a juridical level there can be only one head of the dynasty, and the established view is that, according to the Farnese Statutes and various decrees, barring extinction of all dynasts the head of the dynasty is grand master of the dynastic orders.
2) Prince Carlo, Duke of Castro, has no juridical or dynastic authority to integrate a dynast of the Royal House of Spain (namely Infante Carlos and Infante Pedro) into the Royal House of the Two Sicilies. This eliminates certain proposals from consideration.
3) Headship of a number of non-reigning dynasties is disputed in some way. In effect, this serves no purpose except to erode credibility and to make a mockery of royalty and chivalry (knightly orders) as institutions. In this case the damage is already so great that it could not get much worse. This discourages proposals at a solution.
4) So bitter is the acrimony between both sides, and so great the antipathy between proponents of each claimant, that any compromise is not practical socially.
5) It may not be realistic for the Constantinian Order of Prince Carlo to recognise the bestowals of Infante Carlos upon individuals of questionable morality who would not have been invested in Carlo's orders. (Supporters of Infante Carlos say the same thing about some of Carlo's knights.) Differing standards of determining ancestral nobility make it all but impossible to reconcile and integrate grades and categories of the Spanish order with that of Prince Carlo.
6) As each side feels it has the better claim to legitimacy, neither, as a practical matter, is willing to compromise in any event, though at times Infante Carlos seems to have been willing to cede his claim to the heirs of Prince Casimiro (born 1938) or Prince Antonio (born 1929) if either were to accept certain terms.
7) Even if the claim of Infante Carlos were to be presumed valid, and if he were succeeded by his son, Pedro, the dynastic position of Pedro's natural issue is unclear. Most (but by no means all) supporters of Infante Carlos concede that Carlo's line is presently next in succession after that of Carlos.
8) The matter of parallel titular recognition regarding Italian and Spanish claimants to the same feudal titles would have to be addressed.
For the study of the dynastic history of the House of the Two Sicilies, I am largely indebted to the work of those who preceded me by many decades --people like Cyril Toumanoff, Achille di Lorenzo, Harold Acton and Peter Bander-van Duren. They were not just scholars but true knights. For their time and kindness, Giovan Pietro Caffarelli, Oberto Pallavicini, Cardinal Jacques Martin and Prince Giovanni of the Two Sicilies should also be mentioned. No, they were not always in agreement with each other --or even with Prince Ferdinando-- but their research and conclusions were flawless, and they shared a singular dedication to the memory of a special family which, perhaps more than any other, epitomised the independent spirit of nineteenth-century Italy.
What is important isn't that you choose a side --if this rather arcane subject actually interests you enough to merit your time in forming an opinion-- or that you accept, without further question, the position of Prince Carlo, Duke of Castro, as head of a distinguished European dynasty. (Chivalry is not dead. It's sometimes possible for gentlemen to agree to disagree.) What is most important is that one accepts that any topic is best understood when relevant facts are presented in a clear manner, without intentional deception or misrepresentation. Look at the evidence, and also the motives of those presenting it. In the end, people can (and will) believe what they like. That is as it should be. Of course, it would be better if they could decide for themselves, without deliberately insulting others whose choices happen to be different, but perhaps that is too much to hope for. It is not my personal prerogative to judge anybody but myself (you don't see detractors' names in this article). Friendship and loyalty are based on more than titles, ceremonies, white-tie dinners and gongs (medals).
Address by HMEH Frà Andrew Bertie to Carlo di Borbone on 4 February 2004:
It is with great joy that I, together with my confreres and in the presence of dignitaries of the Constantinian Order, present the insignia of Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion to His Royal Highness Prince Carlo of Bourbon Two Sicilies, Duke of Calabria, Grand Prefect of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George.
Once again the close bonds between the Sacred Constantinian Order of Saint George and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta are strengthened, continuing our common ideals that with the passage of time have intensified our respective actions toward providing assistance for the benefit of the poor, our lords the sick, and to those who suffer, in defence of the faith and in alleviating the suffering of those who have fallen victim of violence and atrocities of every kind.
The Order of Malta is joined with the Constantinian Order not only by these same humanitarian goals but also by a centuries old tradition of having in its ranks many Constantinian knights.
Your Royal Highness lived for many years in France and I will use this opportunity to make this meeting a bit more personal.
You are, Sire, the heir to the illustrious House of Bourbon that has left so many happy memories in the Kingdom of Naples and of Sicily.
During the Baptismal ceremonies of the young Princess Maria Carolina to which you were kind enough to invite me, and for which I was unfortunately not free to attend, you brought life to the magnificent Palace of Caserta. The many participants in the christening, celebrated by His Eminence Cardinal Pompedda, whom I welcome here today, were able to gather, as you wished, in the sumptuous chapel of the palace. The grand salons of the Reggia were then opened to your many guests so that they could admire this masterpiece of royal architecture. On that occasion, you demonstrated an exquisite delicacy with which Princess Camilla and you received your guests testifying to your friendship and the pleasure that you had in receiving them. I could not go without underlining today this rare quality that you demonstrate with everyone you meet.
For this reason, and with the most heartfelt wishes for ever greater bonds between the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George and our Order, and certain that I am fulfilling the wishes of my confreres, I present Your Royal Highness with the dignity of Bailiff of Honour and Devotion.
Prince Carlo's address in acceptance refers to the close ties of the two orders:
I am truly touched by the fact that once again you have wished to make a gesture of such importance toward me and above all toward my family, if you please, a gesture that confirms our friendship and mutual affection.
I am very happy and honoured to have been a member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta since 1983 and, during these years, I have on many occasions appreciated the activities of the Order, driven by your impetus and under your guidance, growing and confirming the reasons that assure its universal respect and esteem.
The presence in the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George of many knights and dames from the Sovereign Military Order of Malta demonstrates, I believe, in the clearest terms, the closeness between our two orders.
I hope, furthermore, that in the future we shall always find ourselves very close along the road indicated by faith, which pushes us to joint action.
The presence of His Eminence the Grand Prior of our Order who is our Ecclesiastical Councillor by Pontifical Decree, keeps us faithful in carrying out our works as wished by my father Prince Ferdinando, the Grand Master who joins with us in this ceremony.
Finally, I hope that the expression of esteem that I restate for each member of the Sovereign Council will seal this beautiful day, Your Most Eminent Highness; I repeat my most heartfelt thanks.
RealCasadiBorbone.It Official site of the Royal House of Bourbon of the Two Sicilies, presented in Italian, English and French.
Constantinian.Org.Uk Site of the Delegation for Britain and Ireland of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George and the Royal Order of Francis I of the Two Sicilies.
Regalis.Com Information on the Bourbon-Sicilies and Savoy dynasties and their orders of chivalry.
Dynastic Law by Stephen Kerr Some insights by an expert legal scholar.