Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Knights of Malta in Monaco

Their Serene Highnesses Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco have hosted their first official visit by a foreign dignitary to Monaco. That honor went to His Most Eminent Highness Fra' Matthew Festing (seen above with the Princely couple) the 79th Prince and Grand Master of the Knights of Malta or (officially) the "Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta". Prince Albert II has long been a member of the Knights of Malta, something which, I will admit, rather surprised me given his rather "colorful" personal history but since Rupert Murdoch was given a papal knighthood (the Order of St Gregory or something I think) nothing should really come as a surprise in that department I suppose.

However, the Grand Master was in Monaco to give the Sovereign Prince something of a promotion. I will admit, I don't know how these sorts of things are decided, I do know membership in the Knights of Malta is by invitation only (which basically means if you are prominent enough or know the right people you get asked), but other than that, I have no idea how one moves up in the ranks. Perhaps it is seniority, automatic promotion, donations to the order (and I don't mean to sound too cynical as the order does do some very good work around the world) or perhaps our Albie is just an outstandingly chivalrous Catholic. We may never know. In any event, the Grand Master bestowed upon our Sovereign Prince the rank of "Honorary Bailiff Grand Cross" and the visit was quite a grand occasion.

The Princely Rifles turned out, smart as usual, to welcome the Grand Master with full military honors and all the pomp and ceremony the tiny Monegasque army could muster. Minister of State Roger and the Prince's Chamberlain were also on hand, along with the Prince and Princess to welcome the distinguished visitor. After the official greeting was done the Archbishop of Monaco celebrated a special mass in the palace chapel which all attended. There was a private dinner, a meeting with the Minister of State and Princess Charlene joined the Grand Master for a special concert in the palace courtyard (right where a wedding was recently held you might have heard of) to benefit the many charities which are supported by the Knights of Malta. It was all very glamorous but, alas, it seems I will still have to wait to see Prince Albert in all his Hospitaller finery. In all seriousness though, I do love this sort of stuff and it is good to see two representatives of such ancient historical presence in Mare Nostrum get together once in a while.

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