Creation of Commanderies for Russian Nobles 1798




WE, PAUL, the First, by the grace of God, emperor and autocrator of all the Russias, grand-master of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, &c. &c.

It is an undoubted fact, that the Order of St John of Jerusalem has, from the moment of its foundation, contributed, by the wisdom and utility of its institutions, not only to the wellbeing of the Christian world in general, but to the advantage of the different states of Christendom in particular. We have always done justice to this illustrious Order; and we have given a striking proof of our particular affection to it, on our accession to the imperial throne of Russia, by establishing a grand-priory in our dominions, to which we have granted an analogous revenue. Our quality of grand-master of this Order, which we accepted in compliance with the general wish of all the well-intentioned members who compose it, induces us to pay the strictest attention towards the proper means of restoring the order to its original lustre, and to the recovery of those possessions of which it has been unjustly deprived. In consequence of which, being desirous on one side of giving a fresh proof of our esteem and attachment for this ancient and respectable institution ; and, on the other, wishing to make partakers in the privileges, honours, and distinctions, attached to this order, those nobles among our subjects whose fidelity towards the throne, and whose personal bravery, together with that of their ancestors, have not only preserved our empire whole and entire, but defeated from time immemorial the numerous enemies of our country, and extended its limits: wishing also that this institution may be an additional motive to our faithful nobility, and stimulate them not only to the love of glory in general, but to acts tending to the advantage of the nation, and agreeable to the sovereign ; we have therefore judged it fitting to institute, and we do institute, by our imperial authority and by these presents, a new foundation of the order of St. John of Jerusalem in favour of the nobles of our empire, according to the following regulations, which shall serve in future for the fundamental basis to the Organisation of the said foundation.

ARTICLE I. Independently of the sums heretofore assigned to the grand-priory of Russia, we graciously grant for the new foundation of the order of St. John of Jerusalem, and for the other expences attendant thereon, the annual sum of two hundred and sixteen thousand rubles; which shall be received, administered, and divided, according to the mode prescribed in the following articles.

ARTICLE II. The state treasury of the empire shall annually pay the said sum of two hundred and sixteen thousand rubles to the new foundation of the order of St. John of Jerusalem. This payment shall be made at two different terms, viz. the first, of one hundred and eight thousand rubles, on the 30th of June, and the second, of the same sum, on the 31st of December, every year: the said payments are to be made into the treasury of the order of St. John of Jerusalem, which shall afterwards make repartition according to the rules announced and fixed in the different articles of the present foundation.

ARTICLE III. This sum of two hundred and sixteen thousand rubles which it has pleased us to grant, shall be for ever free from all drawbacks, or expences of any kind whatsoever; so that it shall be wholly and entirely enjoyed by the said foundation.

ARTICLE IV. This new foundation shall consist of commanderies of different value, the revenues of which shall be fixed in the following manner:- There shall be two commanderies of each six thousand rubles a-year, four of four thousand rubles, six of three thousand rubles, ten of two thousand rubles, sixteen of fifteen hundred rubles, and sixty of one thousand rubles each.

ARTICLE V. All the above-mentioned ninety-eight commanderies shall annually pay into the treasury of the order, by way of responsions, twenty per cent of their respective revenues, according to the repartition in the preceding article; likewise five per cent as an exemption from a duty due to the treasury of the order on the effects of each commander after his decease.

ARTICLE VI. The remaining part of the two hundred and sixteen thousand rubles shall be distributed every year, to supply the necessary expences of the order, such as they have been stated to us, and to which we have given our approbation.

ARTICLE VII. The order of St. John of Jerusalem shall enter into the enjoyment of the revenues we have assigned this new foundation from the 1st of January, 1799, till the 1st of July of the same year; so that the one hundred and eight thousand rubles, making the half of the said revenue, shall be all paid into the treasury of the order: in consequence of which, the knights appointed to these different commanderies will not enter into the possession of their revenues till the 1st of July, 1779.

ARTICLE VIII. All institutions, to be useful and lasting, must be governed by clear and exact regulations: we therefore think it necessary to establish in the articles of the present foundation the duties which the knights shall be indispensably obliged to perform, and that without exception of persons ; in default of which, no one can either be admitted as knights, or raised to the dignity of commanders.

ARTICLE IX. These duties consist,

first, – in making their proofs of nobility according to the mode which shall be established by a commission of an hundred original commanders, which we shall appoint for that purpose ; in which shall be included the lieutenant, who shall represent us in our new quality of grand-master. The above-mentioned mode shall next be approved and sanctioned by ourselves. Secondly, – In paying into the treasury the passage-fees either of majority or minority at the moment of the reception, in the same manner as other knights in the order, and in paying all the other necessary duties. The majority fees for those received after the age of fifteen years are fixed at twelve hundred rubles; the minority fees for those received under ten years old at two thousand four hundred rubles.

Thirdly, – In making, four ordinary caravans, either on board the squadrons of the order, or in the Russian army or navy : a campaign of six months shall be counted as one caravan. To verify the performance of the caravan duties, the knight must be provided with a certificate signed by the military chiefs and commandants, proving the time he served and attesting his good conduct.

Fourthly, – In not being in debt to the treasury of the order.

ARTICLE X. Every candidate for admission into this new foundation of the order of St. John of Jerusalem must previously fulfil the conditions imposed in the first and second members of the preceding article. In order to aspire in future to the dignity of commander in case of a vacancy, it is indispensably necessary he should comply with all the obligations prescribed in the first, second, third, and fourth, members of the said article.

ARTICLE XI. The knights who shall belong to the foundation of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem shall be obliged punctually to fulfil all the conditions prescribed by these presents; and in case of a vacant commandery, the person who succeeds must obtain it from right of seniority: but this right of seniority ceases to be valid, if the candidate has not performed all the duties required of him ; far to succeed to a vacant commandery, a scrupulous observation of the conditions imposed in the present foundation is equally necessary with the above-mentioned right of seniority.

ARTICLE XII. When any commanderies shall become vacant, a commander may quit the one he already enjoys, to be preferred to a better: but in order io obtain such, the commander must possess the right of seniority, and not be indebted to the treasury of the order.

ARTICLE XIII. The ninety-eight commanderies in this new institution shall be subject, equally with the other commanderies of the order of St. John of Jerusalem, to the mortuary and vacancy duties; and these duties shall be directed by the laws and customs established for this purpose. The treasury of the order shall enjoy the administration and revenues of the vacant commandery during the term prescribed for the receipt of the mortuary and vacancy.

ARTICLE XIV. The rents of every commandery which shall remain vacant for want of a candidate shall be entirely paid into the treasury of the order, until such time as some one shall render himself capable of obtaining it; and he shall not begin to receive the revenues till the very day when he shall be legally nominated to the commandery.

ARTICLE XV. We reserve to ourselves the sole right of nominating the ninety-eight commanders who shall be put in possession of the commanderies instituted by this new foundation.

ARTICLE XVI. The first ninety-eight commanders thus nominated by us shall be the only ones dispensed from the duties prescribed in the articles of the present foundation, and shall be only held to the payment of the passage fees and the established taxes.

ARTICLE XVII In our quality of grand-master of the order of St. John of Jerusalem, we likewise reserve to ourselves the exercise of the magisterial prerogative, by virtue of which we have a right, once in five years, to confer a commandery by favour, if during this interval of time one of the ninety-eight commanderies which form this new institution should become vacant.

ARTICLE XVIII. The commanderies which, as mentioned in the preceding article, shall be conferred by favour, shall be subject to the payment of all the duties fixed in the magisterial collations.

ARTICLE XIX. It being our intention to confer the magisterial commanderies by favour only as a reward of merit, we promise to choose those alone who are deserving the protection and esteem of the sovereign, the state, and the order.

ARTICLE XX. That the repartition of the revenues assigned by us for this new foundation of the order of St. John of Jerusalem may extend to a greater number of persons, no knight shall be allowed to enjoy more than one commandery at the same time ; so that when he gives up one, it shall be only to be promoted to a better. The mutations of commanderies shall take place according to the tenor of the conditions and regulations announced in the articles of the present foundation.

ARTICLE XXI. Those knights who, by their personal merit and our sovereign good-will, shall have obtained a commandery by favour, shall not be included in the regulation mentioned in the preceding article ; the said regulation relating only to the commanderies obtained by right of seniority.

ARTICLE XXII. To contribute still further to the well-being of the order of St. John of Jerusalem, and to enable all the nobility of our empire, and even those among them who, from particular circumstances, cannot in all things comply with the obligations prescribed in the articles of the present foundation, to partake the distinctions, honours, and prerogatives, granted to the knights received into this new foundation; we deign to grant, from this present moment and for ever, our imperial permission to all those who wish to found commanderies of family or jus patronat to make such foundations; and in that case they must address themselves directly to our lieutenant, either to agree on the reciprocal conditions, or to commit to writing the act of these foundations, which must afterwards be presented to us for our approbation and confirmation thereof.

ARTICLE XXIII. The commanderies of family or jus patronat shall always bear the name of their original founders. The commanders of family shall enjoy all the honours, privileges, and prerogatives, attached to their foundations.

ARTICLE XXIV. The commanders of the present institution shall assemble in the palace of the order of St. John of Jerusalem in our imperial residence at St. Petersburg, there to take cognizance of affairs either of administration or economy, or the observance, interpretation, and execution, of the regulations and conditions resolved and ordained in the present foundation; at the same time observing the rules established for the holding of draw assemblies.

ARTICLE XXV. The lieutenant who shall represent us in our quality of grand-master of the order of St. John of Jerusalem shall preside at these assemblies. He shall be perpetual recorder, by virtue of his office, of all affairs whatsoever which shall be decided by the majority of votes, according to the forms and customs observed in the order, and the regulations prescribed in the present foundation. A register shall be kept of all the deliberations, for our inspection.

ARTICLE XXVI. Lastly, we confirm in the most solemn manner, in our name and in that of our successors for ever, all and each of the articles of the present foundation; the said articles to have their full effect, and to be inviolably executed. Concluded at St. Petersburg, the 29th of November, in the year of our Lord 1798, and in the third of our reign.

(Signed) PAUL.

(Countersigned) PRINCE BESBORODKO.