The Maltese Order During 1797 – 1801 from the official records


Year 1797.

After the death of Prince De Rohan, Ferdinand Hompesh was elected Grandmaster of the Order.

On January 4th, Emperor Paul the First (Paul the First of Russia), having deep respect for the famous Maltese Order and bearing in mind the intention of founding a similar Order in the Russian Empire, "…As it is useful and helpful to assert the good rules", set up the CONVENTION in St. Petersburg* (in XXXVII articles). He appointed and gave the responsibility to the Minister Count Besborodjko and Prince Kurakin, to negotiate with Bailiff Count Litta, the Grandmaster’s Minister of the Maltese Order, to start the activities of the Order in Russia.

"…The Russian Treasury should pay the Order 300,000 Polish zloty every year, for the land the Order owns in Poland, instead of making a profit on it. This amount of money has to be the annual capital, and the profits of the Order from the Russian land should be named "The Grand Russian Priory", which will be divided into The Grand Priory and 10 Commanderies. The Commanderies would be given only to the Russians, and never to the foreigners, and they are obliged to pay Malta the "Responcia", a fixed sum of money. The Maltese Minister in Russia should be paid a salary of 20,000 Polish zloty. A fixed sum of money has to be established for the other expenses of the Russian Priory. The Maltese Grandmaster has the right to rule the Russian Priory and every five years can give, as charity, one Commandery. Every Commander can have only one Commandery. The Russian Court has the right to nominate and confirm the Commanders called Hereditary (jus patronatus). The nobility of Roman-Catholic faith of the Russian Empire can join the Order. The Russian Priory shall celebrate the feast of St. John on the eve of June 23rd every year, with festive gatherings (Council Meetings). The Maltese Minister in Russia shall take part in the Council meetings, he should get acquainted with the current situation of the Order and always participate in the decisions by vote. The Knights and the Hereditary Commanders should also attend the meetings. A special uniform should be introduced for the Russian Priory. The Prior and the Commanders should wear the cross of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem round their neck and the rest of the Knights should have the sign on the lapel. All these regulations should be introduced within four months."

* This Convention with additional articles and secret parts can be found in Russian and French languages in the archives of the Hall of Treaties (Traktatnaja Palata), under N2.

Together with the rules mentioned above, on November l7th (according to the new calendar and November 28th according to the old one) of the same year, another VIII articles were added.

"…In the Russian Grand Priory there should be introduced the services of Conventional Chaplains, who will be useful to the Order’s churches in Russia as well as in Malta. As payment to them, the Russian Treasury will allot the three Commanderies with the profit of 6,000 Polish zloty. The Conventional Chaplains shall be appointed by the Maltese Grandmaster and will be sent to give service from Malta. All the profits of each Commandery, which are not made use of during the year, shall belong to the Treasury of the Order."

On January 4th of the same year, another IV secret articles, concerning the regions in Poland belonging to the Order according to the Treaty (Tract) of year 1773, were added to the Konventsia. "…Between the years 1788 and 1793 (when the Ostrozhensky regions were added to the Russian territory) the profit of 4,000 Russian tchervonnikh (the Russian currency of that time) will be added to the Polish debts. From the year 1793 up to December 31st of 1796, all the profits will be paid directly to the Order and 24,000 Polish zloty will be added from the Russian Treasury.

The Grand Polish Priory will be joined to the Russian Priory and the Polish zloty shall be valued at 0.25 Russian kopeck."

As it was mentioned above in the article XXIV of the Konventsia giving permission to start the new Hereditary (jus patronatus) and the Commanderies in the Russian Priory several* Russian citizens started negotiating with Count Litta, the Grandmaster’s responsible envoy.

* The Konventsia (printed in Russian and French) is kept in the Hall of Treaties under N3, gives the list of the negotiators as follows:

1797 December 20th – with Privy Councillor Count Ilyinsky.

1798 January 23rd – with General – Lieutenant Mikhail Lubomirsky.

         January 24th – with Privy Councillor Prince Franzisk Sapiago.

         June l0th – with Collegial Councillor Count Joseph Bork.

1799 February 22nd – with Royal Privy Councillor Leo Naryshkin.

         February 22nd – with Royal Privy Councillor Prince Nikolai


         February 26th – with Privy Councillor Prince


         February 26th – with Royal Privy Councillor Count Alexander


         February 28th – with Katherine Davidova, the wife of the General


         February 28th – Royal Chamberlain Baron Alexander Stroganov.

         March 7th – with Privy Councillor Tarbevy on behalf of Princess

         Katherine Borjatinskaja, who was away from St. Petersburg.

         March 23rd – with Chamberlain Nikolaj Demidov.

         March 24th – with Chamberlain Prince Vasily Troubetzkoy.

         March 24th – with Countess Irina Vorontsova.

         April 4th – with the Senior Quartermaster Peter Beketov.

         April 5th – with Royal Privy Councillor Marquis Maryzzi.

         April 5th – with Olga Zherebtsova, the Chamberlain’s wife.

         April 5th – with Royal Privy Councillor Matvei Olsyfiev

         April 5th – with Chamberlain Prince Peter Tufiakin, on behalf of

         his mother Princess Maria Tufiakina, who was away from

         St. Petersburg.

         May 24th – retired High-Chamberlain Count Alexander


         June 1st – with Royal Privy Councillor Count Sergej Rumjantsev

         June 10th – with Royal Privy Councillor Nikolaj Bytulin

         August 28th – with High-Chamberlain Count Nikolaj


After the discussions held between Field Marshal Count Nikolaj Ivanovich Saltikov – the Head Bailiff of the Order – and Lieutenant Count Rostopchin, the Convention was signed.

The Convention or Acts set up the foundation, by Field Marshal Saltikov, of the Hereditary Commanderies with the right of inheritance by their future generations depositing family estates giving everlasting profit to the Order and obligation to follow the articles of the Convention.

Year 1798.

During this and the following years some of the declarations, which were made by Emperor Paul the First, became the laws of the Maltese Order:

a) February 28th:

The Russian Priory was given for ever the house in St. Petersburg, which later was called the "Chancellery House". On the same day, the acts of the Hereditary Commanderies of the Order were confirmed by Privy Councillor Prince Sapga, Count Iliynsky and General-Aide-de-camp Prince Lubomirsky in favour of the generations to come.

b) October 4th:

Every year to allot 50,000 rubles, collected from all Commanders, to the pensioners rewarded with the Order of St. Anna.

c) November 29th:

The Statement* about the starting of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, for the noble aristocracy of the Russian Empire (in XXVI articles), was issued. The Statement established a fixed sum of money for the Grand Russian Priory with other expenses of 210,000 rubles every year. The Order should consist of 98 Commanders, who should be paid a yearly salary, from which they were instructed to pay 20% to the Treasury of the Order. Special rules were also established for the new Cavaliers, wishing to join the Order. The persons, who desire to become Cavaliers and Hereditary Commanders, have to contact the Grandmaster’s envoy, who should attend all the meetings of the Order.

d) December l6th:

The declaration was published, in which the Russian Emperor Paul the First, with deep regret, made known the fact that the Grandmaster of the Order Ferdinand Hompesh was yielding the island of Malta to the attacking French forces without offering any resistance. This fact brought him eternal disgrace and all the Cavaliers of the Order expressed their disgust and considered Grandmaster Hompesh as an unworthy leader to represent the Order. All the members of the Order expressed their wish that His Highness Emperor Paul the First accept the title of Grandmaster. So, the Russian Emperor proclaimed his solemn acceptance of the title of the Grandmaster of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. He appointed the base for the Order in his Imperial capital.

Emperor Paul the First also confirmed, that all the regulated advantages and Hereditary estates of the Order would be preserved. The Grandmaster’s title would be added to His Highness’ Imperial title.

e) December 20th:

The Rescript (document) was published appointing the Grandmaster’s Ambassador Count Litta with four other persons: Field Marshal Count Nikolaj Saltikov, High-Chamberlain Count Sheremetjev, Royal Privy Councillor Angelgart and General-Prosecutor Lopukhin to regulate and set the rules of joining the Order of St. John of Jerusalem by the Russian nobility.

f) December 28th:

The Decree was published with regulations of the restrictions, dignity, leadership and rules for the members of the Order of the Catholic Russian Grand Priory set up on January 1st, 1797, as the Russian Grand Priory established on November 29th, 1798.

* This published text can be found in the Hall of Treaties (Tractatnaja Palata) under N6.

g) January 8th, 1799:

A Manifesto, which declared that all the persons with any noble rank could also join the Order of St. John of Jerusalem as a Knight in a rank of an officer, were published on the day. These persons, though, would not receive any grade or seniority in the Order and they would be accepted only for the services in the rank of Ensign.

h) February l5th:

The Rules (in XXII articles), which established the fact that the nobility could join the Order of St. John from childhood as well as at an older age, were published. Each new member would pay a sum of money on joining the Order. The younger members would pay 2,000 rubles and the rest the sum of 1,200 rubles when presenting the documents of their noble birth origin.

i) June l5th:

The Ukase, carrying the above date, was published, introducing another 20 Commanders to the Order, which already had 98 Commanders appointed. The new Commanders were appointed as a reward to them for the heroism they showed during the wars. The Ukase established that a sum of money would be submitted from the profits of the Postal Department belonging to the State.

k) July 21st:

On the day, the Rules and Regulations were set up to establish in Russia the Hereditary Commanderies (jus patronatus) in XIV articles, with the right of inheritance for future generations and the obligatory deposit of the estates giving not less than 3,000 rubles of profit annually.

March l2th, 1801:

The Emperor of all the Russias and the Great Grandmaster of the Maltese Order Paul the First, died on this date and Alexander Paulovich was declared as the new Emperor of Russia. Emperor Alexander, in the Decree published on March l6th, proclaimed himself the Protector of the Maltese Order. He promised to keep its rules and respect the privileges and property of the Order. Emperor Alexander ordered the General Field Marshal Bali Count Saltikov to continue his services as Lieutenant of the Grandmaster. He also declared that the Order should stay in the capital city of St. Petersburg, as before, until it could be provided with another convenient location, in accordance with its status and ancient origin.

With regards to these decisions, he declared that all the languages of the Order should be informed.