The Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George
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Sacred Military Constantinian Order
The Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George received confirmation as a Religious-Military Order from the Holy See and, with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, is the only international Catholic Order which has maintained this status unchanged to the present day. It is a subject of Roman Catholic Canon Law. The Order is dedicated to propaganda of the Faith, Defence of the Church and support of the Holy See; the members owe a particular duty of loyalty to the Pope and to support the teachings and dogma of the Roman Catholic Church.
Since 1731 this has been the inheritance of the Bourbon family descended from Philip V of Spain and his wife Elizabeth Farnese.
The Constantinian Grand Magistery is an inheritance by male primogeniture from the Farnese dynasty. On the extinction of the latter, the succession passed with Papal assent to the nearest male heir, the Infante don Carlos de Borbón y Farnese (later Charles III of Spain). In 1759, after the latter transferred his Neapolitan Crown to his third son Ferdinand, the Constantinian Grand Magistery was ceded in a separate act ten days later, the young King Ferdinand being declared "legitimate primogeniture male heir of the Farnese".
The succession to the Constantinian Grand Magistery can only pass to males and, on the extinction of the last male descendant of Charles III, it passes to the Bourbon-Parma line.
Today the Order flourishes under its XIth Grand Master in succession from Francesco Farnese, the Infante Don Carlos de Borbón-Dos Sicilias y Borbón-Parma, Duke of Calabria, doyen of the Knights of the Golden Fleece. There are nearly one thousand four hundred members predominately of Italian or Spanish birth, but also including Portuguese, British, German, French, Swiss, Belgian, Austrian and American knights and dames.
According to its official tradition, the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George is the oldest international Roman Catholic order of chivalry; in reality the early history is legendary and it actually emerged in the middle of the 16th century. It has an hereditary Grand Mastership which passed to the Infante D. Carlos of Bourbon & Farnese, later King Charles III of Spain, in 1731.
On 16 October 1759 Charles III abdicated the Grand Magistry to his second surviving son, Infante D. Ferdinand, to whom he had abdicated as King of the Two Sicilies ten days earlier. The position as XIth (and current) Grand Master is disputed between Prince Ferdinand Maria, Duke of Castro and his cousin Infante Carlos, Duke of Calabria. There are approximately 1,500 members of the Hispano-Neapolitan branch and 4,000 of the Franco-Neapolitan branch. The motto of the Order is In Hoc Signo Vinces and is dedicated to support of the Catholic Faith and Defence of its teachings. In addition to supporting a variety of charitable and humanitarian endeavours, the Hispano-Neapolitan branch celebrates regular Masses at its Churches in Rome, Palermo and Milan, and occasional Masses in London, Lisbon, and Paris. The Franco-Neapolitan branch does equally, in Rome in the Church of San Giorgio al Velabro, as well as in Naples, and other Italian cities, and in Westminster Cathedral in London, and other cities in Europe, and in Washington, USA.