The Self-Styled Orders
© Guy Stair Sainty
The appearance of a number of private associations which profess to be "Orders of Chivalry" is not a modern phenomenon. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries several similar organizations emerged, encouraged by the interest in chivalry inspired by writers such as Sir Walter Scott. These included the "Order of Saint Joachim" (which asserted the support of Admiral Lord Nelson), the "Order of Saint Hubert of Bar", a false "Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem",  the "Order of the Temple of Jerusalem" (one of several "rediscoveries" of the supposed secret Order) and the Order of Saint George of Burgundy" which all had brief lives, generally thanks to the sponsorship of one individual, often using an invented title.
In 1824 the French government, through the Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honor, issued a decree regulating the wearing of Orders and condemning several organizations of questionable legitimacy and most other European nations followed suit. Many other self-styled Orders came and went during the course of the next century and a half and, while most of them failed to survive the lives of their founders, a few still flourish today. The Holy See, as the superior of all Catholic religious Orders, was particularly troubled by the increasing number of such bodies which appeared during the early twentieth century and, in 1935, 1953, 1970 and 1976, issued statements condemning such "Orders" and listing the principal examples of such. 
The founders of such "Orders" were hoping to satisfy the ambitions of those anxious for recognition but whose personal standing or religious affiliation may have made them ineligible for membership in a genuine Order. Many of the members are sincere and respectable people deluded into believing that they were receiving a real "honor" and persuaded that, through their membership, they were supporting a worthwhile charitable institution. A romanticized view of history has often made it easier for them to accept some of the more outlandish and astonishing claims (the sponsor of one Order claims to be a representative of the Cosmic Masters from other planets in our solar system, while another established the first "International Authority for Terrestrial Operation of Galactic Powers Task Force"). The motives of those who were sponsoring such organizations were varied, sometimes financial, sometimes out of vanity, sometimes to inflate a questionable social position, perhaps even to support a genuine charity.
It has not been possible to list all such bodies which have come and gone over the past century or more, but this represents an attempt to name the most notorious, identify their sponsors and outline their pretensions. In doing this I am indebted to several pioneering authors. The most detailed studies were those by Arnaud Chaffanjon and Bertrand Galimard Flavigny, whose 1982 work, Ordres & Contre-Ordres de Chevalerie (Paris), did much harm to the cause of these groups as did Patrick Chairoff, the rather more controversial author of Faux Chevaliers Vrais Gogos (Paris 1985). Lt-Col Robert Gayre, himself closely involved in the Order of Saint Lazarus, examined the claims of many other self-style "Orders" in The Knightly Twilight which, although published in 196.., still makes a valuable contribution to those arcane subject. Finally I must pay tribute to the work of James Algrant and Howard Browne, who have been tracking these groups for years, and to Rodney Hartwell, founder of the Augustan Society. 
This article is divided into three main sections:
 Not connected with The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, see Chivalric Orders Main Page.
 The most complete recent condemnation was published by the Vatican Secretariat of State in the Osservatore Romano on 14 December 1970. This described as "private initiatives, which in no way are approved of or recognized by the Holy See" the following "alleged Orders ..... Saint Mary of Bethlehem, Saint John of Acre, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Thomas, Saint Lazarus, Saint George of Burgundy or of Belgium or of Miolans, Saint George of Carinthia, Constantinian Lascaris Angelical Order of the Golden Militia, The Crown of Thorns, The Lion of the Black Cross, Saint Hubert of Lorraine or of Bar, The Concord, Our Lady of Peace.... and of Mercy, Saint Bridget of Sweden, Saint Rita of Cascia, the Legion of Honor of the Immaculate Conception, Saint George of Antioch, Saint Michael, Saint Mark, Saint Sebastian, Saint William, of the historical but extinct Order of the Temple, of the Red Eagle, of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, etc..". See Orders of Knighthood, Awards and the Holy See, by Archbishop Hygenius Eugene Cardinale, edited and revised by Peter Bander van Duren, Third Edition, 1985, pp.231-237.
 Rodney Hartwell was a friend of the late King Peter II of Yugoslavia in his last years who, somewhat naively, gave support to some of these groups.