Association of the Russian Grand Priory
of the Order of St John of Jerusalem
(Instituted by Emperor Paul I - 1798; re-established in Paris - 1928)
Genealogy of the Hereditary Commanders
© John Cilia La Corte 2006
Hereditary Commanders created in St Petersburg between 1799 and 1805
When Emperor Paul I of Russia established the Russian Grand Priory in his role of Grandmaster of the Order of St John, he sanctioned the right to found jus patronats (rights of patronage) or hereditary commanderies. Jus patronats had existed in the Order prior to its expulsion from Malta but they differed from the Russian creations in an important element. Under the earlier rules, a Foundation endowed with property by a patron entitled the patron, subject to approval by the Order, to nominate a suitable candidate, not necessarily from his own family, to occupy the Commandery. The hereditary element lay not with the incumbent but with the patron, whose descendants maintained the right of nomination.
Paul I, however, introduced important modifications to the rules of inheritance when, in the Ukase of 29th November/10th December 1798, creating the New Foundation of Commanderies for Russian Nobles, he granted that 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.1 He went on to pronounce that the commanderies of family or jus patronat shall always bear the name of their original founders.2
The principle of male primogeniture, whilst strictly applied to the Russian Imperial succession, did not govern the titles of Russian nobility: all sons and daughters inherit the title. The property of the nobility, as distinct from the title, was treated differently and came under property law which embraced the principle of primogeniture. Since the Family Commanderies were founded on real estate, they were subject to the law of primogeniture rather than the law of title.
This was further strengthened by Ukase 190.44 of 21st July/1st August 1799 which regulates the creation of the Jus Patronat Commanderies. In this Ukase, the elements of Patronage and Incumbency are completely merged. The right of inheritance could also be extended to two other families provided that such families were named in the Foundation Deeds.1 And this is where the problem arises when it comes to identifying the legitimate successor to a Family Commandery. Even where the genealogy of the families of the first Hereditary Commanders have been meticulously traced and recorded, without consulting the Foundation Deed it is impossible to establish the rightful successor with any accuracy.
It is clear from Ukase 190.44 that each Family Commandery has a Foundation Deed governing the manner of succession to the Commandery. It states inter alia that the Founder of an Ancestral Commandery may extend the right to all branches or generations of his lineage, indicating the order in which they are to succeed one another. Moreover, in the Deed by which the Commandery is established, the Founder may also name two other families which are obligated to present the same proofs of their Nobility as the very family of the Founder.3
Out of fourteen or so Articles in each Deed, there are one or two, which are unique to the individual Deed of the founding family. These specify how and by whom the Commandery can be inherited. For example the Lubomirsky Deed (of the Catholic Russian Grand Priory) is interesting, because the founder nominates his third son to succeed him in preference to his eldest. This suggests that it may have been a way of creating Commanderies as livings for the youngest sons. Thereafter it was to go to the eldest of that cadet line.
The terms are very clear. His Excellency Prince Michel Lubomirsky founds for himself and his male descendants in perpetuity a Family Commandery or Jus-Patronat in the Grand Priory of Russia of the Order of Malta in the Russian Empire, such that he will be the first Commander and Titleholder, and after him his third son Prince Marcellin Lubomirsky will be the possessor of the Title, and successively one of the male descendants of the said Prince Marcellin, such as he may have, the eldest son always by preference to the others.4
Furthermore, if the original line (be it the Senior Line or a Cadet Line) comes to an end, the Deed then provides for the passage of the Commandery to other branches of the family in an order specified by the founder, and the Foundation Deed can nominate up to two unrelated families. For example the Ilinsky Deed specifies:
Should the direct male descent of the founder Count Auguste Ilinsky, mentioned in the first Article of this Convention, become extinct, the male branch of Count Jean Nepomucene Ilinsky, paternal Uncle of the founder, Count Auguste Ilinsky, will succeed to the Commandery. If Count Jean Nepomucene does not have male descendants, or with their extinction, the male branch of M. Heliodor Inlinsky, First cousin of the founder, will succeed, and with its extinction, the male branch of M. Antoine Ilinsky, brother of M. Casimir Ilinsky, father of Mr Heliodor will succeed.5
Thus it is clear that the initial succession is entirely governed by the whim of the founder and only reverts to the rule of primogeniture (which itself might be modified by the Deed) after the second named Commander. Again when a direct line ends, the succession to another branch or to an unrelated family depends entirely on the whim of the founder before it reverts once more to the rule of primogeniture (again subject to the specifications of the Deed).
It other words, no assumptions can be made as to which line succeeds the founder of the Commandery. This can be ascertained only by consulting the Foundation Deed.
The purpose of this webpage is to attempt as complete a genealogy as possible of the founding Hereditary Commanders of the Russian Grand Priory and to show how the title passed from one generation to the next. As we have seen, tracing the first born of the first Commander downward may not produce the desired result since the Foundation Deed might have named a completely different line or even a different branch altogether. The genealogies on their own are therefore insufficient to determine who, if any, of the surviving members of the family is eligible to succeed to the Commandery. That can only be established in one of three ways.
1. The claimant will have the original Foundation Deed proving that his succession abides by the terms of the Deed.
2. The claimant can prove that he is the senior direct descendant of a line of Hereditary Commanders officially established and acknowledged in the days of the Russian Empire.
3. The claimant can prove that he is the senior direct descendant of an exilic Hereditary Commander approved by the Paris Group with Imperial sanction.
The Deeds were printed and a representative of the Order together with the Founder signed the copies. Essentially, if the transmission of a title has been a continuous process, and the correct family member holds the Deed, then the potential claim is straightforward. With the increasing accessibility of Russian archives to western researchers, some of these Deeds have already come to light and, it is to be hoped, more will follow in due course.
A more detailed study will be found on Hereditary Commanders & Imperial Protectors.
Genealogical information from Russia is also quite sparse and much more still needs to be done to obtain a complete picture. Anyone having reason to question any of the contents of this website or having further details, particularly if supported by documentation, is most welcome to contact
Complete List of Hereditary Commanders
Russian Grand Priory
Russian Grand Priory
Hereditary Family Commanders
in the reign of Alexander I
Russian Grand Priory
Hereditary Knights with the rank of honorary Commander.
Louis Prince RADZIVIL.
Adam Comte LOPOTT
Commanderie PLATTER, Comte
M. Leon D'OSZTROP
Stanis1as Comte POTPOCKI.
Hereditary Commanders in Paris 1928
|Leo NARICHKINE (Naryshkin)
Count Dmitri CHÉRÉMETEFF (Sheremetev)
Prince Serge BELOSSELSKY-BELOZERSKY
Prince Serge DOLGOROUKI (Dolgoruky)
Denis DAVYDOFF (Davydov)
|Prince Nikita TROUBETZKOY (Trubetskoy)
Count Hilarion WORONTZOFF-DACHKOFF (Vorontzov-Dashkov)
Count Dmitri OLSOUFIEFF (Olsufiev)
Dmitri JEREBZOFF (Zherbetzov)
Dmitri BOUTOURLINE (Buturlin)
Nicholas TCHIRIKOFF (Chirikov)
The thirteenth Hereditary Commander, Andrei Alexandrovitch Bariatinsky was not
able to attend the meeting in June 1928. His uncle Prince Vladimir
Vladimirovitch Bariatinsky was invited to join the Council of the Russian Grand
Priory circa 1929. At the time the Council were seeking recognition from the
Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and Prince Vladimir was a second cousin to
Prince Don Ludovico Chigi della Rovere Albani, Bailiff on the Sovereign Council
and later Grandmaster of SMOM.
Present at the gathering in 1928 was Count Vladimir BORCH, a Hereditary Commander of the Catholic Grand Priory of Russia.
Also present were Aspirants for Knighthood, Prince Vladimir GALITZINE, Count Alexander MORDVINOFF, and Count Andre LANSKOI.
1. Proclamation of PAUL I Grand-Master of the Order of St John, establishing a new Foundation of Commanderies for Russian Nobles. ARTICLE XXII. (Source: Boisgelin de Kerdu, Louis de. ANCIENT AND MODERN MALTA, AND THE HISTORY OF THE KNIGHTS OF ST. JOHN OF JERUSALEM, 3 Volumes bound together. G & J Robinson, London 1804, Volume 3, Book 3, Appendix No XIX)
2. ibid. ARTICLE XXIII
3. Ukase 19.044 of 21st July/1st August 1799
Article III. The Founder of an Ancestral Commandery may extend the right to all branches or generations of his lineage, indicating the order in which they are to succeed one another. Moreover, in the Deed by which the Commandery is established, the Founder may also name two other families which are obligated to present the same proofs of their Nobility as the very family of the Founder.
Article IV. The hereditary right to such a Commandery shall never pass to any lineages other than those named in the Deed by which the commandery is established and who will therefore have tendered the requisite proof of their nobility. When these lineages terminate, such a Commandery becomes one of those which descend by seniority.
4. Lubomirsky Deed, 23/01/1798 (OS) from the Union Archives. Article I. Translated from the French.
5. Ilinsky Deed, 31/12/1797 (OS) from the Union Archives. Article VI. Translated from the French.
6. The male Samoilov line having become extinct, the title was passed on to the Bobrinskoy family by sanction of Grand Duke Vladimir Kirollovich.
7. Although Joseph Count Borch was a Hereditary Commander in the Catholic Grand Priory of Russia rather than the Orthodox/cumenical Grand Priory, his arms are included because his heir, Count Vladimir, attended the meeting of June 1928 in Paris.
8. The Counts Golovkin were Hereditary Knights with the rank of honorary Commander.
Ferrand, Jacques: Les Familles Princières de l'Ancien Empire de Russie Recueil Généalogique, 2ème édition [Paris 1998]
Foster, Dr M.J.: Hereditary Commanders and Imperial Protectors: The Survival of the Russian Tradition within the Order of St John of Jerusalem - British Association Research Web Site
Mandrich, Donald R. & Placek, Joseph A.: Russian Heraldry and Nobility [Dramco Publishers, Boynton Beach, Florida 1992]
Marek, Miroslav: Genealogy.eu - http://genealogy.euweb.cz/
Rietstap, J.B.: Armorial Général [2éme ed., G.B van Goor Zonen, Gouda 1884]
Shamà, Davide and Dominici Battelli, Andrea: Genealogie delle dinastie italiane - http://www.sardimpex.com
Theroff, Paul: An Online Gotha