Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Another English Grand Master!

Good news from the Order of Malta today:

Frà Matthew Festing, 59, an Englishman, becomes the 79th Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, elected this morning by the Council Complete of State (the Order’s electoral body). In accepting the role, the new Grand Master swore his Oath before the Cardinal Patronus of the Order, Cardinal Pio Laghi, and the electoral body. He succeeds Fra’Andrew Bertie, 78th Grand Master (1988-2008), who died on 7 February.

The new Grand Master affirms his resolve to continue the great work carried out by his predecessor. Fra’ Matthew comes with a wide range of experience in Order affairs. He has been the Grand Prior of England since the Priory’s re-establishment in 1993, restored after an abeyance of 450 years. In this capacity, he has led missions of humanitarian aid to Lebanon and Kosovo after the recent disturbances in those countries, and with a large delegation from Britain he attends the Order’s annual pilgrimage to Lourdes with handicapped pilgrims.

Educated at Ampleforth and Trinity College Cambridge, where he read history, Frà Matthew, an art expert, has for most of his professional life worked at an international art auction house. As a child he lived in Malta and Singapore, where his father, Field Marshal Sir Francis Festing, Chief of the Defence Staff, had earlier postings. His mother was a member of the recusant Riddells of Swinburne Castle who suffered for their faith in penal times. He is also descended from Sir Adrian Fortescue, a knight of Malta, who was martyred in 1539.

Frà Matthew served in the Grenadier Guards and holds the rank of colonel in the Territorial Army. He was appointed OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) by the Queen and has served as her Deputy Lieutenant in the county of Northumberland for a number of years.

In 1977 Frà Matthew became a member of the Order of Malta, taking solemn religious vows in 1991. As well as his passion for the decorative arts and for history, for which his encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of the Order is legendary, as is his very British sense of humour, Frà Matthew spends any free time possible in his beloved Northumberland countryside.



Blogger Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

Many thanks to Father for this extraordinary news.

I had no idea this was "on the cards".

So, Fra Matthew Festing becomes His Most Eminent Highness, in succession to Fra Bertie (quite a few Scottish names in his ancestry, I think !)

I understand Malta was lost to the Sovereign Order only because they were not at the table of victorious powers at the Congress of Vienna, when the conquests of Napoleon were redistributed.

And so Malta became British(until independence)!

I'm not totally sure this is quite how things happened in 1815.
Modern history is not my subject !
I daresay the British Empire was only too glad to secure a base for what became the Mediterranean fleet.

Goodness, Boneparte made a mess of old Europe.

I know very little of the Festing dynasty.
The artist Andrew Festing famously painted the Queen's portrait, I seem to remember, but I'm not sure he is related to Fra Matthew.

I understand Fra Matthew is an art historian. A very sensible academic pursuit.

I'm sorry to see he went to university in Cambridgeshire, but that can't be helped now.

God bless the new Grand Master, and guide him in his work.

12:49 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr Peter

Andrew is his brother.

Good to see the old school providing two consecutive Grand Masters.

2:37 pm  

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