Man has invented many accolades throughout history to recognize his fellowmen. Knighthoods are the honours most widely known and highly coveted.
The institution of knighthood has a meaning and history which spans centuries, continents and oceans. Many people have quaint notions on the subject. It is, therefore, necessary to give a clear picture of how the institutions of knighthood originated and spread all over the world, particularly for those who wish to bear this title with dignity.
A knighthood has three connotations. Above all, it is the common man’s progress towards a place in a society controlled through the ages by the aristocracy and vestal interests.
This is the most important connotation to us living as we do in the age of the common man. Also, for true religionists believe that it is not by birth that a Brahmin is made, but by merit won. In a mediaeval society where aristocrats and so-called blue-blood remained an unchanging caste, knighthood was the door, through which the common man could rise to an equity status with Princes, Earls and Lords. The second connotation of the institution of knighthood is the opportunity it gave the sovereign or government to reward those who make lasting contributions to humanity.
Thirdly, knighthood brought with it a code of honour, and an education in chivalry, rudiments of which have been passed down to this day.
Knighthood is at once both ancient and modern
Ancient because the conceptions can be traced back to the greater day of Rome Modern not only because, although shorn, of most of its ancient trappings, it continues to live in the sovereign’s birthday honours as well as on the national days of governments. Since in the dark ages when ‘life was rough, brutish and short’, it upheld ‘Fundamental and human rights . In Roman times, the Latin word ‘miles’ was the equivalent of a knight. Some say that Rome borrowed the concept from the Franks and Teutons in the German forests.
Tacitus, the Roman writer, is almost sure that, the concept is Germanic. After the fall of Rome, the institution of Knighthood passed to the Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne. There it got a Christian admixture. In Asia, similar honours existed from pre-Christian times. During the colonial era, many such honours were suppressed.
THE FIRST-ORDER AND SECOND ORDER
The Knights of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, at the beginning of this century, has been splintered into three main sects. It is not difficult to say which the original order is. Count Scicluna of Malta (which is the headquarters of the original order) heads one order.
This order is the most liberal as it has admitted Africans and Asians, irrespective of caste, colour or creed into its ranks. Our Order, The Kings of Malta is derived from this first Order.
This knighthood is also called The Knighthood of Malta. The celebrated Maltese cross is its insignia.
The first Order (the hereditary order) is better known worldwide as the international Grand Priory of the sovereign order of St. John of Jerusalem or KNIGHTS OF MALTA for short. It is accepted worldwide. The Grand Master Vella Haber has the original documents of the Charter.
The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem is the Second Order. It is a British Order with beginnings from Richard the Lion Heart and the Holy Crusaders. Her Majesty the Queen of England is the head of this Sovereign Order. It is a restricted Ethnic Order where Muslims, Asiatic (including Chinese) and Africans are not admitted. On account of this partisan bias it is quite an unpopular Order in the modern world. It is a colonial relic.
The British Government tries to posture that this Second order is the real Knights of Malta. Historically this is not so.
THE THIRD ORDER
The Third Order, known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, is also a partisan Order run from Rome by His Holiness the Pope with an ageing Cardinal as the proxy of His Holiness. This (Roman) Order admits only Catholics who have made hefty contributions to the Holy See. Although it wrongly uses the name Malta it has no connection with the original Maltese Order . The second and third Orders, which are unpopular, mutually recognize each other. Catholics are not, however, admitted to the former and Anglicans not admitted to the latter. The recognition for Knighthood on religious and ethnic grounds of the British and Roman Orders respectively has made them a mediaeval anachronism in the twentieth century.
Many right-thinking, sane, sensible and prudent persons feel that these two Orders should become exhibits in a museum, together with the dinosaurs.
However, on account of their powerful infrastructure based on the British Empire, and the Vatican respectively, they wield a considerable influence in the arena of Knighthoods. Many people support them, ignorant of the background of their history. The Knights of Malta cannot originate either from Rome or from London