Robert Matthew Festing (born 30 November 1949) served as Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta from 2008 until his resignation following a dispute with the Vatican on 28 January 2017.
|Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta|
|Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta|
|Reign||11 March 2008 – 28 January 2017|
|Predecessor||Giacomo dalla Torre (Acting)|
|Successor||Ludwig von Rumerstein (Acting)|
|Born||30 November 1949|
Northumberland, England, UK
|Father||Sir Francis Festing|
|Mother||Mary Cecilia Riddell|
Festing is the youngest of four sons born to Field Marshal Sir Francis Festing, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, a Roman Catholic convert who became a Knight of Malta, and Mary Cecilia (née Riddell), the elder daughter of Cuthbert David Giffard Riddell of Swinburne Castle, Northumberland. His father was the grandson of Colonel Sir Francis Worgan Festing. His mother's family is an ancient English recusant family, descending from the Throckmorton baronets and Blessed Sir Adrian Fortescue, martyred in 1539. His three elder brothers are John Festing (a former High Sheriff of Northumberland), Major Michael Festing and Andrew Festing (formerly President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters).
Education and careerEdit
Festing attended Ampleforth College, before going up to St John's College, Cambridge, where he graduated in Modern History. He was sponsored by the British Army in the rank of second lieutenant on a university cadetship whilst at Cambridge before being commissioned, on 23 July 1971, as an Ensign in the Grenadier Guards; his service number was 486330. Until 2008, he was Sotheby's auction representative in Northumberland and currently holds the rank of colonel in the Territorial Army.
Festing was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Northumberland in 1994 and in the 1998 Queen's Birthday Honours was appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). He has also served as the County Cadet Commandant of the Northumbria Army Cadet Force and is Patron of the Sandhurst Foundation and a Trustee of Northumbria Historic Churches.
Order of MaltaEdit
Festing was admitted to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in 1977. In 1991, he took perpetual vows, becoming a Knight of Justice. From 1993 to 2008, he served as Grand Prior of England, the first in this office since 1815.
On 11 March 2008, Festing was elected Grand Master following a conclave-style meeting at the order's villa on the Aventine Hill in Rome. Only the third English Grand Master of the Order of Malta, he is the immediate successor to the second, Fra' Andrew Bertie, the first being Hugh de Revel in 1258–77.
Festing resigned as Prince and Grand Master in January 2017. Festing and the Holy See had been in dispute since December 2016, when Festing had dismissed the order's Grand Chancellor, Albrecht, Baron von Boeselager, for allowing the distribution of condoms in a medical project for the poor. von Boeselager was viewed as an obstacle to Cardinal Buke’s vision the order, while the German Grand Chancellor’s reform-minded approach to the order’s governance clashed with that of Fra’ Matthew. Festing revealed he consulted closely with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, including its then Prefect, Cardinal Muller. Knights say the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was consulted about the case but never presented the order with any documentation nor did they meet with the Grand Chancellor.
Boeselager appealed to Pope Francis, who appointed a five-member commission to look into perceived judicial irregularities in the circumstances of the dismissal. Festing refused to cooperate, describing the commission as an illegitimate intervention in the order's sovereign affairs, accusing its members of a conflict of interest, and setting up his own internal commission. The Vatican, in turn, rejected what it said was an attempt to discredit members of the commission and ordered the leaders of the institution to cooperate with the inquiry.
Cardinal Burke, the patron of the order, tried to convince Festing to withdraw his resignation and keep fighting the Vatican. On 28 January 2017, the Order's Sovereign Council accepted Festing's resignation and re-instated Boeselager.
The Sovereign Council accepted the resignation of Festing and named Fra' Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein as Lieutenant ad interim. The Sovereign Council presided over by the Lieutenant ad interim annulled the decrees establishing the disciplinary procedures against Boeselager as well as the suspension of his membership in the Order. Boeselager resumed his office as Grand Chancellor immediately.
In April 2017 Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the temporary papal delegate to the order, instructed Festing not to travel to Rome for the election of his successor. He wrote that many of the Order had "expressed their wish" that Festing not travel to Rome for the election as they felt his presence would "reopen wounds" and prevent a return to harmony. As it appeared that Festing ignored this order and arrived in Rome just before the meeting to elect a new Grand Master, the Vatican reconsidered and annulled the order. According to sources within the order, this was because his absence as a professed knight could have invalidated the ballot.
|Ancestors of Matthew Festing|
Prince and Grand Master Fra' Matthew Festing
|Reference style||His Most Eminent Highness|
|Spoken style||Your Most Eminent Highness|
|Alternative style||Grand Master|
Titles and styleEdit
The full title of Fra' Matthew from the 11 March 2008 until 28 January 2017 was His Most Eminent Highness Fra' Matthew Festing, Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, Most Humble Guardian of the Poor of Jesus Christ.
The Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta was the sovereign ruler of Malta from 1530 until 1798, and nowadays represents the Order's claim to sovereign status. The sovereign Prince was created ex officio a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire by the Holy Roman Emperor in 1607 (as an honorary title, as the Prince and Grand Master was already a Head of State in his own right outside the Empire), as well as the style of Most Eminent Highness from the Pope in 1630, recognising his status as a Prince of the Church.
In the order of precedence in the Catholic Church Fra' Matthew was the highest-ranked officer following the Cardinals, and remained the only leader of an entity within the Catholic Church in modern times, apart from the Pope (as Sovereign of Vatican City State) and the Bishop of Urgell (as Co-Prince of Andorra), to be considered as an independent monarch.
- Sovereign Military Order of Malta:
- Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) (12 June 1998)
- Bailiff Grand Cross of the Order of St John (GCStJ) (5 May 2009)
- Territorial Decoration (TD) (1991)
- Collar of the Order of the Star of Romania (6 September 2008)
- Commander Grand Cross of the Order of the Three Stars (14 October 2008)
- Knight Grand Cross with Collar Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (27 October 2008)
- Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary (6 February 2009)
- Grand Cross of the Order of St. Charles (14 October 2009)
- Grand Collar of the Military Order of Saint James of the Sword (23 November 2010)
- Grand Star of the Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria (2012)
- Member of the Grand Order of King Tomislav (12 October 2008)
- Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George (Franco-Neapolitan branch):
- Bailiff Grand Cross of Justice with the Collar (2010)
- Knight Grand Cross of Justice (1994)
- Knight of Justice (1991)
- House of Romanov:
- Knight of the Order of St Januarius (2010)
- Knight of the Order of St. Andrew (2014)
- Knight of the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky (2014) 
- Knight of the Order of the White Eagle (2014)
- Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Anna (2014)
- Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Stanislaus (2014)
- Knight Grand Cross of Justice of the Holy Military Order of St. Stephen Pope and Martyr
- Grand Collar of the Order of Sikatuna, Rank of Raja (3 March 2015) 
- Grand Collar Of the Order of Makarios III (25 October 2012)
- Knight of the Collar of the Order of Isabella the Catholic (31 July 2015)
Crown appointment of the United KingdomEdit
- Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Northumberland
Honorary academic degreesEdit
|United States of America||10 October 2009||Catholic University of America||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL) |
|Italy||12 May 2014||John Cabot University||Doctor of Public Service |
|United Kingdom||—||Northumbria University|||
- Owen, Richard (11 March 2008). "Knights of Malta elect Englishman as new leader". The Times. Archived from the original on 12 May 2008. Retrieved 11 March 2008. (Archived: 12 May 2008)
- "No. 45465". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 September 1971. p. 9657.
- "No. 53845". The London Gazette. 10 November 1994. p. 15750.
- "Fra' Matthew Festing convenes a Sovereign Council to formalise his resignation from the office of Grand Master - Order of Malta". Orderofmalta.int. 25 January 2017. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
- "The Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing resigns from office" (Order of Malta, 28 January 2017)
- Pullella, Philip (23 June 2016). "Knights of Malta head resigns after dispute with Vatican". Reuters. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
- "The Knights of Malta-Vatican feud: a tale of chivalry and sovereignty". Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
- "The Grand Master Fra' Matthew Festing resigns from office". Orderofmalta.int. 28 January 2017. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
- "Vatican Orders Matthew Festing Not to Travel to Rome for Order of Malta Election". Ncregister.com. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
- "Vatican Reverses Decision, Allows Festing to Take Part in Order of Malta Election". Ncregsiter.com. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
- "Order of St John". Thegazette.co.uk. 5 May 2009. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
- "Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary". Magyar Közlöny (17). 2009.
- Nomination by Sovereign Ordonnance n°2405 of 14 October 2009 (French)
- "Reply to a parliamentary question about the Decoration of Honour" (PDF) (in German). p. 1923. Retrieved 13 January 2013.
- The Constantinian Order and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta - website of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George
- Members of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George - website of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George, Delegation of Great Britain and Ireland
- "Новости". Saintanna.ru. Archived from the original on 20 April 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
- "Sacro Militare Ordine di Santo Stefano Papa e Martire". Granducato.org. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
- "Statement of President Aquino during the courtesy call of Fra' Festing of the Order of Malta | Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines". Gov.ph. 3 March 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
- "Real Decreto 754/2015, de 31 de julio, por el que se concede el Collar de la Orden de Isabel la Católica a Su Alteza Eminentísima Frey Matthew Festing, Príncipe y Gran Maestre de la Soberana Orden Militar de Malta". Boletin Oficial del Estado. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
- "The Grand Master honorary citizen of Rapallo - Order of Malta". Orderofmalta.int. 18 September 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
- "Honorary Degrees Conferred by The Catholic University of America" (PDF). Commencement.cua.edu. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
- "Honorary Degree for Fra' Matthew Festing - Order of Malta". Orderofmalta.int. 13 May 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
- "Grand Master - Order of Malta". Orderofmalta.int. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
|Catholic Church titles|
Giacomo dalla Torre
| Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
Ludwig von Rumerstein