The Military Order of the Collar

As has been the case with many other chivalric bodies, the MOC originally had a military objective. The Order was founded during the time the Balearic Islands (Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza) were an independent kingdom (1276-1349), perhaps in the middle of the 1280’s, its aim was to subdue the Moorish pirates of North Africa at that time marauding in the Mediterranean. Presumably the Order’s period as a military unit was relatively brief. According to international law, unless a dynastic order is formally and legitimately abolished, it may be deemed to continue in the person of its hereditary Grand Master, even if no conferments are made for a period of time. This is the case with the Military Order of the Collar, just as it was the case with the Scottish Order of the Thistle after the rebellion of 1688, for example.

The Military Order of the Collar is a dynastic Order, that is to say that its office of Grand Master attaches to the sovereign prince who founded the Order and is inherited by his successors. In addition to any charitable or spiritual aims, members of such Orders are bound by an oath of loyalty to the Grand Master of the Order.

The main historical source for the history of the Order is “L’Ordine del Collare, Patrimonio della Real Casa Paternò”, published in 1851 by the seventh Duke of Carcaci (also available in English translation). When reorganising the family archives this distinguished historian had come across a manuscript diary of his ancestor Don Ignazio II Paternò Prince of Biscari, who had visited the Balearic Islands at the end of the sixteenth century. While there he discovered an original document concerning the Order in the library of the Convent at Fornells, as well as a contemporary painting showing the badge and the dress of the knights. Fortunately Don Ignazio recorded these details and two centuries later his notes were discovered by the Duke, who set about the revival of the Order in 1851 after the publication of his book.

A family conclave, on the initiative of the seventh Duke of Carcaci, was called on 14th June 1853, and held in Palermo in the palace of the Marchese di Spedalotto, head of one of the more senior branches of the family. After a review of the relevant evidence and a wide-ranging discussion, it was the finding of the conclave that the royal rights, which had been the subject of the debate, should be confirmed as belonging to Don Mario, son of the Duke of Carcaci’s younger brother Don Giovanni and his wife Donna Eleonora Guttadauro of Emmanuel Riburdone, the heiress of the House of Guttadauro. This conclusion which had in fact already received the assent of King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies (in whose realm they resided), subject to ratification by the conclave, was reached on the recognition that Don Mario alone had the royal blood of Aragon in his veins from two sources, through the separate descents of both his mother and his father from King James the Conqueror. A family pact was then signed, registered on 16 June 1853 and sealed in the Chamber of Seals and Royal Registers of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (in English).

As early as 18th May 1851 the Order’s legitimacy was recognised by the Bourbon King of the Two Sicilies, whose officials were required to record its conferrals in the Registry Office of the Kingdom (English translation). On 30th March 1853 the Governor of the Province of Catania, in the name of the King, allowed only three exceptions to the Royal prohibition on the wearing of orders other than Royal Sicilian Orders, these being Papal Orders, the Order of Malta and the Military Order of the Collar (English translation). In 1859 the Royal Commission on Titles of Nobility examined the claims of the House of Paternò to confer titles and bestow Orders and it advised the King that such acts, titles and Orders were legitimate (English translation). In 1860 the King approved this decision by Royal Decree and ordered its execution throughout the Kingdom (in English). The King also recognised Don Mario as hereditary Grand Master of the Order and made various provisions to ensure the succession to the Grand Magistracy. For many years the Order remained almost a Family Order, largely restricted in its membership to relatives and close associates.

In our times the legitimacy of the Order has been recognised by the United Court of Bari (in English), the Court of Appeal in Pistoia (in English), and the International Court of Arbitration in Ragusa (in English). The Order was reconstituted in 1961 and new Statutes have been issued and revised on a number of occasions. Since his accession HRH Don Francesco has laid great stress on the works of charity which he regards as the principal activity of the Royal House. Over the years members of the Order have raised considerable sums for charity and have performed countless charitable acts for the relief of suffering, in keeping with the highest aims of the Order.

Today the Order is organised in four Grand Priories in Europe, of which the Grand Priory of Terra Nordica encompasses the Nordic countries and the Baltic states. Individual knights and dames live in many more countries, such as USA and Australia. The different jurisdictions arrange various activities for the knights and dames in the countries where they operate.

The ranks of MOC are:

  • Knight/dame
  • Knight/dame with Grand Cross
  • Knight/dame with Grand Cross with Collar
  • Knight/dame with Grand Cross with Grand Collar
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