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Order of St. John
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by Graham Bartram
There are usually two flags on display at St John's Gate, Clerkenwell. This was the southern gate of a large priory covering Clerkenwell in the 1600s and now houses the headquarters of the Order, a shop and a museum. One of the flags is a banner of arms, the other has an emblem in the middle of the cross, which I no longer recall from memory, but I will try to find a photograph from my archive or get a new one. A photo at http://upload.wikimedia.org shows the two flags atop the gatehouse, the unknown flag on the left and the Order of St John flag on the right. As far as I recall, the curator of the Museum told me the other flag belonged to one of the officers of the order.
Colin Dobson, 3 July 2007
The 2003 regulations, at http://www.orderofstjohn.org/pdf/regs2003.pdf, contain in Appendix I "Rules for the use of the Arms, Badge, and Banners of the Order". In particular, sections 3, 4 and 5 focus on flags of the Order:
So, the regulations provide for the Grand Prior or Lord Prior's banners to be flown at St John's Gate along with the Great Banner, but the banners described here do not seem to fit with Colin's observation of a banner of arms defaced in the centre of the cross.
- Great Banner of the Order
- The Great Banner of the Order as prescribed by Statute 46 shall be 35¼ inches in height, 43¾ inches in width with a 2 inch fringe of alternate white and red sections 2 inches wide bordering the Banner on three sides. The limbs of the cross thereon shall be 9¼ inches wide and the representation of the Royal Crest in the first quarter shall be depicted as large as may conveniently be placed in that quarter. The Great Banner of the Order shall be flown from a staff on the top of which shall be a representation of the Badge of the Order as prescribed in Statute 45.
- How Used.-
The Great Banner of the Order shall be flown at all times at St. John's Gate, at the St. John Hospital in Jerusalem, and over the Headquarters of all Priories and Commanderies. It may be flown on other appropriate places on St. John's Day, on the 8th September being the anniversary of the relief of Malta in 1565, and on such other occasions as may be appointed by Regulations. It may be flown by the Grand Prior, and by the Lord Prior whenever and wherever they may think fit, but by no other member of the Order. It may be carried or flown by the Grand Council, Grand Prior's Advisory Council, or Priory or Commandery Chapters when in procession or in session. A flag similar to the Great Banner but without the fringe may be flown in place of the Great Banner, in which case the staff need not carry a representation of the Badge of the Order on top. Save as aforesaid, it may be used by other assemblies of the Order, or by any of its Establishments or Foundations, with the express consent of the Grand Prior given on the recommendation of the Grand Council, but not otherwise.
- On days of National Mourning, on the days between the death and interment of a Bailiff or Dame Grand Cross, and on such other occasions as the Grand Prior may direct, the Great Banner of the Order at St. John's Gate shall be flown at Half Mast.
- Banners of the Grand Prior and of the Lord Prior
The Banners of the Grand Prior and of the Lord Prior display their Arms with the Arms of the Order in chief. The Banner of the Grand Prior, in addition to the Great Banner of the Order, shall be flown at St. John's Gate on those days on which it is the intention of the Grand Prior to visit St. John's Gate. On days other than those the Banner of the Lord Prior shall be flown at St. John's Gate whenever he is in London. The Banner of the Lord Prior shall be flown at Half Mast on days of National Mourning and on other occasions as directed by him.
- Personal Banners
- The provisions of this paragraph shall apply in relation to an Order or Priory Ceremony at which Robes are (in accordance with Appendix II) worn.
- A Bailiff or Dame Grand Cross being armigerous shall be entitled to have carried immediately after him or her a Personal Banner depicting his or her Arms with those of the Order in chief.
- A Prior of a Priory who is not a Bailiff or Dame Grand Cross, but who is armigerous, shall be entitled to have carried immediately after him or her a Personal Banner depicting his or her Arms simpliciter.
- The provisions of sub-paragraph (iii) shall also apply to the Chancellor of a Priory if and for so long as the Prior of that Priory is a Governor General or other Head of State.
- Save as provided in this paragraph, Personal Banners shall not be carried at any Order or Priory Ceremony.
Jonathan Dixon, 5 July 2007
The order claims to be following in the tradition of the original Order of Hospitallers, and as such is a Christian Order, with Christian ethos and values. It requires the Great Officers to profess the Christian faith and all members (of the Order, not its foundations) to promise to "endeavour always to uphold the aims of this Christian Order", however, the Order no longer has separate clerical grades of membership. The Prelate must be a bishop in the Church of England, and in many places, whenever there is a religious aspect to the Order's activities, an Anglican church is involved, but this is not always the case. Any other time official regulations and so on refer to religion they speak simply of "the Christian faith" or "a minister of the Christian religion".
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Jonathan Dixon, 6 July 2007