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THE ROYAL ORDER OF FRANCIS I OF THE TWO SICILIES

Decree of Foundation of the Royal Order of Francis I of the Two Sicilies

Copyright 1991 Louis Mendola

INTRODUCTION BY THE TRANSLATOR

The Royal Order of Francis I was founded in 1829 to reward civil merit. Whereas certain other orders of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies were Roman Catholic in nature, characterized by religious rites of investiture redolent of the Age of Chivalry, the Royal Order of Francis I exemplified the relatively novel “civil” form of knighthood devoid of such trappings, being similar in this respect to the Royal Order of Merit of Saint Ferdinand, founded in 1800. Like the Order of Saint Januarius and the Constantinian Order of Saint George, it remains a dynastic institution of the Royal House of the Two Sicilies. The Royal Order of Francis I is bestowed upon worthy individuals regardless of nationality or creed.

King Francesco (Francis) I of the Two Sicilies ruled briefly from 1825 until his death in 1830. As Duke of Calabria (the title of the Heir Apparent), Francesco had been an exemplary military officer and often acted as the official representative of his father, Ferdinando I, often visiting remote regions of the Kingdom. His reign was a pacific one during a particularly prosperous period of Neapolitan history. Historians generally regard Francesco I as a devoted husband and father, though they rarely ascribe any special merit to his actions as sovereign in his short time on the Throne of what was the wealthiest and most powerful of the various Italian monarchical states. The growing prosperity of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was certainly one of the factors motivating the Crown to institute an order of knighthood to reward those whose efforts had contributed to that same prosperity.

Scholars sometimes debate the proprietary nature of an order of knighthood --is it "dynastic" or "national?" In the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, no clear distinction was made between orders of knighthood of the royal dynasty and orders of the state; in most nations this legal distinction developed most fully after the fall of the Two Sicilies (1860-1861). The Italian wording of the decrees of foundation (only the Constantinian Order had existed prior to the Bourbon rule of Naples) makes it clear that these institutions appertained to the Crown, being administered directly through ministers of the Royal Household. The orders of knighthood of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies are inseparable from the Crown, the de jure rights to which are today vested in the Head of the Royal House of the Two Sicilies. Thus, the Royal Order of Francis I continued to be conferred long after the deposition of Francesco’s grandson, Francesco II, in 1861, and is today bestowed by the Head of the Royal House of Bourbon of the Two Sicilies, a great great grandson of the founder. The Grand Masters of the Royal Order of Francis I have included King Francesco I of the Two Sicilies (1829-1830); his son King Ferdinando II of the Two Sicilies (1830-1859); his son King Francesco II of the Two Sicilies (1859-1894); his brother Prince Alfonso, Count of Caserta, later Duke of Castro (1894-1931); his son Prince Ferdinando Pio, Duke of Castro (1931-1960); his brother Prince Ranieri, Duke of Castro (1960-1966); and his son, Prince Ferdinando, Duke of Castro (from 1966), whose Heir Apparent to Headship of the Royal House of the Two Sicilies is Prince Carlo, Duke of Calabria.

The decree of foundation, constituting the charter and statute of the Royal Order of Francis I, was issued as Royal Decree number 2594 on 28 September 1829, published on 3 October of that year. A simultaneous decree, number 2595, established that knights of the Order of Francis I were to enjoy the same precedence as knights of the Royal Military Order of Saint George of the Reunion (founded in 1819). Without changing the scope and nature of the Order, a decree of 1858 added the senior grade of Grand Cordon and, after knight grand cross, knight commander with star. The grade of knight second class was established after that of knight. These additional ranks are not presently conferred.

DECREE OF FOUNDATION FRANCESCO I, BY THE GRACE OF GOD KING OF THE KINGDOM OF THE TWO SICILIES, OF JERUSALEM, etc., DUKE OF PARMA, PIACENZA, CASTRO, etc., HEREDITARY GRAND PRINCE OF TUSCANY, etc. It being one of our principal interests to promote by all the means at our disposal the zeal of our subjects in the exercise of various civil offices assigned to them by us, and ever desiring to foster advancements in the sciences and the fine arts, as well as in the various aspects of industry, agriculture and commerce upon which the continued prosperity of the kingdom depends; Considering that awards of honour and merit are the most powerful recognition of such virtuous and praiseworthy activities; Having heard our Council of State in Ordinary; We have resolved to sanction, and by these presents do approve the following law.

ARTICLE 1. We hereby establish in our Kingdom of the Two Sicilies an order of knighthood, expressly intended to recognise civil merit, which shall bear the name of the ROYAL ORDER OF FRANCIS I.

2. Insofar as this distinguished order of knighthood shall be accorded the dignity of our illustrious and esteemed Crown, we declare ourself and our Royal Person the Sovereign Head and Grand Master of the aforementioned Order, and shall display its decoration and ribbon upon our Royal Person, as well as suspended from the royal coat of arms; and we desire that the Supreme Magistry of the said Order shall always be vested in our Royal Crown.

3. The said Order shall have five grades, namely Knight Grand Cross, Knight Commander, Knight, Conferee of the Medal in Gold, and Conferee of the Medal in Silver.

4. Exclusively those our subjects who have rendered to the Crown and to the state the most outstanding and loyal service in the exercise of the highest offices in the political, diplomatic, or judicial spheres, or in any branch of administrative or ecclesiastical service, may be decorated with the Grand Cross.

5. Those who have rendered extraordinary service in the exercise of important offices in the political, diplomatic, or judicial spheres, or in any branch of administrative or ecclesiastical service, may be decorated with the rank of Knight Commander.

6. Those who have rendered faithful service in the political, diplomatic or judicial spheres, or in any branch of administrative or ecclesiastical service, as well as those distinguished in scientific fields, writing and publishing, fine arts, or as the authors of great works, may be decorated with the rank of Knight.

7. The Gold Medal may be conferred upon those who have excelled in the abovementioned fields, having rendered important service at an elementary level.

8. The Gold Medal may likewise be conferred upon those who have displayed exceptional merit in the fine arts, and those who have introduced new industrial methods, or have introduced extraordinary procedures in the mechanical arts, or have notably improved the fields of agriculture or animal livestock development, or have promoted industry and commerce.

9. At all events, we reserve to ourselves the right to bestow the rank of Knight in the extraordinary instance of one of our subjects having executed a distinguished public project, or reflecting discoveries in one of the aforementioned fields of study.

10. The Silver Medal may be conferred upon those who, though not meeting all the requirements expressed in the aforementioned articles 7 and 8, have rendered worthy projects in the fields described.

11. Those in the military who have rendered distinguished civil service as described in the preceding articles 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 may also be decorated in various grades of the Order.

12. The dispositions of the present law do not abrogate or diminish the effect of other sovereign resolutions established to reward merits in the fine arts or manufacturing; on the contrary, those so rewarded may be considered for the Gold or Silver Medal of this Order.

13. The rank of Knight Commander or Knight, as well as the Medal in Gold or Silver, may be bestowed upon worthy individuals according to the level of their service, in recognition of rare and virtuous merits demonstrated toward the Throne and the State.

14. Those Knights who continue to render distinguished service of such importance as to merit further consideration may be rewarded by us with bestowal of the rank of Knight Commander or Knight Grand Cross. On the same basis, those who have been decorated with the Gold Medal may be rewarded with the rank of Knight, and those decorated with the Silver Medal may be rewarded with the Gold Medal.

15. Our Ministerial Secretaries of State, regardless of their department, and our Lieutenant General in Sicily, shall advise us, through our Ministerial Secretary of State for the Royal Household, of the names, qualities and merits of those our subjects who have rendered services which should be recognised by decoration with a grade of the Order, including that of Knight Grand Cross; we shall reserve to ourself the ultimate decision to recognise merits such as are described by the present law.

16. The Knights Grand Cross shall have the privilege of entry into the Throne Room, and may attend Court dinners and royal receptions. They may display the cross of the Order in their places of business and in their coat of arms.

17. The Knights Commander shall have the privilege of attending Court dinners and royal receptions.

18. The Knights may attend royal receptions.

19. We reserve to ourself, according to the circumstances, and according to the nature and importance of services rendered by the individual decorated with the Order, to assign a pension as we see fit. Such pensions shall be paid from the Royal Purse until such time as we decide it opportune to establish a fund for the Order.

20. The insignia of the Order shall be a cross enameled white between four gold fleurs-de-lis, bearing a centre medallion upon which appears our cipher F.I., surmounted by the royal crown, encircled by an oak wreath enameled green, this encircled by a blue band bearing the legend De Rege optime merito in gold letters, the medallion bearing on the reverse the inscription Franciscus Ius instituit MDCCCXXIX, encircled by an oak wreath enameled green.

21. The decoration of Knight Grand Cross is the cross described herein, surmounted by a gold crown, suspended from the neck by a wide watered (moire) ribbon of deep red bearing at each edge a narrow blue stripe. The insignia of Knight Grand Cross also includes a badge to be worn attached to the left breast of the jacket. The said badge shall consist of the same cross as the neck decoration but of silver rather than white enamel, displaying between its arms four fleurs-de-lis, bearing at its centre a medallion upon which appears our cipher F.I., surmounted by the royal crown, encircled by an oak wreath enameled green, this encircled by a blue band bearing the legend De Rege optime merito in gold letters.

22. The decoration of Knight Commander is similar to that described in Article 20, except that it is slightly smaller, surmounted by a gold crown, suspended from the neck by a ribbon slightly narrower than that of the neck decoration of Knight Grand Cross.

23. The decoration of a Knight is similar to that of Knight Commander but slightly smaller, surmounted by a gold crown, suspended from the lapel buttonhole of the jacket by a ribbon slightly narrower than that of the neck decoration of Knight Commander.

24. The Gold and Silver Medals shall bear on the obverse our likeness in profile encircled by an oak wreath, this encircled by the legend Franciscus I. Reg. utr. Sic. Hier Rex; bearing on the reverse three fleurs-de-lis, one in chief and two in base, encircled by an oak wreath encircled by the legend De Rege optime merito MDCCCXXIX. The Medal is suspended from the lapel buttonhole by a ribbon slightly narrower than that of the decoration of Knight.

25. The precise measurements of the decorations and ribbons are indicated in a design which accompanies the original document of this decree.

26. The conferral of the aforementioned honours and awards shall be made by effect of royal rescript by our Ministerial Secretary of State for the Royal Household.

27. Our being desirous that no form of endeavour that could benefit the public good in some way be ignored, even if its merits have not been made known to the public, and wishing that such worthy activities which influence society, however indirectly, be recognised by this Order, we have determined that the Medal of Civil Merit instituted 17 December 1827 shall no longer be conferred for services rendered expressly to the benefit of the King and the State, recognition of such services being addressed instead by the present law.

28. To that end we authorise the competent administrators to make known those deserving recognition with the awards mentioned in Article 27, submitting the relevant proposals and documentation to the office of the Ministerial Secretary of State for the Royal Household or, in Sicily, to the office of the Lieutenant General, who will forward these to the former. The names of those thus honoured, as well as the services for which Our Royal Person has determined that they be recognised, shall be published in the official gazette of this Kingdom.

29. The affairs of the Order shall be managed by a Deputation composed of a President (who shall be a Knight Grand Cross), two Knights Commander and two Knights, one of whom shall serve as secretary and archivist. We shall nominate the members of the Deputation on the recommendations of our Ministerial Secretary of State for the Royal Household. Specific regulations shall establish the duties and internal functions of the Deputation.

30. As this Deputation shall depend upon the aforementioned Secretary of the Royal Household, it shall answer directly and exclusively to him.

31. In bestowal of the Order, we shall rely upon the advice of the Deputation, whose responsibility it shall be to examine and consider the merits of the worthy services mentioned in Article 27.

32. The expenses of the Delegation, and of certain decorations which it shall please us to present gratis, shall be drawn from the funds existing for our royal orders of knighthood under the Royal Secretariat and the Ministerial Secretary of State for the Royal Household. We desire and command that this our law signed by Us and ratified by our Counselor Minister of State and Ministerial Secretary of State of Grace and Justice, given under our great seal, registered and deposited with the Ministry and Royal Secretariat of State of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, be published in our royal dominions by the competent authorities, who shall ensure accuracy of publication and timeliness in dissemination. Our Counselor Minister of State and President of the Council of Ministers is particularly charged with the duty of its publication. —Given at Naples this 28 day of September 1829.

Signed, FRANCESCO