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Grand Master (order)

Grand Master (order)

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Grand Master is the typical title
A title is a prefix or suffix added to someone's name to signify either veneration, an official position or a professional or academic qualification. In some languages, titles may even be inserted between a first and last name...

 of the supreme head of various orders of knighthood, including various military order
Military order
A military order is a Christian society of knights that was founded for crusading, i.e. propagating or defending the faith , either in the Holy Land or against Islam or pagans in Europe...

s, religious order
Religious order
A religious order is a lineage of communities and organizations of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion, usually characterized by the principles of its founder's religious practice. The order is composed of initiates and, in some...

s and civil
Civil may refer to:*Civic virtue, or civility*Civil action, or lawsuit*Civil affairs*Civil and political rights*Civil disobedience*Civil engineering*Civilian, someone not a member of armed forces*Civil law , multiple meanings...

 orders such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians
Ancient Order of Hibernians
The Ancient Order of Hibernians is an Irish Catholic fraternal organization. Members must be Catholic and either Irish born or of Irish descent. Its largest membership is now in the United States, where it was founded in New York City in 1836...

 and the Orange Order
Orange Institution
The Orange Institution is a Protestant fraternal organisation based mainly in Northern Ireland and Scotland, though it has lodges throughout the Commonwealth and United States. The Institution was founded in 1796 near the village of Loughgall in County Armagh, Ireland...

. The title of Grand Master is used by the heads of Grand Lodge
Grand Lodge
A Grand Lodge, or "Grand Orient", is the usual governing body of "Craft", or "Blue Lodge", Freemasonry in a particular jurisdiction. The first Masonic Grand Lodge was established in England in 1717 as the Premier Grand Lodge of England....

s of Freemasons since 1717.

In military orders such as the Knights Templar
Knights Templar
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon , commonly known as the Knights Templar, the Order of the Temple or simply as Templars, were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders...

 or the Livonian Brothers of the Sword
Livonian Brothers of the Sword
The Livonian Brothers of the Sword were a military order founded by Bishop Albert of Riga in 1202. Pope Innocent III sanctioned the establishment in 1204. The membership of the order comprised German "warrior monks"...

, the Grand Master was the formal and executive head of a military and feudal pyramid, which can be considered a 'state within the state', especially in the 'crusader' context lato sensu (notably Middle Eastern crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

 aimed at Jerusalem, Iberian reconquista
The Reconquista was a period of almost 800 years in the Middle Ages during which several Christian kingdoms succeeded in retaking the Muslim-controlled areas of the Iberian Peninsula broadly known as Al-Andalus...

, pagan territories east of Germany).
If an order is granted statehood (and thus widely considered sovereign
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

), the Grand Master is also its Head of State
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 (if within the Holy Roman Empire, a Reichsfürst) and Head of Government
Head of government
Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

, and thus a true territorial Prince of the church
Prince of the Church
The term Prince of the Church is nowadays used nearly exclusively for Catholic Cardinals. However the term is historically more important as a generic term for clergymen whose offices hold the secular rank and privilege of a prince or are considered its equivalent...

, as was the case with the Teutonic Knights
Teutonic Knights
The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem , commonly the Teutonic Order , is a German medieval military order, in modern times a purely religious Catholic order...

 and the Maltese Knights Hospitaller
Knights Hospitaller
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta , also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta , Order of Malta or Knights of Malta, is a Roman Catholic lay religious order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. It is the world's...


In some orders, the head may be styled "Sovereign". In this case a Grand Master may come after the Sovereign.

As most present-day orders are essentially an honorary distinction, as some orders always were (e.g. the Order of the Golden Fleece
Order of the Golden Fleece
The Order of the Golden Fleece is an order of chivalry founded in Bruges by Philip III, Duke of Burgundy in 1430, to celebrate his marriage to the Portuguese princess Infanta Isabella of Portugal, daughter of King John I of Portugal. It evolved as one of the most prestigious orders in Europe...

), so are its dignities, which may be held by right of birth or another rank, e.g. a Sovereign Monarch often holds the title of Grand Master of (usually the highest) honorary order(s), or by custom awards it to a prince of the blood, especially the Heir to the throne, who in other orders may hold another high rank/title.

See also

  • Order of chivalry
  • Grand Cross
    Grand Cross
    The phrase Grand Cross is used to denote the highest grade in many orders of knighthood. Sometimes the holders of the highest grade are referred to "knights grand cross" or just "grand crosses"; in other cases the actual insignia itself is called "the grand cross".Alternatively, in some other...

  • Grand Master (Masonic)
    Grand Master (Masonic)
    In Freemasonry a Grand Master is the leader of the lodges within his Masonic jurisdiction. He presides over a Grand Lodge, and has certain rights in the constituent lodges that form his jurisdiction....

  • Larmenius Charter
    Larmenius Charter
    The Larmenius Charter or Carta Transmissionis is a manuscript purportedly created by Johannes Marcus Larmenius in February 1324, giving in Latin a list of 22 successive Grand Masters of the Knights Templar after Jacques de Molay, ending in 1804, the name of Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat...