An example of the ‘Lazarus bling’, more medals than you can shake a stick at.
From the blog of John Smeaton we read that the former Irish president (and genial enemy of all that is good and holy) Mary Robinson has received a ‘knighthood’. Last month she was invested as a Dame in the self-styled ‘Order of St. Lazarus’, a fake order of knighthood. The group claims links to the old Order of St. Lazarus of which the last remnants faded away in the 1780s.
The current ‘Order’ was founded as a fake order of knighthood in 1910 by the confidence trickster Jean-Joseph Moser, and has grown by perhaps surprising leaps and bounds in the past few decades, taking into account P. T. Barnum’s famous maxim about a sucker being born every minute. The group has split into various factions and it has become notorious for having members in its ranks who don more metal “bling” than rap stars or Soviet generals.
The so-called Order of St. Lazarus exists throughout Europe and the Spanish- and English-speaking countries abroad, including the United States. The French branch of St. Lazarus was forced by the Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honour to cease claiming to be an ‘order’, and members of the Order of Malta are forbidden from participating in St. Lazarus’s activities.
“The Order’s pretensions have been strongly condemned by the Holy See as aiming to replace ‘the legitimate forms of chivalric awards’,” according to Guy Stair Sainty, the acknowledged expert on these somewhat arcane affairs. Nonetheless, Guy points out that “supporters of Saint Lazarus include the heads of a handful of great noble families and, over the years, several leading Churchmen and Cardinals”.
“The Order of Saint Lazarus, although it is to be complimented for its considerable charitable efforts (notably in Germany), need not pretend to an historical continuity to which its claims, at the very least, are unsubstantiated,” Guy Stair Sainty concludes. “Were it to assume the character of a private association, founded in 1910, to emulate the traditions of the ancient crusader Order, it could deflect much of the hostility it has attracted… It would be much more successful and be more readily welcomed into the wider community of international humanitarian bodies, however, if it was to permit an honest appraisal of its origins.”