Matthew Festing

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Matthew Festing
HMEH Fra' Matthew Festing, 79th Prince and Grand Master, SMOM.jpg
Grand Master of the
Sovereign Military Order of Malta
Reign 11 March 2008 – present
Predecessor Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto (Acting)
Grand Commanders
Born (1949-11-30) 30 November 1949 (age 70)
Northumberland, United Kingdom
Full name
Robert Matthew Festing
Father Francis Festing
Mother Mary Cecilia Riddell
Religion Roman Catholicism

Fra' Robert Matthew Festing (born 30 November 1949) is an English religious figure, friar, and the 79th Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Festing succeeded his compatriot Andrew Bertie, only the second Englishman to have served as Grand Master of the Order of Malta since 1259.


Robert Matthew Festing is the youngest of four sons born to Field Marshal Sir Francis Festing (Chief of the Imperial General Staff),[1] a Roman Catholic convert (who became a Knight of Malta), and Mary Cecilia, née Riddell (elder daughter of Cuthbert David Giffard Riddell of Swinburne Castle, Northumberland). His mother's family is an ancient English recusant family, descending from the Blessed Sir Adrian Fortescue, martyred in 1539.[1] His three elder brothers are John Festing (a former High Sheriff of Northumberland), Major Michael Festing, and Andrew Festing (formerly President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters).

Education and career

Fra' Matthew attended Ampleforth College, before going up to St John's College, Cambridge, where he graduated in Modern History.[1] He was sponsored by the British Army in the rank of second lieutenant on a university cadetship whilst at Cambridge before being commissioned, on 23 July 1971, as an Ensign in the Grenadier Guards; his service number was 486330.[2] Currently holding the rank of Colonel in the Territorial Army,[1] Festing has also served as Acting-Colonel of the Northumbria Army Cadet Force.

Festing was a Deputy Lieutenant for Northumberland and, in the 1998 Queen's Birthday Honours, HM Government appointed him Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).[1]

Fra' Matthew is Patron of the Sandhurst Foundation and Trustee to Northumbria Historic Churches. Until 2008, he was Sotheby's auction representative in Northumberland.

Order of Malta

Fra' Matthew was admitted to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in 1977. In 1991, he took perpetual vows, becoming a Knight of Justice. From 1993 to 2008 he served as Grand Prior of England, the first in this office since 1815.

On 11 March 2008, Fra' Matthew was elected Grand Master following a conclave-style meeting at the order's villa at Aventine Hill in Rome.[1] Only the third English Grand Master of the Order of Malta, he is the immediate successor to the second, Fra' Andrew Bertie, the first being Hugh de Revel in 1258–59.


Titles, styles and honours

Styles of
Prince and Grand Master Fra' Matthew Festing
Coat of arms of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (variant).svg
Reference style His Most Eminent Highness
Spoken style Your Most Eminent Highness
Alternative style Sir

Titles and style

The full title of Fra' Matthew is: His Most Eminent Highness Fra' Matthew Festing, Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, Most Humble Guardian of the Poor of Jesus Christ.

The Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta was the sovereign ruler of Malta from 1530 until 1798, and nowadays represents the Order's claim to sovereign status. The Sovereign Prince was created ex officio a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire by the Holy Roman Emperor in 1607 (as an honorary title, as the Prince and Grand Master was already a Head of State in his own right outside the Empire), as well as the style of Most Eminent Highness from the Pope in 1630, recognizing his status as a Prince of the Church. In Catholic Church precedence Fra' Matthew is the highest-ranked officer following the Cardinals, and remains the only leader of an entity within the Catholic Church in modern times, apart from the Pope, to be considered as an independent monarch (as sovereign of Vatican City): historically, many bishops (and archbishops) held sovereign-prince status.

Chivalric orders

Crown appointment of the United Kingdom

Honorary citizenship

Honorary academic degrees

Country Date School Degree
 District of Columbia 10 October 2009 Catholic University of America Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL) [11]
 Italy 12 May 2014 John Cabot University Doctor of Public Service [12]
 England ' Northumbria University [13]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Owen, Richard (11 March 2008). "Knights of Malta elect Englishman as new leader". The Times. Retrieved 11 March 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Archived: 12 May 2008)
  2. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 45465. p. 9657. 6 September 1971. Retrieved 2012-09-02.
  3. Magyar Közlöny (17). 2009. Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Nomination by Sovereign Ordonnance n°2405 of 14 October 2009 (French)
  5. "Reply to a parliamentary question about the Decoration of Honour" (PDF) (in German). p. 1923. Retrieved 13 January 2013.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 "Новости". Saintanna.Ru. Retrieved 23 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Sacro Militare Ordine di Santo Stefano Papa e Martire". Retrieved 22 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Statement of President Aquino during the courtesy call of Fra’ Festing of the Order of Malta [1]
  9. "Real Decreto 754/2015, de 31 de julio, por el que se concede el Collar de la Orden de Isabel la Católica a Su Alteza Eminentísima Frey Matthew Festing, Príncipe y Gran Maestre de la Soberana Orden Militar de Malta". Boletin Oficial del Estado. Retrieved 26 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto
Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta