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12 November 2021

Fra’ Matthew Festing, who has died today in Malta aged 71, was Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta from 11th March 2008 until his resignation on 28 January 2017. He was only the second Englishman in history to have been elected to the role.

In his time as Grand Master he visited many countries where the Order of Malta carries out its charitable works and oversaw many international conferences and meetings of the Order, to encourage and support their worldwide projects. In all his endeavours, he never lost sight of the spiritual motivation of the Order and its mission.

Fra’ Matthew was born in Tarset, Northumbria and educated at Ampleforth and St John’s College,  Cambridge, where he read history. He served in the Grenadier Guards and held the rank of colonel in the Territorial Army. He was appointed OBE by the Queen and was one of her Deputy Lieutenants in the county of Northumberland. His professional life was as an art expert at an international art auction house.

In 1977, he became a member of the Sovereign Order of Malta, and took solemn religious vows in 1991, becoming a Professed Knight of the Order. Between 1993 and 2008 he was the Grand Prior of England, a role which had been in abeyance since 1806, and re-established by fellow English Grand Master, Servant of God Fra’Andrew Bertie, in 1993. In this position he led missions of humanitarian aid to Kosovo, Serbia and Croatia after the recent disturbances in those countries. He attended the Order’s international annual pilgrimages to Lourdes every year of his adult life, where he was a familiar figure assisting the arriving pilgrims.

The British Association of the Order of Malta and the Grand Priory of England, together with the Order of Malta worldwide, are joined in prayer to mark his passing. May he rest in peace.

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The mission of the Order of Malta is inspired by its tradition of ‘Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum', to assist the poor and the sick, and bear witness to the Christian faith.


The Sovereign Order of Malta is a sovereign subject of international law. The Order - which is based in Rome, in via Condotti - has its own Government, an independent magistracy, and bilateral diplomatic relations with 110 countries.


The Order of St John of Jerusalem is one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilisation. Present in Palestine in around 1048, it is a lay religious Order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature.