The Grand Priory of England
The Grand Prior is Fra’ Max Rumney
About the Grand Priory
The Grand Priory of England is a constituent part of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta – known colloquially as the Order of Malta, a lay religious order of the Roman Catholic Church – and is one of the Order’s five Grand Priories. The Priory is made up of knights who have made vows of poverty, chastity and obedience (‘Knights of Justice’), as well as knights and dames who have committed themselves to deepening their spirituality through making a Promise of Obedience (Knights and Dames ‘in Obedience’). Members of the Priory do not live in cloistered communities, but rather live out their vocations living independently ‘in the world’, regularly gathering together for Holy Mass, prayer, retreats, and to participate in the hospitaller works of the Order, that is, the practical outreach to those in need.
Based in London, the Priory works together with the British Association of the Order. In general terms, the Priory is responsible for the spiritual works of the Order in Britain, its religious activities and pilgrimages, and the spiritual formation of its members, whilst the British Association leads on the hospitaller works. Through this close cooperation, all members of the Order are able to pursue the Order’s charism of tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum (bearing witness to the faith and serving the poor).
The Priory currently has seven Knights of Justice, and thirty-eight Knights and Dames in Obedience. It is governed by the Chapter, led by the 58th Grand Prior of England, Fra’ Max Rumney.
The Priory’s spiritual life centres on the celebration of Mass (in particular the monthly Conventual Mass) and the recitation of the Divine Office. Monthly Days of Recollection, longer retreats, and participation in pilgrimages provide further opportunity for spiritual growth. Most of the Priory’s religious activities are open to the public, with all welcome. The Order has a rich liturgical tradition which the Priory is dedicated to preserving and nurturing.
History of the Grand Priory
There were English knights of the Hospital from the time of the First Crusade, and c.1144 the Priory was established, covering England, Wales and Scotland under a Prior based at Clerkenwell in London. The Prior of England (known as ‘My Lord of Saint John’s’) sat in Parliament and was afforded precedence before all lay barons, playing an important role in English life.
During the Protestant Reformation, in 1540, the Priory was dissolved by Henry VIII’s government. Several prominent knights of Malta were executed between 1539 and 1541 for denying the Royal Supremacy: Thomas Dingley, Adrian Fortescue, and David Gunston, all now beatified. William Salisbury and John Forest died in prison. During the reign of Queen Mary, the Priory at Clerkenwell was briefly restored under the Grand Prior Thomas Tresham. But in 1559, Elizabeth I dismantled it and seized its lands and assets. The remains of the Priory can be seen to this day in the Church of St John’s, Clerkenwell, and the adjacent St John’s Gate, the old gatehouse.
These buildings are today the home of the Most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem in the British Realm, founded by Royal Charter in 1888 which purchased it during the nineteenth century. Though there exists no historical connection between the two Orders, in 1963 the Order of Malta and the Venerable Order signed a joint declaration of recognition and cooperation. The museum of the Venerable Order at St John’s Gate contains some exceptional artefacts from the Order of Malta’s history.
Despite the Reformation and the consequent dissolution of the Grand Priory of England, there were always English, Scots or Irish knights of Malta. Until the end of the eighteenth century, most of the English and Irish knights tended to join the Italian Langue, while Scots usually joined the French Langue. Titular Grand Priors of England were appointed, the last of whom, Girolamo Laparelli, died in 1815.
The Sub-Priory of Blessed Adrian Fortescue was founded in 1972, with Lord Robert Crichton-Stuart as Regent. Subsequent Regents included Andrew Bertie (the Order’s Grand Master from 1988 to 2008), Viscount Furness, the Earl of Gainsborough, and Frà Matthew Festing (Grand Master 2008 to 2017).
In 1993, the Grand Priory of England was restored after being in abeyance for nearly 450 years, except for titular Grand Priors.
The 56th Grand Prior of England, Frà Fredrik Crichton-Stuart, succeeded Frà Matthew Festing on his election as Grand Master of the Order, in 2008 and held the position until his death on 14 June 2011. The 57th Grand Prior, Ian Scott, was installed on 13 October 2011 and retired in 2019. After a time as Procurator, Fra’ Maxwell Rumney was appointed 58th Grand Prior on 25 July 2022.
The Priory’s offices and Chapter Room are located at 23 Golden Square, London W1F 9JP. Most of the Priory’s religious activities are centred on the adjoining church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street.
Enquiries: Brendan Brett (Ceremonies and Administration): email@example.com
You can read about recent Priory events and access resources such as prayers and sermons at the Priory blog: https://saintjohnofjerusalem.blogspot.com/
The Grand Priory of Blessed Adrian Fortescue of the Order of Malta Trust is a UK registered charity (no. 1166645) with a registered address at 67 Castletown Road London W14 9HG.