Though the Order was founded by a Christian Byzantine Emperor, there still exist a great deal of confusion about the nature of Chivalric Orders around the world. Many of the original Chivalric Orders arose in response to the crusades to the Holy Land and other efforts to protect their lords, as well as the weak and less fortunate.
Byzantine Knights were appointed by their leaders in recognition of their valiant deeds in battles; protecting their emperor or other high ranking nobleman. The earliest of knights were proclaimed the defenders of the empire well before the crusades from 312 AD after the battle of the Melvin bridge and 1190 by the Byzantine Emperor Flavio Constantino I, Emperor Isaac II, as was the Holly Constantinian Order of St. Sofia. In 1290, these Chivalric orders continue until the fall of Constantinople on the 29th of May 1453. These Orders were held in trust by the Greek patriarch of Jerusalem after it was conquered by the emerging Ottoman forces lead by the Sultan Mehmet II, after an 8 week battle in which the last Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI was capture blinded and was executed.
In other parts of the world, well before the crusades, as early as 300 A.D., we find the Order of St. Antonio of Ethiopia, in 496 under the reign of King Clovis, the Order of St. Ampolla, in 732 the Order of the Genette by King Charles The Hammer; and in 800 we find the Order of Royal Crown by King Carlo Magno just to mention a few.
In 1291 after the Christian Crusades, the European Orders of Knighthood serving under its Grand Masters, had to find new missions for their existence since the Holy Land had effectively been lost. As most Orders were originally established as military and monastic Orders, and had the title bestowed upon them as Chevalier or Knight, some Orders became Monarchial. Others became Confraternal and Honorific. The Byzantine and Charitable Order of Constantine the Great, along with a small handful of other Orders, remain today as some of the oldest Orders, along with The Order of St. Michael 1171, St. Lassarus 1187, The Order of the Bear, 1213 by Emperor Federico II, the military Order of Jesus Christ, 1317 by Pope Giovanni XXII, The Equestrial apostolic Order of St. George of Bourgone, 1390.
In 1525, only four of the recognized Medieval Orders survived as their continuation had been thwarted by a number of territorial Kings, Prince Regents, and interfering and / or weak popes who continuously tried to dismantle most Chivalric Orders due to the fact that they had grown in size and reputation and had become much too powerful and wealthy, creating fear with in the Royals and the papal circles. The Orders had to be stopped!
In 1560, with the introduction of newer and more sophisticated weapons of war, and the formal establishment of Armies and Navies, many of the Monarchial Orders became unnecessary, and were transformed into honorific Orders where military and civic leaders rewarded the past deeds and service of distinguished individuals bound by a permanent rule of behavior and charitable goals.
The Orders now expanded in to the civilian side, allowing prominent citizens from all walks of life to become part of our chivalric families. Some Monarchial and governmental Orders still remains as of today, such as the Order of the Count de Lion 1745, Belgian Order of Leopold I 1832, the Order of the Crown 1897, the Order of Leopold the II, 1900,The legion dâ€™Honeur of France, The Order of the Garder of England 1347, The Order of the Elephant 1458 of Tialand, the Order of Rizal of the Philippines and many other European and Asian Orders.
Then we have the modern Knights and ladies, selected from all professions and whose Orders have evolved into bodies dedicated to a return to the chivalric values of old, such as charity, educating, military service and the arts â€“ all the while maintaining a sense of those great traditional noble values, that are needed today perhaps more than ever in the history of mankind.
Many Modern Orders are patterned after a few ancient truly important Orders, and has many branches worldwide, Such Orders including our Orders of Constantine the Great and Saint Helen, the Knights Templar 1118, Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, Order of Malta, Orders of the Holy Sepulchers, Orders of St. Lasarus, The Order of St. Michael, the Order of St. George; just to mention a few.
Excluding these Orders associated with ruling Monarchs and the leaders of the worldâ€™s leading religions, most of the remaining Orders if not all, are Private and Honorific even though this might not be an admitted fact.
Regardless to which Order one belongs, the modern Knights and Ladies of the 21st Century are expected and by sworn oath, required to uphold certain traditional and historic values. During their ceremonies of investiture, the members pledged themselves to a Grand Master and to the Constitution of the Order and agree to follow its ideals of personal honor, courage and service to others. So the tradition continues, they are conferred with the title of "Chevalier", or Knight for gentlemen and "Dame" for our Ladies which is an Honorary Title. Our Order is world wide in nature, with functioning Priories in 13 countries.
Since 2005, The Order has raised and donated well over $125,000.00 and we will continue to do so with the help of our membership. The Order has an increased popularity in many countries and it interviewed and has been published in Turkey, Korea, Finland, Belgium and in the USA via the press and television shows.
The Order will petition the Catholic and Orthodox church to be recognized as a Charitable Chivalric Order and with your help the Imperial & Charitable Order of Constantine the Great and of Saint Helene will continue to grow and prosper.
A speech by Grand Master,
H.G. Michael, Duke of Gardham