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Investiture ceremony of the Constantinian Order in Lisbon

On 15 October 2021 Their Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Mecklenburg were invested with the insignia of Bailiff Grand Cross of Justice of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St George at the Memory Church (Igreja da Memória) in Lisbon, Portugal.

The Duke and Duchess were admitted into the Constantinian Order on St George’s Day, 23 April, of this year by decree of its Grand Master HRH Prince Charles of Bourbon Two Sicilies, Duke of Castro. 

Both awards were granted in recognition of the Duke and Duchess’s devotion to the worldwide Catholic Church and to its charitable, humanitarian and interfaith objectives.

Legend states the Constantinian Order was founded in 313 by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, who before the battle of Milvian Bridge saw a cross of light above the sun with the Greek words “ἐν τούτῳ νίκα” which translated into Latin is in hoc signo vinces (“in this sign thou shalt conquer”), which is the motto of the Constantinian Order. Later that night Emperor Constantine saw Christ in a dream who told him to adopt the cross as his standard. The Emperor did this and won a decisive victory in the battle.

The only surviving documentation relating to the Constantinian Order goes back to the sixteenth century when the order was held by the noble Angelo Flavio Comneno family. The Grand Magistery of the order passed to the House of Bourbon in 1731 where it remains today under the head of the Royal House of Bourbon Two Sicilies. It is an Order internationally recognised by successive Papal Bulls, and today by decree of the President of the Italian Republic and by other sovereigns and governments across the world.

The Duke of Mecklenburg is a descendant of King Francesco I of the Two Sicilies who reigned from 1825 to 1830. Through their shared descent from King Francesco I, the Duke of Mecklenburg and the Duke of Castro are fourth cousins once removed.

The Duke of Mecklenburg’s great great great grandmother Grand Duchess Marie also led efforts to honour the last Queen of the Two Scillies, born Duchess Maria Sophie in Bavaria, for the heroism she showed during the 1860 Siege of Gaeta which was the final act in the war between the Two Sicilies and the victorious Kingdom of Sardinia as part of the Italian wars of unification. To honour the Queen, the artistic Grand Duchess Marie had a gold Laurel Wreath created with the leafs inscribed with her name and the names of a number of other German princesses.

The Memory Church, where the investiture was held, was built on the exact spot where in 1758 an assassination attempt was made on King José I of Portugal. Two years later to give thanks for his survival,  King José gave an order for the church to be built. The Duke of Mecklenburg is a descendant of King José I.

The church is also the official church of the Military Ordinariate of Portugal, a religious body subject to the Holy See which offer spiritual guidance to the Armed Forces of Portugal.

The House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz is linked to the Portuguese Army through the Cavalry Regiment No. 4 which was established in 1762 during the Seven Years War and originally bore the name Regiment of Mecklenburg after Duke Carl of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (later the reigning duke and grand duke), who was made Colonel of the regiment and a Lieutenant General of the Portuguese Army by King José I. Today the Combat Car Group of the Portuguese Army traces its lineage back to the Regiment of Mecklenburg.

The investiture ceremony was presided over by The Most Rev Rui Manuel Sousa Valério, Bishop of the Portuguese Armed Forces and Chief Chaplain of the Portuguese Delegation of the Constantinian Order.

Amongst the other guests in attendance were HRH Dom Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza and head of the Royal House of Portugal, his son and heir HRH Dom Afonso, Prince of Beira, the Ambassador of HM The King of Morocco to Portugal and representatives from the Order of Malta and other religious and civic organisations and authorities.

A dinner was held after the investiture mass at the Turf Club in Lisbon hosted by the Order’s delegate in Portugal, HE Baron Miguel Horta a Costa.