The instructive Case of Cosmo Lovejoy and his wife Muffy

by

Dr. PANGLOSS

 

 

Human vanity is perennial and in the rare countries without national honors systems, those who succeed in the world still hanker after recognition. They may crave appointment to a presidential commission, an ambassadorship, a seat on a board of directors. Others aspire to be accepted by "high society", which they see as separating the people "who count" from those who do not. They yearn to join exclusive clubs and acquire things not available to the common mortal.

Some who have made 'serious' money feel that their social position fails to match their bank balance. They may resent that "high society", based on fortunes only a little older than theirs, looks down on them. While both "new" and the "old" money are likely to regard the accumulation of wealth as the end-all and be- all, both may feel that nevertheless money should bring more than wealth, something perhaps difficult to define but which is finally the ultimate status symbol: "nobility". It is among those with such aspirations that clever purveyors of false orders and bogus titles find juicy pickings. Not only the rich are susceptible to such aspirations. Ordinary people who can ill-afford the exorbitant fees charged for false nobiliary honors, doctorates from worthless diploma mills and admission into fantasy orders of chivalry may also succumb to such aspirations and fall prey to what in German have been called Ordenschwindlern.

The development of this unhealthy aspiration can be likened to a disease that overcomes a weakened psychological immune system. The disorder usually follows a well-defined course which is often triggered by the appearance, at the right moment, of a promoter of a 'nobiliary order,' typically a self-styled prince of an historically extinct dynasty, say that of the Byzantine or medieval Holy Roman empires.

Let us consider the hypothetical but representative case of Cosmo Lovejoy and his wife, Muffy. Cosmo is a Vietnam veteran and a self-made millionaire. After the war Cosmo attended a technical school to learn the printing business and, through hard work and perseverance over the years, has now become the owner of a franchising empire consisting of one hundred and fifty printing shops nationwide. Cosmo is married to Muffy, an attractive woman and the couple has a son and a daughter and two newly arrived grandchildren. They live in a new residential area in Greenwich, Connecticut, and while Cosmo could retire and turn over the business to one of his sons, he cannot bear the idea of inactivity and still continues to commute daily to New York to direct the enterprise. The Lovejoys are a typical American success story. They have or can acquire anything that money can buy. Their children, both of whom went on to take post-graduate degrees after college, one in law, the other in business administration, are doing well. Cosmo and Muffy should be happy, but the fact of the matter is, they are not. Cosmo aspires to belong to the exclusive local country club, but he has been unable to get the necessary sponsorship. Hence, he has had to join a less restricted one. He has also tried to join one of the more prestigious men's club in New York City with no success. These rejections have affected his self esteem. Imagine then his reaction when one day he receives a handsomely engraved invitation requesting the pleasure of the company of he and his wife at the investiture of new knights and dames into an order of chivalry. Not knowing, and little caring how the organizers obtained his name (they got it from a purloined copy of the mailing list of a conservative magazine to which he subscribes), he is delighted. Cosmo has a vague idea that such orders are associated with the European nobility but has never dreamed that one of them might, one day, seek him out. The name of the order that has issued the invitation includes the word Constantinian and refers to a Prince Grand Master who is the Prince of Constantinople, Prince of Cyprus etc.etc. He notes that there is to be a gala dinner after the investiture to which he and Muffy are also invited for the negligible sum of $100 per person and, that long dresses for the ladies and "white tie" or uniform and decorations for gentlemen are to be worn. Cosmo does not take long to reach a decision and sends off his check in the envelope provided. He and his wife will not be disappointed with this modest outlay as they begin their journey through the nobiliary underworld.

The fateful evening arrives and Cosmo, feeling in his rented white tie and tails as elegant as Fred Astaire, has hung from his breast pocket the miniature versions of his army Good Conduct and theater medals. Muffy has acquired an "haute couture" gown for the occasion. Arriving in a rented limo with driver at the church where the ceremony is to take place, they are greeted by an usher who takes them down to the section reserved for the guests, where they have an excellent view of the main altar before which the investiture will take place. The Lovejoys, trying to look casual, look about them and note that there are about twenty five men and women besides them in their roped-off section . They are relieved to note that these others appear to be slightly uneasy, just as they are themselves. On the other side of the aisle is another roped-off section where some fifteen postulants in evening dress are seated, carrying the mantle of the order neatly folded over their arm. Their ladies are wearing black mantillas. Behind the roped off sections, the rest of the nave is about a quarter filled with other friends and relatives of those to be invested, some of whom are in black tie or dark suits and wearing a variety of chivalric insignia. There are also two or three people who seem to have just come in off the street.

After about a quarter of an hour, the church organ launches into a tune that is vaguely reminiscent of some aria or march from Aida. Cosmo will learn at a later date that it is the hymn of the "Imperial House of Byzantium." A long procession made up of the knights and dignitaries of the order, wearing their mantles, makes its way slowly down the aisle. Some wear gala uniforms and swords under the mantle and others white tie. The clergy of several Christian denominations follows as this is an ecumenical Christian order, though special exceptions will be made for wealthy non-Christians who may be admitted in the category of Merit. Finally, after the dignitaries of the order, comes the Prince Grand Master himself, resplendent in a heavily gold-braided uniform with the cape draped nonchalantly back over his left shoulder, so as to reveal his heavily bemedalled chest. He walks slowly smiling and nodding his monocled head to friends on either side and makes his way to the altar. Following a brief ecumenical evening prayer service celebrated by the priest of an Orthodox denomination, the investiture proper commences.

A Master of Ceremonies reads the introductory speech and asks the Orthodox priest to bless the Grand Master, dignitaries and guests. Following the blessing, the Chancellor of the order welcomes those present and gives a brief historical sketch of the Imperial House of Byzantium and of the order. The Master of Ceremonies then invites the congregation to stand for the anthem of the order. He then calls each candidate by name and presents him or her to the Grand Master. When all the candidates have been assembled in front of the altar, the Master of Ceremonies reads the solemn oath to which each candidate responds: "I do". Then he summons each new member individually to undergo the ritual of investiture. He reads a brief curriculum vitae of each candidate. Each bows before the Grand Master and then goes to the Chancellor who drapes the mantle around his shoulders and leads him to the priest who utters a blessing after which the candidate returns to kneel on a red cushion in front of the Grand Master. The Grand Master then gives the candidate the accolade taking the sword from the Sword Bearer and bringing it down gently on each of the candidate's shoulders saying: "I dub you knight, rise Sir ... and be valiant. Welcome to our Order". Women postulants are dubbed in the same way in utter contradiction to the historical practice. The Grand Master then exchanges a few words with the new member and presents him or her with a scrolled document attesting to their membership in the order. The Chancellor then places the cross of the order around the new Knight's or Dame's neck and congratulates him or her. When the investiture is over, the Chancellor makes a short speech congratulating the new members and thanks the Grand Master for gracing the occasion with his presence. The Master of Ceremonies then asks for permission to declare the proceedings closed. Once permission is granted, the Imperial anthem is sounded again and the clergy, the Grand Master followed by the dignitaries, officers, and new members leave the Church.

The ceremony over, the members divest themselves of their mantles and swords and proceed to a especially hired bus which is waiting to take them to a restaurant where a private dining room has been reserved for the gala dinner. The originator of the scenario for this comic opera is no less than the individual who modestly signs himself " His Serene Highness Prince Angel Xuereb Paleologue-Comnenus, Prince of Constantinople, Prince of Cyprus, Count of Drivasto, Grand Master of the Order of Constantine Major. We shall have more to say later about the names Paleologue-Comnenus worn by the Grand Master.

At the dinner, the Lovejoys have been seated on either side of the Prince Grand Master. They are impressed by all his decorations and charmed by his unplaceable European accent, his urbanity and wit, his seemingly encyclopaedic knowledge of history. Emboldened by the general euphoria caused by the wine and by the relaxed but refined atmosphere of chivalric good fellowship, Cosmo gingerly asks the Prince about the order's admission requirements. His Serene Highness's face lengthens and his tone becomes serious. It is most exclusive and membership in each country is limited to a specific number of ladies and gentlemen in each grade, he informs Cosmo. In the United States of America, he continues, there can be no more than 1000 members. The Grand Master describes the admissions procedure, indicating that he is assisted by an admissions committee, which after screening the applications and accompanying resumés, votes on them forwarding the successfully named for his consideration. Because of the grade limitations, he cannot accept all those who would otherwise be admitted. Some, though perhaps perfectly acceptable to other institutions, may have to be rejected because "only the very best" can be admitted. HSH, after benignly looking at Cosmo and his wife, kindly offers to have his Grand Chancellor send them applications along with a history of the Order, its Statutes and with a list of the applicable fees. If, after reading these they are still interested, they can submit the required documents which will be examined and processed. Should they be found acceptable, they could be invested at the Grand Master's next visit to the United States in six months time.

Cosmo and Muffy are in seventh heaven. They cannot wait to receive the application forms and begin to indulge in fantasies about their entry into society and their rubbing shoulders with German princes, French dukes, Spanish grandees, Italian marchesi, Austrian counts and the ubiquitous Hungarian barons. They see themselves as the envy of Greenwich and are certain that, as soon as it becomes known that they have been accepted into the order, they will be invited to join the country club.

Two weeks after the investiture the Lovejoys receive the anxiously awaited missal from the from Grand Chancellor of the order. The letter, topped by a magnificent letterhead, states:

" Dear Mr. and Mrs. Lovejoy,

"I have been instructed by His Serene Highness to furnish you with the attached documentation on our honorable Order. If, after reading the enclosed material you feel, that you would like to join its ranks, please fill out the appropriate forms and enclose your check to cover the Passage Fees together with one year's Annual oblations for the grade to which you wish to be admitted. In the event that the Admissions Committee is unable to approve your application, your cheque will be returned to you. If your application is accepted you will receive a diploma signed by His Serene Highness as well as a miniature lapel insignia and you will be informed of the date,(within six months) time and place when you and other postulants will be invested by His Serene Highness the Prince Grand Master. You will also receive instructions for purchasing the Order's mantle and insignia.

"Finally, please be informed that the Order maintains cordial and fraternal relations with, and may sponsor its members for admission to the Order of Malta and other knightly or dynastic orders.

"In the hope that this letter and the attached documentation have answered any questions you might have about our Order and in the hope of reading you soon, I am, Sir,

"Your Most Obedient Servant,

"Sgd. Anthony Xuereb,

Count of Marmara Grand Chancellor."

 

"P.S. In the event that you should decide against joining our ranks, please be kind enough to return the attached documentation."

 

Included in the package were a brochure entitled "History and Statutes" which concentrates on His Serene Highness's alleged pedigree, curriculum vitae and honors. The Lovejoys should examine this closely, although at this stage of their journey through the chivalric nether regions, they would probably not notice anything wrong with it. Let us take a look at His Serene Highness' background. The brochure tells us that HSH Prince Angelo Xuereb Paleologue- Comnenus, Prince of Constantinople, Prince of Cyprus, Count of Drivasto descends from an ancient Maltese family itself "directly descended from the Imperial Byzantine families of Paleologue-Comnenus which ruled Byzantium and Trebizond and consequently is the legitimate heir to those thrones" .

Prince Angelo was born in M’dina on the island of Malta. Cosmo notes that the Prince has the same Maltese family name as the Grand Chancellor. Cosmo will later learn this is because the two are brothers. After primary and secondary studies on the island, the Prince attended the University of London where, the brochure says, he took a degree in accounting. Much later Cosmo will learn that the Grand Master was successful and ambitious hairdresser. Endowed with a flair for languages, a photographic memory and a very glib tongue, Angelo acquired a certain polish which was to stand him in good stead, especially with rich, susceptible, middle-aged American ladies.

Having also trained in the law, the brochure relates, the Prince became an " International Juridical Counsellor". During the last thirty-five years, the Prince Grand Master accumulated honorary doctorates from Moctezuma University in Spain, the International Philotechnic University in London, the Western Orthodox University, also in England, the Philo-Byzantine University (Spain again), the Frederick II of Swabia International University in Bergamo, Italy, and other similar institutions that exist only to sell worthless diplomas.

As for chivalric honors, Cosmo reads that Prince Angelo holds the Grand Crosses of the Order of St.John of Acre and St.Thomas, the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta (Ecumenical), the Imperial Order of the Four Lions of Anahuac, the Byzantine Order of the Holy Sepulcher, the Dynastic Order of Saint Agatha de Paterno, the Greek Sovereign Order of Saint Denis of Zanthe, the Order of the Aztec Crown, the Sovereign Order of the Solar Temple (which in 1995 was to come to a bloody and bizarre end in France and Switzerland), the Order of Saint George of Auracania, the Order of St. George of Carinthia, the Sovereign Order of Cyprus, the French Order of Saint Michael, and several others. In addition, Prince Angelo's Order of Constantine Major, the brochure said, was a member organization of the World Union of Chivalry, a body which includes most apocryphal orders.

The brochure also includes glossy color pictures of the order's insignia, mantles and optional uniform, but not a great deal on its history. Its mission is also left vague but mention is made of favoring the rapprochement of all Christian Churches. Finally, there is list of the order's membership which includes Presidents, Senators, Nobel Prize laureates, generals, admirals, and a slew of genuine nobility (who have been admitted gratis to add some luster to the membership list). In addition to this booklet there are application forms each to be accompanied by its curriculum vitae, four passport-size photographs, two of which will be used for a (worthless) diplomatic passport issued by the order if the applicant desires one; a copy of the oath taken by each knight and dame of the Order and a separate sheet on which the grades of the order are listed along with the "passage fees" and annual "oblations". These are not to be sneezed at.

Rank Passage Money Annual Oblation

Grand Cross $10,000 $1,000

Grand Officer 7,500 750

Commander 6,000 600

Officer 5,000 500

Knight or Dame 3,000 300

 

At this initial stage, the Lovejoys do not want to appear too pushy by going for two Grand Crosses although they could easily afford them. They think that their new "confreres and consoeurs" in the Order might think them a little parvenu, so they opt for two Commanders' crosses at $6,000 each and $600 per year per person annual dues and send off their cheque for $13,200 to the American Chancery located at a fashionable address in New York City!

Eventually, they receive their elaborately illuminated diplomas (suitable for framing) and they purchase the mantles and insignia which run up their cost an additional $1,200 a piece. Their investiture ceremony takes place as before, except that this time at the gala dinner, the Grand Master is flanked by another awed couple. By this time, the Lovejoys are thoroughly hooked. Ever practical, however, Muffy asks Cosmo if any portion of the funds expended can be deducted from the couple's income tax. Cosmo does not know but agrees to write to the Chancellor about it. He eventually receives a reply to the effect that "The Order, though a non-profit organization, firmly believes that every citizen has, in addition to the privileges, the obligations of citizenship, including serving in its armed forces and paying taxes. For this reason, it has never sought and will never seek tax-exempt status."

Lovejoy, still under the euphoria of having been admitted, accepts the Grand Chancellor's argument and soon forgets he ever raised the question. Cosmo’s reaction, though understandable in view of the happy turmoil within him, is wrong to do so. The Grand Chancellor's reply should have aroused his suspicions. In the United States any non-profit institution that contributes to charity is entitled to tax exempt status and would normally seek to obtain this privilege. While tax-exempt status is no guarantee that a group is on the level it is an indication that it allows its books to be scrutinized by the Internal Revenue Service. In this case, the statement that the Order believes in its members fulfilling their tax obligations is specious.

The reader may ask, "What harm is done by Cosmo joining such an outfit so long as he violates no law?" None, of course. On the other hand, Cosmo has allowed more than doubtful characters to exploit his vanity and have made him pay through the nose for his illusions, even though he is aware of the questionable procedures involved.

Muffy and Cosmo start to make friends in the order and note that most of them wear elegant crested rings on their little fingers. The Lovejoys would love to do the same and so begin to take an interest in heraldry. As members of an order, whose membership list is available to all mail order merchants willing to pay for it, they are also beginning to receive, among others, offers from questionable heraldic enterprises which offer to supply "a coat of arms associated with your family name." One letter they receive begins, "As a Lovejoy, you should know that the coat of arms of Sir Geoffrey Lovejoy (1645-1700) are recorded in Burke's Landed Gentry where they are blazoned as, Azure, a lion rampant ‚vir‚ Or. The Heraldic Institute will send you a beautiful coat of arms painted on vellum and suitable for framing for $149.00. We will also take orders for engraving your coat of arms on signet rings, flatware, and personalized writing paper, or carved on a solid oak shield and painted by our master heraldic artists. Prices upon request."

Cosmo, who has been borrowing books from the public library on heraldry, heeds the warning he has read that he is unlikely to be entitled to the coats of arms sold by these heraldic "mills." He has learned that not all people of the same name are entitled to the same arms, that there may be many different arms for different families bearing the same name just as there may be many families of the same name who are not entitled to any arms. He found out that in some countries there are official bodies which, for a fee, will provide him and his descendants with their own officially sanctioned coat of arms.. If he can furnish a pedigree showing his descent from a man recorded as having arms, he will be given formal entitlement to use these arms. If he cannot prove such descent, he may be issued with a new coat of arms. He has also learned, much to his pleasure and excitement, that in some European states the possession of a coat of arms used to, and still does, indicates membership in the nobility.

Cosmo does not know if a pedigree of his family has ever been drawn up, but he is advised by a confrère in the order to contact the Spanish Cronista Rey de Armas who will, if requested, design a coat for him and register it in the Archives of the Spanish Ministry of Justice. Cosmo takes down the address in Madrid and sends off a letter together with a banker's draft for the equivalent of approximately $300. Eventually he receives his 'Certification of Arms', which is typed on legal-size paper bearing the arms of the Chronicler King of Arms Don Vicente de Cadenas y Vicent in the upper left-hand corner.

The text of the certification makes no suggestion that possessing these arms makes the owner a member of the nobility. It merely states that Cosmo Lovejoy may, in Spain bear, inscribe or sculpt the arms according to common usage and that no one else is entitled to do so. It also states that the arms are registered on Page----Folio----of the Chronicler King of Arms' archives. In addition to this text there is a page of vellum on which the full coat of arms is painted in color. On a separate piece of paper he finds that he can, for an additional $50, obtain a leather folder bearing the royal arms of Spain on the cover in which to place the certification.

Cosmo, though pleased with his new coat of arms, is somewhat disappointed that the certification makes no mention of his new "noble" status. Then he remembers reading that in Scotland a Grant of Arms from the Lord Lyon King of Arms confers nobility on the grantee and admits him to the ranks of the noblesse of Scotland. He has also heard that Scottish and Irish heraldic authorities recognize and will matriculate, that is register, arms which have been issued or certified by another heraldic authority. By this time, Cosmo has become fascinated by heraldic and calligraphic art and illuminated manuscripts, and the possibility of being able to hang another handsome document on his wall appeals to him. So he writes to Lord Lyon in Court of the Lord Lyon, H.M.’s Register House, Edinburgh to have his Spanish coat matriculated in Scotland. He finds the process lengthy and more expensive than that of Spain, but eventually he receives his matriculation encased in a large card-board roll container.

The Extract of Matriculation is a document eighteen by thirteen inches handwritten in Old English script. To the left of the document is a hand-painted representation of the arms. The text states :"That certain Ensigns Armorial were confirmed unto the Petitioner by the Chronicler King of Arms of Spain, Don Vicente de Cadenas y Vicent, of date 15 January 1985; AND the Petitioner having prayed that the foresaid Ensigns Armorial might be matriculated in his own name in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland, the Lord Lyon King of Arms by Interlocutor of date 24 September 1985, granted Warrant to the Lyon Clerk to matriculate in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland in the name of the Petitioner the following Ensigns Armorial, videlicet: - ," followed by the blazon or written heraldic description of the shield of arms, the helm and crest above it, and the ornamental mantling that falls from the helm as well as the motto which he has chosen for himself. The seal of the Lyon Court and the signature of the Lyon Clerk and Keeper of the Records appear at the foot of the document.

Cosmo is disappointed by his Scottish matriculation because, once again, no mention is made of his "nobility". He had assumed (wrongly) that a Matriculation was equivalent to a Grant of Scottish arms, which he could probably have obtained had he been able to dig up a Scottish ancestor. The Grant would then have stated: "by demonstration of which Ensigns Armorial, Insignia of Nobility, he and his successors in the same are, amongst all Nobles and in all Places of Honour, to be taken, numbered, accounted and received as Nobles in the Noblesse of Scotland." .

Still, Cosmo is now the legitimate bearer of a coat of arms which he has had engraved on a signet ring which he wears with pride. But the "nobility" which he thought would come to him with the acquisition of arms still eludes him. He reflects that it is not as though he would shout that he was noble from the roof tops, rather it would be a quiet satisfaction for him and Muffy that perhaps they would share with just a few good friends.

One day, waiting his turn in the barber shop, Cosmo thumbs idly through the classified section of The National Review and notices an ad, which piques his interest. It offers information about acquiring Scottish baronial titles. Naturally he replies to the ad and so learns that the Scottish feudal barony of Glen Lomond is for sale for the mere bagatelle of £150,000. The advertiser points out in his letter that no castle is included in the sale and that if there were, the price would be considerably higher. What does come with it, however, is a small field measuring 2,400 square yards which is technically the caput of the barony. The letter goes on that nothing may be built on the land and it is only being sold as a means of transferring the barony title, adding that the feudal nature of a Scottish feudal barony allows it to be sold and its title along with it to a new set of heirs. Burke's Peerage, he is told, states: "The purchase of a Scottish feudal barony is the only way to acquire a hereditary title of nobility in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland other than by inheritance or by being so created by Her Majesty, The Queen." Cosmo learns that many such barons legally take the name of their barony as part of their surname. Thus he could be Lovejoy of Glen Lomond or the Baron of Glen Lomond. His wife would automatically become the Baroness of Glen Lomond or Lady Glen Lomond. Wondering how this would affect his American citizenship, he reads that, "There is no problem with Americans using baronial titles. As the Scottish Baron does not sit in the United Kingdom's Parliament and has no formal governmental role in modern day Britain, the holding of such a title does not place the owner's American citizenship at risk."

The offer is terribly tempting, but rather than react hurriedly as he did when he joined the Order of Constantine Major, Cosmo decides to consult his attorney and asks him to investigate the reputability and reliability of both the advertiser and of the present owner of the barony. Ten days later, after his lawyer gives them both a clean bill of health, Cosmo almost succumbs. But his better judgment prevails, aided by Muffy's threat to leave him, and he strikes from his mind the possibility of becoming a Scottish feudal baron .

Had Lovejoy bought this title, he could have applied for a U.S. passport in the name of Baron Cosmo Lovejoy of Glen Lomond and traveled the world as a "titled" American gentleman, perhaps fooling some hotel concierge trainees along the way. Back in Greenwich and New York, however, he would have become fair game in the circles of which he most wished to become a part.

As time passes, Cosmo joins several other orders and his dress suit becomes increasingly laden with miniature medals, stars, cordons and collars. Unfortunately none of these expensive trinkets help him in his efforts to better himself socially in the "real world". He finds that his confrères are much more pleasant and interesting than his business contacts or his circle of friends in Greenwich. He has something in common with them, a love of chivalry, of good manners and courtesy. He likes to rub elbows with European nobility, even if he suspects, by now, that some of it may not be entirely genuine. These people, he thinks, have style. They may have no money, never buy a drink or a dinner, but they have great charm. He is beginning now to be able to spot the genuine article which never discusses its genealogy or nobility from the dross, which constantly tries to justify it by going into long songs and dance about being related to Eleanor of Aquitaine or some other notable through the female line. Cosmo and to a lesser degree Muffy now feel entirely at ease in this quixotic milieu. They travel all over the world to attend meetings of the various orders to which they belong. Their ample means wins them many friends among genuine but mostly penniless nobility, often on the lookout (but with such grace!) for a free trip, a meal or a loan. They have also attracted the attention of self-styled heads of former ruling houses, prepared for a sizable fee to endow them with a "title of nobility."

At this point the Lovejoys, especially Cosmo, are now living in another world and are ready to be plucked once again. They think to themselves that if they were to acquire a title, they would only use it in their own milieu and they would be the envy of "their crowd". That, in itself, would be enough and would give them great personal satisfaction. Cosmo would then be able to add a coronet to his arms which the Spanish Chronicler of Arms would duly register for the same fee as the original achievement. The coronet could then be engraved on their writing paper, invitation cards and flatware and painted on their china as well as the doors of their motor car, now a vintage Rolls Royce. They would be very careful not to mention this change in social status in their day-to-day activities in Greenwich and New York but they know that their new lifestyle would attract attention.

Let us examine the various means available to Cosmo to acquire a nobiliary title. We must bear a number of things in mind at the outset. First, as a U.S. citizen, Cosmo may call himself anything he pleases, changing his name as often as he likes, but titles and nobility per se are not recognized by the federal or any state government. (Not that this makes any significant difference.) Second, the vast majority of those from the title of baron, viscount, count, marquis, duke or prince can be obtained are selling something not worth the paper it is written on. Some authentic heads of former reigning houses have conferred nobiliary titles on faithful followers in the past, but this practice has decreased and it is now highly exceptional for them to do so. On the other hand there are any number of individuals who claim the hereditary right to the headship of an historical Byzantine imperial ruling house ready to sell such resounding titles as Duke of Karpasso, Count of Phanar, Count of Edessa, Baron of Lesbos and furnish splendidly illuminated letters patent to that effect. One such, of course, is Cosmo’s Grand Master HSH Prince Angel Xuereb Comnenus-Paleologue. A life spent in business has taught Cosmo a certain prudence (not always apparent in his romantic view of matters nobiliary) and he likes to examine his options and know the market prices, even when it comes to noble titles. He finds that HSH will, according to ancient Byzantine custom, confer one of the many titles which became extinct long ago and which can now be rehabilitated. The one Cosmo is offered is Duke of Cephalonia. The rehabilitation, chancery fees, stamps, registration and the Letters Patent illuminated on genuine goatskin vellum, will cost Cosmo a total of $15,000. This title may be made hereditary in the male line for an additional $2,500 or in both the male and female lime for $5,000. Cosmo notes that as this is not even half so expensive as the Scottish barony, Muffy should be far less likely to throw a fit and threaten him with divorce if he mentions he is thinking of buying it. But then again, neither is the title being given away. So Cosmo decides to look some more before making up his mind.

A confrère with whom Cosmo talks about their common interest in questions of nobility tells him about an old and almost destitute Italian gentleman, who never married and has no heirs, who might be willing to adopt Cosmo, thus enabling him to add the name of his new father and, upon the latter's death, to inherit the title. The old gentleman is 94 years of age, in failing health and would require a lump sum of money and a monthly income sufficient to feed him and his almost equally old housekeeper, and lodge them until they depart on their final journey. The title "Marchese de Monte Avaro" is an ancient Venetian one which was granted by the Doges to that city's most important pawnbroker and has been in the family for over five hundred years. The possibility of helping a fellow human being appeals to Cosmo, but naturally he wants to know more. Would he, for instance, be able to use a title before the demise of the Marchese? The answer is that, during the Marchese’s lifetime, Cosmo would be known (in Italy and amongst his fellows) as Cosmo Lovejoy degli Marchesi de Monte Avaro, in other words of the Marchesi of Monte Avaro. He would only inherit the title itself when the old Marchese died. His own children, who could not care less, would, upon Cosmo’s accession to the title, themselves become "of the Marchesi de Monte Avaro". Our hero, of good English yeoman stock, does not see himself as an Italian Marchese and turns down the offer.

There are other options open to him if he really want to go for a title. He could for instance appeal to a former ruling monarch to grant him a title. Perhaps former self-proclaimed Emperor of the Central African Empire, Jean Bedel Bokassa, believed to have practiced cannibalism during his imperial heyday, might be approached in his forced residence in the Central African Republic (he is under house arrest) but communications with him may be difficult and, Cosmo is sure, Muffy would regard a title obtained from such a source as lacking chic.

A much more satisfactory provenance could have become available until recently if Cosmo could locate a Dutch or Belgian ancestor. In that case he might have been able to employ the services of well-connected Spanish genealogists who would, by a deft slight of the pen manage to relate his ancestor to a person who held a now extinct Spanish title that existed when the Low Countries were a part of the Spanish realm. The title could then have been "rehabilitated" for Cosmo's benefit. The procedure is almost childish in its simplicity but could have taken two years to arrange. It works like this: Once Cosmo found his Dutch or Belgian connection and furnished the genealogist with birth and wedding certificates attesting to the fact that he is directly descended from the person, the genealogist would make a search in the archives at Simancas and would find that a title, let us say, Conde de Cuatro Cruces was created in 1712 by the King of Spain for one Don Ignacio Merlette and his successors. The genealogist would then produce a pedigree and the appropriate confirming documentation which may have been altered to suit, showing that Cosmo’s ancestor is related by marriage to Ignacio Merlette who bore the title. Then, the genealogist would inform the appropriate department of the Spanish Ministry of Justice that there is a claimant for the title in question attaching the genealogy with the appropriate documents. At the same time the request for rehabilitation would be printed in the Boletin Oficial de Estado (State Official Bulletin.) Anyone reading it who believes that he has more right to the title than Cosmo could file an objection with the Ministry of Justice who would take it into consideration. There would seldom be any objection. Once the Ministry of Justice examined the pedigree and the accompanying documents and found them in order, the request would go to the Department of Grace within the same Ministry and finally to His Majesty the King for his assent. After having cleared all of these hurdles Cosmo would find himself a holder of a genuine Spanish title. The entire procedure was quite expensive costing, depending upon the title, between $20,000 and $50,000. The high price is because palms had to be greased at each step of the way. In 1985 the Spanish press revealed the existence of a ring of specialized genealogists whose stock in trade was the rehabilitation of titles. A Grandee of Spain and half a dozen titled officials of the Ministry of Justice were implicated in the operation. Others, who had not been caught, wisely decided to call a temporary halt to their operations.

Up to 1964, when Pope Paul VI announced an end to the practice, the Roman Pontiffs, as Sovereigns, conferred titles of nobility. An interesting aspect of the Papal creations is that the Vatican never has and presumably will never make public the names of the individuals it had ennobled. With the Holy Father no longer awarding titles, there have appeared certain skilled "artists" who will, for a price, produce a Papal Letters Patent for one's grandfather with the appropriate seals and signature of the Pontiff who reigned during the "grantee's" lifetime. These documents are so expertly made as to deceive anyone, layman or ecclesiastic. They are, needless to say quite expensive. Thus, for $15,000 Cosmo could acquire such a parchment and hang it in a prominent place in his living room. To increase the effect, he could, at the flea market, purchase an oil painting of a seventeenth or eighteenth century worthy, and have a modern artist change the facial features, the nose for instance or the chin, to make the subject ressemble Cosmo and then paint Cosmo’s newly acquired coat of arms discreetly in a corner, thus creating an instant and aristocratic ancestor.

The simplest and best option for acquiring nobility, however, requires rather more chutzpah on Cosmo's part. If he really wants to sport a title, there is nothing to prevent him from merely calling himself Count Lovejoy. If someone should question the origin of the title, he can say his grandfather received it from the Pope. No one, in his new milieu, would be crass enough to ask to see the papal diploma conferring the title. But if someone did, Cosmo could look down his nose at the impertinent fellow and glide elegantly away. Of course, if his friends know that Cosmo was born and bred in the Episcopal Church and his great-grandfather was a prominent Orangeman in Belfast, they may receive claims to a papal title with a certain hesitation.

In the course of his nobiliary journey Cosmo has become aware of the genuine orders of chivalry and there is nothing he would like more than to be admitted to the American Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. However, he would have to be a Roman Catholic. He would most dearly love to appointed a simple chevalier in the Papal Orders of St. Gregory the Great or St. Sylvester . For these he does not even have to be a Catholic. What can he do?

His best bet, with respect to the SMOM, if he has converted to Rome, is to identify someone in the American Association who could arrange for Cosmo to be eventually co-opted. The procedure is not unlike that which he has tried to follow, albeit unsuccessfully, to get into the clubs in Greenwich and New York. There is a difference here, however, because in the case of the American Association, his wealth, regardless of vintage, will definitely be an asset to him. One way for Cosmo to go about it is to become active in his parish, making significant financial contributions and befriending his priest. Having established his bonafides, Cosmo can eventually confide in the priest and ask for his support and an introduction to his bishop. If all goes well, the latter can in turn recommend Cosmo to one of the regional officials of the Order. Once Cosmo's references and background are checked, which should not take too long since there is no pedigree to worry about, and assuming that meetings with members of the order impress them with his Catholicity, his name along with that of several other candidates would be sent to the order's headquarters in Rome to be incorporated in its rolls. He would then be advised of his acceptance as a Knight of Magistral Grace and given instructions for his investiture in, say, New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral. If he has not converted, all is not lost. Through effective networking he may be able to receive the Order of Malta’s Cross of Merit, which does not make him a member of the Order but is a very handsome decoration which is awarded in the grades of Knight, Officer, Commander, Grand Officer, and Grand Cross to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Another line of approach might be for Cosmo to check the list of his confrères in the Order of Constantine Major to see if any are also members of the Order of Malta. Strange as it may seem, there well may be one or more. They may, in fact have been received into the Sovereign Order first and, bitten by the bug, have gone into Constantine Major and other groups later. It may depend on who got to them first, the Order of Malta being more cautious and circumspect in its recruitment effort. By working with the help of an understanding colleague Cosmo will probably be admitted in less time than he would be otherwise. In any event the passage fees and annual oblations for the Sovereign Order are likely to be considerably less than those he paid to join the bogus Byzantine order, although he will be expected to make a donation to the order's works every year at the annual banquet.

According to the late Archbishop Hyginus Eugene Cardinale, a Vatican diplomat with a particular interest in Papal orders, admission to them comes not from applying, as candidates must do for admission to the French Legion of Honor. Admission to the Papal orders is by co-option, which in most cases means a word from a bishop or higher prelate to the Vatican. The Orders of St. Gregory the Great and of St. Sylvester may be conferred at the request of the ordinary, that is bishop of the candidate's diocese. These distinctions may be awarded to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In other words, Cosmo could, arrange to be introduced to the "traditional" Priest of the local "traditional" Catholic parish and later over a good dinner and bottle of wine, intimate that in return for the latter's recommendation to the bishop for a knighthood in the Order of St. Sylvester, he would be willing to cover the cost of repairing the church's leaky roof. I emphasize "traditional" because the majority of priests nowadays seem to be of a more socialistic bent, espouse liberation theology and have little patience for elitist awards which smack of ancien régime decadence. There is a good chance that Cosmo would receive his knighthood.

Well what if Cosmo is a non-Christian and he is bitten by the ordenshunger? Most of the purveyors of self-styled independent orders which claim connections to ancient Eastern Orthodox churches will make exceptions and place such postulants in the category of merit. So far as the methods described above to acquire titles they can be used equally by Christians or non-Christians.

Having now reached the end of this journey the reader will have noted that imaginary orders and worthless titles have been, for many years, proliferating madly on both sides of the Atlantic.

Thirty years ago these endeavors were limited to doubtful types who deliberately searched for these titles and distinctions so that they might claim a high place in a closed society to which they did not belong. Today, however a large number of the victims display their titles and diplomas convinced that they have a perfect right to do so.

It appears that all of the official warnings and communiqués have not been able to put an end to this trafficking. So, it is only by lifting the veil of mystery in which the traffickers envelop themselves that their victims who number in the thousands can be protected .

I am perfectly willing to admit that there is very little hope to help many of those who we inevitably find in the front ranks of those who display this hardware . For many of them who live on their wits it is a permanent source of income . For others it is a mental illness, a sort of madness for which there seems to be no cure. This thirst for decorations, this ordenshunger leads to a sort of kleptomania , that of orders and diplomas, which can only be dealt with by long term psychotherapy with only a hypothetical cure. The interesting thing is that most of those who belong to genuine orders and those who belong to the apocryphal ones all suffer from the same malady.

Because so many of the victims of ordenshunger are such delightful, charming and completely harmless folk I have tried to write these pages with as much good humor and charity as possible. In other articles I have tried to focus on the others, those who are perfectly aware of their past and continuing actions and have no plans to modify their activities. I hope I have succeeded.

 

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