The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem is one of the orders of chivalry to survive the downfall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the attempts by the Crusader knights to win control of the Holy Land from the forces of Islam. In theory the Order remained a military one, but with the exception of a brief period in the 17th century it played no military role after 1291. The Order of Saint Lazarus is one of the most ancient of the European orders of chivalry. At the very least, it dates back to the time of the Crusader knights. From its foundation in the 12th century, the members of the Order were dedicated to two ideals: providing aid to those suffering from the dreadful disease of leprosy, and defending the Christian faith.
Today the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem is an international, self-governing and independent body, having its own Constitution; it may be compared with a kind of electoral kingdom. According to its Constitution, the Order is nonpolitical and ecumenical (or nondenominational). Membership is open to all men and women who are practising members of the Christian faith and in good standing with their particular Church. Its international membership comprises Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Orthodox, Methodist and other Christians, upholding in their lives, fortunes and honour the principles of Christianity. Organized as a Christian Chivalric Order, it is registered in London in accordance with English Law. The Order's Spiritual protector is the Catholic Greek Melkite Patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and All the East.
It is both a Military Order of Mercy and a Hospitaller Order, dedicated to the care and assistance of the poor and sick, its aims being to preserve and defend the Christian faith, to guard, assist succour and help the poor, the sick and the dying, to promote and maintain the principles of Christian chivalry and to follow the teachings of Christ and His Holy Church in all its works.
With the exception of the present Teutonic Order ("Deutscher Orden"), the Order of Saint Lazarus is the smallest of the present day orders of Christian chivalry, having approximately five thousand members across the five continents.
Reunification between the Grand Bailiwick of England & Wales (former Malta Obedience) and the Grand Priory of England & Wales (former Paris Obedience) was formally achieved on 1st January 2011, and made legal by Grand Magistral Decree 06/10, naming the new jurisdiction The Grand Bailiwick & Priory of England and Wales. This decree may be read here.
With the retirement of the former Grand Bailiff (Baron St John of Fawsley) and the former Grand Prior (The Earl Ferrers) at the end of 2011, the jurisdiction embarked on a new phase in its history. Adopting the title, Grand Priory of England Wales, it was privileged to be able to appoint the Rt Hon. Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, 22nd Earl of Shrewsbury & Waterford and premier Earl on the rolls of nobility of England and Ireland, to the office of Grand Prior. The noble earl was invested by the Grand Master on 10th March at a service held in The Guards' Chapel, Wellington Barracks, London.