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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fra' Andrew Bertie

Andrew Willoughby Ninian Bertie, the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, has died aged 78. From The Telegraph:

He was educated at Ampleforth, Christ Church, Oxford, and at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London. During his National Service he was commissioned in the Scots Guards. After working as a financial journalist in the City, he taught French and Spanish at Worth School in Sussex, where he intrigued the boys by driving a Rolls-Royce..

In Italy, where the Order of Malta has a high profile, the election of an Englishman came as no less of a surprise. It was typical of the man that his first act after being elected was to invite all the rival candidates to luncheon at the Palazzo Magistrale. The Order combines an aristocratic membership with modern humanitarian activities. In Catholic Europe it is the last bastion of the old establishment. King Juan Carlos was President of its Spanish Association before he became king, while the Austrian Association contains a score of Habsburg archdukes. There is also a worldwide relief service, Malteser International..

Fra' Andrew's term of office proved highly successful...Although deeply reserved, he was a man of great natural dignity and charm, who inspired affection as well as respect. He had a remarkable sympathy for the young, and was frequently visited in Rome by his former pupils.

On Malta, where he loved to spend holidays, he organised judo classes for children, teaching them himself (he was a judo black belt). He enjoyed great support from his younger brother Peregrine, and was delighted when he became president of the British Association.

Characteristically, the Grand Master's last official pronouncement, in January this year, was very much to the point. In an address to the ambassadors accredited to the Sovereign Military Order, he warned of harmful and unfounded rumours that the knights were involved in anti-Islamic activities in countries where, in reality, they were engaged in humanitarian work. Rumours of this sort, he told the ambassadors, were placing the lives of the Order's volunteer carers in grave danger.

Update: The last salute

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