Order of Saint John Played Major Role in Mystery at the Thirteen Sycamores
All of the major characters in Mystery at the Thirteen Sycamores are members of the modern-day Order of Saint John, a chivalric order that was begun centuries ago and survives today. Reprinted here is the book's Foreword written by David Hanson, KH Grand Prior USA Hospitaller, Order of Saint John of Jerusalem Knights Hospitaller, which explains the origin and significance of the order:
Thirteen Sycamores is a book about little known modern chivalric organizations who have unbroken traditions and history that reach all the way back to the First Crusade and the fall of Jerusalem in 1099 A.D. It is also a modern adventure wrapped in a mystery laced with threads of counterterrorism interwoven with the remarkably rich history of the chivalric organizations that was discovered, painstakingly researched, and assembled over the past two decades. Finally, and surprisingly, Thirteen Sycamores is a book that provides a thorough, descriptive, and accurate travelogue of many beautiful locations around the world that you may want to visit as well as providing the reader with a non-stop culinary adventure and description of fine gourmet menu combinations will make you hungry just to read them.
By now you may be thinking, Chivalry! Isn’t it dead? That is a question that was debated for much of the 20th century and is still being debated today in the 21st century as cultures, manners, and acceptable behaviors between genders evolve. However, a simple query on the internet or a book website will reveal many offerings outlining proposed chivalric behaviors or rules for true chivalric gentlemen in the 21st century. There are no fewer than several dozen books in print offering well-reasoned and modern codes of chivalry—making an appeal to men to adopt such behavior in a 21st century context. So, chivalry is still alive and the concept of chivalry in the popular mind is far from dead with many advocates actively engaged.
Meanwhile, there are individuals who are actual knights and dames and who daily practice and live by the traditional code of chivalry—doing good deeds on behalf of the Christian faith and for the benefit of mankind. These individuals are associated with modern orders of chivalry that are continuations of the original military Crusading Orders or belong to orders created by a monarch in the past that continue into the present. Thirteen Sycamores will acquaint the reader with a tiny bit of the new and remarkable history associated with two of the modern continuations from the original Order of Saint John of Jerusalem that survived after the Order was expelled from Malta by Napoleon in 1798. These modern continuations have a better unbroken lineage than some of the fragments of the Order of Saint John that landed in England, France, and elsewhere in Europe. For example, from 1826 to January 29, 1831, a French Knight of the French Capitular Commission helped revive the English langue of the Order of Saint John in England, but it was not until 1888 that Queen Victoria recognized the “Venerable Order of Saint John” and gave them a revival charter under the British crown—90 years after Malta. Ironically, the Venerable Order has individuals today who with extreme bias and selective scholarship aggressively pursue and presume to pass judgment on the validity of other Order of Saint John post-1798 fragments.
So what is chivalry and what is an order of chivalry? The definition of chivalry is complex. In fact, whole books have been spent describing its many facets and complexities from inception and across history, martial aspects, religious aspects, romantic ideal aspects, political aspects, and so forth. Such scholarly works are often offered as a whole as “the definition” of chivalry, but that does not satisfy readers who want something pithy. My favored definition comes from Kenelm Henry Digby, who in 1822 published a multi-volume comprehensive treatise on chivalry, The Broadstone of Honour, that some scholars credit with sparking a revival of chivalry in the 19th century.
His definition was:
“Chivalry is only a name for that general spirit or state of man which disposes men to heroic and generous actions and keeps them conversant with all that is beautiful and sublime in the intellectual and moral world.”
An order of chivalry is much easier to define. It is simply a society of knights—individuals who have received the accolade of knighthood and embrace the ideals of “chivalry” and who are governed by a Charter or Rule.
Why should you read Thirteen Sycamores? Because you will be entertained and educated, especially if you like action and adventure, murder mysteries, travel to exotic locations, history, historic puzzles, historic fiction, culinary adventure, fine wine, and are a gourmet. Any one of these interest areas would be a good reason to read the book, but if you are blessed with more than one or all of these interests, you should devour the book and will find yourself wanting the next installment.
I have personally known and had the pleasure of working with the authors of Thirteen Sycamores for over 20 years in various chivalric endeavors. They are scholars who have searched for and dug up original documents in dusty archives in order to assemble the historic facts that provide structure to this novel—learning a bit of new history is another reason to read their book. They are also honorable knights who live their daily lives according to the code of chivalry. Therefore, and without reservation, I commend Thirteen Sycamores to you and hope you get as much pleasure as I did when you read it.
H.E. Bailiff David Hanson, KH Grand Prior USA Hospitaller
Order of Saint John of Jerusalem Knights Hospitaller