For Faith and Loyalty. The History of
the Capitulum of the Russian Imperial and Tsarist Orders
On 9 December 2004 an exhibition opened in the Alexander Hall of the Winter Palace which has been jointly organized by the State Hermitage; the State Historical and Cultural Museum of the Moscow Kremlin, which has federal status; the Russian State Historical Archive; and the State Museum and Park in Gatchina.
The exhibition consists of approximately 200 separate items: manuscript and printed statutes of the orders, the uniforms of officials and members of the orders, the accessories of officials in the orders, seals, proclamations and manifestos conferring orders, documents from the archives of the Capitulum (Latin, ’the head’) of the orders, and portraits of the chancellors of the Capitulum..
For Faith and Loyalty is the motto of the first and highest Russian order, the Order of St Andrew, which was founded by Peter the Great in 1698-1699. This event established the principle of a new system of awards and led to the formation of an administrative apparatus to govern the orders.
Initially the orders were run by the Ambassadorial Prikaz (later by the College of Foreign Affairs). On 5 April 1797, the day of his coronation, Emperor Paul I confirmed the “Imperial Directive for Russian Knightly Orders” by which the chancellery of the orders, their archives and treasury were to be kept in the Imperial palace. All orders (aside from the Orders of St George and of St Vladimir) were merged into a single Russian Knightly Order and were considered as various classes of this order. The received a common status and administration under the names Chancellery of the Order or Capitulum of the Orders.
On 11 April 1797, the Senate received an edict from the Sovereign on the appointment of officials in the orders. Three top officials constituted the General Executive: Capitulum Chancellor, Senior Master of Ceremonies, and Treasurer. Next came the Masters of Ceremony, Secretaries and Heralds of the orders. By decree of Paul I, General Fieldmarshal Prince N.B. Repnin was appointed the Chancellor of Russian Orders. In 1798 the Emperor himself took the title of Grand Master of the Maltese Order of St John of Jerusalem, and its Capitulum was housed in the former Vorontsov Palace on Sadovaya Street.
The official ranks of the Capitulum were significantly expanded during the reign of Alexander I in consequence of the restoration of the Orders of St George and St Vladimir and the growing number of awards arising from the active foreign policy. Management of the affairs of all the Russian orders was carried out by the Chancellor of the Orders - the chief of the Capitulum.
Under Nicholas I, the range of administrative activity of the Capitulum of the Orders was widened and it began to get involved in questions of whom to award signs of distinction for military and civil service. A Manifesto of 17 November 1831 joined the Polish royal Orders of the White Eagle and of St. Stanislas to the Imperial Russian orders; consequently as from 1832 the Capitulum of the Orders began to be called the Capitulum of the Russian Imperial and Tsarist Orders.
In 1842 the Capitulum was brought under the Ministry of the Imperial Household together with the Ministry of Appanages and the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty. The post of Chancellor was combined with the post of Minister of the Imperial Household. Beginning in 1844, the Chancellor of the Orders was no longer subordinated to the higher institutions of the Government; instead he received his orders directly from the Emperor. In 1888 a simplified system of administration was introduced for the Capitulum. It was responsible for preparing the orders’ badges, golden weapons and medals; preparing charters; compiling lists of knights; receiving membership dues; and assigning money for charitable purposes. In 1892 a Committee to Review Candidates for Supreme Awards was established under the chairmanship of the Chancellor of the Orders. In 1894 this Committee was transformed into the Committee on Civil Service Ranks and Awards.
Over the years the Capitulum had a total of 10 chancellors, among them Prince A.B. Kurakin, the Most Illustrious Prince P.M. Volkonsky, and Count I.I. Vorontsov-lkonsky, Count I.I. Vornty, Count I.I. Vorntem of awards and the formation of Dashkov. After the October Revolution of 1917, the old system of awards was abolished. A decree dated 21 February 1918 eliminated the post of Capitulum of the Russian Orders.