22 September 2016


With much sadness, The Order of St John announces the sad news of Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith died aged 78 on 13 September 2016 after a long battle with lung cancer.


He was the former Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Cambridge, was one of the world’s greatest historians of the medieval crusades. For more than 40 years, he was a leader in the study of the history of the Knights of St John. He was a great advocate for the Museum, and his role as Librarian of the Order of St John, and as a Bailiff Grand Cross of the Order, recognised the value of his contribution to this area of academic study, and to St John as a charity.


Professor Riley-Smith made his name with his first book, The Knights of St John in Jerusalem and Cyprus, c 1050-1310 (1967) and then The Feudal Nobility and the Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1174-1277 (1973). The flood of his publications never slowed; he wrote or edited 17 books as well as numerous articles and chapters.


Riley-Smith was deeply impressive as an historian and public figure, but one whose humanity always shone through and whose natural enthusiasm was infectious. An aura of good cheer surrounded him. He had a deep warmth and empathy for others, with a sympathetic understanding of human weaknesses. He is survived by his wife, Louise, and by two daughters and a son.


The great officers, the Secretary-General and the staff at the International Office in London extend their sincere condolences to his family at this very sad time.