What is the Chivalric Order of St John?

The Order of St John was founded in around 1070 to serve the needs of poor pilgrims in Jerusalem. They were known as the Hospitallers, and their work was centred around the care of the sick and the poor of all faiths – treating Christians, Muslims, and Jews alike in the broadest sense of inclusivity. In the centuries that followed military activity took place in parallel to nursing and the ethos relating to chivalry and knighthood developed. That ethos expected the qualities of courage, honour, justice, and courtesy from its knights, and also the values of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The modern iteration of St John that was born in the Victorian era was not concerned with warfare but with charitable service and transferred the virtuous knight from the battlefield to the hospital and those in need. Today horses have been replaced with ambulances, swords by surgical needles, and armour by first aid kits. Through the delivery of first aid and other healthcare activities worldwide, and the charitable output of the St John Eye Hospital Group, St John people are following the values of the earliest Hospitallers.

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St John people serving the purpose of St John are eligible to become members of the present-day Order of Chivalry. These St John people continue to show respect and kindness to others, unselfishness, excellence in delivering modern care, and openness to learn, as well as; devotion to helping others, togetherness with common values, diversity and inclusiveness supporting our common purpose, and to the faithful vision of our founders.

These enduring chivalric values are today’s St John values. They show the Order’s ability to preserve and renovate important traditions and demonstrate that chivalry today as a member of the Order of St John is the actual and relevant expression of the skill and service to humanity that our forefathers, the Hospitallers, started over one thousand years ago.

What makes the Order of St John special?

Since being granted the Royal Charter by Queen Victoria in 1888, the Order of St John is a Royal Order of Chivalry of the British Crown with the reigning Sovereign as the Sovereign Head. St John is also an international family of charities whose mission is to lead globally in First Aid and medical responses to community healthcare needs. In the territories where the Order operates, other than the recognised orders of St John, no other recognised Order of Chivalry has a charitable mission, and no other charity has a recognised Order of Chivalry.

Membership of the Order of St John

What are the grades?

Grade V 1

Grade V (Member, MStJ)

The normal entry grade for notable service and more than 60% of members hold this grade.


Grade IV (Officer, OStJ)

The distinguished service and about 25% of members are Officers.


Grade III (Commander, CStJ)

This is for exceptional service and about 10% of members are Commanders.

Knight Dame Of Grace

Grade II (Knights or Dames, KStJ or DStJ)

This is for outstanding service and less than 5% of members hold this grade.

Grand Cross

Grade I (Bailiffs or Dames Grand Cross, GCStJ)

This is the highest grade within St John and is awarded sparingly for pre-eminent service.

The Honours and Awards Process

The International Office manages the Order’s honours and awards process, and the Order Honours and Awards Committee (OHAC) is responsible for ensuring that it is operated fairly, consistently and to a high standard across the Order. The OHAC consists of the Great Officers and Independent Members, with members of the Trustees Executive Committee in attendance. The Order Chancellor is the Chair, and the Head of Chancery is the Secretary.

Want to learn more about our Nominations Process?

Check out our Regulations and Guidance below!

HM The King with The Lord Prior

Membership Statistics for 2023

161,321 every day heroes volunteering worldwide

4 million using our services across the globe

504 new Members admitted to the Order

Royal Order of Chivalry since 1888


The Ceremonial of the Order provides a link between St John’s history as a chivalric order and our modern day humanitarian work across the world. People who have done something special for St John are invested into the Order at an Investiture Ceremony, Great Officers and Priors are Installed in a ceremony, and other ceremonies include dedicating symbols and assets for St John. Family and friends are invited to St John investitures as it is both a private affirmation of an admission to or promotion within the Order and a public recognition of the admission or promotion. Such openness is a characteristic of all St John ceremonies.

As a Royal Order of Chivalry of the British Crown, there are certain customs, practices, and requirements that St John ceremonial follows in recognition to its status as a Royal Order and the Sovereign Head, His Majesty The King. The Order has a right to decide upon its own ceremonial and that Ceremonial has developed over centuries. This evolution will continue as the structure, requirements, and circumstances of the organisation change. Furthermore, as the Order conducts ceremonial in many territories the ceremonies of St John reflect the local laws, customs, and cultures of these territories. A St John Ceremonial Handbook is currently being written and will provide guidance on how to conduct St John Ceremonial. The guide is expected to be published in book form in 2025.

The Five Orders of St John

The Order of St John is one of five recognised Orders of St John, along with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, known as SMOM, (full name The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta), the Johanniter Order (also known as Balley Brandenburg), and the Dutch and Swedish Johanniter Orders. All have St John in their names, and all use the white, eight-pointed cross, commonly referred to as the Maltese, or Amalfi Cross, as their badge and symbol, which is specifically associated with these five Orders.

There are some organisations who have adopted some aspects of the history, names and marks, emblems, or other symbols of the recognised orders. While some such unrecognised orders do have some charitable function and offer insignia to their members, they are not recognised by any state as an Order of Chivalry.

Such unrecognised orders blur the boundaries of the St John family brand. They pose a threat to The Order of St John by confusing volunteers, donors, and the wider public. As St John strives to be the global leader in first aid and medical responses to community healthcare needs with a gold standard of training and operations, unrecognised orders put that at risk.

Tom Budd

The Unrecognised Orders Monitoring Group

In 2021, our Grand Council agreed to set up a group of Priory representatives to monitor unrecognised orders (UOs) in their territory. The group was named the Unrecognised Orders Monitoring Group (UOMG) and set up as a sub group of the Grand Council with the Head of Chancery as Chair. Members of the Five Orders of St John Committee on the Orders of St John (COStJ) are also members.

The reason for monitoring the activities of such bodies is to protect the marks and domain names of the Five Orders from the confusion arising from similar marks and names of unrecognised orders. Furthermore, it is essential to prevent any confusion in a potential donor’s mind as to where his or her donation to St John is going.

Members of the wider St John family should be aware of the existence of unrecognised orders using St John in its name, or a derivative of St John, or using an Emblem that is likely to cause confusion with the Order of St John and the other recognised orders. Should St John personnel become aware of any unrecognised orders impinging on the Order they should report its existence to the International Office.