Letters Patent of Queen Mary Tudor and King Philip II

Illuminated manuscript

Following the death of Edward VI, the only son of Henry VIII, Mary Tudor, became Queen. As a Catholic, Mary sought to reverse the persecution and suppression of the Catholic faith, and also to re-establish the Order of St John.

These letters patent, issued on 2nd April 1557 by Mary I and her husband King Philip II of Spain, declare in Latin: “Since with the most undoubted right we claim to be the Defenders of our Sacred Faith… We are most earnestly desirous… to renew, restore, create, institute and establish the sacred Order and religion of the English brothers of St. John of Jerusalem in this Kingdom of England…” 

These letters patent thus authorised Cardinal Pole as Papal Legate to reinstate the Order in its old position and hand back all possible property. The first sheet of the manuscript, shown above and on display in our Chapter Hall, depicts Queen Mary I of England and Ireland and King Philip II of Spain within the illuminated P. It also depicts a pomegranate, the symbol of Spain, and the Tudor rose which symbolises the ruling dynasty of which Mary was a part. 

Discover more of the story in our blogpost on the brief restoration of the Order.


The Museum of the Order of St John would like to thank all those who have supported and continue to support its work. In particular, the Museum would like to thank the following for their generosity: