A bone baton with rounded end, with a metal falcon atop a sphere

Baton of the Grand Falconer of the Order

Bronze and bone
18th century
380mm overall length

This impressive piece of equipment was owned by the Grand Falconer of the Order of St John. Made out of bone from the tusks of a walrus with a cast bronze mount, the baton has at the base of its handle a detailed depiction of a falcon sat atop a globe. As well as indicating the nature of the job held by its owner, the usage of the globe symbol in particular may have been intended to demonstrate the far-reaching influence of the Order of St John, represented by the falcon.

The baton is displayed in our Order Gallery below a very striking stuffed peregrine falcon.  The Order of St John has long been associated with this particular bird. The word ‘peregrine’ itself translates as ‘traveller’ and ‘pilgrim’, relevant to the long tradition of the Order assisting, protecting and giving medical care to pilgrims to the Holy Land and holy sites.

The island of Malta, home to the Order of St John from 1530 until 1798, was rented by the Order from the Holy Roman Empire, at the cost of one falcon a year, making the bird particularly symbolic of the Order’s presence on the island. Some reports suggest that, due to the incredible wealth of the Order of St John, the gift of a live falcon was for one year replaced with a golden jewelled model of the bird instead. This valuable substitute is believed to have been the inspiration for the statuette of the Maltese Falcon in the book and film of the same name.

The Grand Prior of the Order of St John wrote in the late 15th century what was considered for several centuries to be the definitive guide on the care of falcons. He based his research on sources from throughout the world and was long regarded as an authority on the bird.


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: