Archbishop Sir Forest Ernest Barber was a member of the Order of the Crown of Thorns, being admitted by Prince-Abbot Edmond I. He was a founder and President of The Augustan Society and a bishop of the Apostolic Episcopal Church.
Archbishop Barber was born in Rensselaer, Indiana, on 31 December 1922, into a Presbyterian family. After war service in US military intelligence, he trained as a teacher, earning Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees, and pursued that vocation in the public school systems of Germany, Canada and the United States, latterly in his adopted home of Long Beach, California. A lifelong scholar, with his academic specialisms being history and English literature, his research in Germany led to one of the first studies of the development of the Hitler Youth (Loyola University of Chicago, 1954).
Entering the Free Catholic movement, he was ordained priest aged 22 by Archbishop Denver Scott Swain (1905-48) of the American Episcopal Church in 1944. Swain was a controversial attorney who had been a priest under Archbishop Carmel Henry Carfora of the North American Old Roman Catholic Church. His early death prevented his American Episcopal Church gaining ground as more than a paper organization. Barber was also ordained priest conditionally in 1946 by James Christian Crummey (1887-1949), a former bishop under Carfora whose Universal Christian Communion was an early attempt to unite the various Old Catholic denominations; today this entity is one of the inner churches of the Order of Corporate Reunion.
Barber was active in the chivalric, heraldic and genealogical arenas. In 1953, Barber married Princess Eleonore von Auersperg (1924-2009), daughter of Prince Eduard von Auersperg and of his wife, née Sophie Gräfin von Clam und Gallas, whom he had met in Canada. They had three sons. In 1957, with the late Sir Rodney Hartwell (d.2006) and several others, Barber founded The Augustan Society with headquarters in Torrance. This had two aims: (1) to preserve material related to heraldry, genealogy, and orders of chivalry, and (2) to further chivalric ideals in society. The Society grew rapidly and acquired some influential supporters, counting among its patrons Ernst August Prinz zur Lippe, Dr. Otto von Habsburg and Prince Victor Emmanuel of Savoy. Barber’s views on the legitimacy of chivalric orders differed sharply from some of his colleagues, notably Robert Gayre of Gayre and Nigg, and it was perhaps unfortunate that the opinions of the latter – also closely connected with the propagandistic agenda of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, in which Gayre held the Grand Cross of Merit – tended over time to prevail within the Society. Nevertheless, Barber continued to be an energetic contributor of scholarly and informative articles to The Augustan.
Barber came to know the future Prince-Abbot Edmond II through the membership of both men in the National Society of Arts and Letters Santa Monica Chapter. It was thus that he received membership in the Order of the Crown of Thorns. In his search for an ecclesiastical home after some years without a church affiliation, Barber turned to Lowell Paul Wadle (1900-65), Archbishop of the American Catholic Church of Laguna Beach, California, and was re-ordained to the priesthood by him on 7 January 1961 in the Pro-Cathedral of St Francis-by-the-Sea. Within a short time, Barber had left Wadle and prevailed upon Edmond II to introduce him personally to Edmond I, in the hope that he would agree to consecrate him to the episcopate. However, Edmond I declined to meet with Barber on the grounds of his failing health. On 1 January 1962 the future Edmond II wrote, “Fr. Barber at one point considered joining Bp. Fairfield but decided not to later because of national differences. It is now apparent that he is considering inactive work with the Orders and possibly the Free Catholic Church [a corporation maintained by Edmond II and used for church work prior to his succession]. He is a schoolteacher in Long Beach.”
Wadle’s theology was prevailingly esoteric, and for a long period this would also be an important strand for Barber, who was in due course consecrated by other prelates. Wadle led for some years the American Chapter of the Order of the Crown of Thorns that espoused esoteric beliefs, and Barber’s adherence to this group was one cause of his increasingly strained relations with Prince-Abbots Edmond I and II, who both condemned Wadle as heretical and his O.C.T. group as unauthorized. Edmond II had experienced life in an esoteric church (that of Archbishop Herman Adrian Spruit (1911-94)) early in his career, and his perception of Spruit’s moral failings and inconsistent theology led him to turn against such bodies with considerable vigour. Subsequently, Edmond II expelled Spruit from the San Luigi Orders when Spruit formed an alliance with the mystic Justin Boyle (aka Robert Raleigh) (1887-1969). Boyle had thrown Edmond II and Archbishop Emile Rodriguez y Fairfield out of his “shrine” when they paid a visit in September 1961 on the grounds that he “did not like strangers”. When, after leaving Wadle, Barber began to associate himself with Spruit and the noted esoteric teacher Richard, Duc de Palatine, his relations with San Luigi reached a nadir.
There was, however, to be a further close link between Barber and Edmond II in the person of King Peter II of Yugoslavia (1923-70) (pictured left wearing his St John insignia), who was resident in California during his final decade. King Peter, who had not abdicated his throne and who preserved his sovereign rights intact, showed a willingness to encourage chivalric and nobiliary activity. King Peter was, like Barber, a member (Grand Cross of Justice) of the Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem which was based in Shickshinny, Pennsylvania, and later extended his protection to a breakaway group of members of the Order which, at Gayre’s instigation, finally received the status of a Royal Yugoslav Order shortly before the King’s death. Edmond II first met King Peter at a reception hosted by Dr Rufus B. KleinSmid in 1959, and developed a friendship that led to the King accepting the High Protectorship of the Order of the Crown of Thorns in the following year and issuing a patent of recognition of the title of Prince de San Luigi as well as bestowing a marquisate upon Edmond II in 1962.
However, unlike the Royal Yugoslav Order of St John, the San Luigi Orders did not have the support of Gayre or his recently-established “International Commission on Orders of Chivalry”, and after the King’s death Gayre attacked them in his customary intemperate manner in his book The Knightly Twilight. Likewise, an edition of The Augustan (vol. XIII no. 4) commemorating the 700th anniversary of St Louis included an article on the San Luigi Orders by Mgr. Tull, but Rodney Hartwell felt it necessary to add a disclaimer at the end citing their non-recognition by the ICOC. To this, Edmond II commented in a letter of 5 January 1971, “I am not at all happy with Hartwell’s silly footnotes…We have never made any effort to receive recognition from Hartwell or his organization. Nor have we gone “out of our way” to get listings. What we have done, as you well know, is attempt to serve Christ and to award those outstanding citizens of the world who serve the cause of Knighthood in one way or another…We do not have many members BUT we do have some very well-known and well-beloved Knights and Dames.” The letter goes on to express some decidedly unfavourable views concerning both Barber and Hartwell. On 31 October 1971, Edmond II adds, “I avoid meeting such people [as Hartwell] but when I do – I avoid giving any details about my work or orders. He does not know me as the Grand Master nor do I want him to. He is much, too much, of a busy body…”
Barber had long wished to obtain a title of nobility, and Hartwell’s article New Nobles in the International Chivalric Institute Members’ Newsletter no. 30 (October 2001) – published some seven years after Barber’s death – tells the story of his peregrinations, firstly paying the elderly Prince of Cos to adopt him as his heir, only to discover that the prince was not all he had seemed to be, and secondly obtaining a “revived” title of Count Leslie von Neustadt in Germany (this was apparently accepted as valid by Gayre). There then followed his marriage; he did not gain any title by virtue of marrying a princess, but in the course of his research into her ancestry discovered a title belonging to her family, that of Prince Proskowski, which he believed could be rehabilitated. The lands referenced by the title were in present-day Yugoslavia, and so Barber asked King Peter to recognize it in his favour. King Peter did so, as did the Spanish heraldic authorities. But Barber was ever the contrarian. Having at last obtained an indisputably valid noble title, he did not use it.
What were certainly used were Barber’s chivalric awards, which numbered at least a dozen. In addition to those referenced above, he was a knight of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St George (under the Duke of Castro), of the Byzantine Constantinian Order (under the rather more controversial Prince Henri de Vigo Aleramico Lascaris Paleologo), and of the Order of St Lazarus. He held membership in The Augustan Society’s “house order”, the Noble Company of the Rose, and of the Hereditary Order of Armigerous Augustans. From the Shickshinny Order he joined the Order of St John under the protection of King Peter, and remained a member of one of its successor groups after it divided into factions. From King Peter personally he received the title of Hereditary Knight Bachelor of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. It was this title that carried the predicate “Sir” at the specific request of King Peter. Also among those receiving this honour were Hartwell, who would later follow medieval precedent in dubbing other knights bachelor ad vitam after King Peter’s death, and Prince Kermit Poling, who was until his death in 2015 the senior living member of the San Luigi Orders.
In 1964, Barber purchased the rights to a United States Grand Priory of the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem from Fernando de Sousa Fontes, the Order’s Grand Master. Barber’s Templar Grand Priory was officially granted Royal Protection by King Peter in 1965; the King had accepted the Grand Cross of the Order in the previous year.
In 1982, Barber visited London, England, to receive the accolade of knighthood in the Mystical Order of St Peter, founded the previous year under H.S.H. Prince George King de Santorini, the leader of the Aetherius Society and another California-based bishop. Barber commented, “It is, of course, the first time that I have ever had the honour of being introduced into an Order which is not only Chivalric, but which, as its title proclaims, is mystical…That is, it is not simply just Military or Hospitaller or or an Order of Chivalric merit, but it is an Order which hopes that, through further study, effort, reading and service to humanity, its members will, with Divine grace, grow to a higher consciousness, and in this respect, I do believe ‘The Mystical Order of Saint Peter’ must be unique in the world.”
During the later 1960s and 1970s, Barber became extensively involved with the revival of Gnosticism and with the heritage of the Templars both within and beyond Freemasonry. He claimed to have discovered evidence of a Templar origin for Rosicrucianism in a set of ancient manuscripts, though this has since been disputed. He received consecration from Richard, Duc de Palatine, Spruit and Tau Stephanus Hoeller, among the leading esoteric and Gnostic bishops of their generations, and was in turn one of the consecrators of Tau Rosamonde Miller. He was a member of the Ordo Templi Orientis and several esoteric fraternities. During the 1970s he also came to know the esoteric bishops Roger Caro (with whom he worked on Rosicrucian matters) and Michael Bertiaux. In 1979, he received the Templar episcopal succession that descends via Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat from Bertiaux.
The 1980s saw Barber’s church activities return to a position of greater orthodoxy, and in 1985 he was consecrated by the Patriarch of the Igreja Católica Apostólica Brasileira (Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church) and appointed Bishop-Primate of the Holy Apostolic Church of the Philippines (a part of ICAB). ICAB had been established in 1945 by Roman Catholic bishop Carlos Duarte Costa. On 26 February 1986 he was additionally consecrated and appointed Bishop of Hugao in the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Catholic Church, a member church of the Anglican Communion). In addition, Barber had duties concerning an ICAB parish in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. He made an annual visit to the Dominican Republic and spent several months of each year at his missions in the Philippines until his death; on one of his visits he contracted elephantiasis which was subsequently treated on his return to California. On 3 April 1988 he was appointed Archbishop of the Philippines for the Apostolic Episcopal Church (a church in communion with both ICAB and IFI). He consecrated conditionally Archbishop Bertil Persson (consecrator of the present Prince-Abbot of San Luigi) on 14 July 1987, and Archbishop Peter Paul Brennan, present Grand Prior of the United States for the San Luigi Orders on 14 March 1987. Archbishop Brennan remembers Barber as “a gem of a man…very kind and friendly.”
Barber was awarded the title of Professor by the Greek Parliament and was a member of the Royal Stuart Society, the Monarchist League and the Instituto International de Genealogia y Heraldica. He died on 7 April 1992.