Prince-Abbot Edmond I (H.S.H. The Most Revd. Francis John Edmond Barwell-Walker) was born on 25 October 1881 and died on 2 April 1963 aged eighty-two years. He was the sixth Prince-Abbot and fourth Mukungu of San Luigi, succeeding to office on 8 July 1929.
Francis John Barwell-Walker was born in the parish of St Olave, Southwark, London, England, the son of Thomas and Catherine (Barwell) Walker. He was educated at the University of London, where he studied science, and at the University of Durham (arts and theology). Initially he took up pharmacy and medicine, later becoming interested in drugless healing. Between 1896 and 1911 he served as an organist and lay preacher in the Anglican church.
On 8 July 1908, he married Amy Louisa Largen of London, and in 1909 emigrated from England to the United States of America. Here, he prepared for the ordained ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church and consolidated his formal studies by beginning an illustrious academic career. He graduated Bachelor of Arts of Oskaloosa College in 1910, proceeding further to the degrees of Bachelor of Divinity (1912) and Doctor of Sacred Theology (1913). In 1912 he also took the degree of Master of Arts at Highland University, Kansas, and Doctor of Philosophy in the following year. In 1915 he was admitted to a second Master of Arts degree at Muskingum College, Ohio. Subsequently he would receive the higher doctorates of Doctor of Science of Milton University, Maryland (1916) and Doctor of Civil Law from Chicago Law School (1916). Later in life, he received the degrees of Doctor of Divinity (Campbell University, Kansas), Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Letters from the University of South Minnesota and an honorary Doctor of Laws from his alma mater Oskaloosa College.
He was ordained deacon in the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1911 and priest the following year by Gershom Mott Williams, Bishop of Marquette in the PEC. Between 1911 and 1915 he was rector of Ascension Church, Ontonagon, and St George’s Church, Hancock, Michigan. In 1915 he became rural dean and rector of St Mark’s Church, Chester, and vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Murphysboro, Illinois, and held these positions until 1916. In addition he was assistant at St Bartholomew’s Church, Chicago, from 1913. There are reports that he was considered for the episcopate in the PEC.
In 1910, Fr. Barwell-Walker founded the American branch of the Guild of the Holy Ghost and served as its superior-general. He was admitted a Fellow of the Philosophical Society of England in 1914. Notwithstanding his church commitments, he was simultaneously a professor at Oskaloosa College from 1914 onwards and at the University of South Minnesota from 1915.
In 1919, Fr. Barwell-Walker was re-ordained deacon and priest by Archbishop Frederick E.J. Lloyd of the American Catholic Church on 20 November 1919. He had also become a close friend of Prince-Abbot Joseph III at this time, having first met him in 1918, and was admitted to the Order of the Crown of Thorns by him, taking on several administrative responsibilities within the Abbey-Principality latterly as its Grand Chancellor with the rank of Archimandrite and Monsignor. He was consecrated bishop by Prince-Abbot Joseph III on 1 June 1923 and appointed by him in a document of 25 May in the same year to succeed him as head of the Order of the Crown of Thorns and related entities upon his death. Fr. Barwell-Walker was the last bishop to be consecrated by Prince-Abbot Joseph III before his reconciliation with Rome in 1925. All these events occurred while he was still serving in the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and during the 1920s he was rector of St Paul’s Episcopal Church, La Porte, Indiana. After his eventual resignation from the PEC he took up a second career as an insurance agent for major firms.
In December 1921, the new bishop was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and in July 1926, to the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts, both in London, England (His successor, the present Prince-Abbot, is, by coincidence, also a fellow of both of these learned societies). He was well-regarded in society and was listed in several biographical dictionaries of the time. On 8 July 1929, upon the death of Prince-Abbot Joseph III, he succeeded him as Prince-Abbot of San Luigi, taking the regnal name Edmond I. He moved from Indiana to California, and began the work of reviving the Abbey-Principality – as he described it, “the long and weary road to improve both administration and membership.” At that point, the Orders numbered fewer than fifty knights.
In this work, Prince-Abbot Edmond I was highly successful. He managed to overcome the initial controversies that had erupted following his succession, and to silence both jealous rivals and the former associates of Prince-Abbot Joseph III in France who were hostile to a non-French successor. As re-organization proceeded, chapels were made available for the use of the Abbey-Principality for Masses and other services, but this work was largely halted by the outbreak of the Second World War. A new Abbey of St Louis in California was dedicated by the Prince-Abbot on Sunday, 26 August 1939; unfortunately this also became a casualty of war. Over 200 persons were admitted to membership of the San Luigi Orders between 1929-35 and a new Bulletin of Regulations was produced in 1934.
Because the right connections were now being made in Europe and beyond, many reigning and ex-reigning sovereigns accepted membership of the San Luigi Orders. These appointments included Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich, Head of the Russian Imperial House and de jure Emperor, the Emperor of Ethiopia, the Maharaja of Jaipur, the Kings of Bulgaria and Greece, the King and Queen of Norway, Prince Franz Josef II of Liechtenstein, and Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia. To these were added prelates of the Orthodox, Old Catholic and Anglican churches, former US President Herbert Hoover and United States Ambassador to the United Nations Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. Membership continued to grow and by 1960 there were 1,200 members of the Orders worldwide.
The British Government in India consented to the promulgation of the San Luigi Orders there and to the wearing of their insignia. The Coat of Arms of the Prince-Abbot of San Luigi, first registered by Prince-Abbot Edmond I in 1923, was recorded at the Polish Heraldic College in Warsaw and also registered with the American Heraldic College, with life membership extended to the Prince-Abbot by the American Heraldry Society.
Prince-Abbot Edmond I was admitted an honorary member of the Pontificia Accademia Tiberina, which had been recognized by Pope Leo XII in 1825. This act affirmed that, although he was as an Old Catholic not subject to the Holy See, he was nevertheless highly regarded in Catholic circles.
He received the Cross of the Imperial Russian Order of St Stanislas, Commandeur with Plaque (“for foreigners”) on 22 February 1922, and was promoted to Grand Croix in the First Class (pictured left) in the same Order in 1936 by Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich as its dynastic head. Also in 1936, he was admitted to the Association Patriotique Russe au nom de l’Empereur Nicholas II, initially in the Section Generale and then in the Section Armes Imperiale. In the previous year, he was admitted with the consent of Grand Duke Cyril to the Order of St Vladimir, under the high protection of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, as Commandeur avec plaque, with the supreme sanction, on the ribbon of Romanoff of the first class. This appointment also bestowed hereditary nobility. In 1936, the Russian Veterans Society of the World War bestowed upon Prince-Abbot Edmond I the Hereditary Knighthood with Cross of the Order of the Compassionate Heart, and was granted the Medal “pour zele et assistance” on ribbon of the Order of St Andrew, First Class, in gold, by order of Grand Duke Cyril.
Prince-Abbot Edmond I received from the French Legitimist claimant the Orders of St Michel and the Ordre du Lys. Subsequently, he was admitted as an honorary member to the French association “La Chevalerie” and secured the right for members of the San Luigi Orders to be admitted to the same association when desired. This Association was composed only of fully recognized Orders.
In 1938, Prince-Abbot Edmond I was admitted to the highest rank in the Order of the Golden Griffon of Gotenburg and the Key of Kalmar of Sweden, and to the related Genealogical and Heraldic Society. This was the same Order that had admitted United States President Ulysses Grant on the occasion of his visit to Sweden. Its seat was at Gothstad, and here an association of Catholic Orders was formed including the Orders of St Lazarus, of the Crown of Charlemagne, of St Vladimir and of St John the Baptist of Puerto Rico (the Prince-Abbot was a member of all of these Orders). The San Luigi Orders were admitted to this Association and Gothstad was erected as a Hereditary Grand Priory of the Orders.
The history of the Order of the Crown of Thorns was published in the Swedish publication “Commilitones Christi II”, in the Italian “La Nobiltà della Stirpe” (authored by the Marchese Colocci-Vespucci of the Heraldic College at Rome) and in the “Herold”, the organ of the Heraldic College at Warsaw, Poland.
In response to the situation whereby the Syrian Orthodox Church had in 1938 repudiated relations with the successors of Prince-Abbot Joseph III, Prince-Abbot Edmond I formed an alliance with Patriarch Anthony Aneed (1879-1970) (pictured left). Aneed was a bishop of the uniate Melkite Greek Catholic Church who in 1944, convinced that the Melkite expatriate community must break from Rome’s influence, established the Byzantine Universal (Catholic) and Orthodox Church of the Americas. He has continued to be recognized by the Melkite Church to this day.
On 1 January 1946, Patriarch Aneed was enthroned as the first Patriarch of the Byzantine Universal (Catholic) and Orthodox Church of the Americas. At the same occasion he formally re-established the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of San Luigi, installing Prince-Abbot Edmond I as Archbishop of San Luigi, Grand Master of the Order of the Crown of Thorns and additionally appointing him as Titular Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia in the Byzantine Universal (Catholic) and Orthodox Church of the Americas.
Patriarch Aneed also conditionally consecrated Prince-Abbot Edmond I assisted by two other Byzantine bishops, Lowell Paul Wadle and Henry Kleefisch (a federal attorney who helped to establish the corporations used by the Abbey-Principality in the United States). This act ensured that the episcopal orders of Prince-Abbot Edmond I would be recognized by the Melkite community. The major reason for this was that the Melkites by custom require three bishops to consecrate, whereas the Roman Catholic Church accepts solo consecration as valid. Prince-Abbot Edmond I’s 1923 consecration by Prince-Abbot Joseph III had been performed solo.
Prince-Abbot Edmond I was assisted in his work by a series of able Grand Chancellors; in succession, Prince Henri, Baron Waldemar von Barkow; Alan Weaver-Hazelton; the Baron de Benedict; the Rt. Revd. Count L’Estrange and lastly the future Prince-Abbot Edmond II. The photograph above shows him in the centre, flanked by Count L’Estrange (left) and Prince-Abbot Edmond II (right). In his last years he corresponded often with Canon George Tull, Grand Prior of the San Luigi Orders for Great Britain, and his letters are full of intelligent observations and lively comment.
On 16 February 1962 Prince-Abbot Edmond I, who was by now suffering from infirmity that made it difficult for him to continue his duties, installed his successor, Count George Arvid Edmond Lyman (regnal name Edmond II) whom he had consecrated bishop on 29 December 1961. He had since that January been resident in a nursing home in Atascadero, California, and it was here that he passed away in the following year.