He succeeds Fra’ Andrew Bertie, 78th Grand Master (1988-2008), who died on 7 February 2008.
Born in Northumberland on 30 November 1949, educated at Ampleforth and St. John’s College Cambridge, where he read history, Fra’ Matthew Festing, an art expert, has for most of his professional life worked at an international art auction house.
As a child he lived in Egypt and Singapore, where his father, Field Marshal Sir Francis Festing, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, had earlier postings. He is also descended from Sir Adrian Fortescue, a knight of Malta, who was martyred in 1539.
Fra’ Matthew Festing served in the Grenadier Guards and holds the rank of colonel in the Territorial Army. He was appointed OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) by the Queen and served as one of her Deputy Lieutenants in the county of Northumberland.
He became a member of the Sovereign Order of Malta in 1977, and took solemn religious vows in 1991, becoming a Professed Knight of the Order. Between 1993 and 2008 he was the Grand Prior of England.
In this role, he led missions of humanitarian aid to Kosovo, Serbia and Croatia, and headed the British delegation at the Order’s annual international pilgrimage to Lourdes.
As well as his passion for the decorative arts and for history, his profound knowledge of the history of the Order of Malta is well known.
Fra’ Matthew Festing has been made an honorary citizen of the cities of Rapallo and Pompeii in Italy and of Birgu in Malta, and has been awarded Honorary Degrees by the Catholic University of America, the Northumbria University, the John Cabot University, the Fu Jen Catholic University of Taiwan and the Catholic University Santa Maria La Antigua of Panama (USMA).