Line of the First Grand Master
His Serene Highness, Prince Christian Franz von Sachsen-Coburg Saalfeld, the first Grand Master of The Order of Saint Joachim (then still named the Knights of the Order of Jonathan), was the son of Duke Franz Josias. Duke Franz Josias ruled the Duchy of Sachsen-Coburg Saalfeld jointly with his brother Duke Christian Ernst from 1735 until his brother's death in 1745, and then alone until his own death in 1764. Duke Franz Josias was born on September 25, 1697 and died on September 16, 1764. He married Anna Sofie Prinzessen von Schwartzburg-Rudlostadt on January 2, 1723.
Prince Christian Franz (1730-1797) was the older brother of the famous fieldmarshal Prince Friedrich Josias (1737-1815), also referred to in Levett Hanson's book about knightly orders. Prince Christian Franz never married, and relinquished the Grand Mastership of the Order in 1773 in favour of Franz Xaver, Graf von Montfort. Regardless, The Order of Saint Joachim continued to be associated with the House of Sachsen-Coburg - sometimes being mistaken for a house order - until at least the end of the 19th century.
Following the death of the previous Grand master, the Count of Leiningen, Duke Ernst I von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha (2 January 1784 – 29 January 1844) continued to award the Order of Saint Joachim. A letter from 1821 exists from Dr. Joseph Romain Louis de Kirckhoff (also de Kerckhov) thanking Ernst I, Herzog von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha (pictured below) for awarding him the Order of Saint Joachim. In his letter dated May 17, 1821 from Antwerp he expressed his "deep satisfaction" at being appointed "chevalier de l'ordre de St. Joachim de Saxe-Coubourg" by the Duke. Following the death of Duke Ernst I, his son, Duke Ernst II (21 June 1818 – 22 August 1893) continued The Order of Saint Joachim, and listed the Order's post-nominals "KJ" among his honours. Bulgarian King Ferdinand I (1861-1948), another member of the house of Saxe-Coburg und Gotha, was also closely associated with The Order of Saint Joachim. While the Grand Mastership of the Order was not hereditary but elected under the Charter, it clearly continued under their successive leadership and not technically as a Saxe-Coburg und Gotha house order as sometimes reported.
The Sachsen-Coburg Saalfeld dynasty (later known as Sachsen - Coburg und Gotha, or in Britain simply as the Saxe-Coburgs) are the direct ancestors of most of the royal families of Europe. Just prior to the First World War, their descendants included nine sovereign rulers at the same time: the Grand Duke of Saxe - Weimar - Eisenach, the Duke of Saxe - Meiningen, the Duke of Saxe - Altenburg, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg und Gotha, and five kings: those of Saxony, Great Britain, Belgium, Bulgaria and Portugal.
Thanks to the matchmaking skills of an enterprising uncle, the founding Grand Master of The Order of Saint Joachim is the Great, Great Grand Uncle of both Queen Victoria, Queen of England, and also that of her husband, Franz August Karl Albert Emanuel of Saxe-Coburg und Gotha, who is better remembered to history as Prince Albert, the Prince Consort.
In fact, Prince Franz Christian of Sachsen-Coburg Saalfeld is the direct 7X Great Grand Uncle of the present HRH Prince William of Great Britain. His parents' Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandchildren include: Andrew of Greece & Denmark; George V Windsor, King of England; Nicholas II Romanov of Russia; Alice Maud Mary of Great Britain; Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany; and Edward VII of Saxe - Coburg und Gotha, King of England. Their descendants also sat on the thrones of Portugal, Belgium and numerous other smaller states.
The Saxe - Coburg - Saalfelds were also closely related by inter-marriage to the ruling house of Leiningen. Count Ferdinand Karl III, ruler of Leiningen - Westerburg - Neuleiningen, was the Grand Master of the Order when the the Cross of the Grand Commander of The Order of Saint Joachim was awarded to Admiral Lord Nelson for his victory over the French forces of Napoleon at the Battle of the Nile.
The Saxe - Coburg - Saalfelds' descendants ruled the duchy of Coburg until 1918 and the duchy of Saalfeld until 1826. In 1826 they acquired Gotha (becoming the Duchy of Saxe - Coburg und Gotha) and Saalfeld passed to the Duke of Saxe - Meiningen. In 1920 Saxe - Gotha was incorporated into Thuringia, and Saxe - Coburg was incorporated into Bavaria.
Since 1998 the head of the Princely House of Sachsen-Coburg Gotha is HH Prince Andreas. He is the grandson of Prince Charles Edward (the Duke of Albany), himself a grandson of Queen Victoria, who succeeded to the Dukedom of Saxe-Coburg und-Gotha in 1900.
The Order of Saint Joachim wishes to express its gratitude to His Highness and his staff at the Sammlung Herzoglicher Kunstbesitz Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, Schloss Callenberg, Coburg, for providing and giving permission for the use here of the portrait of our first Grand Master, Prince Christian Franz.