Obituary: Fra' Fredrik Crichton-Stuart, Grand Prior of an ancient order of chivalry

Aristocratic knight of Catholic order who chaired Dial-A-Journey charity for disabled

Fra' Fredrik Crichton-Stuart, Grand Prior of an ancient order of chivalry. Born: 6 September, 1940, in Edinburgh.

Died: 14 June, 2011, in Edinburgh, aged 70.

HIS Excellency Fra' Fredrik Crichton-Stuart was one of Scotland's most active Roman Catholics, setting a personal example throughout his life by his spirituality. "Fra", or Brother, is the honorific of a professed knight of the Order of Malta who has taken vows of celibacy and follows a specific way of life of daily devotions.

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Spirituality was his lifeblood, and his involvement in the Order of Malta from the age of 22 proved a natural match.

Founded around 1050 and the oldest order of chivalry in the world, the Order of Malta today comprises some 13,000 lay members professed in the exercise of Christian virtue and charity, and committed to developing their spirituality and assisting others across the 54 countries throughout which the order maintains a presence.

Principal chaplain in the UK is the archbishop of Glasgow, the Most Rev Mario Conti.

Fra' Freddy rose through the order, working for many years as Delegate of Scotland and the Northern Marches.

On the restoration in 1993 of the Grand Priory of England after a four-and-a-half century abeyance, he was appointed Chancellor.

On Maundy Thursday three years ago, he was appointed Grand Prior. Addressed as His Excellency, Fra' Freddy was 56th grand prior in succession to first prior Fra' Walter, appointed in 1144. The late Fra' Andrew Bertie, the immediately previous Prince and Grand Master of the order, was Fra' Freddy's cousin.

Behind the grandeur, Fra' Freddy was the hands-on worker for the needy, organising weekends for disabled people at Kielder in Northumberland; working with disabled people in Aberdeen and cleaning up after the sick on pilgrimages to Lourdes.

An enthusiast for disabled people being able to enjoy the benefits of simple local travel, he proved an effective and long-standing chairman of the order's Dial-A-Journey in central Scotland, an organisation he served right up to his death.

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Fra' Freddy never ceased to emphasis the importance of prayer in daily life. Just six weeks before his death from a heart attack, he wrote: "Our work must be rooted in prayer - regular prayer, daily prayer, individual prayer."

As grand prior of England of the Order of Malta, he urged fellow members: "Our morning and evening prayers, daily Mass (or a spiritual communion) and time spent in personal private prayer each day should be a minimum".

His devotion extended to a rosary wrapped round the gearstick of his car.

Fredrik John Patrick Crichton-Stuart - known as Freddy - was born the eldest son of Lord Rhidian Crichton-Stuart, younger son of the 4th Marquess of Bute and Selina Gerth van Wijk, daughter of an ambassador of the Netherlands to France.

On his Crichton line, the family goes back to the early 15th century Sir John Crichton of Sanquhar, while his Stuart lineage is in direct descent of King Robert II's father Robert Bruce. One cousin is the current (7th) Marquess of Bute, while another, Lord Colum Crichton-Stuart, in promoting the then radical idea that ruined Pluscarden Priory near Elgin ought to be reborn as a religious house, made over the place in 1943 to the Bendictine community. Restored Pluscarden now flourishes, elevated to abbatial status.The youthful Freddy was brought up in Tunis where his father had business interests, and educated at the Benedictine school of Ampleforth College before taking up a short service commission with the King's Own Scottish Borderers.

He trained as a chartered accountant, first working in Annan before establishing his own practice in Edinburgh.

Yet for all that he was a scion of one of Scotland's oldest and most distinguished families, Fra' Freddy was a people person long before the term was invented, a warm man with a big heart, whose sense of fun and infectious laugh made light of most difficulties.

Fra' Freddy Crichton-Stuart was a man of prayer whose love of and commitment to the church, the Order of Malta and Catholic tradition was exemplary and inspirational.

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Fra' Freddy is survived by Jane, his wife of 46 years; his children Ione-Jane, Rhidian, Amanda and Edward, and grandchildren.

His daughter Alexandra died in a childhood drowning accident.

His funeral Mass at St Mary's RC Cathedral in Edinburgh next Tuesday is due to be preceded by the Office of Lauds.

His beloved Dial-A-Journey receives the beneficence of the collection.

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