The historical development of the Order is and must now remain somewhat obscure. Although it is well known that following the First Crusade a tradition (approved by Popes) of ceremonially appointing Knights at the Holy Sepulchre developed, (records of which remain from the 1330s) there was not, through these years, a single organised Order under the protection of the Holy See in the sense it exists today.
In 1847 Blessed Pius IX re-established the Latin Patriarchate. Later that same year, he began what was to become the Order in its modern form when he confirmed a power of appointment of Knights in the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. Over the years which followed, that Patriarch, Mgr Valega, undertook much work, such that that in 1868 the Papal Bull Cum Multa Sapienter, was issued affirming the Order and from which it has evolved today. Significantly, in 1888 Pope Leo XIII decreed that the Order was to include appointment of Dames (or Ladies) within its ranks.
Over the late 19th and 20th Century the Constitution of the Order was variously amended by Papal ordinance, the effects of which included permitting investiture to take place other than in Jerusalem, and the appointment of a Cardinal as Grand Master (rather than the Pope himself). The current Grand Master is HE Cardinal Filoni.
The administration of the Order internationally is governed by the Grand Magisterium based in Rome.
In England and Wales, the Order is articulated in a single Lieutenancy, led by HE Michael Byrne KC*HS, with eight Sections, each led by a President. The Grand Prior of the Lieutenancy is His Grace, Archbishop John Wilson KC*HS, and, alongside each Section President stands a Section Prior.