This is an important study of elite European noblemen who joined the Order of Malta. The Order functioning in parallel with the convents that absorbed the surplus daughters of the nobility provided a highly respectable outlet for sons not earmarked for marriage. The process of becoming a Hospitaller was a semi-structured one, involving clear-cut (if flexible) social and financial requirements on the part of the candidate, and a mixture of formal and informal socialization into the ways of the Order. Once enrolled, a Hospitaller became part of a very hierarchical and ethnically mixed organisation, within which he could seek offices and status. This process was delineated by a complex interaction of internal factors hierarchy, patriarchy and age set within external mechanisms such as papal patronage and interference. This book is innovative in its methodology, drawing on a wide range of sources and applying historiographical approaches not previously brought to bear on the Order.