‘From time immemorial’ we have been very fortunate in that our Craft has had the support of Royalty. Without that support I doubt that we would be in the same position as we are today, even taking into account our declining numbers.
Royalty brought and registered a degree of class, charisma & gentlemanly behaviour to the point where the waiting applicants wanted to be part of the system.
What other way could a person claiming to be a gentleman, a freeman and good report, hope to hob knob with the desirables of top male society? Indeed I am sure that in those early days one was invited or requested to become part of that elite society, especially during the 18th Century.
What I wish to do today is to review and clarify the nature of Royalty’s association with Freemasonry and elaborate on each King in particular as to their contribution. Indeed it is our claim, to the point of boasting, that “in every age monarchs themselves have been promoters of the art; have no thought it derogatory from their dignity to exchange the sceptre for the gavel, have patronised our mysteries and have joined our assemblies”.
However, as an aside, I feel that it is necessary to give mention to King Solomon, of the OT, who is accredited as being one of the founding Grand Masters.
The following references 1 Kings 6:1-38,
1 Kings Chapter 7, and Chapter 8 describe the construction and dedication of the Temple under Solomon.
And thus too we can give honourable mention to King Hiram or Huram, the Phoenician King of Tyre,
[980 BC to 947 BC]. Hiram is also mentioned in the writings of Menander of Ephesus, as preserved in
Josephus’s ‘Against Apion’, where we are told that Hiram lived 53 years, of which he ruled 34.
Masonic tradition Hiram is considered another of the three founding Grand Masters of the fraternity. He appears in Masonic ritual as the provider of materials, money and craftsmen for the construction of Solomon’s Temple. This comes from the Biblical account of the alliance between Solomon’s Israel and Hiram of Tyre. In Masonic legend, King Hiram is said to have sent his most skilled master craftsman,
Hiram Abiff, to serve as the construction’s foreman.. Masonic tradition expands on the few, short Biblical references and creates an allegorical tale not purported to be factual.
Without these famous Kings of yore and their efforts in contributing to and the building of the First Temple to the Lord, which was completed approx. 950 B.C.E. one would have to assume that we would have no Modern Freemasonry today.
Maybe we would have invented another tale?!
The First Temple and its destruction and the subsequent rebuilding of the Second Temple at the time of Ezra laid the historical foundation for all future Masonic endeavors, especially in relation to the Mark, Royal Arch and Cryptic Degrees.
On reflection Freemasonry experienced many ups and downs under monarchical institutions in different countries, benefitting and suffering from the interest of monarchs. Some monarchs tried to subjugate the Craft and to make it serve their own ambitions creating an anti-Masonic feeling in some quarters.
Before considering the Monarchs involved with Freemasonry from the foundation of the Grand Lodge as we know it, it would be remiss if a few words were not said about one of England’s earliest Kings, King Athelstan (924-940). The Roberts MS, 1722, will tell the story of Athelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, who was the first king of all of the English [925 – 939]
In the year 926 A.D., the legendary Grand Assembly at York, was said to have been held by King Athelstan’s half brother Prince Edwin, wherein the great traditions of symbolic and operative Masonry were constituted, revived, or organised, and a new code of laws, the Old Charges, for the governing of the Craft instituted.
The Roberts MS. quotes that Athelstan was a great lover of Masonry and gave Masons their Charter. In other versions of the Old Charges it is said that Athelstan made his son Prince Edwin Patron, or head, of the Masons. Research shows that there is sufficient data to verify that the Old Charges have the support of historical evidence. Sic: in the Regius Manuscript (or Halliwell manuscript) of 1390, the Cooke MS of 1450 and the Lansdowne Manuscript, dated 1590.
As we know Freemasonry owes its springboard into the enlightened world from the green and pleasant pastures of England, the New Jerusalem. [As eventually composed by William Blake 1808]
The Deist gentry of the pre-Jacobite period, 1660 onwards, adopted the Ancients scheme of operative Masonry and slowly modified it allegorically to give purpose to their mundane lives. To encourage the spread and acceptance of this new way of thinking the founders needed a top guy who would attract attention and at the same time give credo to their beliefs.
What better way than inviting in The Royal Crown as a Patron?!
And what was even better when the Royal Patron actually enjoyed the Craft and was determined to spread it!
But how did it come about?
The Craft has had a very healthy historical relationship with the British Royalty, a bond which has provided patronage, leadership and active participation. But did it start in England? The answer is, interestingly, no.
We have to give serious consideration to Scotland prior to discussing the English Royal House.
During the centuries prior to the time we now accept as the start of Modern Freemasonry we have recorded Operative Freemasonry in which non Masonic workers were allowed to join. Indeed there were many local lodges in Scotland before 1600. Scotland indeed has the oldest lodge minutes in the world in which, in 1483, the Craft is mentioned in Aberdeen. The entry of non-Masons is best recorded in Scottish annals in the late 16th Century & is linked to the Stuart dynasty. Why Scotland? Why the Stuarts?
One has to remember that the clergy ruled the waves along with Royalty & papal interference was rife.
Scottish kings held onto their independence through intermittent bloody wars with English kings who aimed to annex Scotland. In the 14th century, Scotland got the Pope to recognize her political independence. In 1320 the country adopted the first written constitution since the Roman Republic. The Declaration of Arbroath confirmed Scotland’s status as an independent sovereign state and Robert the Bruce became the first King in 1371.
Just prior to this period the Pope and France had become entangled with another entity – the Knights Templar, a military order founded during the Crusades. In 1307, the Roman Church in France decided to eliminate the Templars. After a wave of arrests, members were charged with sodomy, blasphemy, and heresy. When it was all over in 1312, some Templars had confessed to sodomy under torture and died in prison or at the stake. Others managed to flee. It is believed that some took refuge in Scotland because of
its independence from papal control.[ Recently, evidence has emerged that the Pope cleared them of all charges.] There are Templar graves, visible marked as such offering proof of their existence in Scotland.
However the present school of thought is that Freemasonry, as we know it today, is derived directly and unquestionably from the Operative Masons in France, England and Germany over the approximate period 1550 – 1730. There is no evidence
that the Knights Templar were responsible for the
existence of Freemasonry, despite some evidence that the
association between the Templars and the Operatives
existed, but there is nothing to say they were directly or even
indirectly influenced by them. Most chivalric and many
Biblical legends have found a home into the Craft one way or another, but none of them is responsible for the
origins of our society.
Safe in their Scottish exile, it has been theorised that surviving Templars reestablished themselves by joining the trade guilds–bakers, dyers, weavers, carpenters, stonemasons–that ran the medieval economy. Each guild was an elite fraternity that guarded the secrets of its craft, educated its apprentices, protected and regulated its members, and looked after their families. Most important, the guilds organised themselves on the basis of written constitutions. The earliest known document was that of the stonemasons in the late 1300’s, which detailed due process and members’ duties. To this day, a new Freemason is called an “apprentice” and dons a stonemason’s sheepskin apron, as he would if he were learning the building trade.
The Freemasons came to think of themselves as “free men” dedicated to “rebuilding the Temple.” In time, they developed a body of thought on how government could make itself more independent of the church. As a holdover from the Templars, their writings and rituals were rich with ancient Eastern associations, notably King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.
Freemasonry, in its present modern form, we believe, came into being through the trades Lodge system, established under the auspices of King James VI of Scotland, (later King James I of England.} He was invited by the English to rule them as James I of England, since Elizabeth I had died childless and James was her closest living relative, the only son of Roman Catholic Mary Queen of Scots by Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. At the age of 37, two years after becoming a Mason, James became the first Stuart king of England and immediately began to persecute the Puritans, rejecting their petition to reform the Church of England along biblical lines.
James, was initiated into Freemasonry, into the Lodge of Scoon and Perth in 1601, at the age of 35. Fifteen years after taking active control of Scotland and five years before becoming English monarch, he ordered that the Masonic structure be given leadership and organisation. He made a senior Mason, named William Schaw, his General Warden of the Craft, and instructed Schaw to revamp the entire Masonic Lodge structure of Freemasonry into what it became today. Schaw commenced this project on 28th December 1598, on the orders of James and we have extant today what is known as the Schaw Statutes which organised the craft on a national basis, independent of local burgh councils. . James died in 1625.
To this day, the 1611 edition of the King James Bible remains the Freemason Bible and is the edition conventionally used in the Masonic temple rituals.
James ensured the spread of Freemasonry in England during his reign but his death did cause a hiatus until the return of Charles II leaving a gap of almost 35 years in England before Freemasonry ‘took off’ but it is well documented that there were free-masons and trades guilds. During this period the Craft stayed alive and well in Scotland.
In Europe things were different.
James’ son, Charles 1, was beheaded in 1649. His son, Charles II, left for exile in Holland and France, taking Freemason ideas with him. English soon tired of Puritan absolutism, and in 1660 Parliament invited Charles II to come home. Freemasonry established itself solidly in England during his reign whilst he became loved as one of the best Kings of England dying in 1685
After the deposing of King James 11, the 3rd son of Charles I, because of political and religious maneuvering, Parliament invited the Netherlands’ William of Orange, who ruled with wife Mary, followed by their daughter Anne, before the German House of Hanover took over in 1714.
John Hamill in his book The Craft asserts that: “Accepted masonry simply seems to have appeared in England as a new organisation without any prior connections with the operative craft.” But there is much evidence to suggest that this is not true. For example we have mention of the London Company of ‘ffreemasons’ for 1638, wherewith five names are registered as having been received into this body for which they each paid ten shillings! Several grave- stones of this era can be found with the word freemason enscribed.. The first recorded speculative lodge of English masons was Warrington Lodge in 1646.
But there was no connection with Royalty, which was otherwise engaged in political shenanigans with Parliament and an upcoming Civil War.
I would here mention Sir Robert Moray, who was the first recorded Masonic initiation in England. By the time of his initiation in 1641 the ideas of the Elizabethan Renaissance thinkers were well established in Freemasonry. In 1645 the Invisible College was formed, mostly of Freemasons who wanted to study the “hidden mysteries of nature and science” without interference from religious authorities.
Sir Robert Moray, in 1660, obtained a Royal Charter whereby the Invisible College gained protection and respectability in 1663 as the Royal Society, the first modern scientific think tank. Its philosophy was based on Bacon’s experimentalism, taking the motto “Nullius in verba”, “Nothing by mere authority”, or “Take no-one’s word for it”. Members such as Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton laid the foundations of modern physics, while the philosophy of John Locke paved the way toward modern ideas of human rights and freedom of thought.
Whilst I have intimated that the Craft attracted brethren as a result of a Royalty connection I suspect that, in the first instance, it was the essence of the calibre of those society personages associated with the ‘new’ science and the Royal Society that attracted Royalty. Royalty had to be seen as enlightened!
Also it is safe to say that Royalty never felt threatened by Freemasonry as the majority of the Brethren were of the higher gentry living like the Court. As Freemasonry expanded, including the freethinkers of the day, there began a cultural dilemma which did lead to persons crossing the Channel, seeking support, and settling in neutral Holland. Netherland became a major fan of Freemasonry and such brethren, using their connections, nearly caused an international conflict saved by Holland’s neutrality. Holland’s first lodge was registered in 1721.
The Grand Lodge of England, appearing in 1717, was more Anglican and Bible-based, and insisted at first that members believe in the Trinity. The 1723 Constitution written by James Anderson broadened this English requirement to a simple belief in some form of Supreme Being, the Supreme Architect of the Universe. (This, of course, outraged the Pope, who prohibited Catholics from joining the order.)
It was during this period that Freemasonry went international, spreading to England, Ireland, and the Continent, and eventually to the American colonies. Its members included enlightened aristocrats, educated middle-class men, and many Fellows of the Royal Society in London. Members pledged to assist other Masons.
While it had its purely social side, Freemasonry had, by virtue of continental connections, become a political movement with a strikingly ecumenical tone at a time when Europeans were killing each other over religious tenets.
Church apologists disliked Freemasonry from the beginning, for two reasons: one, because of its connection to the “heretical” Knights Templar; and secondly, because it became a political movement that appeared to limit the power of established religions in Europe. Some Freemasons–in Scotland and England, for example–felt that monarchy could safely be retailored, with a monarch’s powers limited by a written constitution and a strong Parliament. Masonic thought may have given rise to revolutionary France by insisting on a need for a constitutional republic.
So who was regarded as the first English Royal Freemason?
I shall now proceed to enumerate the first of twenty-three Princes of the Royal Family who have been
brethren of the Craft since 1737, eight of whom have held the office of Grand Master.
Indeed Royal Grand Masters and members of the Peerage have ruled English Freemasonry during 195 of the 293 years since the inauguration of the Grand Lodge in 1717 and, of note, five of the last six Kings have been Masons.
To no small degree do we owe them a sincere acknowledgement.
As we now accept the foundation of modern Freemasonry from the establishment of the English Grand Lodge in 1717 it would seem natural to start with the accession of King George 1 of the House of Hanover to the British Throne in 1714.
He was a German who knew no English. So far as we know he was not a Mason, but not antagonistic to the Craft. It is during the reign of his son King George 2nd, who occupied the Throne from 1727 to 1760 that the links between the Royal House and Freemasonry were established.
It has been said that becoming a Freemason, as part of the usual British Protestant establishment ritual, was a Royal ritual but no one coerced any of the Royals to join. They obviously saw the Craft as a way to better themselves and mankind, whilst at the same time aligning themselves with the great thinkers and scientists of their time.
His son Frederick Lewis, 15th Prince of Wales (1707-1751), heir to the throne, entered the Craft in 1737 at a lodge in the Palace of Kew and became the first Royal Freemason. Once royalty entered the Craft, then, as previously stated, everybody wanted to join, and the fraternity was assured of success.
As an aside, I am fairly certain that the Masonic term ‘Lewis’ originated here [ in honour of Frederick Lewis ] and was a symbolic way of informing lodge members that the new brother would be initiated by a brother of that particular lodge, himself being a brother of the new apprentice’s immediate family. I do not think it has any connection whatsoever to the Scottish lifting device called leveor [pulley] or any Latin corruption thereof.
Rev Dr James Andersen, a Scottish FM, introduced the term into England in 1738 whilst preparing the 2nd Edition of Book of Constitutions for original GL of England- note the date – referring to the eldest son of a FM.! . I am open to comment on this matter.
His brother Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, the third son of King George II, is said to have been initiated in a Military Lodge in the British Army while serving in Belgium in 1743.
Not being active Freemasons, Grand rank was never ever conferred upon them and it was next generation of the Royal House that actually established the closest links with the craft. Frederick Lewis led a hedonistic lifestyle and died before his father, thrusting his son George III onto the thrones of England and Hanover in 1760 at the age of 20.
King George III (1738-1820) is probably best known to Americans, and the British, as being the monarch who ‘lost the American colony’ but never became a Mason.
However it was the other three of Prince Frederick Lewis’ sons who began to play an important role in Freemasonry. The first son, George III, became King but the other three, the King’s brothers followed their father Frederick Lewis into Freemasonry, including Henry, Duke of Cumberland (1745-1790) who in 1782 became Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge of England. [See below]
Edward Augustus, Duke of York, was the second son of Prince Frederick Lewis. He was initiated in the Lodge of Friendship in Berlin in 1765, whereupon the Lodge took the name “Royal York Lodge of Friendship”.
Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester, the third son of Prince Frederick Lewis, was initiated, passed and raised, all in one evening, in 1766 at an occasional Lodge at the Horn Tavern, Westminster, by the Grand Master. It was later named the Royal Lodge and united with Alpha Lodge No 16.
Prince Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, was the fourth son of Prince Frederick Lewis. He was initiated in 1767 at an occasional Lodge at the Thatched House Tavern, St James’ Street, London, being installed as Master of the New Horn Lodge two months later. To commemorate the membership of the three Royal brothers its name was changed to “Royal Lodge”.
The first direct link of the Royal House with the Grand Lodge was forged on April 15, 1767, and in the light of history it was a most significant event. All three Royal brothers were elected Past Grand Masters of the premier Grand Lodge, creating an unbreakable link to this day, and they were presented with a special apron lined with silk.
Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland (1745-1790) , proved to be the most active Mason. On April 10, 1782 he was elected Grand Master and held this office until his death in 1790. It is interesting to note that his election in Grand Lodge was contested, the other candidate being Earl Ferrers. Following his election by a great majority it was resolved by Grand Lodge that whenever a Prince of the Royal Blood did Grand Lodge the honour of accepting the office of Grand Master he was at liberty to recommend a peer of the realm to be Acting Grand Master. This was the origin of the system of having a Peer as Pro Grand Master when a Prince of the Royal Blood holds the office of Grand Master. The system was amended in 1977 to permit a commoner to serve as Pro Grand Master. Three weeks after his election the Duke of Cumberland appointed the Earl of Effingham to be Acting Grand Master, whereupon the Earl was installed and invested in ample form as proxy for the Duke of Cumberland. The Duke was exalted in Grand Chapter in 1772 and was Grand Patron of the Royal Arch 1774-1790.
George III fathered six sons who lived to maturity, and they all became Freemasons.
I shall now proceed to expound on these sons:
1] George Augustus Frederick, Prince of Wales 1762-1830 > King George 1V
Grand Master from 1790
Prince of Wales is the title given to the first son, who is heir apparent to the throne.
At a special Lodge meeting held at the Star and Garter London in 1787, George Augustus Frederick was initiated into Freemasonry by his Uncle Henry, the Duke of Cumberland, Grand Master. He was seconded by the Duke of Norfolk. That year, he formed his own Lodge, The Prince of Wales’s Lodge (now No. 259) and was its permanent Master from 1787 until his accession to the throne in 1820.. Initially the members were a mixture of his friends and household such his dentist and his chief cook. The Lodge attracted other high-ranking Masons such as the Prime Minister George Canning. George was elected Grand Master on the death of his uncle in 1790 and in 1805 he was elected Grand Master and Patron of the Craft in Scotland.. He enjoyed the social side of Freemasonry, and its imagery found its way into some of the designs at the splendiferous Royal Pavilion that he built in Brighton.
George Augustus Frederick served as Prince Regent during his father’s bout with insanity. The distinctive Regency style of art takes its title from this period, and the Prince Regent was a huge patron of the arts.
Prior to the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813 he resigned as Grand Master of England, stating that he would not be able under present circumstances to attend to and discharge the important duties of that office. Instead he agreed to be Patron and Protector of the Order, and the Craft was gratefully concurred.
So now we know that King George 1V was the first monarch on the British throne to be a Mason and also the first monarch to have served as Grand Master. He was the second Prince to have held that office. He established the precedent, which has been followed ever since, that on accession to the throne, a monarch, if holding the office of Grand Master, should resign, but continue, if he wished, as an active member of the Craft.
Thus King George 1V ranks as a major figure in the historical connection between British Royalty and the Craft.
2] Frederick Augustus, Duke of York 1763- 1827 “The Grand Old Duke of York”
The Duke of York is the title given to the second son of the monarch (unless already held by an uncle). He served as the commander-in-chief of the British Army, and the well-known rhyme was written about him.
Frederick and the Prince of Wales were firm friends, often drinking and womanizing together, and the Duke of York became a Mason in the same year as his older brother. He was initiated in Britannic Lodge (now No. 33) in 1787 , his older brother, the Prince of Wales, later King George 1V, assisting in the ceremony and was made a Past Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge six days later. . Two years later he was installed as the First Master of Lodge No. 537, joined Price of Wales Lodge No. 259, and was it permanent Master from 1820 until his death in 1827. He was exalted in the Royal Arch in 1825, and on the same day appointed Past Grand First Principal of Supreme Grand Chapter.
3] William Henry, Duke of Clarence 1765-1837, who became King William IV at age 66
At the age of thirteen he joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman, and was present at the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1780. During the Revolutionary War he served in New York.
When his brother King George IV died childless in 1830 he ascended the throne as William IV. Unlike his extravagant brother, William was unassuming, and discouraged pomp and ceremony. He was initiated in the Craft in 1786 in Prince George Lodge No. 86 at Portsmouth.
The following year he was appointed Past Grand Master. He became a member of the Prince of Wales Loge No. 259 two years later, and was its permanent Master from 1827 until his accession to the throne in 1830. In 1790he was appointed Grand Superintendent of Gibraltar and Patron of Royal Arch Masonry. He was never Grand Master, but followed Royal precedent in retiring as Master of his Lodge on his accession to the throne.
4] Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent 1767-1820 — Father of
He went with his troops to Quebec, Canada 1791 and in 1799 became General & Commander-in-Chief of the forces in British North America, living for most of that time in Halifax NS. In 1802 he was appointed governor of Gibraltar & Andalusia.
He was initiated in 1789 in Loge Union des Coeurs at Geneva while training on the continent for his future military career. In Canada he accepted the office of Provincial Grand Master of Lower Canada under the Antients Grand Lodge [ surprisingly], and it is believed that he held that office until his death.
He returned to England in the year 1800. In 1813 he was elected their Grand Master by the Antients. This statesmanlike act paved the way for the union of the two Grand Lodges and the realisation of the Duke’s great hope of establishing unity with the whole Fraternity of Masons. With his younger brother, the Duke of Sussex, he actively involved himself in the negotiations which led to the union of the premier and Ancient Grand Lodges in 1813, and it was on his unselfish proposal that his brother was elected Grand Master of the resulting United Grand Lodge of England. At the meeting of the Ancient Grand Lodge his act was described as a manifestation of his “noble generosity”. He was also Grand Principal 1792-1797, Grand Master of the Knights Templar 1804-1807, and their Grand Patron 1807-1812.
He predeceased his father, George III, by six days, and predeceased his three elder brothers. His daughter Alexandria Victoria, fortunately born in England, as none of the brothers had any surviving legitimate children, succeeded to the British throne on the death of King William IV in 1837. This in itself was a ‘rags to riches’ story!
Queen Victoria was always openly well disposed toward Freemasonry and approved of the Craft. It is noteworthy that a figure of Hiram Abiff adorns Albert Hall in London and that the oldest surviving Masonic Lodge in the Bahamas proudly bears her name, “ Royal Victoria”. The name of the Lodge was chosen in her honour as its inauguration exactly coincided with her accession in 1837.
5. Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland 1771- 1851
He lost his left eye during the Battle of Turcoing in 1794. The Duke of Cumberland had a reputation as one of the least pleasant of the sons of George III, opposing the 1828 Catholic Emancipation Bill, which would have given more rights to Catholics.
He was initiated in 1796 by the Acting Grand Master assisted by the Earl of Moria at a special meeting at the latter’s house. He was elected a Past Grand Master of the premier Grand Lodge on the same day. In 1813 he joined the Lodge “Frederick of the White Horse” in Hanover.
He could not succeed to the throne of Britain, but later became His Majesty Ernst August I, King of Hanover and Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg.
A historical note: – Until 1837 the thrones of Great Britain and Hanover had, for over a century, been held by the same king. However, no female could rule the throne of Hanover.
As Queen Victoria was therefore unable to succeed to the Electorship of Hanover the union of Great Britain and Hanover under the same sovereign ended. Prince Ernest Augustus then became King of Hanover. In 1828 he had been elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Hanover, when it became independent from the Grand Lodge of England. It had previously been the Provincial Grand Lodge of Hanover under the English Constitution. Even after he became King of Hanover he continued as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Hanover until his death in 1851.
6. Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex 1773-1843 – a major figure in Freemasonry
The only one of the brothers who did not pursue an army or naval career, perhaps because he was asthmatic. The Duke of Sussex was to become the favorite uncle of Queen Victoria, and he gave her away at her wedding to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
He was initiated in Berlin in 1798 in Victorious Truth Lodge, and became its Master. He joined the Prince of Wales Lodge No. 259 in 1800, and was its permanent Master from 1830 until his death in 1843. He was responsible in 1814 for what is now the present Royal Alpha Lodge No. 16, his personal Lodge, and was its Master 1820-1843. He was elected a Past Grand Master of the premier Grand Lodge in 1805, Deputy Grand Master in 1812, and Grand Master in 1813. In this office he worked actively with his Royal Brothers the Duke of Kent, Grand Master of the Antients’ Grand Lodge, for the union of the two Grand Lodges. [See above]
So important was the role played by these Royal Brothers in achieving this union of conciliation – it laid the future for all time of British Freemasonry.
On the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813 the Duke of Sussex was nominated by his brother, the Duke of Kent, for the office of Grand Master and was duly elected and installed in 1814. He remained Grand Master until his death in 1843.
The Duke of Sussex was “introduced” into the Royal Arch in 1810, and became First Grand Principal of the Grand and Royal Chapter (Moderns) in the same year. On the formation of the Supreme Grand Chapter in 1817 he became its first Grand Principal and held office until his death 26 years later. He was Grand Master of the Knights Templar 1812-1843, and controlled all the other Orders extant during that period. He ranks with his uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, his brother King George IV, and successors yet to be mentioned, among the Princes who filled the office of the Grand Master.
On that generation mention should be made of William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester, the son-in-law of King George III. He was initiated in Britannic Lodge No. 33 in 1795, and was elected the next year a Past Grand Master of the premier Grand Lodge. He was exalted at a special Chapter held for that purpose by a Committee of the Grand and Royal Arch Chapter in 1797.
The next link after the generation of Queen Victoria is that of the generation of her eldest son, Prince of Wales, Albert Edward, who succeeded her as Edward VII.
Interestingly, he was initiated not in England, but in Sweden. The initiation took place at Stockholm in December, 1868 in the St. John’s Lodge “Den Nordiska Forsta”, and the ceremony was conducted by the King of Sweden. Before leaving Sweden the Prince received all ten Degrees according to the Swedish Rite. A few weeks later permission was sought for an official statement to be made in the Grand Lodge of England, and the following information was supplied by the Prince:
Upon his return to England the Prince was examined by the Earl of Zetland, Grand Master, and proved himself a Master Mason. The following year the Grand Lodge of England resolved to confer upon the Prince the rank of Past Grand Master. An amendment to alter this rank and title to Grand Patron was defeated. On December 1, 1869, he was invested with the regalia of a Past Grand Master in a notable ceremony.
The next year the office of Patron of the Masonic Order in Scotland was conferred upon him by the Grand Master of Scotland and a year later the rank of Patron of the Order in Ireland by the Grand Lodge of Ireland. The Prince proved himself a most active Freemason, manifesting a very real interest in the Craft. He joined the Royal Alpha Lodge No. 16 in 1870, and was its Master for a number of years, next the Apollo University Lodge No. 357 and was its Master in 1873, next the Prince of Wales Lodge No. 295 in 1872, and was its permanent Master 1874 to 1901, next Grand Masters’ Lodge No. 1 in 1880. He was founder and First Master of The Household Royal Brigade Lodge No. 2614 and Navy Lodge No. 2612 in 1896 and was permanent Master of both until his accession in1901, in 1907 he was a founder and first Master of Sancta Maria Lodge No. 2682.
On the resignation of the Grand Master, the Earl of Ripon, in 1874, the Prince of Wales was invited to succeed him and on his acceptance he appointed the Earl of Carnarvon as Pro Grand Master.
The installation of the Prince of Wales as Grand Master took place on 25th April, 1875 at the Royal Albert Hall attended by nearly 8,000 Brethren. This ceremony was acclaimed as the most noteworthy which had ever taken place in the history of Freemasonry.
The Prince of Wales continued as Grand Master for 26 years (1875-1901), when on ascending to the throne he resigned the office and became the Protector of the Order. He was also First Grand Principal of Royal Arch 1874-1901, Grand Master of Mark Masons 1886-1901, and Grand Master of Knights Templar
In 1874 the 33° was conferred upon him and he accepted appointment as Grand Patron of the Ancient and Accepted Rite.
It is difficult to do justice to, let alone exaggerate, the service rendered by this royal prince to Freemasonry or the strength of the bond which united him to the Craft.
His death in 1910 evoked the following tribute:
“The death of His Majesty King Edward VII, which smote all human hearts with such sudden sadness, brings more poignant grief to the hearts of all Freemasons. For over forty years Masonry found him a warm advocate, a wise and benevolent Ruler, and a willing Patron. Whilst a nation mourns for a King who now becomes a sweet and happy memory, a King who was such by right of birth as well as of righteous rule, Masonry mourns the loss of a King who became such by the conquest of human hearts; a King who, figuratively, set aside the Sword of State and entered the Masonic Lodge, by the only door open to those who seek that they may find; a King who, enamoured of the principles of the Craft, wove them into a life of useful words and work. In taking up Freemasonry he espoused the principle of “Brotherly Love”, and in his efforts as Ruler of the British Empire he earned the illustrious name of “The Peacemaker”. These were the Two Great Pillars which stood sentinel at the entrance of the Temple of King Edward’s inner life, and became symbolic of the spirit which reigned within, in Wisdom, Love, and Power.”
Queen Victoria’s third son, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, as his brother the Prince of Wales, also played a significant and active role history of the Craft.
The Prince of Wales initiated him into the Prince of Wales Lodge in 1874 and from 1903 until his death was its permanent Master.
He was a member of many Lodges in various countries and permanent Master of a number. He entered Grand Lodge in 1877 as Senior Grand Warden and served as Provincial Grand Master of Sussex 1887-1901 and District Grand Master of Bombay 1887-1901. In 1891 the rank of Past Grand Master was eventually conferred upon him by Grand Lodge after a wait of 17 years.
The Duke of Connaught was elected Grand Master in 1901 when his brother became King Edward VII. He held that office for a record thirty-eight years, retiring because of ill health in 1939. He died in 1942 at the age of 92.
Additionally the Duke also served as First Grand Principal, Royal Arch, Grand Master, Mark and Grand Master, Knights Templar, all from the years 1901 to 1939. In 1879 he received the 33° of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, and from 1911 until his death in 1942, was its Grand Patron.
Queen Victoria’s fourth son, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, also joined the Craft. He was initiated in Apollo University Lodge in 1874 and becoming its Master in 1876.
Spanning a ten year period up to his premature death, age 31, he served as Provincial Grand Master for Oxfordshire 1875-1884, receiving the rank of Junior Warden in 1877. He was exalted in 1876 in Apollo University Chapter, Royal Arch, and was its First Principal in 1881. He was Grand Superintendent of Oxfordshire 1881-1884, and Third Grand Principal of Supreme Grand Chapter 1883-1884. He was appointed Past Grand Master, Mark, in 1881. He served as Knight Grand Cross and Great Constable, Knights Templar 1880-1883. In 1878 hr received the 33° of the Ancient and Accepted Rite.
Another member of the Royal family who died prematurely aged twenty-eight was Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, the eldest son of King Edward VII. Initiated by his father, the then Grand Master, into the Royal
Alpha Lodge in 1885, he was passed in Friendship Lodge and raised in Isaac Newton Lodge. Two years later he was appointed Senior Grand Warden and in 1888 became Master of Friendship Lodge. He was also Master of Royal Alpha Lodge 1887-1891. He was Provincial Grand Master of Walden, Mark, in1887, and received the 18° of the Ancient and Accepted Rite. He died in 1892.
Prince George, second son of King Edward VII who succeeded to the throne in 1910 as King George V, was never a member of the Craft.
The Duke of Connaught was succeeded by his son Prince Arthur of Connaught. He was initiated in 1911 to the Royal Alpha Lodge in the presence of his father, then Grand Master. He became its Master in1919. He was also a member of Wellesley Lodge and was a Founding Member of Old Etonian Lodge No. 4500. In 1914 he was appointed Past Senior Grand Warden. He had the distinction of being the only Royal Mason ever to be appointed a Past Grand Warden. He was Provincial Grand Master for Berkshire from 1924 until his in 1938, predeceasing his father, who was then still Grand Master.
Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, and still later the Duke of Windsor, was the eldest son of King George V. Initiated in 1919 into the Household Brigade Lodge No. 2614, he became its Master in 1921. He was also a member of several other Lodges, including Royal Alpha, and was Master of two of them. He was appointed Senior Grand Warden in 1922, and served as Provincial Grand Master of Surrey from 1924 to 1936. He was exalted in United Chapter and was accorded the rank of First Principal in 1927. He served as Grand Superintendent for Surrey 1930-1936. In 1932 he received the 33º from the Ancient and Accepted Rite. He served as Deputy Grand Master and Governor of the Royal Order of Scotland. In June, 1936, five months after his accession to the Throne, as was now the tradition, he accepted the rank as Past Grand Master.
Prince Albert, Duke of York, the second son of King George V, succeeded to the Throne in1936 as King George VI, the third monarch of the House of Windsor, on the abdication of his brother King Edward VII.
His is one of the leading royal names in the annals of the Craft, having the record of greatest Masonic activity.
Being a sailor he chose to be initiated in Navy Lodge No. 2612 in 1919 becoming its Master in 1921. In 1923 he was invested as Senior Grand Warden, and served as Provincial Grand Master of Middlesex 1924-1937. He was a member of numerous other Lodges, including Prince of Wales Lodge, Royal Alpha Lodge, and Household Brigade Lodge, and served as Master of two of them. In 1936 he was affiliated to
Scottish Masonry, being received into his father-in-law’s Lodge, Glamis No.99 (S.C) with Bro. Beattie, the village postman, in the Chair, & subsequently installed as Grand Master of Scotland for 1936-7. On his accession to the English throne a year later, he naturally resigned that Scottish office, becoming a short while after a Past Grand Master for the United Grand Lodge of England. This was a well recorded ceremony, it being a first whereby a King had conducted business in Grand Lodge, personally investing over one hundred Brethren to Grand Rank.
As Duke of York he was exalted in United Chapter in 1921 and served as its First Principal in 1928. In 1937 the year of his accession to the Throne, he also accepted membership in the Knights Templar. He was made Past Grand Master and Knights Grand Cross of the Temple in 1937. He was a Mark Mason, and also accepted the 33º of the Ancient and Accepted Rite.
Further Masonic history was made when King George VI, although not Grand Master after his accession, participated in important meetings of the Grand Lodge and personally installed several other members of the Royal Family. In 1939, on the resignation of the Duke of Connaught he installed his own younger brother, Prince George, Duke of Kent, as Grand Master. The installation took place at a specially convened Grand Lodge at Olympia, London, on July 19, 1939, before an attendance of 12000 Brethren.
The Duke of Kent served as Grand Master for only three years until his lamented death while on Active Service in the Royal Air Force during WWII, an incident which gave rise to a rumour of an assassination conspiracy.[ see below] The King then installed his bother-in-law, the Earl of Harewood, as Grand Master. Five years later he installed the Duke of Devonshire in that office.
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, third son of King George V, was not a Mason.
Prince George, Duke of Kent, was the fourth son of King George V. He was initiated in 1928 in Navy Lodge, and was its Master in 1931. His sponsors were his brothers who were destined to sit on the Throne as Edward VII and George VI. The latter presided at the meeting. He was also a member of the Prince of Wales Lodge and Royal Alpha Lodge, and served as Provincial Grand Master of Wiltshire, 1934-1939. he was installed by his brother George VI as Grand Master in 1939, as already described, and served in that office for three years until his death on Active Service with the Royal Air Force. He was the father of the present (1978) Grand Master. He was exalted in Westminster and Keystone Chapter No.10 and served as First Grand Principal from 1939 until his death. He also served as Grand Master (Mark) for the same three-year period.
King George VI was succeeded on the Throne in1952 by the present Sovereign, Her Gracious Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
In the same year her husband, Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, like his father-in-law, was initiated in Navy Lodge No. 2612 in the presence of the Grand Master the Earl of Scarborough. Membership in Navy Lodge is limited to those serving or who have served in the Royal Navy. It meets regularly in Freemason’s Hall
H.R.H. Charles, Prince of Wales, never joined the Craft.
Finally we come to the elder son of Prince George, the present Duke of Kent, is Prince Edward who was born in1935. He was initiated in 1963 in Royal Alpha Lodge No.16, and became its Master 1965-1966. He was appointed Senior Grand Warden in 1966 and was installed as Grand Master in1967, on the 250th Anniversary of the foundation of the first Grand Lodge in the presence of over 6,600 Masons from all over the world.
He continues to give distinguished service in that office today. He was exalted in Westminster and Keystone Chapter No. 10, and was elected its First Principal in 1966. He has been First Grand Principal since 1967.
The Duke obviously undertakes his duties very seriously having attended every investiture in Grand Lodge since he took office.
Prince Michael of Kent is the younger son of the late Prince George, Duke of Kent. Like his older brother the present Grand Master he was initiated in Royal Alpha Lodge in 1974, and was installed as its Worshipful Master on December 14, 1977. He joined the Prince of Wales Lodge in1975.He is the present Grand Master of The Mark Degree.
To the best of my knowledge none of the Queen’s grandchildren have become Masons.
We shall now to wait and see who will succeed the Duke of Kent.
And we shall have to hope that a Royal connection be maintained.
SCEPTRE AND GAVEL (Part 2)
or FREEMASONRY AND THE ROYAL FAMILY
A paper delivered in The Bahamas Installed Masters Lodge No. 8764 on June 24, 1978
by the W. M., R. W. Bro. Donald M. Fleming, P.G.J.W.