With 2018 marking the 150th anniversary of the initiation of Albert Edward, The Prince of Wales, into Freemasonry, John Hamill reflects on why the ceremony happened in Sweden
In late 1868, HRH Prince Albert Edward, The Prince of Wales, had a very busy two days while on a private visit to Sweden, where King Charles XV was Grand Master of the Swedish Order of Freemasons, a progressive system of eleven degrees.
The eldest son of Queen Victoria and future King Edward VII received the first six degrees of the Swedish Rite on 20 December. He received the remaining four degrees on 21 December, after which he was received into the eleventh and highest degree of Knight Commander of the Red Cross, which is also a civil honour, making him a Knight Commander of the Order of King Charles XIII. The prince was to always wear the collarette and jewel of that dual honour with his masonic regalia.
The question has been asked as to why the Prince of Wales entered Freemasonry abroad. The wits of the day suggested it was because he was in awe of his mother, Queen Victoria, who, they claimed, was not well disposed towards Freemasonry. However, this does not square with the fact that she was royal patron of the then-three national masonic charities.
More likely, it would have been a question of protocol, as well as a wish not to have to make the decision as to which lodge and which senior brother should have the honour of initiating the heir to the throne. Those problems were solved in Sweden, where the ceremonies were conducted by that country’s king and crown prince.
News of the event was sent to England, and it was unanimously agreed that the prince should be appointed a Past Grand Master, which resolved any protocol problems and was in line with what had happened since 1767 to members of the royal family who joined the Craft. As a precaution, as few of the then-senior members of Grand Lodge were conversant with the Swedish degrees, a request was made to Sweden for English translations of the first three degrees of their system, which was quickly answered and showed that they had the same basic import as the English equivalents.
At the Quarterly Communication held on 1 December 1869, the Prince of Wales was received, proclaimed and welcomed as Past Grand Master. In his response to his welcome from the Grand Master, the Earl of Zetland, the prince said that he felt it ‘a deep honour to be there that day and to be admitted into the Grand Lodge of England’. He had already intimated that he intended to join lodges in England and was to be Master of four lodges and a founder and first Master of three new lodges.
‘The presence of the prince at the head of Freemasonry gave it a newfound respectability and social cachet’
AN ENTHUSIASTIC MASON
In 1874, the Grand Master, Lord Ripon, suddenly announced his resignation, as he had converted to Roman Catholicism. While Ripon had no doubts as to the compatibility of Freemasonry and his faith, the pope had recently issued an encyclical against Freemasonry, so Ripon felt he could not continue as an active Freemason.
What could have been a crisis for Grand Lodge was quickly averted by the Deputy Grand Master, Lord Carnarvon, who suggested that the Prince of Wales be approached to stand for election. With the prince readily agreeing, the Annual Investiture was held at the Royal Albert Hall on 28 April 1875 to enable as many brethren as possible (over 7,000) to see the Prince of Wales installed as Grand Master. It was an office he was to be annually re-elected to until he came to the throne in 1901.
The prince was an enthusiastic mason. As Grand Master, he was ex officio First Grand Principal in the Royal Arch. He was Grand Master of the Mark Degree 1886–1901; Grand Master of the Knights Templar 1873–1901; and became 33rd Degree and Grand Patron of the Ancient and Accepted Rite. He was also Grand Patron of the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland.
The prince also helped to bring two of his brothers, and his son, into the Craft. The prince was also a great publicist for Freemasonry. When asked to lay the foundation stones of new buildings and other public structures, he would usually insist that it be done with masonic ceremonies in full view of the public. As Prince of Wales he undertook a number of major overseas tours – notably to India and North America – and wherever he went he ensured that he had contact with the local Freemasons.
If it was not possible to attend a formal meeting, the prince ensured that he met groups of local brethren in a social setting, particularly in those areas where English lodges were meeting. As a result of his visits, there was a significant increase in the number of lodges in what were then parts of the British Empire.
At home, the presence of the prince at the head of Freemasonry gave it a newfound respectability and social cachet. During the prince’s 26 years as Grand Master, the number of lodges almost doubled, and membership was seen as a mark of the brethren’s standing in their local communities.
On coming to the throne in 1901, Albert Edward ceased active participation in Freemasonry and took the title of Protector of the Craft, maintaining an interest in its activities until his death in 1910.
Letters to the Editor - NO. 42 SUMMER 2018
Under the English Constitution
Although Albert Edward, The Prince of Wales, had been initiated into the Swedish Order of Freemasons in 1868 (John Hamill, summer 2018 edition of Freemasonry Today), it was not until 1871 that he attended an English lodge – Jerusalem Lodge, No. 197 – at the centenary celebrations presided over by the Master Sir Charles Hutton Gregory, Past President of the Institute of Civil Engineers.
This was reported in the Daily News of 1 March: ‘Friday, the 24 February, will be henceforth a memorable day in the annals of Modern Freemasonry, for it marks the introduction of the Heir to the English Crown to one of those private “Lodges”, which are so numerous as to form a not unimportant item in the social life of the country…
‘His Royal Highness wisely selected a Centenary Festival as the occasion of his first visit to a private Masonic gathering, and, quite as wisely, chose a Lodge which has the reputation of picking out men of scientific attainment or versatile accomplishments as its Members.’
A Centenary Jewel was designed to mark the occasion when the Prince was present as an Honorary Member of the Lodge, but, to the chagrin of the lodge, this did not conform to the design regulations for Centenary Jewels, and it was not until 1884 that these constraints were circumnavigated by designating the Jewel as ‘Distinctive’ rather than ‘Centenary’.
Following this diplomatic breakthrough, a Warrant dated 28 April 1884, signed by the Prince of Wales, then Grand Master, authorised present and future Master Masons of Jerusalem Lodge to wear a Distinctive Jewel to mark ‘our first visit to a Lodge under the English Constitution…’ and ‘as a further and especial mark of our favour we permit and authorise the said Jewel to be surmounted by a representation of our Royal Coronet in Gold’.
Dr Jonathan Dowson, Jerusalem Lodge, No. 197, London
The installation of a new lift in Liverpool Cathedral has been completed thanks to a donation of £69,000 by the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, which continues a tradition of more than 100 years of Masonic support for the Cathedral.
A Choral Eucharist conducted by the Rev Canon Myles Davies (Acting Dean) celebrated the completion, which will enable more visitors to reach the beautiful Lady Chapel, and so allow the Cathedral to make better use of it for worship and for events.
The Lady Chapel is the oldest part of the cathedral, celebrating its centenary in 2010, and is the place where many visitors choose to pause and reflect. It contains some fine architecture and the magnificent “Noble Women” windows. However, it was built in an era when accessibility was not at the forefront of people’s minds and, up until now, it has only been accessible via stair cases both inside and outside the building. The new lift, which gives access from the main Cathedral floor to the Undercroft, wheelchair access to the Lady Chapel, and secure access to the choir accommodation, marks the last major development in the Cathedral’s policy to provide unrestricted access for all.
Rebecca Bentham, Fundraising Manager of Liverpool Cathedral Foundation, said the project to redesign the lower area of the cathedral will take place in phases as funding is secured. The entire project, including the lift, will cost just under £500,000 and the cathedral is working hard to raise funds for each phase.
New facilities for those using the Lady Chapel will allow it to be used as an alternative option for events, which will increase the revenue potential of the cathedral.
At the dedication service the Rev Canon Myles Davies said: “This accessible lift is a wonderful addition to the cathedral enabling so many more people to access the Lady Chapel. As a result of the generosity of the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity we are able to offer a much better experience to all who visit our cathedral.”
John Smith CEO of the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity said: “We are pleased to be able to help improve access to the Lady Chapel for disadvantaged people. Freemasons have a long history of supporting the cathedral that goes back as far as 1906 when local Freemasons donated the funds to build the Chapter House”.
At the dedication ceremony the Provincial Grand Master, Peter Hosker, said: “The Province and the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity have had an association with Liverpool Cathedral which began over 100 years ago.
“In 1904, our Grand Master, King Edward VII laid the foundation stone for Liverpool Cathedral.
“In 1906, our Pro Grand Master, The 3rd Earl Amherst, laid the foundation stone for the Chapter House. The Chapter House was funded by the West Lancashire Freemasons in memory of the first Earl of Lathom, our Provincial Grand Master from 1873 to 1898.
“In 1924 the cathedral and the Chapter House were consecrated, and one of my predecessors, the then Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire, John Hearn Burrell, and his team, conducted the service to dedicate the Chapter House.
"Within my own memory, I recall 2001, when we celebrated 175 years as a separate Province. How appropriate that in our celebrations the Province donated £40,000 to Liverpool Cathedral to provide bursaries.
“The Freemasons of West Lancashire have continued to be involved the cathedral and supported it over the years, and this support has comprised both personal service and involvement as well as financial support. Indeed, it was one of our senior Masons, Brian Jackson, a volunteer worker in the cathedral, who facilitated the initial application by the cathedral for financial support in connection with the provision of a disabled lift to enable access to the Lady Chapel, which was the first part of the cathedral to be completed.
“As they say, the rest is history, the result being a grant from our Grand Charity of £5,000 and total grants from our West Lancashire Freemasons' Charity of £69,000.”
Peter concluded by saying: “We were attracted to the project, for two reasons - first, the project provides much needed help to disadvantaged people who wished to access the cathedral's Undercroft and the Lady Chapel, and secondly, it reinforces our long relationship with the cathedral.
“We are grateful to the cathedral for the opportunity to share in the dedication of this disabled lift and to Rebecca Bentham who has been instrumental in organising the event.”
Yasha Beresiner visits the Sussex Masonic Centre
Standing at the entrance to the Sussex Masonic Centre in the heart of Brighton, you can catch the smell of the sea just a few hundred yards away. This centre, containing both masonic temples and administrative offices, was established in 1898 and must be one of the most convenient in England; it is only a two-minute walk from Brighton Station.
The museum is under the capable administration of the curator and librarian, Reginald Barrow, who takes great pride in the artefacts that are displayed in the various rooms on three floors of interconnected buildings.
Among the numerous important items in the museum’s extensive collection is an eighteenth century Meissen porcelain figurine representing Augustus II of Poland and Elector of Saxony (1670-1733). He is wearing a simple masonic apron and holding a scroll of the masonic constitutions in his right hand, indicating his authority. By his left arm, on a pedestal, stands a mops (pug dog). This dog represents symbolically how Freemasonry survived in Germany, Prussia and elsewhere in Europe under the adverse conditions following the Papal Bull of April 1738 forbidding Roman Catholics from joining the fraternity.
The secret Order of the Mopses was founded in 1740 by German Roman Catholics with the support of Augustus II, who became its Grand Master. Because his favourite animal was the mops, this became the symbol of the Order and gave it its name; the Order worked an elaborate, if somewhat outlandish, ritual which imitated Freemasonry. This rare and attractive figurine was made in the Meissen factory around 1740 and is attributed to the German sculptor Johann Joachim Kaendle (1706-1750), who sculpted exclusively for the Meissen factory and was known for his representations of animals.
The museum also preserves a folder containing the original proofs and completed drawings by the famous John Harris, whose tracing boards continue to decorate many lodge rooms throughout the country. John Harris, a painter of miniatures and an architectural draughtsman, came on the scene in 1815, two years after the union of the two Grand Lodges. He was initiated in 1818 and from the beginning was fascinated by the symbolic portrayals on tracing boards. He soon revolutionised the concept of the designs, which ultimately led to the standardisation of tracing boards throughout the constitution.
In 1823, somewhat business minded, Harris dedicated a set of his miniature tracing boards to the Duke of Sussex, the first Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. This act naturally popularised his designs and his tracing boards soon became fashionable and in demand by the majority of lodges. A true breakthrough, however, came in 1845 when an invitation by the Emulation Lodge of Improvement was made for artists to submit designs for tracing boards. John Harris’ designs won hands down and he never looked back.
In the same folder are several pages of printer’s proofs and hand-coloured manuscript designs of Harris’ efforts. Among the most striking images are two third degree miniature boards with evocative mortal emblems. These printed boards indicate on their margin that they won the third prize and were published in 1849.
The realistic rendering of the skull and bones within the coffin is decorated by a multicoloured ribbon brim which is further enhanced by the dark black shadow of the coffin. A scroll on the lower half depicts an intricate setting of the innermost shrine of the tabernacle, the Sanctum Sanctorum. Seven branched Menorahs decorate the aisles, whilst three figures – Hiram King of Tyre, Hiram Abiff and King Solomon – stand in front of the Ark of the Covenant on the chequered floor of the Temple. The reversed ciphers and Hebrew letters are characteristic of third degree tracing board. The question as to why Harris depicted the ciphers ‘3000’ in reverse has never been satisfactorily explained; he may have misunderstood the Hebrew tradition of writing from right to left. In any case, these tracing boards were never formally adopted.
One object in the museum that brings to mind the widespread nature of Freemasonry is a scrimshaw drinking horn. The word immediately creates the vision of ancient mariners intent on painstaking and delicate etching on ivory or bone. The genre covers an enormous range of themes and it is only natural the symbolism of Freemasonry should also be represented. This excellent example of a horn, from around 1845, is in pristine condition with its intricate masonic emblems clearly visible.
Central to the design is an arch which appears supported by the square and compasses and headed by the all-seeing eye. In the centre the three masonic candlesticks are placed on the chequered floor and below are representations of the third degree coffin and the pentagram. Along the sides, emblems of various orders beyond the craft are identifiable; they have been carefully and clearly engraved. The detail of the carving is enhanced by crossed lines and deeper etching which creates shadows and contrasts further beautifying this rare object.
A prominent piece we saw on display is the apron worn by HRH the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) whilst attending meetings in Brighton. It is mounted in a lavish and heavy oak frame and above it is the unusual twisted Tyler’s sword, popularly referred to as ‘the flaming sword’, in allusion to the weapons carried by the cherubs guarding the entrance to Eden.
For those who may be interested in visiting the museum, the curator and librarian Reginald Barrow can be contacted at the centre on 01273 737404
There is no mention of Freemasonry in the Oscar-winning film about King George VI. Paul Hooley puts us right
The King’s Speech has been critically acclaimed as one of the finest motion pictures of recent years and has renewed the public’s interest in, and aff ection for, King George VI, who reigned from 1936 to 1952.
The film, which chronicles the constitutional crisis created by Edward VIII’s abdication and George’s struggle to overcome his pronounced stammer, focuses on the moving relationship between the King and speech therapist Lionel Logue, which had such a happy ending.
What the film does not mention, however, is that both men were members of the Craft; or that the King believed Freemasonry had also helped him overcome his disability – which rarely surfaced whenever he performed masonic ritual. Logue, who had been the Master of St George’s Lodge, Western Australia, was also speech therapist to the Royal Masonic School.
KING GEORGE'S LOVE OF FREEMASONRY
Following service with the Royal Navy in the First World War, he was initiated in December 1919 into Navy Lodge, No. 2612, of which his grandfather King Edward VII had been founding Master. On that occasion he noted: ‘I have always wished to become a Freemason, but owing to the war I have had no opportunity before this of joining the Craft’. From that moment he became a most dedicated and active Freemason. He was invested as Duke of York in 1920 and the following year installed as permanent Master of Navy Lodge. He joined other lodges and degrees and was appointed Senior Grand Warden of the United Grand Lodge in 1923.
George V died in January 1936 and was succeeded by his eldest son Edward, who had been initiated (also in 1919) into the Household Brigade Lodge, No. 2614. But before the year was out Edward had abdicated. Of the moment of change King George VI wrote, ‘On entering the room I bowed to him as King… when [he] and I said goodbye we kissed, parted as Freemasons and he bowed to me as his King.’
Protocol required George to resign his masonic affiliations, however when it was suggested a new position of Past Grand Master be created especially for him, he immediately accepted, declaring, ‘Today the pinnacle of my masonic life has been reached.’
THE VICTORY STAMPS
After the Second World War, King George wrote that ‘Freemasonry has been one of the strongest influences on my life’ and in collaboration with engraver Reynolds Stone helped create a postage stamp, part of the ‘1946 Victory Issue,’ which is filled with masonic symbolism.
The 3d Victory Stamp was widely praised for the ‘strength and simplicity of the design’. It depicts the King’s head in the East, his eyes firmly fixed on illustrations of a dove carrying an olive branch (representing peace and guidance), the square and compasses (in the second degree configuration) and a trowel and bricks (the sign of a Master spreading the cement that binds mankind in brotherly love).
On the stamp the images appear in white, the colour of purity, out of purple, the colour of divinity. the three coupled illustrations are surrounded by a scrolled ribbon made up of five figure threes – sacred numbers in Freemasonry – and was the unusual positioning of the wording meant to represent two great pillars? By its name and intention, the stamp proclaimed victory over evil, yet by its appearance it expressed compassion and hope.
King George VI once stated, ‘ the world today does require spiritual and moral regeneration. I have no doubt, after many years as a member of our Order, that Freemasonry can play a most important part in this vital need.’
The Victory Stamp captured those words in a graphic representation that also expressed the King’s belief that the building of a new and better world could best be achieved by adhering to the principles of the square and compasses.
He reinforced those thoughts in 1948 in an address he gave to Grand Lodge: ‘I believe that a determination to maintain the values which have been the rock upon which the masonic structure has stood firm against the storms of the past is the only policy which can be pursued in the future. I think that warning needs emphasising today, when men, sometimes swayed by sentimentality or an indiscriminate tolerance, are apt to overlook the lessons of the past. I cannot better impress this upon you than by quoting from the book on which we have all taken our masonic obligations: “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set".