Those who dwell in the silent cities
With Rudyard Kipling as one of its founding members, how did a masonic lodge created for those serving in the Imperial War Graves Commission in northern France find its way to London?
From Gallipoli, the Middle East and Salonika to the European nations along the Western Front, the sites of many First World War graves were unknown, and in areas where fighting had been heaviest, bodies lay unburied.
The commander of a mobile unit of the British Red Cross, Sir Fabian Ware, decided that the final resting places of the dead would not be lost. His unit therefore began recording and caring for all the graves they could find. By 1915, this work was given official recognition by the War Office and incorporated into the British Army as the Graves Registration Commission.
With the support of Edward, Prince of Wales, Ware submitted a memorandum on the subject to the Imperial War Conference, and in May 1917 the Imperial War Graves Commission, today called the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, was established by a Royal Charter.
Undertaking the reburial of the fallen soldiers of Britain and its empire, the commission was empowered to buy land in order to build cemeteries and memorials wherever required. Its work began in earnest after the 1918 armistice that ended the fighting. That year, some 587,000 graves were identified, with a further 559,000 casualties registered as having no known grave.
For commission members who were masons, creating a lodge was the logical progression – the commission was free from political control and was tasked with caring for the graves of men and women from many religions.
With the commission making its headquarters just outside St Omer in March 1919, Lodge No. 12 was consecrated nearby on 7 January 1922 in both the French and English rites.
Lodge No. 12’s founders included Sir Fabian himself, Sir Herbert Ellissen and Conservative politician Sir Henry Maddocks. But perhaps the most famous founder was Rudyard Kipling, who had joined the commission as literary adviser.
Kipling inspired the eventual name of the lodge: The Builders of the Silent Cities. In the words of the by-laws of No. 12, the name ‘beautifully expresses the vocation of its members, whose sympathetic labour is to construct and maintain permanent resting places and memorials to the glorious and valiant dead of the British Empire who fell in the Great War’.
During the 1920s, No. 12 was an active lodge, holding eight meetings a year and giving an opportunity for the study of Freemasonry without encroaching on Degree ceremonies. According to ‘35 Masters, The Story of the Builders of the Silent Cities Lodge, No. 4948’, the lodge built up ‘an enviable reputation for excellent working’, including a modified version of the Sussex working in the Third Degree. It was the only lodge in France to do so and was carried out as a mark of respect for Kipling, who was a Sussex man.
In 1925, the commission moved to London, and many of the senior members of No. 12 were transferred to England. This naturally led to the need for a London lodge, and on 5 December 1927, the Builders of the Silent Cities Lodge, No. 4948, was consecrated under the English Constitution.
‘O valiant hearts who to your glory came, Through dust of conflict and through battle flame; Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved, Your memory hallowed in the land you loved’ A line from the hymn ‘Oh Valiant Hearts’, which is sung at the end of Lodge No. 4948 meetings
A HALL STONE LODGE
While Ware had been a founder member of No. 12, he was not a member of a lodge in the English Constitution at the time so could not play a similar role in the formation of No. 4948. Ellissen therefore became the first Master and shouldered the burden of most of the work during the lodge’s formative years.
With Freemasons’ Hall a memorial to the brethren who fell in the First World War, it will come as no surprise that Ellissen’s first resolution was that No. 4948 should become a Hall Stone Lodge. Grand Lodge had launched a campaign to raise funds to help in the Hall’s construction, with a target of £1 million. Lodges that contributed an average of 10 guineas per member were to be recorded in the new building as Hall Stone Lodges and the Master of each entitled to wear a special medal on a collarette. Ellissen was determined that the medal should be attained during his Mastership, so that future brethren should know that every Master from the first onwards had worn it during their year of office.
Since its inception, Lodge No. 4948 has had a number of different London homes, meeting at Andertons’ Hotel in Fleet Street, The Rembrandt Hotel on Thurloe Street, The Mostyn Hotel on Portman Square, the Royal Commonwealth Society on Northumberland Avenue and The Park Court Hotel in Bayswater. In 2001, however, it returned home to Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street, where it was originally consecrated and still meets today on the third Friday of January, February, March and November.
At the end of every meeting of Lodge No. 4948, ‘Oh Valiant Hearts’ is sung, a hymn specially written for a War Anniversary Intercession Service held in Westminster Abbey in August 1917. Originally titled ‘The Supreme Sacrifice’, the hymn is a fitting tribute to those who dwell in the silent cities.
Thanks to ‘35 Masters, The Story of the Builders of the Silent Cities Lodge’ and ‘The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Builders of the Silent Cities Lodge’. For more information about the Imperial War Graves Commission, now known as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, go to www.cwgc.org.
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 Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Kent, officially opened the Library and Museum of Freemasonry’s newest gallery
Part of UGLE’s Tercentenary celebrations, the ambitious project took several months to complete.
Among the beautiful treasures on show at the gallery are items belonging to such well-known masons as HRH Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex; Sir Winston Churchill; King Edward VIII; circus proprietor Billy Smart; and land speed record-holder Sir Malcolm Campbell.
Located at Freemasons’ Hall, the gallery includes the elaborate, monumental Grand Master’s gilded ceremonial throne, commissioned in 1790 for the Prince of Wales (later King George IV), the second royal prince to be a Grand Master.
The gallery opens up into a lodge room, where the Grand Master unveiled a new plaque renaming it the Kent Room.
‘The exhibition aims to explain Freemasonry’s values of sociability, inclusivity, charity and integrity, as well as its history and development to the general public,’ said Diane Clements, then director of the Library and Museum. ‘We hope it will also be an enjoyable way for members to explain to friends and potential new members what Freemasonry is all about.’
It’s been two years in the making, with the United Grand Lodge of England’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, brought to life in a striking new bronze bust
Sculpted by Frances Segelman, it is life and a quarter size, with his eyes subtly picked out in blue. It was cast by Bronze Age in Limehouse.
Frances was first approached to sculpt HRH The Duke of Kent back in 2016 by then Grand Secretary Nigel Brown, to mark UGLE’s Tercentenary and his 50th anniversary as Grand Master. As a result, His Royal Highness sat for Frances on a number of occasions at both Kensington Palace and her studio in Wapping, London.
Frances Segelman has sculpted a wide variety of public figures including HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Prince of Wales. Recent projects have included Boris Johnson, Joanna Lumley, Lord Julian Fellowes, Sir Derek Jacobi, Sir Steven Redgrave and Sergei Polunin.
The Grand Master’s sculpture can be seen on display in the Kent Room in Freemasons’ Hall.
Freemasons from across the country paid their respects on Remembrance Day to remember our country’s gallant servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice
At 11am on Sunday 12th November 2017, a two-minute silence was held to remember those who lost their lives in war. Provinces, Lodges and individual members from around the country paid their respects, as they laid wreaths to honour our fallen heroes including many Freemasons.
At the Cenotaph memorial, the Prince of Wales led the commemorations and laid the first wreath at the base of the Whitehall monument on behalf of the Queen, who observed the service from a balcony alongside Prince Phillip, The Duke of Edinburgh. The Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry, The Duke of York, the Earl of Wessex, the Princess Royal and the United Grand Lodge of England’s Grand Master, The Duke of Kent all laid wreaths.
Please scroll through the gallery at the top to view some of the parades and services where Freemasons paid their respects
Hundreds of people attended the funeral of W Bro Ken Wilkinson, a Battle of Britain pilot and member of both Worcestershire and Warwickshire Provinces
The service was held in St Alphege Church in his home town of Solihull on 8th September 2017, with dozens lining the streets outside to pay their respects. W Bro Wilkinson’s coffin was carried into the church draped in the British flag, whilst a Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire cascaded through the sky above.
W Bro Wilkinson was one of the last remaining Battle of Britain pilots and was described as “a true gentleman” by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust.
W Bro Wilkinson died on 31st July 2017 at the age of 99.
Painting in the reverse
The acquisition of a painting of the Prince of Wales by the Library and Museum reveals the Chinese art of glass painting
The Library and Museum’s collection is extensive, but just occasionally there is an opportunity to add more objects or books to its world-class displays. One such occasion occurred in November 2016 when Library and Museum staff noticed that a painting of the Prince of Wales (who would become King George IV) was being sold at auction. And unusually, this was a painting on glass.
The Chinese practice of reverse-glass painting dates back to the early 1700s. In Europe the fashion for such pieces became popular in the 1750s but, given their fragile nature, few examples survive.
In this case, the glass artist copied a portrait of the Prince of Wales in masonic regalia with the breast star of the Order of the Garter, seated on the Grand Master’s throne. The Prince was Grand Master of the Moderns Grand Lodge from 1790 to 1813. The glass painting is now on display at the Library and Museum.
The original painting, circa 1802, is by Edmund Scott (1758-1815) and is held in the collections of the Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries – but Scott also drew and engraved a print of the portrait, a copy of which was already held by the Library and Museum.
Details of the 150 oil paintings in the collection at Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street are now available online as part of a joint project between the Public Catalogue Foundation and the BBC to put on line all the oil paintings in the UK. More than 200,000 paintings at 3,000 venues across the UK are to be included.
Freemasons' Hall is just one of many institutions (including many Oxford and Cambridge colleges) that are not in public ownership which have joined the project for the benefit of wider public awareness and research. For more information see: www.bbc.co.uk/yourpaintings You can search for the Library and Musuem of Freemasonry as a venue to see all the paintings at Great Queen Street.
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry has been working with the Public Catalogue Foundation for the last two years to have all the pictures photographed and to provide details of the artists.
13 June 2012
An address by RW Bro Dr JW Daniel, PJGW
MW Pro Grand Master, Distinguished Visitors, and Brethren
The last year in which the loyal freemasons of the English Constitution had occasion to celebrate a royal diamond jubilee was 1897. You will recall, however, that in the Charge after Initiation we are enjoined
'to be exemplary in the discharge of our civil duties…above all, by never losing sight of the allegiance due to the Sovereign of our native land…'
Of course, we demonstrate that allegiance at every masonic banquet when we honour the loyal toast to ‘The Queen’ – indeed, I doubt if there is any other organisation in Her Majesty’s dominions that has drunk her health more often over the last 60 years. But there have been no greater expressions of the English Craft’s allegiance and loyalty to the sovereign of its native land than at the two ‘Special Meetings’ of this Grand Lodge held in 1887 and 1897 to commemorate the golden and diamond jubilees of Queen Victoria, two of the largest Masonic meetings ever held in England. Both were held in the Royal Albert Hall, and the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) presided over both as Grand Master, yet neither is (yet?) included in the list of ‘Outstanding Masonic Events’ in the Masonic Year Book, and little has been said or written about them since. So, in this address of between 15 and 20 minutes, I will attempt to repair that loss, taking as my theme ‘Royal Jubilees and Loyal Freemasons’
First, though, the ‘back story’.
When HRH Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, was elected Grand Master in 1874, the close connection with the British Royal Family that had been broken with the death of HRH The Duke of Sussex, the Grand Master, in 1843, was restored. The Duke of Sussex and his brother, the Duke of Kent (sons of King George III), had supervised the of the two English Grand Lodges in 1813; the Duke of Kent was the father of Queen Victoria, and when he died, the Duke of Sussex gave her away at her marriage to Prince Albert, and Prince Albert Edward was the first of their four sons.
Although Prince Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, had been a Freemason since his initiation in Sweden in 1868, and had been appointed as a Past Grand Master of the UGLE a year later, it was almost as an afterthought that he was formally offered the Grand Mastership in 1874 after the resignation of the Marquess of Ripon on his conversion to Roman Catholicism. I suspect that it was somewhat to the surprise of the Earl of Carnarvon, the Deputy Grand Master, that the Prince accepted the offer. However, the Prince immediately appointed Lord Carnarvon as his Pro Grand Master, and the earl then installed him as Grand Master in the Royal Albert Hall in April 1875 at a meeting which thousands of Freemasons attended.
In his address to the Prince Lord Carnarvon emphasised what he saw as the key aspect and value of ‘English’ freemasonry, namely its alliance with
‘social order and the great institutions of the country, and, above all, with the monarchy, the crowning institution of all.’
That was the first sound of the theme of loyalty that was to be heard ever more clearly and frequently as the Queen’s reign and the Grand Mastership of her son continued. Lord Carnarvon also claimed that Freemasonry’s ‘works of sympathy and charity’ had earned it ‘respect even in the eyes of the outer world’. And for his part the newly installed Grand Master added that
as long as Freemasons do not, as Freemasons, mix themselves up in politics so long I am sure this high and noble order will flourish, and will maintain the integrity of our great empire.
The Times described the event as a ‘gathering unequalled alike in the numbers and social status of those who took part in it’, representing ‘the largest association of English gentlemen’, an event that marked out the difference between freemasonry as practised in England, with its ‘solemn protestation of its loyal, religious, and charitable principles’, and continental freemasonry where it was ‘quite possible that under the pressure of past tyranny Freemasonry was really used…as a means of revolutionary agitation.’ Indeed, the favourable press the Craft then received as ‘a perfectly innocuous, loyal and virtuous Association’, constituted a high-water mark in the public recognition of ‘English’ freemasonry at the outset of the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
The Prince of Wales thus got off to a flying start as Grand Master. He was the head of an ancient and well respected institution that was perceived to be socially useful and, above all, loyal to the monarchy that crowned the largest empire the world had ever seen and over which he would eventually preside. The Empire was still growing apace and the Craft under the English, Irish and Scottish Grand Lodges grew with it. At every Masonic function throughout the Empire, Freemasons drank the Queen’s health. Even in the Dominion of Canada and the colony of South Australia, where the majority of the British lodges had broken away to form their own Grand Lodges, their new Grand Lodges insisted that they remained loyal to the British Crown.
Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in June 1887 provided just the right context for the celebration of the renewed close relationship between the Royal family and the Craft. The major event was to be a ‘Special Meeting’ of Grand Lodge, at the Royal Albert Hall, to move a loyal Address to the Queen, but two additional ideas were put forward early in that jubilee year, only to fade away in the following months.
First, the Prince of Wales, with the Queen’s approval, decided in 1886 that the nation should commemorate the jubilee by erecting the ‘Imperial Institute of the United Kingdom, the Colonies, and India’, and he called on institutions and individuals to subscribe to the Fund he had set up for that purpose. So in January 1887, Lord Carnarvon, the Pro Grand Master, dutifully wrote to each lodge under the English Constitution to ask it to consider his suggestion that it make a voluntary subscription to the Fund of not more than a guinea per head (about £85 in today’s money). Although he announced in April that the initial response was largely in favour of the idea, and the intended Masonic collection was then announced in The Times on 25 April, the amount actually collected appears to have been so insignificant that the Masonic contribution received no further mention either in Grand Lodge - or indeed at the Albert Hall meeting, the proceeds of which were donated to the Masonic charities rather than to the Imperial Institute.
The second idea was more imaginative but had an even shorter life. At the March Quarterly Communication the Master of Mizpah Lodge moved that
'to perpetuate the memory of the Jubilee…it be resolved that the Grand Lodge of England do prepare forthwith a Foundation Stone…to be ultimately placed, if possible, upon the ground in or near the original site of King Solomon’s Temple…and that the rebuilding of the said Temple as a “House of Prayer for all Nations” shall be proceeded with as soon as necessary funds be provided.'
Although the proposer claimed that the expense to Grand Lodge would be but £25, and despite his argument that Queen Victoria was ‘quite equal in glory to King Solomon’, the minutes of the meeting record that ‘The motion not being seconded fell to the ground.’ On the other hand, and to support needy regalia manufacturers, Grand Lodge then proceeded to carry the motion ‘That Past Masters be entitled to wear a distinctive Collar.’
Thousands of Freemasons attended the Special Meeting on 13 June 1887. The Prince of Wales presided as Grand Master. At his side sat his younger brother, the Duke of Connaught (the Provincial Grand Master for Sussex and the District Grand Master for Bombay, and whom he had also appointed as a Past Grand Master). The Senior Warden was none other than the Grand Master’s eldest son, Prince Albert Victor. His Highness the Maharaja of Kuch-Behar added imperial lustre to the occasion, and the wider universality of the Craft was demonstrated by deputations from the Irish and Scottish Grand Lodges, a Past DepGM from New York City, a general from Hawaii, and a bishop representing the Grand Lodge of British Columbia. In opening the proceedings the Grand Master reminded the brethren that ‘Loyalty and Philanthropy’ were two of the Craft’s proudest tenets. He then invited the Grand Secretary to read the proposed Address, and, as this extract will show, loyalty was its keynote:
We, your Majesty’s most loyal and faithful subjects…most respectfully desire…to assure your Majesty of our fervent and unabated attachment to your Throne and Royal person. Founded as our ancient Institution is on principles of unswerving loyalty to our Sovereign and fidelity to our country, we rejoice to think that the great increase of our Order in all parts of your Majesty’s Dominions is in unison with the welfare of the nation and the maintenance of the established Institutions of the land…
In moving the motion, the Pro Grand Master, Lord Carnarvon, declared that
'in English Freemasonry order and law and loyalty to our Sovereign are the pillars of our ancient Institution'.
He reminded the audience that the Queen was ‘the daughter of a Freemason, that her uncles had been in Freemasonry, that her Royal sons are Freemasons, and that she has a Grandson in the Order’, and he repeated the claim that of all her subjects ‘there are none who are animated with more heartfelt loyal devotedness to her Throne than the Freemasons of England.’ The Address was adopted ‘unanimously amidst loud cheering’. Having signed it, the Grand Master ‘called on the Brethren for three cheers for Her Majesty’ and then joined in the singing of all three verses of the National Anthem, led by the Grand Organist, none other than ‘Brother Sir Arthur Sullivan.’ A Golden Jubilee Jewel had already been commissioned for all members of the Craft at the time of the celebration, and, in further support of my theory that Craft was designed by and for regalia manufacturers, the Grand Master ended the jubilee celebration by appointing and investing about 100 ‘deserving Brethren’ with Past Grand ranks.
When the ‘loyal and dutiful’ Address was eventually presented to the Queen at Osborne on 2 August 1887 by a deputation from Grand Lodge, led by the Prince of Wales, she received it with pleasure and commented:
I observe that the Society of Freemasons increases in numbers and prosperity in proportion as the wealth and civilization of my Empire increases. I heartily appreciate the charitable efforts which have always distinguished your Society. I thank you sincerely for your affectionate devotion to my throne and person.
And just to round off a remarkable year, Grand Lodge, in September 1887, gladly accepted the Grand Master’s suggestion that Provincial and District Grand Masters be allowed to award a number of Past Provincial or District Grand ranks.
Queen Victoria completed the sixtieth year of her reign in 1897, and her Diamond Jubilee was celebrated even more grandly and widely. By then even more of the terrestrial globe was painted red, and the number of lodges on the role of this Grand Lodge alone had grown from 646 in 1837 to 2,220. In 1837 there had been only three Grand Lodges in the British Empire (England, Ireland and Scotland) but by 1897 a further twelve had been established, all independent, sovereign bodies but whose members, as British subjects, still owed their loyalty to ‘Her Imperial Majesty The Queen-Empress’.
However, I did not find any formal announcement of Grand Lodge’s intentions to honour that Diamond Jubilee until I came across one in The Times of 1 May 1897 after an article starting with the sentence
'The Greek Government have taken a fresh step, and a long step, towards meeting the demands of Europe'.
In a section headed ‘The Queen’s reign’ I read first that the Grand Secretary had sent out invitations to Freemasons to support the Pro Grand Master by attending ‘a Masonic service to commemorate the record reign of Her Majesty the Queen’ at Southwark Cathedral on 27 May; and then the announcement of the Masonic celebration to be held in the Albert Hall on 14 June, the proceeds from which were to be divided between the ‘Prince of Wales Hospital Fund’ and the three Masonic charities.
The idea of calling on loyal Freemasons to mark a royal jubilee by raising money for a purpose other than the Masonic charities again met with some opposition. On this occasion, however, a compromise was reached. Seven thousand Freemasons attended the Albert Hall celebration, and the sale of tickets produced £7,000 (more than half a million pounds in today’s money), half of which went to the Prince’s Hospital Fund, and the rest to the three Masonic charities.
The Grand Master, HRH The Prince of Wales, presided, as in 1887, and among those present were the Grand Masters of Ireland, Scotland and South Australia, and His Highness the Rajah of Kapurthala, the 25 year-old head of the eponymous princely Indian state, then within the British Empire.
In his opening remarks the Grand Master repeated his belief that
'there is no body in her Majesty’s dominions who are more orderly or more loyal that the Freemasons'
and in these extracts from the proposed address to the Queen you will again note the emphasis on loyalty:
'We, your Majesty’s most faithful and loyal subjects, the Free and Accepted Masons under the United Grand Lodge of England, venture...on this, the completion of the 60th year of your Majesty’s reign over these Kingdoms and the vast Empire of the British Crown, humbly to offer our dutiful and heartfelt congratulations, and to express our continued and unswerving loyalty to your Majesty… No class of your Majesty’s subjects outvies in loyal attachment to the Throne and devotion to your Majesty’s person than the Ancient Institution of English Freemasonry… '
The motion to present the address to the Queen was carried by acclamation, and the address was there and then signed by the Grand Master – whereupon, according to The Freemason’s Chronicle
'Bro Sadler, Grand Tyler, seized the pen with which the important document had been completed, probably recognising its value as a memento of this most unique celebration. No doubt we shall hear in good time that the pen has been added to the collection of interesting articles in the possession of Grand Lodge, and in which our Grand Tyler takes so great and lively an interest'.
MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, this is that very pen. Bro Sadler subsequently suggested that brethren who had yet to donate to the Prince of Wales’ Fund could write their cheques with it. I have no idea how many brethren took up that idea, but the pen, and this, the inkstand used on 14 June 1897, are still kept in the Library and Museum.
The Grand Master then invested the Raja of Kapurthala as a Past SGW, the Grand Master of South Australia as a Past JGW and the Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells as a Past Grand Chaplain, before going on to make sixty further appointments to past Grand Rank, most of whom were present to be invested. There was one notable absentee, however, from the District Grand Lodge of Egypt, who was nevertheless appointed as a Past JGW, namely Major-General Sir Horatio Herbert Kitchener. His apology for absence, if he sent one, might have mentioned that he was instead leading his Egyptian and British armies up the Nile to Khartoum to avenge the murder of General Gordon.
Before the meeting closed the Earl of Lathom, on behalf of Grand Lodge, presented the Grand Master with a jewel in commemoration of the great event, a jewel set with 62 diamonds and which is now on display in the Library and Museum, together with examples of the other jewels specially commissioned by Grand Lodge for the Queen Victoria’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees. HRH expressed his thanks and, on retiring from the Hall, he ‘turned and bowed three times before disappearing from view’. (The Home Secretary took only a month to acknowledge the Queen’s receipt of Grand Lodge’s ‘loyal and dutiful address’, and, following the example set in 1887, Provincial and District Grand Masters were empowered to confer a large number of Past ranks.)
But we did not celebrate the 1897 Diamond Jubilee only at that special meeting of Grand Lodge, or with additional Masonic ‘bling’. Loyal Masons in full regalia attended cathedral and church services from Axminster in Devon to Bridgetown in Barbados and from Durham to Llandaff; the Freemasons of Kent presented the east window to the Chapter House of Canterbury Cathedral; at a ceremony in Leicester, Bro Sir Israel Hart laid the foundation stone of the new Jewish synagogue and the Mayor, Bro Marshall, laid a second stone to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee; the Scarborough brethren installed electric light in the Hospital and Dispensary; the Nottinghamshire brethren put on a concert and a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Nottingham Castle – specially illuminated by electric light for the occasion – to which ‘non-Masons and ladies’ were admitted, the Masons being ‘at liberty to appear in the clothing and jewels of any Degree to which they may belong; and Constitutional Lodge in Beverley, Yorkshire, held its own ‘special meeting’ when a ‘handsome moose deer head’ was presented to the Earl of Londesborough.
Full reports of the Albert Hall event appeared in the press. This extract from The Evening Standard encapsulates the depiction of the English Craft at that time:
'The great meeting of Freemasons at the Royal Albert Hall was remarkable for the presence of many of the Indian Princes now present in the country, and it was stated…that the Indian Christians, Parsees, Hindoos, and Mohammedans met together in the Lodges, irrespective of religion and caste, and dined and held social intercourse with each other… Happily, Freemasonry has not been converted in Great Britain or her colonies into a political machine, as has been the case in Europe, but has held itself aloof from all subjects alien to its constitution and purposes, foremost among which stand charity and goodwill towards men…There can be no doubt that the Masonic body exercises a large influence for good, and that it is an institution that has a beneficial effect upon public life in England.'
So, Brethren, those were some snapshots of how our predecessors celebrated the golden and diamond jubilees of Queen Victoria. How times have changed! But, Brethren, I am sure you will agree with me that our loyalty to the sovereign of our native land, and indeed to all our principles, remains unabated.
MW Pro Grand Master, at Grand Lodge’s celebration of the Golden Jubilee in 1887 the Prince of Wales led the assembly in giving three cheers for Queen Victoria. I am assured that it is your wish that we celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at least as enthusiastically.
The Pro Grand Master warmly confirmed this.
The Grand Director of Ceremonies then called the Brethren to order and led them in three hearty cheers for Her Majesty the Queen.
17 September 2012 - UPDATE: It has just been announced that 'The Queen has been graciously pleased, on the ocassion of Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee' to award Brian Todhunter with the Royal Victorian Medal (Silver) for 'Restoration of Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia's Royal Barge and Escort Boats'.
Brian Todhunter, a member of Tuscan Oak and Lamberthead Lodge No.6387, will be on board the Royal Yacht Britannia's tender, the Britannia Royal Barge, transporting Her Majesty The Queen to the Royal Barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant this weekend.
Brian is a former Royal Navy engineer and a member of the Association of Royal Yachtsmen, having served on the Royal Yacht Britannia between 1975 and 1978. Last November, at the Association's Annual General Meeting, he was asked to inspect the Britannia Royal Barge and an escort launch in order to get them both running. He quickly put together a team of ex-Royal Yachtsmen from the engineering branch, and, based in Leith, Scotland (Britannia's current home), they have worked tirelessly for the past seven months in order to recommission their engines and get the boats shipshape. This has included extensive sea trials on the Firth of Forth in Force 4 winds - although he is not expecting anything quite so rough on the Thames!
The royal barge was used to transport The Queen and other members of the Royal Family to and from Britannia, until she was decommissioned in 1997. Brian, who also served on HMS Hermes, said: “Its remarkable how well she ran after 15 years of idleness. We are all looking forward to carrying out Royal duty again - although probably for the last time”.
The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, who is Patron of the Pageant, and the Duchess of Cornwall, will board the Britannia Royal Barge, at Chelsea Pier. They will then be transported some eight hundred yards downstream to Cadogan Pier, where they will disembark and board the Royal Barge, the Spirit of Chartwell. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry will join them onboard.
The Britannia Royal Barge will then proudly escort the Royal Barge at the head of this spectacular pageant until the Royal party disembarks close to Blackfriars Bridge and boards HMS President, where they will watch the pageant go by.
The Association of Royal Yachtsmen was founded in 1989 by Albert ‘Dixie’ Deane and is dedicated to bringing together many of the estimated 1,767 ‘Yotties’ who served on-board HMY Britannia between 14 January 1954 and 11 December 1997. HM The Queen is Patron of the Association and the Duke of Edinburgh is its President. Its headquarters are on the Royal Yacht Britannia, where many Yotties return annually for their working party week. Throughout this sociable week the Yotties work alongside Britannia’s maintenance crew to undertake a wide range of jobs throughout their old home. They also mix with visitors, who are enthralled by their stories of the 'good old days'.