Former Grand Secretary Jim Daniel was recently made a Doctor of Philosophy by the University of Sheffield for his thesis, The 4th Earl of Carnarvon (1831-90) and Freemasonry in the British Empire.
When in 1989 Jim Daniel was abruptly switched into a second career in masonic administration as Grand Secretary General of the Supreme Council and then Grand Secretary of the UGLE, he became interested in the Ancient and Accepted Rite’s history and its relationship with the Craft.
One of the names in the lists of Sovereign Grand Commanders of the Rite and Rulers of the Craft was that of Lord Carnarvon – not the Carnarvon involved with discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb – but his father, the 4th Earl, whose main residence was Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey was recently filmed.
Lord Carnarvon was Grand Master of the Mark and the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council. While he was Secretary of State for the Colonies for the second time, he was appointed Pro Grand Master of the Craft, in which capacity he installed the Prince of Wales as Grand Master in 1875 and presided over UGLE’s decision in 1877, in effect, to break off relations with the Grand Orient of France.
Those few historians who have commented on Freemasonry in the British Empire have tended to argue that it played a crucial role. Daniel, however, concludes that the fact that Victorian politicians like Carnarvon were Freemasons as well as important figures on the imperial stage, does not mean that Freemasonry as an institution had an imperialist agenda or even played a significant part in building and maintaining the British Empire: correlation does not mean causation.