With their own distinctive terminology, structures and practices, each masonic Order is different from the others. Here Brian Price breaks down the origins, requirements and organisation of Royal and Select Masters.
When was it constituted?
The Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of England and Wales and its Districts and Councils Overseas was constituted on 29 July 1873 by four councils chartered two years earlier by the Grand Council of New York. They organised themselves into a sovereign body under the patronage of Canon Portal, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, who was installed as the Grand Master of the Order. After World War II, the Order grew rapidly and there are now over 250 councils and nearly 5,000 members.
Where is it based?
The original councils met in Red Lion Square in London, but moved to Great Queen Street (to today’s Connaught Rooms). The Order is now administered from Mark Masons’ Hall at 86 St James’s Street, London.
Who can join the Order?
It welcomes Master Masons in good standing who are also Companions of the Royal Arch, and Mark Master Masons. Members are called Companions.
What is the emblem of the Order?
It is a stylised depiction of the Ark of the Covenant surrounded by a triangle and the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Beneath is a scroll bearing the motto ‘Ego Alpha et Omega Sum’ - meaning ‘I am alpha and omega’.
What is the relationship between the Craft and Royal and Select Masters?
Although UGLE’s position is that ‘pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more’, during an address in 2007 the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, acknowledged the existence of many masonic Orders and accepted their sovereignty. He included Royal and Select Masters as one of those which had a role in providing Freemasons with additional scope for extending their research in interesting and enjoyable ways.
Is the country divided into Provinces in the same way as the Craft?
Yes, although in this Order they are called Districts. Each is headed by a District Grand Master and a team of District Grand Officers. And individual units are referred to as councils rather than lodges.
Does the Order have distinctive regalia?
It has crimson and gold regalia with a triangular apron. The Grand Officers collar and apron bear the emblem of the Order of the Silver Trowel. The Order also features some distinctive jewels.
Who runs it?
The Order is controlled by a Grand Council headed by the Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master and a Principal Conductor of the Work. The current Grand Master is Most Illustrious Companion Kessick Jones.
Isn’t it sometimes called the ‘Cryptic Order’?
The four core degrees (with ceremonies based on the Old Testament Solomonic legends) are Select Master, Royal Master, Most Excellent Master and Super Excellent Master. They are sometimes referred to as the ‘Cryptic Degrees’, and the Order as ‘Cryptic’, as the traditional history of the Degree of Select Master references the underground ‘crypt’ of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, which also features in Royal Arch and other masonic ceremonies.
I have a friend who’s a member overseas. Is he allowed to visit here?
So long as he’s taken the four core degrees of the Order in a recognised jurisdiction – subject to invitation, of course. However, in many jurisdictions, the degree of Most Excellent Master is not a ‘Cryptic Degree’ but part of the Royal Arch.
It was a tale from across the pond as David Wakely, Secretary of Beaminster Manor Lodge No. 1367 in Dorset, received an email from Ben Headley, of Franklin Lodge No. 20 in Connecticut, America
Ben identified that he had found a wooden plaque bearing the name of Beaminster Manor Lodge and with the name of a W Bro Toby dated 1873. He provided a photograph of it hanging in an antiques shop in Niantic, Connecticut. His quest was to establish if the artefact was of importance to the lodge and if so, to inform David if there was anything he could do to help repatriate it to its rightful owners.
David recognised it as a similar plaque for a W Bro A Butler dated 1885 which had hung in the lodge dining room for many years. He sent a photograph of their plaque and confirmed that they would be most grateful that, if they covered all of the costs, would he be able to arrange to purchase and ship the item back to Beaminster. In the true spirit of Freemasonry they declined all offers of reimbursement and merely requested that they would like to ‘present’ it in their lodge first and then send it off.
It turned out that the plaque was purchased at an estate sale in Mystic, Connecticut, and as some American troops had been stationed in Beaminster during World War Two and the lodge premises had been requisitioned during the war, its possible it was ‘requisitioned’ at the same time.
Coincidentally, Beaminster Manor Lodge had by this time started on a refurbishment and redecoration of their lodge room. When turning out a cupboard, they discovered three more plaques all from the late 1800’s. The lodge believe that it may have been the practise for the lodge to present a plaque to the Worshipful Master at the end of his term of office. It is then quite possible, upon his death, that the plaque could have been passed to the family.
As promised, the plaque was duly presented at the Franklin Lodge meeting in September 2018 and was recorded with a photograph of the event. It was then dispatched in late October and at the Beaminster Lodge meeting on 13th November they duly repatriated the plaque to the lodge and similarly, had a photograph taken to record the event. This was then sent off to the Franklin Lodge with grateful thanks.
Beaminster Manor Lodge have now arranged all five plaques, which now hang in a row above and behind the Worshipful Master’s chair in the lodge – a fitting conclusion to the memory of those Past Masters. All involved are deeply indebted to the members of Franklin Lodge, to Ben Headley, their Worshipful Master Joe Giancaspro and to their Secretary Daniel Rzewuski.
Monday 14 May 2018 proved to be a memorable day for members of the Lodge of Saint Mark No. 8479 in Dorset, with 92-year- old, World War II veteran Ray Fuller being installed as their Worshipful Master
Ray joined the Royal Navy as a 17-year-old in 1943 and served on HMS Illustrious. The carrier's aircraft attacked targets in Japanese-occupied Dutch East Indies and took part in the Battle of Okinawa.
In early 1944, the aircraft of HMS Illustrious and USS Saratoga joined forces to strike a naval base at Sabang in northern Sumatra.
Nearly 80 Brethren gathered in the village of Kinson to see Ray take the chair, which created a fantastic atmosphere on this remarkable evening. It wasn't Ray’s first time in the chair though having previously been Master of Bisley Lodge No. 2317 in Surrey, but that didn't detract from making this a special occasion for him. Over £700 was also raised for three charities during a bumper raffle.
Giving a moving response to the visitors toast was one member who had travelled down in a minibus from Surrey. He had known Ray since they were seven-years-old and they're both proud holders of the Burma Star, a military medal awarded to those who served in World War II.
The Provincial Grand Master for Dorset, Richard Merritt, commented that it was a remarkable coincidence that it was Ray's second time in the chair and that he was the 46th Master, as doubling this figure equalled Ray's exact age.
He went on to add that having made enquiries with UGLE, Ray was one of the oldest brothers to be installed into the chair of a lodge.
Freemasons' Hall in Manchester held its official open evening on 15th January 2018 to celebrate its multi million-pound refurbishment
The grand evening included a drinks reception, tour of the centre, speeches from key personnel and the unveiling of the new Masonic plaque to commemorate the opening evening.
Guests in attendance included the Provincial Grand Master for East Lancashire Sir David Trippier, accompanied by his wife Lady Trippier, and the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, who officially opened the new Masonic Centre.
The majority of the building now hosts spectacular weddings, events and business meetings. However, the Freemasons have retained dedicated accommodation located on the 3rd floor.
A memorial dedicated to the Freemasons that made the supreme sacrifice and lost their lives in World War II has also been re-homed within the centre. The memorial was moved from the ground floor hall of the building and features an eternal light above as a standing tribute and focal area within the establishment.
The United Grand Lodge of England celebrated its Tercentenary in October 2017 and the official opening is a reflection on how Freemasons have adapted throughout the years, taking on a much more contemporary direction.
Canterbury Cathedral hosted a Tercentenary thanksgiving service in recognition of its close and long-standing relationship with Freemasonry
More than 1,500 masons and their families came from across the Provinces of East Kent, West Kent, Surrey and Sussex to attend the service, which was held in the presence of the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, the Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Kent and the Lord Mayor of Canterbury.
The Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, the Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis, thanked the Duke of Kent for his support of the church. He recalled how the royal family helped when the building was damaged by bombing during World War II. He also paid tribute to the generous support of the masonic community, whose relationship with the cathedral dates back more than 100 years.
‘The idea of men coming together to make society a better place is one that has stood the test of time’ Geoffrey Dearing
At the time of the service, the cathedral was undergoing the largest restoration project in its history, the interior and exterior covered in scaffolding to allow the ancient building to be returned to its former glory. A donation of £300,000 from the Freemasons of Kent, Surrey and Sussex funded repairs to the North West Transept, including new tower pinnacles and a spiral stone staircase.
East Kent Provincial Grand Master Geoffrey Dearing said: ‘The existence of Freemasonry for over 300 years bears witness to the fact that the idea of men from all walks of life coming together to make society a better place is one that has stood the test of time and inspired successive generations.’
A large crowd of family, friends and acquaintances gathered to say goodbye to 97-year-old World War II veteran and Freemason Dennis Crisp at the British Cemetery in Buenos Aires on 10th February 2018
A very moving service was conducted by Rev. Agustin Marsal of the Anglican Church, who then invited those who wished to say some words to come forward. First was Major Adam Wise, Deputy Defence Attaché UK Embassy, who in full uniform expressed what an honour it had been to meet Dennis and how important it was for the Embassy to express gratitude for his war time service.
John Hunter spoke on behalf of the Royal British Legion ex BA Branch and the British community in general. He mentioned that Dennis had been Chairman of the Legion as well as an active participant in the Remembrance Day Services.
As a Burma campaign veteran no one was more suited to recite the Kohima Epitaph than Dennis. John expressed the admiration the community had for such a figure who in his time participated in several community entities, and thanked all those that helped organise such an emotive ceremony, of which Dennis surely would have been pleased.
Ian Thurn, District Grand Master of the local English Masons, then recalled what an example Dennis had been to all during his many years active in local Freemasonry – Dennis was the present Master of Belgrano Lodge No. 3466 under the District Grand Lodge of South America, Southern Division.
Finally, Vivianne Crisp, daughter of Dennis, said the last farewell on behalf of the family remembering what a kind father he had been.
The coffin covered with a Union Flag and led by bagpiper Alan Oliver was taken to the burial plot where Major Wise recited the Ode of Remembrance; this was followed by the bagpiper playing Flower of the Forest. To conclude, Douglas Moffatt instructed the Scottish Guards to perform a three-volley salute and then two minutes of silence were kept.
A fitting farewell for one of the last Argentine-born volunteers to World War II.
Dorset Freemason Bruce Graham Clarke DSC, one of the last surviving crew members of the Second World War XE midget submarines, has passed to the Grand Lodge above aged 95 years
A public servant and talented artist, Bruce was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his role in the mission to cut the undersea telephone cables connecting Singapore, Saigon, Hong Kong and Tokyo. The success of this operation forced the Japanese to use radio which left their messages open to interception.
Born in Edinburgh on 9 September 1922 into a military family, his father was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Educated at the Tower House School and University College School in London, Bruce volunteered for the Royal Navy in 1941. He initially served aboard destroyers, escorting convoys in the North Sea and the Mediterranean and witnessed the sinking of the French fleet. He later took part in Operation Torch – the invasion of Northwest Africa.
In 1943, Bruce volunteered for service aboard the Royal Navy’s midget submarines and after training in Scotland was commissioned. In July and August of 1945 Bruce was one of the crew of midget submarine XE5 which took part in Operation Foil to cut the Hong Kong to Singapore telegraph cable west of Lamma Island, running under Hong Kong harbour. In the book “Above us the waves” by Charles Warren and James Benson the mission is recalled ‘... Hong Kong was supposed to be blessed with clear water. It was most galling, therefore, for the crew of XE5 to arrive in the defended waters of Hong Kong after a very rough trip… and for the best part of four days ... the two divers, Clarke and Jarvis, were working up to their waists in mud…’
In his report of the operation, the commanding officer Lieutenant H.P. Westmacott wrote: ‘Whilst trying to clear the grapnel, S/Lt Clarke had caught his finger in the cutter, cut it very deeply and fractured the bone. It is impossible to praise too highly the courage and fortitude which enabled him to make his entry into the craft in this condition. Had he not done so, apart from becoming a prisoner, it is probable that the operation would have had to be abandoned for fear of being compromised.’ A month later the war ended and Bruce was posted to Minden in East Germany and put in command as Physical and Recreational Training Officer of Allied troops. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his part in Operation Foil on 17 November 1945 and subsequently demobilised in 1946.
After brief spells working in India and Africa, Bruce joined the Overseas Civil Service and through a series of promotions and secondments formed a successful career in Kenya. In 1955, Bruce married Joan in Nakuru, Kenya. The family moved to Aden in 1957; this posting for Bruce included a period as Labour Commissioner.
In 1962, Bruce retired from Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service and after a three year contract as Personnel Manager for the East African Power & Light Company in Tanganyika, Bruce returned to the UK, settling in Boscombe in Dorset in 1967. For a brief period, he and his wife Joan bought and let property but latterly restored antique china, porcelain and furniture, until Joan’s death in 1982 at the age of 60. In retirement, he returned to his hobby of oil painting; he was a very talented painter and produced some fine copies of the old masters.
He was initiated into United Studholme Alliance Lodge No. 1591 in 1979 and in 1986 joined Lodge of Meridian No. 6582 in Dorset, where he was Chaplain of for many years. Bruce was a holder of London Grand Rank and a Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden in Dorset. He was exalted into St Aldhelm's Chapter No. 2559 in Dorset in 1996.
Richard Merritt, Provincial Grand Master for Dorset, said: 'Brother Clarke was typical of so many unsung heroes within the Masonic Order. His military career, extreme bravery in the face of the enemy, personal charm and life-long modesty exemplify the principles observed and practised by Freemasons throughout their lives.'
At the grand age of 96, Lincolnshire Freemason Ken Green's friends arranged a surprise flight for him to see the Royal Air Force (RAF) bases he’d worked at during World War Two from the air
Ken had been the RAF’s ‘go to’ Merlin aircraft engine tuning expert in Bomber County, so he didn’t learn to fly until peacetime. It was Ken's experience and expertise that kept him on the ground during the war, but danger was never far away.
On one occasion he and a colleague had almost finished working on an engine and Ken was due for some leave. Arranging that his friend would finish the task, Ken climbed on to his bike and pedalled away, unaware that very shortly afterwards a bomb being loaded into the aircraft's bomb bay would fall off its dolly and explode. The aircraft was destroyed and Ken's friend was sadly killed.
Ken’s last flight was set up by fellow Freemasons Mike Craggs and Paul Anyan. It was prompted by a chance remark Ken made to Mike one clear afternoon when looking into a cloudless sky.
Ken saw the contrails of an aircraft and said: 'I should like to be up there just once more.' That was all it took for the wheels to be set in motion and Ken was taken to the former RAF base at Wickenby, to the north-east of Lincoln, to start a 90-mile circuit over former airfields at Newark, Skelingthorpe and Scotter, amongst others.
Ken Green passed to the Grand Lodge above just a few weeks later.
A group of local volunteer craftsmen came together to repair Beaminster Masonic Hall in Dorset, which was bought by local Freemasons in 1926 for £1,250
The building has served masons and the community ever since, and was requisitioned for military use during World War II. Members embarked on an ambitious programme of repair and restoration, which included works on the roof and external structure, as well as renovation and redecoration inside the building, making it ready for another 90 years of use.
Bikers rally to masonic memorial gardens
An estimated 10,000 motorcyclists gathered during the annual Ride to the Wall event at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire in October, in memory of members of the Armed Services killed in action since the end of World War II.
Home to ‘The Wall’ – the 43-metre Armed Forces Memorial, constructed from Portland limestone – the Arboretum also encompasses the Freemasons Memorial Garden of Remembrance. Last year more than 60 masons from around the UK, mainly members of the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association, gathered there to pay their respects to fallen comrades, friends and relations.