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.
The Emulation Lodge of Improvement Annual Festival, held at Freemasons’ Hall on Friday 26th February 2016, is the high point of the lodge’s calendar
The Festival, attended by over 200 brethren, was presided over by the President, RW Bro David Macey, Provincial Grand Master for Warwickshire and the senior members of the Emulation Committee, and provided a superb showcase for a demonstration of four sections from the Lectures of the Three Degrees.
The Lectures take the form of a Preceptor asking questions of an Assistant, the Preceptor being a senior member of the Emulation Committee and the Assistant being a junior member of the lodge, but be under no illusion, standing on a blue dial next to the Senior Warden. It is the Assistant who is under the spotlight.
The programme of work comprised:
2nd lecture 2nd section: Preceptor W Bro Gerald Goodall, Assistant Bro Stephen Widdop
2nd lecture 3rd section: Preceptor W Bro Gerald Goodall, Assistant Bro Alexis Petrou
2nd lecture 4th section: Preceptor W Bro Graham Redman, Assistant W Bro John Lovett
2nd lecture 5th section: Preceptor W Bro Graham Redman, Assistant W Bro Mark Graham
Both Preceptors and Assistants delivered their sections with passion and conviction before a full temple and to a truly exemplary standard. I’m sure that for the Assistants this wasn’t just a daily advancement but an advancement they’ll remember for the rest of their lives and I congratulate them.
Worthy of note is the role of the Senior Warden (this year in the capable hands of W Bro Steve Turner) who must be prepared to prompt each of the Assistants from memory (and thereby must be word perfect in all four sections even if never called upon).
Afterwards the brethren retired to the Connaught Rooms for an excellent Festive Board.
There is exciting news about the Connaught Rooms in Great Queen Street. We own the freehold and a new lease is being granted. The new people have worked extremely hard throughout July and August, at their own expense, to return the building to its former glory. Importantly, among many other key improvements, they will have state-of-the-art kitchens and new staff who will understand how to serve a meal! This great news will, I am sure, be joyously received by anyone who dines there from Metropolitan, the Provinces and from the Districts. On a personal note I could not be more thrilled.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank those readers who write constructive letters to the Editor. Clearly the Editor can only choose a few representative letters on any subject and could not possibly enter into a private correspondence. Hence we simply acknowledge receipt of a letter. Please note that if you have a Masonic question or a complaint, not to do with the magazine, the protocol is to go through your Metropolitan or Provincial Grand Secretary, who will either deal with the matter or, if appropriate, then seek guidance from us. Please do not short circuit the system or berate us for not entering into correspondence in these circumstances.
In early July I accompanied the Pro Grand Master to Jamaica for the Installation of the new District Grand Master and Grand Superintendent for Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.
Concurrently we attended the regional meeting of Districts Grand Masters. I attended last year in Bermuda and the intention is to continue to attend on a regular basis. At the end of July I was in Dublin for the Tripartite Conference and it was another good opportunity to talk with my fellow Grand Secretaries from Ireland and Scotland, particularly about our Districts where we have mutual interests.
Although August is out of the Masonic ceremonial season Grand Lodge continued to work at full pace. I can assure you that the workload here does not diminish!
In the Grand Secretary’s talk to Grand Lodge at the September Quarterly Communication entitled, ‘Building Bridges – Freemasons’ Hall in the 21st Century’ I emphasised the true value of Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, and all it stands for. The Editor has kindly reproduced the talk in this issue.