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.
With vision, energy and, above all, a sense of tolerance, the Duke of Sussex played a pivotal role in shaping modern Freemasonry
The Duke of Sussex, Grand Master from 1813 to 1843, is a towering figure in the history of English Freemasonry. Playing a pivotal role in the unification of the Premier and Antient Grand Lodges to form the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813, it’s impossible to overestimate the importance of his influence on Freemasonry.
Augustus Frederick was born a royal prince on 27 January 1773, the ninth of the 15 children of George III and Queen Charlotte. On 27 November 1801, at the age of 28, he was made Duke of Sussex by the King.
Augustus had a reputation for open-mindedness and was considered the most liberal of his siblings, being something of a social reformer. In opposition to the views of some of his older brothers, in particular the Duke of Cumberland, Augustus favoured Catholic emancipation. He was, despite his devout Christianity, a strong supporter of the Jewish community, too. He also lent his influence to promote various benevolent schemes and was once referred to as ‘the most charming beggar in Europe’.
Augustus was initiated into the Lodge of Victorious Truth in Berlin in 1798 while studying in Germany. He took rapidly to masonry, eventually occupying the Chair of his German lodge. Back in England, in 1800, Augustus joined his brother George’s Prince of Wales Lodge, now No. 259. The Duke joined the Lodge of Friendship, No. 6, in 1806 and Antiquity, No. 2, in 1808. In 1814, he was instrumental in the resuscitation and, later, amalgamation of several lodges to form Royal Alpha Lodge, No. 16 – which was the Grand Master’s personal lodge and remains so to this day.
BRINGING THE LODGES TOGETHER
In 1813, Augustus was elected Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge while his elder brother, the Duke of Kent, became Grand Master of the Antients, and they became involved in the completion of the negotiations for the unification of the two Grand Lodges.
The Articles of Union were finalised at the end of 1813 and on 27 December 1813, the Duke of Kent graciously stood aside for his younger brother to take the reins of the new Grand Lodge. Augustus remained Grand Master for 30 years until his death in 1843. He referred to the union of the two Grand Lodges as ‘the happiest event of my life’.
Augustus was a very hands-on Grand Master, resolving ‘to rule as well as to reign’. He attended meetings of the special Lodge of Reconciliation (1813-1816), personally chaired the Board of General Purposes and was involved in the detail of all of the major Board decisions. The Union did not proceed quite as smoothly as it might appear from our vantage point, 200 years further on. Indeed, Augustus faced significant resistance to the changes necessary to bring together two proud organisations with similar aims and ceremonies, but with important differences.
Demonstrating his independent thinking, he was the first royal to be buried in a public graveyard. After his death on 21 April 1843, and following the instructions recorded in his will, he was laid to rest in Kensal Green Cemetery in North London. Such a humble choice of burial place by a royal prince required the permission of Queen Victoria. He had been the Queen’s favourite uncle and gave her away at her wedding to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840. The Spectator of 29 April 1843 wrote: ‘Her acquiescence in his selection of a place of burial may be received as an indication that she understood as well as loved him.’
Did you know?
The Duke was famed for his open-mindedness and liberal attitude, and he supported people of different religions
Did you know?
He was the first member of the royal family to be buried in a public graveyard – Kensal Green Cemetery in London
Words: Dr Lawrence Porter
Over the last five decades, Graham Hill's interest in animals has, he admits, somewhat taken over his life
‘I started exhibiting dogs in 1965 – Russian wolfhounds known as borzoi – and I’ve won breeding and showing achievements at championships for years: top dog, top breed,’ he beams proudly as his well-trained borzoi calmly gaze into the camera lens.
Graham is Secretary of Connaught Lodge, No. 3270. Set up for Freemasons with an interest in dog fancying, the lodge now has members from across Britain involved in all facets of the dog world, from showing at Crufts and other dog shows, through to field trials, agility, breeding, owning and judging.
The lodge has a history inextricably linked with The Kennel Club that goes back more than a hundred years. Connaught was founded by a group of six like-minded men in 1907 and named in honour of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught (son of Queen Victoria), who was, in the early 20th century, Most Worshipful Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England and also president of The Kennel Club.
The philosophy behind Connaught Lodge is simple. ‘It’s for Freemasons with a common interest in the canine world,’ he says. ‘All of us are associated with dogs, and Connaught members are involved in organising and taking part in all disciplines of canine activities.’
Though the lodge meets just four times a year, its members routinely meet informally. ‘We’re a whole cross-section of canine enthusiasts,’ Graham says of this niche interest lodge. ‘It’s a philosophy that truly espouses two key aspects of masonry: socialising and brotherhood. Many members are glad of the social aspect, counting Connaught as their mother lodge.’
What does the Tercentenary mean to you?
‘The celebrations have been an exciting, important milestone in the Connaught calendar, with each member bringing their ideas and enthusiasm to the table.’
At an emotionally charged 125th anniversary meeting the White Horse Lodge No. 2227 installed W Bro John Moorehouse as Master.
RW Bro Francis Wakem, Provincial Grand Master for Wiltshire, presided at the special meeting held by special dispensation on the very day on which the White Horse Lodge No. 2227 was consecrated in October 1887. The same year, in which Queen Victoria celebrated the fiftieth year of her reign, the Prince of Wales was Grand Master and the second Lord Methuen was Provincial Grand Master for Wiltshire.
The meeting, held in the Laverton Hall, was attended by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, the Assistant Provincial Grand Master, who is a subscribing member of the Lodge and by RW Bro Byron Carron, Past Provincial Grand Master.
The meeting was conducted in an excellent manner by the Installing Master, W Bro Mike Allen.
To universal acclaim two stalwarts of the Lodge received the special attention of the Provincial Grand Master. W Bro Bob Aitkenhead, PJGD, was presented with a Masonic Samaritan Fund 2017 festival jewel, and W Bro Bruce Chisholm was promoted to the rank of Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden.
There were two presentations made to the Provincial Grand Master, with cheques for the Masonic Samaritan Fund 2017 festival being presented by the Lodge and the Westbury OSM Conclave.
At the celebration lunch held in Warminster Civic Hall the Provincial Grand Master related how 'The Lodge is still a vibrant and living part of Westbury life and community which is testament to the tenacity and energy of the founding members and their successors'.
Not that it has been an easy journey; in terms of members the Lodge was quite small but always well supported and in the first hundred years of its history the minutes were recorded by only eleven Secretaries.
It was said that on production of the summons, Freemasons could purchase return tickets on the Great Western Railway for the price of a single fare.
It is interesting to note that between 1915 and 1935 one past Master initiated 20 candidates – a task never likely to face the new Master.
The Provincial Grand Master for Wiltshire, RW Bro Francis Wakem, concluded his short address by reminding everyone present that while 'The White Horse Lodge is a small Lodge it has a big heart which beats strongly through the tenacity and interest of like-minded men. Since the first meeting of the Lodge it has served to unite, maintain and uphold the three great but simple ideals of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, or rather in the words which I much prefer to use, and which accurately describe what we are all about: Live Well; Laugh Often; and Love Much. The White Horse Lodge and pure antient masonry in general will continue to give future generations the pleasure that we and those who have gone before us have found in it.'
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.