Bicentenary Celebration Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter
16 October 2013
An address by E Comp the Rev Dr John Railton, PGSwdB
Most Excellent First Grand Principal and Companions, a couple of months ago, a much-loved and highly respected member of our Order asked me what would be the theme of my Oration this afternoon. At that stage, to be perfectly honest, I hadn’t given it much thought, but I muttered something about the inexorable march of time. I won’t tell you exactly what he said, but he clearly wasn’t over-impressed! I’m most grateful to him, though, because it was his question which prompted me to recognise that, in reflecting on the significance of this occasion, my task is to navigate a careful course between the rocks of controversy on the one hand and the sandbanks of platitude on the other. So my aim this afternoon is to be just mildly provocative – in the best sense, that of being gently thought-provoking! No doubt he’ll tell me later whether I succeed!
If I were to suggest that many, possibly most, Freemasons are ‘traditionalist’ by nature, I suspect that there are many here who would have no difficulty in agreeing with me. But there are those, I’m sure, who would take issue with me – for very good reasons. So let me try to put some flesh on the bare bones of that statement. By ‘traditionalist’ I don’t mean in any sense old-fashioned, stick-in-the-mud, living in the past, reactionary – although most of us could probably name a few of our brethren to whom those terms may well apply! No, by ‘traditionalist’ I mean having the ability to appreciate and value the traditions of our masonic Orders; to understand the worth of the experience of our predecessors and the actions they took to keep alive the fundamental principles of Pure Antient Freemasonry while maintaining their relevance for daily life in each and every age.
If life for us is in equilibrium, constant, reliable, predictable and comfortable – then change is a challenge, often an unwelcome challenge. And I’m very much one of those who subscribe to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ school of thought. But I believe we need to bear in mind that Freemasonry is a living organism. I was trying to remember from grammar school biology classes the characteristics of living things: I can remember some of them – nutrition, respiration, growth, movement, response to stimuli. Well, all of those apply to the Royal Arch – and, indeed, to Freemasonry generally. Our belief in and our commitment to all we do as masons needs nourishment and nurture; it needs to breathe and be refreshed; it needs to reproduce itself through recruitment; and it needs continually to assess just HOW it relates to everyday life – for us as masons, and for our families and communities; and how it responds to external stimuli, most obviously in the way masonry is seen by the wider world and the impact of the image Freemasonry has on the recruitment which is our life-blood.
Well, all of that has been going on from the very earliest beginnings of Freemasonry. Just as Royal Arch Masonry has breathed the oxygen of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, so it must breathe the oxygen of the twenty-first. The context of today’s celebration is the passage of two hundred years of growth and evolution. If we could be transported back across those two hundred years, I wonder how much we would recognise in the practice of Royal Arch Masonry? But the Royal Arch as we know it today is the result of something like three hundred years of evolution. An understanding and appreciation of the story of the Royal Arch over those years informs and illuminates our understanding and appreciation of the Order as it is today.
After all, when you think about it, for each one of us as an individual, what we are today is the result of our personal history, our life story, our journey, our experience, our relationships, our joys and sorrows. We find our individual identity in that story, and our understanding of ourselves now is informed by a deeper understanding of that story. So it is with the Royal Arch – the better we understand how it has evolved the greater is our appreciation of what it is today.
If any one of us were to reflect on major events in our lives, it may be that we could identify two significant milestones: first, reaching a conclusion and making a decision; and second, acting on that decision. That might apply to deciding to buy a house or a car – and later completing the purchase. It might apply to deciding to seek a change of job or career – and later implementing that change. It might apply to proposing marriage and being accepted – and later entering into that marriage. In the final analysis, I wonder what YOU feel was the most significant, the most life-changing of those stages? In my case I’m quite clear – without in any way diminishing the celebration or the completion, in terms of my own growth and development it was the moment of decision which was of greatest significance.
If we translate that perception into our Masonic lives, we can acknowledge that the key to change is not the implementation of structural change, but rather the inner conviction and the decision that change is needed.
Well, we all know that the bicentenary of Supreme Grand Chapter, the celebration of structural change, is still a few years away. What we are celebrating today is the fulfillment of discussion and debate which led ultimately to the change of heart which opened the way for the later merger of the two Grand Chapters and the formation of this Supreme Grand Chapter – the final acceptance by both Grand Lodges that the Royal Arch is indeed an integral part of ‘Pure Antient Masonry’.
So let me invite you to reflect on the notion that outward change is the visible and tangible consequence of inner change; but that it is the inner change which represents true growth and progress, and it is inner change which has lasting impact.
Our predecessors in this Order did what they believed to be right in enabling the Order to flourish and take its rightful place in the structure of Freemasonry. One perspective of our celebration today is to look back with gratitude to all they achieved. We don’t live in the past, but it is the past which has given us the present. A second perspective is to value what our Order is today, and to continue to nurture what we have inherited. And the third perspective concerns our task and our duty to make sure that what we do today honours the heritage of our predecessors, because what we do will impact future generations of Royal Arch masons. May we prove equal to that challenge. In another two hundred years, I wonder what Royal Arch masons will be saying about us and about our contribution to the on-going growth of the Order we love.
I can do no better than to end with the prayer with which every Royal Arch meeting begins, the prayer which is known to many church congregations as the Collect for Purity and is used at the beginning of every Communion service. ‘Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee and worthily magnify Thy Holy Name. So Mote It Be.’
An address by E Comp J. M. Hamill, PGSwdB at the Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter held on 16th October 2013 to celebrate the Bi-centenary of “pure Ancient Masonry”
Your Royal Highness, Most Excellent First Grand Principal, and companions, the 27th December this year will see the bicentenary of one of the most important events in the history of the Craft: the union of the premier and Antients Grand Lodges of England to form the United Grand Lodge. It is because of events which took place in the negotiations leading to that event that we are able to hold this celebration today. Because of those events, which forged an indissoluble link between the Craft and Royal Arch, we now have that uniquely English relationship between the two which we characterise as “pure ancient Masonry”.
Today is not the occasion to go into the origins of the Royal Arch, suffice it to say that evidence clearly shows that it was being worked in England, Scotland and Ireland by the 1740s and from the mid – 1750s there is increasing evidence for the degree being worked in Lodges in England under both the premier and Antients Grand Lodges. The premier Grand Lodge became uneasy with their lodges working the Royal Arch as they did not recognise it as an integral part of their system. That attitude had hardened by 1767 when the then Grand Secretary, Samuel Spencer, wrote to a brother in an English Lodge in Frankfurt that “the Royal Arch is a Society we do not acknowledge and we hold to be an invention to introduce innovation and to seduce the brethren”. Quite how he squared that view with the fact that he himself had been exalted the previous year history does not record!
It was because of this attitude that in July 1766 senior members of the premier Grand Lodge who had been meeting as an independent Royal Arch Chapter at the Turks Head Tavern in Greek Street in Soho drew up and signed the Charter of Compact by which they turned their Chapter into the Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter of the Holy Royal of Jerusalem, the first Grand Chapter in the world. It was to be completely separate from the Craft with its own regulations, Grand Officers and Chapters. The only link with the premier Grand Lodge was that the Chapters would draw their membership from lodges under that body. Uniquely, the new Grand Chapter was to have a dual existence for in addition to being the regulatory body for the Royal Arch, it continued to meet regularly as a private Chapter exalting new companions.
The Antients Grand Lodge readily embraced the Royal Arch. It had been formed in London by mainly Irish brethren who had been unable to gain admittance into Lodges under the premier Grand Lodge. In addition to the Craft some of them had taken the Royal Arch in Ireland before they came over to London. Their indefatigable Grand Secretary, Laurence Dermott, had taken the Royal Arch in his Dublin Lodge in 1746 and did a great deal to promote the degree within his Grand Lodge. When compiling the Book of Constitutions for his Grand Lodge Dermott described the Royal Arch as “the root, heart and marrow of Masonry” and “the copestone of the whole Masonic system”. The Antients believed that their lodge warrants empowered them to work any of the known degrees of Freemasonry. To do so they would simply call a meeting of the Lodge, often on a Sunday, open it in the third degree and then in whatever degree was to be worked. From extant Lodge Minute Books of Antients Lodges it is clear that by the 1790s they had developed a sequence of degrees to be worked in their lodges beginning with the three Craft degrees followed by the Mark, Excellent Master and Passing the Chair which qualified their members for Exaltation into the Royal Arch.
Clearly two such opposing views on the Royal Arch must have caused discussion during the negotiations leading to the Craft union but few records of those negotiations have survived, if, indeed, they ever existed. That some discussion took place is clear from the second of the Articles of Union agreed between the two parties, which gives the definition of “pure ancient Masonry”. That the discussions continued almost up to the point at which the document was signed is also clear for in the surviving copy of the Articles which was signed and sealed by TRHs the Dukes of Sussex and Kent and three representatives from each of the two groups of negotiators there are three material alterations in Article II.
In defining “pure ancient Masonry” Article II stated “It is declared and pronounced, that pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, viz. those of the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch.” In that form the definition has been the preamble to the Rules in the Book of Constitutions since the edition published in 1853.
In the original manuscript version it is clear that where the word three appears there had been an alteration. Whatever had been there had been scraped of and the word three had been written over it in a rather more cramped style than the rest of the writing. Similarly, the word “including” between Master Mason and Supreme Order has been fitted over some other word or words which had been scraped off and Supreme Order was originally Supreme Degree as the scraping there was not so expert and part of the word degree is still visible.
It seems clear to me that to enable the Craft Union to go ahead both sides had to reach a compromise in relation to the Royal Arch. From the definition we can deduce that the premier Grand Lodge agreed to accept the Royal Arch as an integral part of the system but were not willing to agree to its being seen as a fourth degree but were happy to it being acknowledged as an Order. The Antients were satisfied in that the Royal Arch would continue to be the completion of pure Ancient Masonry but, as events proved when the future administration of the Royal Arch was organised, had to accept that the Royal Arch would be worked separately from the Craft. Whether or not my deductions are correct one thing is certain: by both sides accepting the definition of “pure Ancient Masonry” that “indissoluble link” between the Craft and the Royal Arch was firmly established and the Royal Arch was recognised as the culmination of pure Ancient Masonry.
The definition stating that there were only three degrees and referring to the Royal Arch as an Order has subsequently led to endless discussion as to whether or not the Royal Arch is a degree and why in the ritual it is constantly referred to as a degree if in the definition it is called an Order. It may be that I am of too simple a mind but I have never understood what the argument is about. To me the Royal Arch is an Order comprised of four ceremonies: the degree of Royal Arch Mason and the three ceremonies by which the Principals are installed. Those three installations are not simply to fit companions to rule over a Chapter but, as we inform new companions, a perfect understanding of the Royal Arch can only be gained by passing through those several Chairs.
Having agreed the definition nothing further appears to have been done in regard to the Royal Arch until the union in 1817 of the original Grand Chapter and the remnants of the Antients Royal Arch. It has usually been argued that having secured the place of the Royal Arch within pure ancient Masonry the Duke of Sussex then put all his efforts into ensuring that the Craft Union was a success and only turned to the Royal Arch when the basic form and administration of the United Grand Lodge had been established. I am not sure that that was the case.
Because of the speed in which the Union had been finally settled the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland were unable to send representatives to London to witness the events on 27th December 1813. The Grand Master of Ireland and the Grand Master Mason of Scotland, however, met with the Duke of Sussex in London on 27th June 1814 and together with their aids put together the International Compact, which has governed relations between the Home Grand Lodges ever since. Curiously the final document appears not to have survived and its contents are known only from a draft in the hand of William White, Grand Secretary of UGLE, and a copy in the Minutes of the Grand Lodge of Ireland when its agreement was announced to that body.
That the Royal Arch was discussed at that meeting is clearly shown by its first clause which repeated the definition of pure ancient Masonry, excepting that “Supreme Order of the Royal Arch” was changed to “Supreme Chapter of Royal Arch”. It appears from the document that Ireland and Scotland agreed to the definition and were to put it to their respective Grand Lodges and report back to the Duke of Sussex. In 1814 neither Ireland nor Scotland had a Grand Chapter or any other central body controlling the Royal Arch, their Grand Chapters did not come into being until 1818 in Scotland and 1826 in Ireland. As far as can be traced no record exists of either of the Grand Masters having come back to the Duke of Sussex and it may well be that having waited to see if Ireland and Scotland would act in concert with England, and no answer having come, the Duke had to go his own way and make the arrangements which brought Supreme Grand Chapter and our present administration of the Royal Arch into existence.
There were possibly also legal constraints on settling the actual working of the Royal Arch. Under the terms of the 1799 Unlawful Societies Act Freemasonry was exempt from the terms of the Act under certain conditions but it was believed that (a) only Lodges in existence before 1799 were protected by the Act and (b) the Act only protected Lodges. It was for that reason that brethren between 1814 and 1817 who petitioned for new lodges were granted annually renewable dispensations to meet pending settlement of the terms of warrants to be issued by the Grand Master and former Antients Lodges were permitted to continue working the Royal Arch in their lodges. In 1816 a further Act began its progress through Parliament and was passed in 1817. From its terms Grand Lodge deduced that it was permissible to warrant new lodges but was still concerned about the legal situation of Chapters. It is for this reason, I believe, that on its formation in 1817 Supreme Grand Chapter ruled that for the future Chapters would be attached to the warrants of Lodges and bear the same number and name, and new Chapters would be proposed by the Lodges to which they would be attached, not by existing Chapters – thus giving them protection under the 1799 Act.
Unless long lost papers and records come to light, if they ever existed, I doubt that we will ever know the full story of what happened in 1813. What we do know happened, and we are rightly celebrating today, is the recognition by the Craft in 1813 that the Royal Arch is an integral part of pure Ancient Masonry and the forging of that indissoluble link between the Craft and the Royal Arch which we all hope will never be broken.
The latest exhibition at the Library and Museum explores the history and development of the Holy Royal Arch Degree
Coinciding with the special October Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter, Excellent Companions: Celebrating the Royal Arch opens on Great Queen Street in the same month. Among the objects that will be on display during the exhibition is this portrait, shown right, of Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland (1745-1790), who was one of George III’s brothers.
The Duke of Cumberland was initiated in February 1767 at an ‘occasional’ lodge at the Thatched House Tavern, St James’ Street, and was installed as Master of the New Horn Lodge two months later. In 1771, after a short period in the Royal Navy – a career path decided by his brother – Cumberland married Anne Horton, a commoner, without the King’s consent. He and the Duchess were excluded from court but led an active social life.
Cumberland was elected Grand Master in 1782 and remained so until his death in 1790. He initiated his nephew, the Prince of Wales (later George IV), into Freemasonry in February 1787. In this portrait, Cumberland is wearing the robes and regalia of the Grand Patron of the Royal Arch, an office he held from 1774 to 1790, but which ceased to exist in 1813.
Among the many jewels that will be included in the exhibition is one designed by the renowned masonic jewel maker Thomas Harper. It was presented to Daniel Beaumont in 1800, the year that Beaumont was exalted in the Chapter of St James (now No. 2) in London. The exhibition runs from 14 October 2013 to 2 May 2014.
For more information visit the Library and Museum website
Out of the shadows
As the Royal Arch marks two hundred years of recognition, Second Grand Principal George Francis explains its evolution and sometimes complex relationship with the Craft
What is the Royal Arch?
It’s a difficult concept to explain, even to a mason. Part of the problem is that the Royal Arch developed in a way that has been forgotten. The main idea goes back to the sixteenth century, if not before. Around the Tudor period there was Freemasonry which had come from the stonemasons, and the Royal Arch was the first attempt to branch off and do something extra. We have to be careful not to call the Royal Arch the ‘Fourth Degree’; that’s just one way to explain it to an outsider, but it is a completion of the Three Degrees. It gives you new insights and is the culmination of the first lessons and meanings – it completes the journey.
The Royal Arch dates back to the 1700s. Why is the bicentenary in 2013?
The people who started Grand Lodge in 1717 decided they were not going to include the Royal Arch and were going to stick to the main idea, or trunk. That’s really the start of the story, before then it’s all speculative. By 1750, another group who were also part of the main trunk said this isn’t quite how Freemasonry ought to be, that the Royal Arch was absolutely essential, so they were going to split off and do things differently. Suddenly two Grand Lodges were operating side by side and they gave one another inappropriate nicknames. The newer Grand Lodge members called themselves ‘the Antients’ (as they felt they were the real keepers of the flame) and called the other Grand Lodge ‘the Moderns’ – even though the Moderns had actually been established earlier. So you had this slight friction between them and they trundled along rather uneasily side by side.
How did the happen?
Eventually both lodges decided the situation was counter-productive and that they should join up. The Duke of Sussex was the main mover in this, heading up the Moderns, and the leader of the Antients was his brother, the Duke of Kent, who insisted that the combined organisation must have the Royal Arch as part of the journey. It wasn’t until 1813 that the Royal Arch became a formal part of the structure.
What else did the Duke of Sussex do?
One point the Duke of Sussex stipulated at the was that we should all wear the same regalia, and also that we were to use the same rituals and words. The second part never quite happened, so there are still differences in the rituals and wording used by different lodges. However, we’re greatly indebted to the Duke of Sussex; he was an interesting person and very left wing for a royal prince – he was anti-slavery, pro-Catholic (although not one himself) and pro-Jewish. These things were rather unfashionable at the time. He was very much a figurehead for the Whigs and people who wanted change. The Duke of Sussex was the one who said we are not going to be just Christian in the Freemasons, we’ll allow everybody in as long as they believe in God.
What’s the difference between the Craft and the Royal Arch?
We call the three main degrees, which have adopted the colour blue, the ‘Craft’ and we call members ‘brothers’ and ‘brethren’. Even the female masons call one another brother. In the Royal Arch, you become ‘companions’. You’ve made that additional step, you’re taking it a bit more seriously, so there’s a different atmosphere – it’s more intimate, you’re more closely linked. We meet up in chapters and have adopted the colour red as well as blue. It’s very much an eighteenth-century idea of a harmonious society.
Is the Royal Arch more complicated?
I try to get people to realise that you don’t have to understand everything that’s going on, you just have to enjoy it. There are interesting ideas and stories – some of it’s quite deep – but you don’t have to comprehend every single part. It’s quite fun exploring and finding out these things slowly. You’ve got to enjoy time with people, enjoy doing a bit of acting, listening to stories and maybe understanding something you didn’t understand before. That’s what it’s about really, doing things together.
Are more Freemasons coming to the Royal Arch?
Around forty per cent of Craft masons are in the Royal Arch and it’s a shame that it isn’t more.
Clearly there are some who really don’t want to go into the deeper meanings, which is fine because Freemasonry should appeal on different levels. But what I’m trying to express to the Craft is that you should really complete the journey, it’s not that much more time or expense and you’ll really enjoy it.
It completes the circle of understanding and the basic journey. This way of thinking is having some effect and our proportion of Craft masons is gradually rising.
How can you improve recruitment?
The problem is that when you come to Freemasonry, the Royal Arch is not explained because it’s difficult to describe. It sometimes doesn’t get mentioned until quite late on – someone might have been in masonry a couple of years before they come across it. We’re trying to change the perception that it’s just an optional extra and make sure that it’s explained at the outset. We thought at one stage we might go back to a Fourth Degree idea so everyone would be involved. It would be free of charge and there wouldn’t be any reason for not doing it. But the Royal Arch is slightly different so it shouldn’t really be an automatic stage; people ought to think about it, and we’re hoping the bicentenary will help to explain that.
What are you trying to achieve with the bicentenary appeal?
The Bicentenary Appeal is about three things: formal recognition, an appeal and an excuse for a party.
We added the appeal idea so we would have a legacy of our celebration, one that adds to the Fund we created in 1967 for the benefit of the Royal College of Surgeons. We’ve ninety thousand members in England and Wales and ten thousand abroad, and it is important when you’ve got such a big organisation to continue to show members what can be done, to not just sit back and do more of the same.
What do you do as the Second Grand Principal?
My role was traditionally carried out by the Deputy Grand Master but for various reasons the roles got split a number of years ago. It means that I can concentrate on the Royal Arch. I try to visit all forty-six Provinces as well as the Metropolitan Area of London and explain what’s happening at the centre, what the challenges are for the future and encourage our members generally. It’s an opportunity to speak to the Provinces on a different level and not just go through the motions.
Is the Royal Arch changing?
We try to alter the ritual as little as possible because it’s something that people have to learn by heart – you can’t keep changing it all the time. But part of my job is to find the things that we can improve to make it more enjoyable and exciting. My job is to also get the message out there that this is for younger chaps, too, and that we can add a bit more colour and a little less formality.
Find out about the discovery of an old manuscript that could reveal crucial elements about Royal Arch ritual here.
I am pleased to let you know that your magazine, as part of our wider communications campaign, has been shortlisted for another award – this time within the Best Corporate and Business Communications category at the ‘Oscars’ of the PR industry, the CIPR Excellence Awards 2013. This is encouraging and supports the excellent feedback we receive from members and their families.
This year is proving to be very interesting, especially with the bicentenary of the Royal Arch. It is particularly gratifying that, at the time of writing, the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons stands at more than £1 million. And from first-hand experience and the comments we have received, the presentations by Fellows of the College have been a great success.
Writing in the official journal of the United Grand Lodge of England, I want to remind you that we value the opinions of our members. To that end, we spend a lot of effort surveying members’ views, as well as visiting and talking to members of all ages and all backgrounds throughout the English Constitution, at home and abroad. This gives us a good grasp of the issues for discussion.
Sometimes those holding minority views will be disappointed. A classic example is a tiny minority who think that by removing the need for a belief in a Supreme Being we would increase our potential for recruitment. This is an example where we think change would not be for the best. There are many other areas where we have been proactive and made changes to ensure the long-term survival of the organisation. A typical example being in the area of talking openly about Freemasonry and showing that the organisation is relevant today – and is one that members should be proud to belong to.
We all enjoy reading about masonic history, how our members have achieved great things and what they are doing to help those less fortunate in the community. In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we look at an RMBI cookbook that has helped older citizens connect with the recipes from their past and the people in their present. A profile of the Rough Ashlar Club shows how the use of social media is bringing younger Freemasons together for a friendly pint. Meanwhile, we trace the origins of the Crimestoppers initiative back to a couple of masons in Great Yarmouth. I hope you find something that makes you proud to be a Freemason.
‘We have been proactive to ensure the long-term survival of the organisation’
Realising your potential
First Grand Principal HRH The Duke of Kent welcomes new investees and reminds them of their duties as he looks forward to celebrating the Royal Arch bicentenary in 2013
Companions, I congratulate all of you who were invested with Grand Rank on Thursday, 25 April 2013. This accolade is not awarded solely for what you have achieved in Royal Arch masonry, but it also looks ahead to the potential of your future contribution. That contribution should include helping to look after the smooth running of your chapters and the happiness of your fellow members.
Recruitment into the Order is a further important task for you. However, it takes sound judgement to know when a member of the Craft is ready to complete his pure ancient masonry. As you will appreciate, this judgement applies most particularly to the Royal Arch representative in Craft lodges.
As we look forward to celebrating the bicentenary in October this year, I am pleased that the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons has already passed the £1.3 million mark. This is a commendable effort and I thank those who have contributed so generously to this worthwhile appeal. For members who are intending to donate, I am informed that the appeal will continue until the end of 2013.
‘it takes sound judgement to know when a member of the Craft is ready to complete his pure ancient masonry’
The sesquicentenary University Lodges' Ball will take place on Saturday 23rd November 2013, at Armoury House, London, the headquarters of the Honourable Artillery Company
For more information and to buy your tickets, visit the University Lodges' Ball website.
About the Ball
At the first meeting of the Ball Committee, it was agreed that there were three central reasons to hold this ball. The first, simply, was to have fun - to organise a large event that could be enjoyed by friends, partners, and family, and hopefully repeated in years to come. The second was to do it for a good cause - to raise money for two very worthy charities. And the third was to resurrect and commemorate the great tradition of the masonic ball, of which can be found below.
It is hoped that this event will not only give guests an opportunity to meet and enjoy a lavish and unique celebratory evening, but will also give non-masonic guests the opportunity to learn more about Freemasonry by meeting members, asking questions, and finding out more about what we get up to!
The particulars for the event are still being confirmed, but it is possible at this stage to provide an outline. The ball will be preceded by a number of (optional) banquets, information about which can be found here. Guests will have the option to book places at these dinners once they have purchased their ball tickets.
The champagne reception will commence in the Prince Consort Rooms at 8.30, after which all guests will assemble in the Prince Consort Rooms to watch the opening ceremony at 9.15.
Once the opening ceremony has finished, Armoury House will be opened and the evening will really begin! The events programme is still being finalised, so check back soon for updates, but the night will feature:
- Dancing - traditional ballroom dancing in the Prince Consort Rooms, and more informal throughout Armoury House
- Live music of a variety of genres
- Magicians, acrobats, and other visual performers
There will also be a wide selection of food and drinks available on the night, all of which is included in your ticket price, so the only time you will have to open your wallet is to donate to charity!
Frequently asked questions
Do I have to be a Freemason to buy tickets?
No! The original University Masonic Balls were the highlight of the social calendars in both Oxford and Cambridge. Now, as then, anyone can attend - so if you have always been curious about what Freemasons get up to, you now have a chance to find out...
Why are there multiple banquets beforehand?
As is the case with almost all society Balls, it would be logistically impossible to have a seated banquet for 900 guests, then have the same rooms immediately available for the evening's entertainments. Traditionally, several parallel dinners have taken place before such events (in Clubs, nearby restaurants, and even in guests' houses), which end in time for guests to come to the Ball in time for the opening ceremony.
You can view details of these banquets here, and will be able to book places at them when you buy your tickets. However, please remember that it is not compulsory to dine beforehand - a variety of food and drink will be available throughout the night at no extra cost, so guests who have not dined will certainly not go hungry!
Can I sponsor the University Lodges' Ball?
What is the dress code?
Evening Dress. This means white tie and tails for gentlemen (although black tie and tuxedo are acceptable), and long gowns for ladies. Formal military Mess Dress and National Dress are also encouraged. To hire or buy Evening Dress, please visit our formalwear sponsor, Clermont Direct, who are kindly extending discounts to Ball guests.
There is a long history of Apollo and Isaac Newton University Lodges holding balls, garden parties, and other festive events at the end of the academic year at Oxford and Cambridge. The balls started early in both lodges' histories, and carried on well into the twentieth century, being considered one of the highlights of the social calendar in both universities.
The best known of these balls was the Grand Ball held by Apollo in 1863 at Christ Church to celebrate the wedding of the Prince of Wales (later Grand Master and King Edward VII) and Alexandra of Denmark, who both attended. The ball cost £2,046 (the equivalent of around £220,000 now). Luckily, half the cost was borne by the college!
Attendances were large - in 1866, 750 attended the ball and over 3,200 attended the garden party - and, as you can see from the menu from an Isaac Newton University Lodge ball in the early twentieth century (in the gallery above), the refreshments were lavish. Unfortunately, after World War II, Freemasonry became less ostentatious, and the balls fell into abeyance.
In the late autumn of 2012, the Secretaries of Apollo and INUL, Chris Noon and Alistair Townsend, met for an ale or two, having both, independently, had the idea of resurrecting the ball tradition, noting that no equivalent existed for Freemasons today. They agreed that it would be difficult to achieve for either lodge on its own, but that, if resources were combined, and the ball were to be held for masonry as a whole, it could be a success.
It was also decided that, despite the short notice, 2013 would be an auspicious year to hold the event - marking the 150th anniversary of Apollo's Grand Ball, and the 200th year of Supreme Grand Chapter (the charitable appeal of which it therefore seemed sensible to support). The obvious location was London - neutral territory - and, after considerable investigation, Armoury House was chosen, as an outstanding venue with a suitable capacity.
It remains to be seen whether this sesquicentenary ball will be a one-off, whether it will be repeated in another 150 years, or whether it will become a regular event in the Masonic calendar. It all depends on how many tickets are sold...
25 APRIL 2013
AN ADDRESS BY THE ME First Grand Principal HRH The Duke of Kent, KG
I congratulate all of you who have been invested today with Grand Rank. This accolade is not awarded solely for what you have achieved in Royal Arch Masonry, but it also looks ahead to the potential of your future contribution. That contribution should include helping to look after the smooth running of your Chapters and the happiness of your fellow members.
Recruitment into the Order is a further important task for you. However, it takes sound judgement to know when a member of the Craft is ready to complete his pure ancient Masonry. As you will appreciate, this judgement applies most particularly to the Royal Arch Representative in Craft Lodges.
As we look forward to celebrating the Bicentenary in October this year, I am pleased that the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons has already passed the £1.3 million mark. This is a commendable effort and I thank those who have contributed so generously to this worthwhile appeal. For members who are intending to donate, I am informed that the Appeal will continue until the end of 2013.
Finally Companions, I am sure you will want me to thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the skill with which the ceremony has been conducted and the Grand Scribe E and his staff for all their work in ensuring today’s success for all of us.
I have long been fascinated by the study of the source and development of words, and with this comes a realisation that a word can be interpreted in several different ways. I mention this in relation to the challenge of explaining Freemasonry. This is something that remains at the forefront of my mind with all our communications – not least the recent successful media tour.
Due to the fact that we are not prescriptive, it is hard to explain Freemasonry while avoiding jargon. This has led us to explain our principles as kindness, honesty, fairness, tolerance and integrity. These words clearly explain our essential nature.
As you know, we had an excellent reception from local media and I have valued the feedback and support from fellow members. It is fair to say that some members were surprised at some of the words I used in interviews and this brings me back to my earlier point on how people analyse words.
Most interviews were very short, with the interviewer having researched Freemasonry on a strange website. So I used words like ‘fun’ when describing Freemasonry. I would not change the word in the context that it was said, but what I meant was that I find Freemasonry ‘enjoyable and rewarding’.
Another example of describing Freemasonry comes from one of the pieces from our ritual that ends with being happy and communicating that. ‘Happy’ is another word that can mean many things but I know as Freemasons we can embrace it.
I hope you will find something to make you feel happy among the features that make up this issue. Worcester Cathedral’s first female stonemason apprentice reveals how masonic support is helping her. As the Royal Arch marks its two-hundredth anniversary in 2013, we look at how members and the chapters are helping the Royal College of Surgeons. And as smaller charities struggle in this economic climate, we shine a light on how Freemasons are helping swimming pools stay open, challenging discrimination and supporting air ambulances. These are all stories that show Freemasonry at its best.
‘The challenge of explaining Freemasonry remains at the forefront of my mind’
Letters to the editor - No. 22 Summer 2013
Charity for all
Sir, I read with interest the last paragraph of the Grand Secretary’s forward in the last copy of Freemasonry Today.
Peter Borst, Ludgrove Lodge, No. 7766, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire
13 March 2013
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
In my address to Grand Lodge last December I commented that we should be proud of our history. I therefore have no qualms – indeed I believe it is important – in mentioning that this year marks an important landmark in the history of our Grand Lodge: the two hundredth anniversary of the between the Ancients and Modern Grand Lodges. The actual – forming the United Grand Lodge of England – took place at Freemasons’ Hall on St John’s Day, December 27th 1813.
It is therefore more appropriate that we mark this major anniversary later in the year at the December Quarterly Communication. At that time I hope that Brothers Hamill and Redman will give us an account of the intriguing story of how the was finally achieved and its importance to English Freemasonry in particular and world-wide Freemasonry in general.
However, I mention this anniversary today for two main reasons. First, because those of you who are also members of the Royal Arch know that the Order is holding its own celebration in October of this year. It is to mark the decision, achieved during the negotiations leading to the, that the Royal Arch be recognised as an essential part of pure ancient Freemasonry, forging an indissoluble link between the Craft and the Royal Arch.
Secondly, and importantly for us, rather than making major celebrations this year we have decided to concentrate our efforts on 2017 and the celebration of our tercentenary of the formation of Grand Lodge in 1717. This is considered the more important of the two events and a celebration of both would inevitably stretch all recourses beyond any reasonable limit. It is intended that these celebrations will take place throughout the constitution both at home and overseas.
Freemasonry is good at celebrations. Lodges are usually very keen to celebrate their important anniversaries, and rightly so. There can be few, if any, other organisations that have so many individual component parts that survive to celebrate 50, 100, 200 years and beyond. We should be immensely proud that our Lodges not only survive and thrive, in most cases, for so long, but that they also keep full and accurate records of all their meetings. It is, of course, a prerequisite of the granting of a Centenary or Bicentenary Warrant that the Lodge can show continuous working. Some latitude is given to take account of war time conditions, but, otherwise, we are firm about this.
We do have Lodges that fail and at every Quarterly Communication there is a list of lodges to be erased. Sad as this is, it is inevitable when overall numbers have fallen, the redressing of which is on the top of any list of priorities that is drawn up. Conversely we still have new Lodges being consecrated, which may seem something of a paradox in the face of falling numbers, but I would argue that, if there is a group of like minded people who want to get together to form a Lodge and they can show reason for doing so as well as an ability to sustain it in the future, why not? The members will have considered the sustainability of the Lodge carefully and, even if it only survives for, say, 50 years, many people will have derived great enjoyment from it and many people will have been introduced to our great institution who might otherwise have missed out.
Brethren let’s celebrate on all possible occasions.