There is no mention of Freemasonry in the Oscar-winning film about King George VI. Paul Hooley puts us right
The King’s Speech has been critically acclaimed as one of the finest motion pictures of recent years and has renewed the public’s interest in, and aff ection for, King George VI, who reigned from 1936 to 1952.
The film, which chronicles the constitutional crisis created by Edward VIII’s abdication and George’s struggle to overcome his pronounced stammer, focuses on the moving relationship between the King and speech therapist Lionel Logue, which had such a happy ending.
What the film does not mention, however, is that both men were members of the Craft; or that the King believed Freemasonry had also helped him overcome his disability – which rarely surfaced whenever he performed masonic ritual. Logue, who had been the Master of St George’s Lodge, Western Australia, was also speech therapist to the Royal Masonic School.
KING GEORGE'S LOVE OF FREEMASONRY
Following service with the Royal Navy in the First World War, he was initiated in December 1919 into Navy Lodge, No. 2612, of which his grandfather King Edward VII had been founding Master. On that occasion he noted: ‘I have always wished to become a Freemason, but owing to the war I have had no opportunity before this of joining the Craft’. From that moment he became a most dedicated and active Freemason. He was invested as Duke of York in 1920 and the following year installed as permanent Master of Navy Lodge. He joined other lodges and degrees and was appointed Senior Grand Warden of the United Grand Lodge in 1923.
George V died in January 1936 and was succeeded by his eldest son Edward, who had been initiated (also in 1919) into the Household Brigade Lodge, No. 2614. But before the year was out Edward had abdicated. Of the moment of change King George VI wrote, ‘On entering the room I bowed to him as King… when [he] and I said goodbye we kissed, parted as Freemasons and he bowed to me as his King.’
Protocol required George to resign his masonic affiliations, however when it was suggested a new position of Past Grand Master be created especially for him, he immediately accepted, declaring, ‘Today the pinnacle of my masonic life has been reached.’
THE VICTORY STAMPS
After the Second World War, King George wrote that ‘Freemasonry has been one of the strongest influences on my life’ and in collaboration with engraver Reynolds Stone helped create a postage stamp, part of the ‘1946 Victory Issue,’ which is filled with masonic symbolism.
The 3d Victory Stamp was widely praised for the ‘strength and simplicity of the design’. It depicts the King’s head in the East, his eyes firmly fixed on illustrations of a dove carrying an olive branch (representing peace and guidance), the square and compasses (in the second degree configuration) and a trowel and bricks (the sign of a Master spreading the cement that binds mankind in brotherly love).
On the stamp the images appear in white, the colour of purity, out of purple, the colour of divinity. the three coupled illustrations are surrounded by a scrolled ribbon made up of five figure threes – sacred numbers in Freemasonry – and was the unusual positioning of the wording meant to represent two great pillars? By its name and intention, the stamp proclaimed victory over evil, yet by its appearance it expressed compassion and hope.
King George VI once stated, ‘ the world today does require spiritual and moral regeneration. I have no doubt, after many years as a member of our Order, that Freemasonry can play a most important part in this vital need.’
The Victory Stamp captured those words in a graphic representation that also expressed the King’s belief that the building of a new and better world could best be achieved by adhering to the principles of the square and compasses.
He reinforced those thoughts in 1948 in an address he gave to Grand Lodge: ‘I believe that a determination to maintain the values which have been the rock upon which the masonic structure has stood firm against the storms of the past is the only policy which can be pursued in the future. I think that warning needs emphasising today, when men, sometimes swayed by sentimentality or an indiscriminate tolerance, are apt to overlook the lessons of the past. I cannot better impress this upon you than by quoting from the book on which we have all taken our masonic obligations: “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set".
Nigel Brown, the new Grand Secretary, is interviewed by John Hamill
With Grand Lodge agreeing the resolution empowering the Grand Master to appoint a Grand Chancellor to oversee Grand Lodge’s Masonic external relations, the role of the Grand Secretary has been freed up to enable him to concentrate primarily on the huge task of administering the Craft and the Royal Arch both at home and in our Districts, Lodges and Chapters overseas.
With the central administration for over 283,000 brethren in 8,357 Lodges (of which 792 are overseas) organised in 47 Provinces, 33 Districts and five Groups under Grand Inspectors to oversee, to say nothing of the organising of Grand Lodge meetings and those of the Board of General Purposes, Strategic Working Party, ad hoc and permanent committees (and their equivalents in the Royal Arch) as well as organising and co-ordinating the paperwork for each, ensuring that the Rulers and Board members are properly briefed on all topics of the day, and dealing with questions from Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters and their secretaries, the Grand Secretary’s role is no sinecure!
Nigel Brown, appointed Grand Secretary from 1st February, brings a wealth of professional and Masonic experience to his new office. Born in Lusaka, in what was then Northern Rhodesia, he was educated in Southern Rhodesia before entering the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, from which he was commissioned into the Grenadier Guards in which he served for ten years, retiring as a Captain.
Then followed 15 years in senior management in which he earned a high reputation for his administrative and planning skills and attention to detail, leading to his setting up a consultancy advising clients on winning competitive global tenders.
Although not the first in his family to be involved in Freemasonry, it was through his Service connections that he entered the Craft, being initiated in the Household Brigade Lodge No. 2614 in 1985. After being Master, he continued to serve the Lodge as Director of Ceremonies, Charity Steward and, currently, Secretary.
He has also been active in Prince of Wales’s Lodge No. 259 and other Lodges and Chapters. His liking for ritual and ceremonial brought him to the attention of the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his appointment in April 2005 as a Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies.
The GDC and his Deputies are key players in serving the Grand Master and the Rulers, and in maintaining the high reputation that the United Grand Lodge of England has in the Masonic world for the excellence of its ceremonial at Grand Lodge and other major Masonic gatherings.
The new Grand Secretary sees close co-operation between the centre and the Metropolitan, Provincial and District authorities as being vitally important to the good administration of the Craft and Royal Arch.
Over the last few years pressures from other areas – particularly foreign relations and dealing with the outside world – have led to there being less of a focus on Freemasonry at home and in our overseas Districts and Groups, but the Grand Secretary sees the strengthening of ties between the centre and the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges as his first and ongoing task.
'I am very much looking forward to the end of April when I shall have the good opportunity of informally meeting the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters when they attend the Pro Grand Master’s business meeting.
'As a Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies I have had the privilege of visiting a number of Provinces as part of the Grand Lodge team for the installation of a new Provincial Grand Master or Grand Superintendent and have begun to get a feel for how a Province works.
'Equally, I look forward, with my senior management team, to my first meeting with the Provincial and District Grand Secretaries and Scribes E when we get together on the morning of the Annual Investiture. Later in the year I shall be accompanying the Pro Grand Master when he meets the Provinces in groups for more detailed discussions.
'I sincerely hope – if invited – that over a period I shall be able to attend the annual meetings of the Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Lodges. Communication is of vital importance and should be a two-way process from which we can all learn and benefit the Craft as a whole.
'The same thoughts apply to our Districts, Groups and Lodges overseas, though there is the additional dimension of distance involved. However, just as with groups at home, communication is the key. With the ease of today’s electronic communications I believe that ‘distance’ should not be a problem in providing a high quality of service from the centre.
'Thought is being given as to how we can increase personal contact, possibly by once again meeting Districts in groups as was done a number of years ago, and of striking a balance between visits to our own people overseas and those to foreign Grand Lodges and major international Masonic gatherings.