Celebrating 300 years

'Our Yesterdays' - Graham Redman and John Hamill

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Quarterly Communication 
11 December 2013 
A Speech By VW Bro Graham Redman, Deputy Grand Secretary, And VW Bro John Hamill, Assistant Grand Chancellor 

GFR: RW Assistant Grand Master and Brethren, a year ago we left the Moderns Grand Lodge resolving unanimously to give a dinner to The Earl of Moira, Acting Grand Master and to present him with a Masonic Jewel of a value not less than 500 Guineas in token of the Craft’s esteem for his most valuable services from 1790 to 1812.

At a Special Grand Lodge held on Wednesday the 27th January 1813:

The Grand Lodge was opened in due Form by His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, Deputy Grand Master and the Minutes of the last Grand Lodge relating to the Masonic Dinner… and the Jewel… were read. The Grand Lodge was then adjourned and the Grand Officers went in procession into the Hall…………..

After Dinner His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, … in the Name and on behalf of the Grand Lodge and the Masons of England invested The Earl of Moira with a most superb Past Grand Master’s Jewel, richly set with Brilliants and suspended from a Collar composed of seven Rows of Gold Maltese Chain intersected by five gold parallelograms with Brilliant Centres, on the reverse of which Jewel [an] inscription was engraven……..

JMH: Special is hardly a strong enough word to describe this meeting. Six Royal Dukes, foreign visitors, the present and 19 Past Grand Wardens and almost all of the Provincial Grand Masters attended. Those who were present here last year might remember that in modern money the jewel and chain cost £22,500. The jewel can be seen in the Museum here.

GFR: At the Quarterly Communication held on Wednesday the 7th of April 1813

A letter from Brother Colonel McMahon, Private Secretary to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent addressed to Brother Bayford, Grand Treasurer was read communicating the Pleasure of His Royal Highness to decline on the present Election the Situation of Grand Master as he should be unable under his present circumstances to attend to and discharge its important Duties.

After voting a humble and dutiful Address to The Prince Regent, praying His Royal Highness to allow himself to be designated Patron and Protector of the Craft, a little later in the meeting

Brother J. Joyce, R.W.M. of the Bank of England Lodge, No. 435 proposed His Royal Highness Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex etc etc etc to be elected Grand Master for the present year which was seconded by Brother Bayford G[rand] T[reasurer] and on the Question being put it passed unanimously in the Affirmative and was accompanied with the most animated demonstrations of Joy, Affection and Respect.

JMH: The reason given to Lord Moira for the Prince of Wales’s resignation was that it was believed that 'the monarch, or his Regent,  should not be the subject of an annual election in which there was a possibility he might lose'! The Prince had been a popular Grand Master regularly attending the premier Grand Lodge and its Committees and the Lodges of which he had been elected permanent Master. He had also appeared as Grand Master in public on a number of occasions, laying foundation stones with Masonic ceremonies.  He was not, however, too keen on paying his lodge subscriptions. The letter still survives in the Royal Archives in which the Grand Secretary gently reminds the Prince’s Treasurer that he is more than five years in arrears with his subscriptions to the three lodges of which he was permanent Master.

The election of the Duke of Sussex as his successor was to prove a masterstroke. Not only did he ensure the Union taking place but as Grand Master for thirty years did much to ensure that it would be permanent and laid the ground plan for Freemasonry as we practise it today.

GFR: At the Quarterly Communication held on Wednesday the 23rd June 1813, the new Grand Master reported that he had duly presented the address to the Prince Regent by whom it was most graciously received.  

Then, in accordance with the Grand Master’s expressed wish it was 

Resolved that His Royal Highness the M.W. Grand Master be fully empower[e]d to take such measures as to him may seem most expedient for arranging an Union between this Grand Lodge and the Society of Masons under His Grace the Duke of Athol and if necessary to agree and conclude the same: with power to His Royal Highness if he find occasion to convene such Members of the Grand Lodge as he may think fit to be a Committee to assist in effecting this object and to give such Instructions and Orders to the Committee as the circumstances may in his opinion require. 

JMH: Negotiations towards the Union had virtually stalled, largely because of the continuing insistence by the Antients of re-debating every point of agreement at one of their Quarterly Communications. The premier Grand Lodge in giving Sussex full power to decide obviously wished to see matters brought to a head. Sussex had been given similar carte blanche by the Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter, of which he had just become First Grand Principal, to settle the place of the Royal Arch in whatever relationship he thought best with the new Craft arrangements. 

GFR: At an Especial Grand Lodge held on Wednesday the 1st December 1813

The Most Worshipful the Grand Master … announced that by virtue of the power delegated to him by the Grand Lodge on the 23rd June last he had selected [three senior Brethren] to assist him in the negotiation for an Union with the other Fraternity of Masons in England. That they had several conferences with His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent assisted by three Grand Officers…, the happy result of which was that Articles of Union between the two Grand Lodges of Masons of England had been signed and sealed in duplicate at Kensington Palace on the 25th November. H[is] R[oyal] H[ighness] The Grand Master then laid the same before Grand Lodge. The announcement of this great event was received with Masonic acclamations and the said Articles were read by the Grand Secretary.

After which [ten] resolutions were passed to put into effect a Union between the two Grand Lodges, and a vote of most sincere and grateful thanks to His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex was moved for all his work towards this end

thereby erecting the Edifice of the Masonic Union on a Basis constituted of such materials as must be rendered more firm and compact by revolving years and on which the Hand of Time can work only to prove that Masons possess the art of raising a Structure which Storms cannot destroy.

………..

All business being ended the Grand Lodge was closed in solemn and ample form and adjourned to Monday the 27th Instant at eleven O’Clock in the Forenoon.

JMH: The Minutes just quoted take us a little ahead of ourselves. The observant will have noticed that a change had occurred within the Antients Grand Lodge and that Sussex’s brother,  the Duke of Kent has entered the story with powers to arrange matters for the Antients. It says a great deal for the power and authority of Princes at that time that in a short period of weeks Sussex and Kent had knocked heads together, drafted the Articles of Union between the two Grand Lodges and had them agreed by both parties. Sadly for historians most of the meetings between the Dukes and their aides took place in private and no Minutes were taken. 

GFR: The other half of the story is to be found in the Minutes of the Atholl or Antients Grand Lodge.  

At a Special Grand Lodge on Wednesday 4th August 1813 the following letter from the Grand Secretary of the Moderns Grand Lodge was read:

Sir,

I am commanded by His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, Grand Master of the Society of Free and accepted Masons, under the Patronage of the Prince Regent, to acquaint you that the Grand Lodge of that Society, feeling with its Royal Grand Master the fullest conviction that the Union so long contemplated of the two Societies of Masons in England would be of the greatest advantage to the Craft in general, has requested and empowered His Royal Highness the Grand Master to take such steps as may appear most proper for arranging and concluding so desirable an object upon terms that may be equal and honorable [sic] to both parties trusting that a correspondent disposition continues on the part of the Society, acting under his Grace the Duke of Atholl.

I am further commanded to request you will make this communication known to the proper authorities of your Grand Lodge, and state the wish of His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, to have a meeting as early as possible on the Subject, should the proposal accord with the sentiments of your Society.

The Duke of Atholl, being unable at that time to give his personal attention to the matter, had suggested that His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent might be prevailed on to act in his stead, and that course of action was approved by the Grand Lodge

JMH: HRH Edward, Duke of Kent was one of the most prominent of the brethren who had a foot in both Grand Lodges. He had been initiated in Switzerland, joined Lodges under the premier Grand Lodge and been appointed a Past Grand Master of that Grand Lodge. In 1790 he had been appointed their Provincial Grand Master for Gibraltar when on military duties there. When he took up command of the forces in Canada the Antients appointed him their Provincial Grand Master and he did much to revive Freemasonry in Canada and strengthen the position of the Antients there. A special meeting of the Antients was held on 18 May 1813, ostensibly to celebrate the anniversary of their Boy’s Charity but also an opportunity for the Duke of Atholl to present the Duke of Kent to them and thank him for all his work in Canada. In responding to their welcome the Duke of  Kent promised his full support to the Antients in the negotiations with the premier Grand Lodge so that it could be 'accomplished on the basis of the Antient Institutions, and with the maintenance of all the rights of the Ancient Craft'.

GFR: At another Especial Grand Lodge held on Monday 8th November, a letter from The Duke of Atholl was read intimating his desire of resigning the office of Grand Master in favour of His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent.  Resolutions were moved accepting the Duke of Atholl’s resignation, tendering a vote of thanks to him for his services as Grand Master, requesting that the Duke 'permit his portrait to be taken by an artist of celebrity that it may be placed conspicuously in the Grand Lodge as a perpetual memorial of their love and reverence of his virtues and of their gratitude for his services to the Craft.'  The Duke of Kent was unanimously elected Grand Master and, he having already signified his acceptance of the said office, his 'solemn installation as Grand Master with all the ancient forms and ceremonies' was fixed for high noon on Wednesday the first day of December next, with the details for the ceremonial delegated to a Committee of Present and Past Grand Officers

JMH: Kent’s installation as Grand Master on 1st December was quite a day! It began with a meeting of the Grand Master’s Lodge at which the Duke of Sussex and other senior members of the premier Grand Lodge were made Antient Masons to enable them to attend the installation. The Duke of Kent entered in procession and was duly installed by the Duke of Atholl with 'ceremonials which cannot be written or printed' after which the new Grand Officers were invested. Then a special Ode was sung followed by an 'exhortation  on the Principles of Antient Masonry '. The Grand Lodge was then closed and those present moved to the next room where 'a sumptuous dinner' had been prepared and the afternoon was 'spent with high masonic conviviality'. But that was not the end of the day…

GFR: After the afternoon 'spent with high masonic conviviality', a Quarterly Communication was held with the newly installed Grand Master in the Chair. The Duke of Kent announced that after several conferences with His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, Grand Master of the other Fraternity, who was also assisted by three of his Grand Officers…. articles of Union had been signed and sealed in duplicate in Kensington Palace, on the 25th November last, and His Royal Highness laid the same before the Grand Lodge. The announcement of this Great Event was received with masonic acclamation, and the said articles were read.

Resolutions were carried, providing amongst other things:

That the articles of union now read be Ratified and Confirmed.

That brotherly application be made to the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland, enclosing them a copy of the above articles, when ratified, and entreating them to delegate two or more enlightened members of their respective bodies to be present at the Assembly of Union on Monday, the 27th December instant, pursuant to Article IV.

That a special dispensation, under the great seal, be issued to … [nine Brothers, and their Secretary], to hold a Lodge of Reconciliation, in conjunction with an equal number to be appointed and empowered by His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, to fulfil the duties set forth and enjoined in the said Articles of Union.

JMH: The Articles of Union required the Lodge of Reconciliation to meet with the Masters, Wardens and Past Masters of Lodges under both Grand Lodges to obligate, certify and register them as being entitled to attend the great celebration to be held on 27th December 1813 to ratify the Union and bring the United Grand Lodge into being. If we are allowed to continue our duologue in future years, we will see that the Lodge of Reconciliation was to take on a much greater role and was to establish the basic ritual to be adopted by all lodges under the United Grand Lodge. A further special meeting of the Antients Grand Lodge was held on 23rd December at which the Minutes of the various meetings on 1st December were confirmed, allowing the Union to go ahead. The Duke of Sussex was again present and thanks were given to him and the Duke of Kent for their work in ensuring the Union. Thanks were also given to Thomas Harper, the Deputy Grand Master and to Robert Leslie, accompanied by a medal valued at £10, for his thirty years of loyal service, including twenty as Grand Secretary of the Antients.

GFR: The Grand Assembly of Freemasons for the Union of the two Grand Lodges of England was duly held on Saint John’s Day, 27th Dec[ember] 1813

An order of proceedings which had been previously settled, was strictly observed.

The platform on the East was reserved for the Grand Masters, Grand Officers and visitors.….

The Masters, Wardens and Past Masters of the several Lodges to the number of six hundred…  were arranged on the two sides [of the Hall], … and the Lodges were ranked so that the two Fraternities were completely intermixed….

The Grand Masters, Past Grand Masters, Deputy Grand Masters, Grand Officers, and distinguished Visitors of the two Fraternities, assembled in two adjoining Rooms in which they opened two Grand Lodges each according to its peculiar solemnities and the Grand Procession moved towards the Hall of Assembly……

On entering the Hall, the procession advanced to the Throne, and opened and faced each other, the Music playing a March composed for the occasion by Brother Kelly.

The two Grand Masters then proceeded up the centre [and]….. seated themselves, in two equal chairs, on each side [of]the Throne. ….

The Director of the Ceremonies, Sir George Nayler having proclaimed silence.

The Reverend Dr. Barry, Grand Chaplain [of the Antients] delivered a prayer.

The Act of Union was then read by the Director of Ceremonies….

The Reverend Dr. Coghlan, Grand Chaplain to the [Moderns] proclaimed aloud, after sound of trumpet 

‘Hear Ye This is the Act of Union, engrossed in confirmation of Articles solemnly concluded between the two Grand Lodges of Free and Accepted Masons of England, signed, sealed and ratified by the two Grand Lodges respectively by which they are to be hereafter and for ever known and acknowledged by the Style and Title of The United Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of England. How say you, Brothers, representatives of the two Fraternities ‘Do you accept of, ratify and confirm the same?’ To which the Assembly answered ‘We do accept, ratify and confirm the same’. The Grand Chaplain then said ‘And may the Great Architect of the Universe make the Union perpetual!’ To which all the assembly replied, ‘So mote it be’.

JMH: The Articles of Union were then signed by the two Grand Masters and their Commissioners after which the Grand Chaplain, Dr. Barry proclaimed the United Grand Lodge of England and Brother Wesley performed a symphony on the organ. The Grand Masters then moved to the floor of the Lodge and were, in sequence, provided with square, level, plumb and mallet to try and approve the Ark of the Masonic Covenant a wonderful edifice in mahogany designed by Sir John Soane, only recently made a Mason in the Grand Master’s Lodge, which was to be the repository for the Articles of Union whenever the United Grand Lodge of England was to be opened. Sadly the Ark and the many portraits of Past Grand Masters which adorned the old Grand Temple were destroyed in a fire which destroyed the Grand Temple on 3rd May 1883. Fortunately the Articles of Union had been placed in a safe and are still with us today. 

GFR: After the Grand Officers had resumed their places a prayer was offered by The Revd. Dr. Coghlan.

Letters were read from Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Grand Lodge of Ireland, neither of which was able to send a deputation.

The distinguished visiting Grand Masters pronounced that the forms settled and agreed on by the Lodge of Reconciliation were pure and correct.

This being declared, the same was recognized [sic] as the forms to be alone observed and practised in the United Grand Lodge and all the Lodges dependent thereon until time shall be no more. 

The Holy Bible spread open with the square and compass thereon the ark of the covenant and the two Grand Chaplains approached the same.

The recognized [sic] obligation was then pronounced aloud by the Revd. Dr. Hemming one of the Masters of the Lodge of Reconciliation, the whole Fraternity repeating the same, with joined hands and declaring ‘By this solemn obligation we vow to abide, and the regulations of ancient freemasonry now recognized [sic] strictly to observe’.

The assembly then proceeded to constitute one Grand Lodge, in order to which the Grand Masters, Deputy Grand Masters, Grand Wardens and other Acting Grand Officers of both Fraternities divested themselves of their insignia and Past Grand Officers took the chairs……

His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent after an eloquent address proposed His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex to be Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of England for the year ensuing. This was seconded and was unanimously carried in the affirmative with Masonic honours.

His Royal Highness was placed on the throne and solemnly obligated. The Grand Installation was fixed for St. George’s Day.  After being proclaimed the Grand Master nominated his Grand Officers.

It was then solemnly proclaimed that the two Grand Lodges were incorporated and consolidated into one and the Grand Master declared it to be open in due form according to ancient usage.

The Grand Lodge was then called to refreshment and the cup of brotherly love was delivered by the Junior Grand Warden to the Past Deputy Grand Master who presented the same to the Grand Master; he drank to the Brethren ‘Peace, goodwill and brotherly love all over the world’ and he passed it. During its going round the vocal band performed a song and glee.

After the Grand Lodge was recalled to labour various addresses were moved and administrative matters dealt with, such as the appointment of various Boards.

The United Grand Lodge was then closed in ample and solemn prayer. 

The Grand Officers and the brotherhood then repaired to the Crown and Anchor tavern where a grand banquet was provided. His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex in the chair supported on the right by His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent and on the left by His Excellency Count de Lagardje and other distinguished foreigners. The auspicious day was concluded with the most festive harmony and brotherly love.         

JMH: And so after more than four years of tough negotiation the great event had been accomplished   and the United Grand Lodge of England brought into being. As I hope we will be able to show over the next few years, the foundations laid on 27th December 1813 were built upon by the Duke of Sussex and his aides and the Craft in England as we know it today became firmly established as the sole Craft authority for England, Wales and our lodges overseas. So well laid were the foundations that, with the exception of a brief rebellion in Liverpool in the 1820s, the authority of the United Grand Lodge of England has never been seriously challenged.

At this point we would normally look at the events in Grand Lodge one hundred years ago. After the tumultuous events two hundred years ago one can only say that 1913 was possibly the dullest year in Grand Lodge’s long history. So rather than waste Grand Lodge’s time, may we simply suggest that, like two hundred years ago, we raise a cup and drink to 'Peace, Good Will and Brotherly Love all over the world'. 

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