Museum of Freemasonry - Masonic Library

Article Index

Grand Chapters, 18 March 1817. Formal recognition was granted by the United Grand Lodge.

Obviously some alterations in the ritual were necessitated by the establishment of a united SGC to weld the two systems into one uniform ceremony. But so little interest was taken in the Supreme Order and so chaotic were conditions at headquarters that it was not until 1834 that the Duke of Sussex, as MEZ, set up a committee to revise the ritual.1 The work appears to have fallen mainly on his friend and former chaplain, the Rev G. A. Browne, PG Superintendent for Cambridgeshire, the result being approved by the MEZ and SGC in November of the same year. Many alterations were made, new ceremonies for the installation of the Principals were introduced, and an attempt made to remove all Christian allusions from the ritual. The SGC made it 'the duty of every Chapter to adopt and obey' the new method, the Grand Principals suggesting that any Chapter which failed to teach its members the 'Sussex Ritual' should be suspended.2 A Chapter of Promulgation was warranted on 4 February 1835, for six months, but in spite of the improved means of communication, little was done to spread the new ways beyond the Metropolis. Provincial Companions found it difficult to make the journey for instruction and were hard put to it to learn about and practise the new ritual, especially the installation ceremonies. 3 Even when they did get the information they did not always conform entirely. 4 Though there are several versions existing today claiming to be copies of the 'Sussex Ritual' of the Royal Arch Degree, 5 they are no more correct than those of the Craft ritual which purport to be derived from the decisions of the Lodge of Reconciliation. In the Supreme Order uniformity is as non-existent and as undesirable as it is in the Craft.

Many eulogies and criticisms, contemporary and later, have been made of the Grand-Mastership of the Duke of Sussex. The former may largely be discounted as laudatores temporis acti, having been given on special occasions which demanded them, or as deriving from the deference then customarily paid to Royalty. The critics, though some of their remarks are not without foundation, have, in general, paid too much attention to the last five years of the Duke's reign and too little to the first twenty-five, at the conclusion of which he was presented with that magnificent testimonial now in Freemasons' Hall. The year 1838 was the turning point. Up till then the Grand Master's rule was successful and popular. In spite of his many other interests, the Duke took great pains to equip himself for his position, was remarkably assiduous in his duties and enjoyed the advantages of very able advisers. Their purpose was to enforce the settlement made at the Union and to resist further change. If his influence sometimes degenerated into interference it was used in what he considered to be the best interests of the Craft. His rule was personal and firm, but not autocratic. His Whig principles, so staunchly held, and his fondness for the British Constitution, so often expressed, can hardly have been lost sight of when he ascended the Masonic Throne. Whether in the Grand Lodge or presiding at the festive board, his burly figure,

  1. 1. Ibid 170
  2. 2. bid.171
  3. 3. FQR 1837 , p 59; 1839, p 78.
  4. 4. Freemasonry in Bristol, A, C. Powell, and J. Littlejohn pp 667-9.
  5. 5. Somerset Masters Lodge, No 3746, Transactions, 1924, p 289.