June  2017.

The True Status of the Royal Arch

June 3rd 2017 marks the 300th Anniversary of Freemasonry, or more specifically, the formation of the first or Premier Grand Lodge in the year 1717.

Freemasonry existed long before 1717, and although up to the present time, no positive proof has been established as to its true origins, Craft Masonry as we know it today is almost certainly derived from early British origins, including the London Mason’s Company.  Records of this company, are still in existence from 1620 onwards, showing that within this company there existed an inner Fraternity known as the Acception. And in Scotland, a Minute Book from 1598,                                                                                                          

For some years before the first Grand Lodge was formed, it was known that Craft Lodges were conducting one, two or three degrees, or any combination of those degrees, together with the Royal Arch and Knights Templar degrees – sometimes under the same Charter.

It became apparent that some kind of control was required, and Four Lodges in London England, came together to form the Premier Grand Lodge. The City of London was in those days only a few square miles -- with a relative number of Lodges – and very limited communications.

One of the Four Lodges included members of the Aristocracy, a strong influence in those earlier days of class distinction.  There was also a known religious influence in the background.                          Therefore, when the Articles of the Premier Grand Lodge were published, they declared there were only Three Degrees in Masonry – the Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason.

The Irish and Scottish Masons, together with the North of England Masons, increasingly resented the assumption of superiority by the “ English “ Grand Lodge in London, and their exclusion of the Royal Arch.  Consequently, a rival Grand Lodge was founded in 1751, and its adherents, believing they practised a more ancient and therefore purer form of Freemasonry – called themselves the ‘Antients’ ( note the letter T ) and  referred to the Premier Grand Lodge as the ‘ Moderns.’ From the point of view of masonic history, this has proved to be unfortunate and misleading, bearing in mind that the Premier Grand Lodge had already existed for decades.

After much bitterness between the Antients and Moderns, and for the good of masonry, they eventually formed an Act of Union. This solemn Act of Union in 1813, finally recognised the Royal Arch --- but at the same time, almost rendered it invisible by the compromise wording.

Unbelievably, it took almost 100 years from the founding of the Premier Grand Lodge in 1717,            to reach the point, where the Royal Arch was recognised, but almost buried in the process.

The wording of the Act of Union, “ declared and pronounced that pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, viz., those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch.”

Three Degrees and no more -- including the Holy Royal Arch.  An unusual compromise indeed.              Although rendered almost invisible, an Unbreakable Tie to the Craft was firmly established.

For over 200 years ( since 1813 ) we have been closely tied to the Craft Freemason, but also deprived of full recognition by the words --- only three degrees - including the Royal Arch.

With the current slow decline in membership, this may be the time to reflect on the past, to analyse the sequence of events --- and most importantly --- to question why we have let the Supreme Degree of the Royal Arch slowly recede from view, overshadowed by other Orders.          To the point where many newly initiated Masons are not even aware of the Royal Arch.

The REMEDY is in our hands -- ADVERTISE our True Status --- WELCOME all Master Masons.

For example, in the UK, with exactly the same compromise wording, the Royal Arch is accorded greater importance in relation to Craft Masonry.  In effect, the Master Mason is encouraged to continue his journey by joining the Royal Arch, before considering any other concordant order.

At the present time (in the UK.) Craft Lodge Secretaries are being asked to include the following statement in their Summonses. --- “ The Supreme Order of the Royal Arch, is the completion of a Mason’s journey through Pure, Ancient Freemasonry.”  

Please Note :  the word completion, is the completion of a journey --- not the completion of the Master Mason degree --- the Master Mason’s Degree is complete in itself.

The Unbreakable Tie in the UK. Is even more apparent when it is known that the Grand Master of the Craft, is also the Grand First Principal of the Royal Arch.  A truly Unbreakable Tie.

It may not be enough for Royal Arch Masons alone, to grasp and fully understand the true significance of the overshadowing of the Royal Arch, by concordant bodies --- the Craft Masons themselves need to be made aware of the 200 year old Unbreakable Tie, and its importance.   The Supreme Degree of the Royal Arch is the continuation of Craft Masonry, and is known as Capitular Masonry, and both are part of the York Rite.   

Regarding the York Rite, and for the sake of clarity, it is worth mentioning the inaccuracy of a number of masonic Family Trees in the front pages of Masonic Bibles.  These illustrations show the York Rite commencing after the Master Mason degrees, when in reality the degrees of the Craft Master Mason are an integral part of the York Rite, together with the Royal Arch degree.                         Once again, this illustrates the Unbreakable Tie between the Craft and the Royal Arch.                     The Royal Arch is the continuation of Craft Masonry, and both are part of the York Rite.


Looking forward to a brighter future for the Royal Arch, it is worth examining some of the recent important decisions recently made ( in the UK. ) by the Grand Lodge and  Grand Chapter.     As the bi-centenary of the 1813 Act of Union approached, both the Grand Lodge and the Grand Chapter, reconsidered their position regarding the status of the Royal Arch.

In December 2003, the United Grand Lodge of England, acknowledged and pronounced the status of the Royal Arch to be “ an extension to, but neither a superior nor a subordinate part of the degrees which precede it.”  Therefore the Craft and Royal Arch degrees are equal status.                                                                                                               

The Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, eventually questioned their reasoning, and on Nov. 10th 2004, after deliberations by a Special Working Party, the Supreme Grand Chapter, at its regular meeting in London, ‘grasped the nettle’ and formally overturned the compromise position of 1813, and declared the Royal Arch to be a separate degree in its own right. The natural progression from the Third Degree, and the completion of “ pure ancient masonry “ which consists of the Three Craft Degrees and the Holy Royal Arch.  ( note the word and )

The compromise wording of 1813 has been overturned – the Royal Arch is a separate degree.

The official position of the Supreme Grand Chapter of England today, is that – “ the Royal Arch is the continuation of Craft Freemasonry, and ‘ Pure, Ancient Masonry ‘ can be seen as a journey of self-knowledge and discovery, with the Royal Arch completing the practical lessons of the Craft, by a contemplation of man’s spiritual nature, not replacing but reinforcing and supporting what he has learned from his religion.”


A Summary of the True Status of the Royal Arch.

The Royal Arch is a separate degree in its own right, known as Capitular Masonry.

The Degrees of the Craft Master Mason and the Royal Arch are of equal status.

No degrees have a greater value than the Master Mason and the Royal Arch.

The Degrees of Master Mason and the Royal Arch are both a part of the York Rite.

The Supreme Degree of the Royal Arch is the continuation of Craft Freemasonry.


R. Ex. Comp. Kenneth Jay.  FCF.

G. S.  District 9.




Grand Superintendent
R. Ex. Comp. Kenneth Jay


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