What is the Royal Arch?

History & Relation to the Craft

This is an order in Freemasonry, closely associated with Craft Freemasonry.

The first documented evidence of a ‘Royal Arch' comes from Ireland in 1743; it seems likely that this was an ‘added extra' worked within craft lodges in England , Ireland and Scotland for many years. Thus it came to be regarded, by the Antients in England , as a fourth degree in Freemasonry.

The Moderns, on the other hand, do not appear to have officially recognised the degree at all (with a few exceptions), leading in due course, to completely separate Royal Arch Chapters.

These differences were partially resolved at the Union of the Grand Lodges in 1813, by a compromise: the new United Grand Lodge of England declared the Royal Arch to be an official and accepted part of ‘Pure and Antient Freemasonry'.

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

Whilst the Royal Arch is, therefore, an integral part of Freemasonry and interwoven with the Craft, it is organised as a separate Order, distinct from the Craft degrees, the teachings of which it completes.

Government of the Royal Arch

HRH The Duke of Kent heads both the Craft and the Royal Arch; being the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England and the First Grand Principal of the Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of England.

 

 

 

 

Similarly, in East Lancashire, the RW Provincial Grand Master is the Most Excellent Grand Superintendaent in and over our Province. Many Brethren hold similar senior ranks in both Craft and the Royal Arch and is often the case that Officers of the Province 'transfer' from one to the other during their career. The MEGSupt actively encourages the Craft and Royal Arch members to support each other's activities in order to demonstate this holistic approach and the indissoluble link that exists between the Craft and the Royal Arch.

 

 

 

 

From L to R Second Provincial Grand Principal EComp David Hedley Thompson, Deputy Grand Superintendent,
EComp William John Porter, Third Provincial Grand Principal, EComp the Rev'd Donald Keith Pryce

Why Should Craft Freemasons Join the Royal Arch?
Pure antient Freemasonry, which is composed of Craft masonry and Royal Arch masonry, presents the inquiring mind with an inspirational framework for life. Through the lessons presented in the Craft ceremonies, a Freemason is called upon to improve his relationship with his fellows and to practice the three great principles upon which the Craft is founded; brotherly love, relief and truth.

The Royal Arch takes matters further and can be seen to be the superstructure that makes all that has been presented complete and perfect. The ceremony in the Royal Arch is colourful, thought provoking and uplifting. It is based upon the Old Testament legend of the rebuilding of the Temple and invokes, simultaneously, sensations of humility and our dependence on our unseen creator.

The Royal Arch makes good the promise of ‘recovery' when what is lost in the Third Degree of Craft Masonry is revealed in a fascinating ceremony. Progress through the Royal Arch completes an individual's journey through pure antient Freemasonry.

Craft Masons are, therefore, actively encouraged to become members of the Royal Arch in order to further develop and enrich their understanding of Freemasonry.

Companionship
Members of the Royal Arch are known as “Companions”.

The word Companion is derived from two Latin terms, meaning someone with whom you shared your bread, was one who could be trusted with your life; it suggests a higher affinity than that of a brother. It is a particularly apt description of a member of the Royal Arch, who has a duty to support and encourage his Companions and to attain a high standard of his conduct in his personal life. New Members very quickly discover why we say the desire of all Royal Arch Masons is to “please each other and to unite in the grand design of being happy and communicating happiness”.

Qualification for Membership
Membership is open to Freemasons of all faiths who have been Master Masons for at least four weeks.

Members of the Chapter to which they seek admission must propose, second and ballot for them.

When is the best time to join?
When a mason is entirely comfortable with his Craft Masonry and its ethos. The interval between becoming a Master Mason and his exaltation into a Royal Arch Chapter is, however, a matter for each individual and will largely depend on his circumstances and readiness for its teachings.

Early application, however, provides greater opportunity to give him the option of just sitting back and absorbing the full meaning of the beautiful ceremonial and its teachings before taking a more active participation in office.

Which Chapter should a Craft Mason join?
A mason is not restricted to joining the Chapter that may be associated with his Lodge; he will be made welcome in any Chapter of his choice. Indeed, many Brethren choose to join a Chapter un-connected with their Lodge, or even in a different Masonic Hall, as this affords them the opportunity to develop and widen their relationships with other masons, thereby enhancing the companionship and happiness Royal Arch masonry offers.

Meetings
Most Royal Arch Chapters meet four times a year, and these meetings are called ‘Convocations'. One of these is the occasion of Installation, when the Principals and Officers of a Chapter usually change every year, as in the Craft. Once in office, there will usually be one rehearsal for each Convocation.

Ceremonies
There are two: Exaltation, when a new member is admitted to the Chapter and the Installation for each of the three Principals. Both are most impressive, colourful and moving occasions. Convocations are usually followed by a meal at the Social Board.

Regalia
Three items; an apron, sash and breast jewel, all of distinctive design. The breast jewel is worn by Freemasons who are members of the Royal Arch at their Craft meetings to evidence to brethren their membership of the Royal Arch. The total cost of the regalia, new, is around £65. Chapters often have used regalia at a much-reduced cost as, in some areas, a register is held of members who have such regalia for disposal. There are minor changes to all three items needed on becoming a Principal of your Chapter. 

 

COMPANION:       
(all accessories are white in colour)


The apron belt, the material behind the triangles on the apron and sash are all white. The string or ribbon on the apron and the breast jewel suspended from a white ribbon are also white.

   

PRINCIPAL: 
(all accessories are red (crimson) in colour)


All the accessories mentioned above for a Companion are in red (crimson). Each of the Principals collars is red (crimson) to which is attached their respective Principal’s jewel.

   

PAST PRINCIPAL:
(all accessories are red (crimson) in colour)


Exactly the same as a Principal except the collar worn has a gold coloured strand and the jewel is that of a Past Principal.

   

PROVINCIAL GRAND OFFICER: 
(some accessories are in blue in colour whilst others are three coloured)


Blue is the colour of the apron belt and the material behind the triangles on the apron and sash. The breast jewel ribbon and the collar is three coloured namely light blue, crimson and dark blue and the rank is stitched on the centre of the apron and the jewel of the rank is suspended from the collar.

   

SUPREME GRAND CHAPTER OFFICER:
(the colour of the accessories are as per a Provincial Grand Officer)


The only two differences which distinguish a Provincial officer from a Grand Officer is the increased size of the apron because the border is doubled in size with two triangles joined to make a diamond shape. The other difference is the collar is much wider.

Recruitment into the Royal Arch


Other Costs

Subscriptions and the cost of meals at the festive board vary somewhat from Chapter to Chapter, but subscriptions are
much lower than a Craft Lodge.

For further information on becoming a member of the Royal Arch, please contact:

David Thornton at liaisonofficer@pglel.co.uk

 

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