By RtEx Comp William (Bill) RICHARDS OAM PDGZ
Within this jurisdiction it would appear that most Freemasons are aware of the Royal Arch Degree but many do not know the significance or even in many cases that the Mark Degree existed at the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1813. In recent times this situation has been addressed.
As a consequence of an education program initiated by United Supreme Grand Chapter and supported strongly by the current Grand Master, Most Worshipful Brother Derek Robson AM, more and more Freemasons are asking questions about “Pure Ancient Freemasonry” and the Degrees that comprise it. A frequently asked question is why does The United Grand Lodge of NSW & ACT only recognise the three Craft Degrees administered by Grand Lodge and the Mark Degree and the Holy Royal Arch under the jurisdiction of the United Supreme Grand Chapter of Mark and Royal Arch Masons of NSW & ACT in its Constitution and not the any of the other Associated Orders of Freemasonry?
The “special place” within Freemasonry occupied by the Royal Arch came about at the time of the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1813 when with the Union of the two opposing Grand Lodges, the Antients and the Moderns was achieved with the signing of the Articles of Union on 27th December, 1813. On that occasion and after much debate and argument, 21 Articles were drawn up and agreed upon by the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Kent. Article No 2 provided:-
“Pure Ancient Masonry consists of 3 degrees and no more; viz:- Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch. But this article is not intended to prevent any lodge or chapter from holding a meeting in any of the degrees of the Orders of Chivalry according to the Constitutions of the said Orders.”
It was the wording “3 degrees and no more” which proved disastrous for the Mark Degree in England as many Lodges at the time were happily working the Mark Degree on a regular basis under their existing warrants. The end result was those Freemasons who wanted to retain the Mark Degree were subjected to a sequestration which ultimately led to the formation of a Grand Mark Lodge of England of which Lord Leigh, who was a Grand Lodge Officer at the time of Union , became the first Grand Master of Mark Master Masons.
By the time The Grand Lodge of NSW was formed the Mark Degree had regained its prominence and was accordingly given an equal status with the Holy Royal Arch Degree within our jurisdiction which it has retained until this day.