The Duke of York, as he was to become, took very much
to Freemasonry. He joined five Lodges in addition to Navy Lodge. He was exalted into the Royal Arch on 13 February 1921 in United Chapter No. 1629 (now United Studholme Chapter No. 1591). He and the Prince of Wales joined the Rose Croix in United Chapter No. 169 in 1921 and the
Duke was advanced in the Mark in Grand Master’s Mark Lodge No. 1 in 1928.
In Grand Lodge he was invested as Senior Grand Warden in 1923 and in 1924 he was installed as Provincial Grand Master for Middlesex, a position he held until he became King.
No mere figurehead, in addition to presiding at the annual Provincial Grand Lodge he took an active part in the life
of the Province, the more so after he became the Provincial Grand Master in the Mark.
He took part in consecrations of new Lodges, centenaries and many social events, at all of which he was accompanied
by the Duchess (our late and much loved Queen Mother).
To the delight of the Province, in 1934 he accepted the Mastership of Middlesex Masters Lodge No. 3420.
In 1935 the Grand Lodge of Scotland were beginning preparations for the celebration of their bi-centenary. They hoped to celebrate by having a Royal Grand Master Mason, in particular the Prince of Wales. King George V died in January 1936 and the Prince became King Edward VII and, following precedent, resigned his various Masonic offices. Scotland approached the Duke of York, who was delighted to accept. There was one small problem, however. To be elected Grand Master Mason he had to be a member of a Scottish Lodge.
It is something of the measure of the man that rather than join one of the “society” Lodges in Edinburgh he chose to affiliate to Glamis Lodge No. 99 which met near the ancestral home of his wife. A village Lodge, the Master was one James Beattie, a rural postman attached to the Forfar Post Office.
The Duke was installed as Grand Master Mason of Scotland on 30 November 1936, but his rule was to be short lived. On his return to London the Abdication Crisis came to a head and on 11 December King Edward abdicated, becoming Duke of Windsor, and the Duke of York ascended the throne as King George VI. Following the precedent of his predecessors he resigned all his Masonic offices. The Craft did not wish to
lose the connection with one who had been so active in Freemasonry and the suggestion that he be appointed a Past Grand Master was greeted with acclamation.
To celebrate the coronation and to invest the King as a Past Grand Master an Especial Grand Lodge was held at the Royal Albert Hall on 30 June 1937. Sadly, the Grand Master had been taken ill and was unable to attend. The Pro Grand Master, the Earl of Harewood (who was the King’s brother-in-law), welcomed the nearly 8,000 brethren who attended, including deputations from Ireland, Scotland, Canada and
the United States.
The King entered in procession, to loud and prolonged cheers, and was invested with the collar and jewel of a Past Grand Master. To the great delight of those present, he then took the chair and, on behalf of the Grand Master, invested 130 brethren who had been promoted in, or appointed to, past Grand Ranks in celebration of the coronation. Responding
to an address by the Pro Grand Master, the King said:
“… I have, since my initiation in 1919, been greatly interested in
my association with Freemasonry. My work as a Provincial Grand Master for over thirteen years and in other directions gave me real pleasure, and I was sorry when it became necessary for me to cease my activities. In this work the Queen also, to whose family connection with the Craft you have alluded, has been interested, and has attended with me various gatherings – for instance the great Festival
of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution in 1931. Today the pinnacle of my Masonic life has been reached by my investiture at
your hands … with the insignia of Past Grand Master, an honour
for which I thank you, and which is greatly appreciated …”.
The King leaving Freemasons’ Hall after a
wartime visit with Admiral Evans of the Broke
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