An interesting and important development in the London area in the first decade of the 20th century was the institution of the new London Rank. From time immemorial, so to speak, and until October 2003, London masons maintained a unique status by being directly responsible to the Grand Master. This was in stark contrast to their Provincial colleagues where power rested with the Provincial Grand Master and allegiance to him led to rewards of Provincial honours based on a progressive system for which there was no equivalent in London. Perhaps the great privilege of immediate access to the Grand Master was thought to be sufficient.
Nonetheless, in 1908 the establishment of the London Rank was a welcome compensation to bring London Masons, to some limited extent, in line with their Provincial colleagues. Full compensation and effective equality came with the establishment of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London in October 2003.
The Grand Rank system, that is the ‘national’ awards granted to masons in England, remains unique. At the Union in 1813, the right of nomination of all Grand Officers was vested in the Grand Master. Grand Officers are still appointed annually and invested by the Grand Master or his representative at an Annual Festival in April. The award of ‘past rank’ was an English innovation, initially very sparingly awarding grand honours and yet not requiring the holder to have previously held active office. It allowed the recognition of long and faithful services to the Craft by many who could not be accommodated within the limited number of available active Grand Ranks. Today, though tensions are raised at times, the processes of recommendation and selection continue annually, having been tried and tested and operated relatively impartially, over the years.
- • DeMolay
• Job's Daughters
• International Order of the Rainbow for Girls
- In this first decade of the 20th century the world witnessed the emergence of Freemasonry amongst women. Following on the initiation o 4th January 1882 of Mlle Maria Deraismes (1828-1894), the distinguished feminist author, in France and the subsequent foundation of the Droit Humaine, the International Order of Co-Masonry, in April 1893, London consecrated Human Duty Lodge No 6 on 26th September 1902. The new and first co-Masonic body in Britain had the famed Mrs Annie Besant (1847-1933) as its first Grand Commander. It has always remained closely associated with the Theosophical Society, founded in 1875. Continuously active, the Order consecrated a new Lodge in Central London in March 2010.
In 1908 the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Masonry under the guidance of the Rev Dr William Cobb (1857-1941) seceded, soon changing its name to the Order of Women Freemasons which, as the name suggests, was restricted to women alone. The current Immidiate Past Grand Master, MW Bro Brenda Fleming-Taylor, presided at the centenary celebrations of the Order in London in June 2008 at the Royal Albert Hall. There were no less than 4000 Brethren of the Order present. The present Grand Master, elected 16th October 2010, is MW Bro Zuzanka Penn. Another breakaway group, also restricted to women alone, was named The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons and consecrated in 1913. The first Grand Master was Mrs Elizabeth Boswell-Reid who held the office until 1933 and was succeeded by her daughter Mrs Lily Seton Challen. The present Grand Master is MW Bro Sheila Norden. The continued charitable contributions of these feminine orders are admirable and impressive.
The UGLE at first saw these bodies as irregular. Several applications made to Grand Lodge by the Order of Women Freemasons were refuted. Only in 1998 did the UGLE, still refusing to give them any recognition, formally admit that The Order of Women Freemasons and The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons were regular in practice (with the sole exception of their gender).
- 1.Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1813–1843)
2.Thomas Dundas, 2nd Earl of Zetland (1844–1870)
3.George Robinson, 3rd Earl de Grey and 2nd Earl of Ripon (1st Marquess of Ripon from 1871) (1870–1874)
4.Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (King of Great Britain and Ireland as Edward VII from 1901) (1874–1901)
5.Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (1901–1939)
6.Prince George, Duke of Kent (1939–1942)
7.Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood (1942–1947)
8.Edward Cavendish, 10th Duke of Devonshire (1947–1950)
9.Roger Lumley, 11th Earl of Scarbrough (1951–1967)
10.Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (1968–present)