The Royal Arch

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When the Antient and Modern Grand Lodges came together to form the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) in 1813 they declared that ‘Pure Antient Masonry’ consists of three degrees—the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason including the Royal Arch.

This declaration still stands at the front of our Book of Constitutions and means there are four parts to a Freemason’s journey. For historical reasons, the first three are governed by UGLE, while the Royal Arch is governed by the Supreme Grand Chapter of England—but in real terms it’s one organisation.

The journey through Pure Antient Masonry and the discoveries each person makes in the Royal Arch are very personal. But you will discover that, even today, these allegories still represent valuable lessons we can all learn from—and enjoy in the process.

Aspire to discover more about Freemasonry, and more about yourself, by continuing your journey from Initiation to Exaltation in the Royal Arch

“I would strongly encourage all Master Masons to experience the Royal Arch”

Jonathan Spence
Pro Grand Master & Pro First Grand Principal

The Ceremony of Exaltation sees members follow the clues from the Third Degree to complete their journey in Pure Antient Masonry, in a spectacular and unforgettable ceremony. Through ongoing participation, members will work together with old friends and new Companions to build on the principles of the Craft, and unlock fresh perspectives on the meaning and value of Freemasonry.

How to join

The prime qualification for admission into the Royal Arch is to be a Master Mason, of at least four weeks standing, in a Lodge under the United Grand Lodge of England, or a Lodge under a Grand Lodge recognised by it.

Email or speak to your Lodge Royal Arch representative.

The history of the Royal Arch

The Premier Grand Lodge was formed in London in 1717.  Prior to that time only two degrees were practised in England – the Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft.  Thereafter a third – the Hiramic degree – began to be worked in Lodges to distinguish Master Masons from Fellow Crafts.  

However, the third degree is disappointing and anti-climactic in that the genuine secrets are lost, and it was inevitable that a further ceremony would be introduced to rectify this deficiency.  While the third degree deals with the building of the first Temple at Jerusalem by King Solomon, it was a logical step that the events surrounding its rebuilding, after the return of the Jews from their exile in Babylon, should be adopted to form the background for the rediscovery of the lost secrets.  This story gradually developed into the Royal Arch.  At first, this additional ceremony was used to distinguish men, who had presided as Master of their Lodge.  However, with time this requirement was eased and reduced to “…having passed the chair” and resulted in the Royal Arch becoming increasingly popular in the 1750’s.   

In 1756 a group claiming to adhere to the ancient principles of the Craft broke away from the Premier Grand Lodge and formed what became known as the Grand Lodge of the Antients.  Consequently, the original Grand Lodge was paradoxically labelled as the Moderns.  There were many reasons for this schism, but over time the focus became their disagreements over the status of the Royal Arch.  In essence, the Antients were enthusiastic supporters of Royal Arch Masonry, which they worked as a fourth degree in their Craft Lodges.  The Moderns took the opposite line and officially refused to acknowledge it.   However, they had no objection to Brethren joining it as a separately organised Society, which many of their senior members duly did.   

On 22nd July 1766 the Grand Master of the Moderns, Lord Blayney, concerned that many of his Lodges were following the lead of the Antients and working this “fourth” degree under the authority of their Craft warrants, decided to regularise the situation by setting up a Body with authority to regulate the Royal Arch.  He entered into a Charter of Compact, which laid down that: “None but discreet and experienced Master Masons shall receive exaltation to this sublime Degree”.  A Grand Chapter was constituted and called the Grand and Royal Chapter of the Royal Arch of Jerusalem, from which the current Supreme Grand Chapter of England is directly descended.  One of the other signatories to this document was Thomas Dunckerley, who later served as Grand Superintendent of Hampshire from 1778 until 1882 and of the then separate Province of Isle of Wight from 1778 until 1795.  In time, Royal Arch ceremonies were progressively worked in separate Chapters and “Masters” became known as “Principals”.

Happily, in 1813 the Antients and Moderns were able to reconcile their differences and join together, under MW Bro HRH the Duke of Sussex as Grand Master, to form what we now know as the United Grand Lodge of England.  In its Book of Constitutions, a copy of which is presented to every Brother on his Initiation, the General Laws and Regulations for the Government of the Craft have since 1853 been preceded by the following Preliminary Declaration: – 

“By the solemn Act of Union between the two Grand Lodges of Freemasons of England in December 1813, it was declared and pronounced that pure Antient 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”.  

This statement was in essence the compromise that enabled the unification to take place.  Over time the Royal Arch has come to be seen as an essential and natural progression after the Craft and the integral final step in Pure Antient Freemasonry.

The exaltation ceremony story

The Royal Arch exaltation ceremony story takes place some 500 years after the dedication of Solomon’s Temple. King Solomon has long since died. Jerusalem has since been attacked by the Babylonians, the city and its once magnificent temple have been destroyed and its inhabitants taken into captivity into Babylon, where they have remained for 70 years.

We have arrived at that period in history where the Babylonian Empire itself has been attacked and defeated by Cyrus the King of Persia. Cyrus has recently issued a decree allowing the descendants of the Hebrew exiles to return to their native land.

At the start of your exaltation, you will enter the Chapter blindfolded and represent one of those exiles returning to Jerusalem seeking to participate in the light of our mysteries with his colleagues as Sojourners, or Journeyman builders.

The Chapter room and the carpet represent a building site in the ruined city, where Solomon’s temple formerly stood.  You will symbolically traverse across the ruins to arrive at the crown of a vaulted chamber, where the first change in the scene occurs.

The carpet and equipment on the floor of the Chapter now represent an underground vaulted chamber and its contents, and amongst those contents you will make a most important discovery!

Email or speak to your lodge Royal Arch representative.

“ I have found Freemasonry has far more to offer than I could ever have imagined; The Royal Arch has only cemented that opinion and taught me additional invaluable lessons.”
























Stephen M Allum
Grand Superintendent in & over Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Charitable giving

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Royal Arch Masons are proud to announce a donation of £45,000 to Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance.

The donation will help support the charity’s vital work, which includes operating a state-of-the-art helicopter equipped with the latest medical equipment and staffed by highly trained paramedics and doctors.

Unlike Craft masonry, where there are Festival appeals, the Royal Arch, chooses a charity on an annual basis which will have a local beneficial impact. Hospices within the Province, Macmillan Cancer Care and, most recently, Guide Dogs were all previous charities supported in this way.

This year, the Provinces’s Royal Arch masons chose to support Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance due to the charity’s crucial role in providing lifesaving medical care to the local community. The helicopter operated by the charity can reach any location in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight within 15 minutes, ensuring patients receive the medical care they need as quickly as possible.

“We are proud to support Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance and their critical work in providing emergency medical services to our local community,” said Stephen Allum, Grand Superintendent. “Their highly trained professionals and state-of-the-art equipment ensure that patients receive the best possible medical care, and we are honoured to contribute to their cause.”

This donation will help fund essential medical equipment, training for paramedics and doctors, and the helicopter’s operational costs.

Hampshire & Isle Wight Air Ambulance receives cheque for £45,000 at this year’s annual Convocation

Receiving the donation on behalf of the air ambulance, one of the largest gifts they have received, Jill McDonagh thanked the Province’s Royal Arch members saying “Your support will make a world of difference. Thank you for being at our side.”

All the monies received for the donation were raised by Chapters and their members in aid of the Provincial Grand Superintendents’ Annual Charity. During his address, MEGS Steve Allum confirmed that his chosen charity for 2023/24 is the Southampton Centre for Cancer Immunology. Again, members support towards this vital work will have a significant impact. Adding that one member, Gerry Underwood, has given a magnificent sum towards getting the Province’s fund raising for the Centre underway!

Jill McDonagh from Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance pictured with
(l-r) MEGS Steve Allum, 2nd ProvGPrincipal Chris Davis, DepGSupt Jonathan Stainton-Ellis, Jonathan Bell, 3rd ProvGPrincipal last year during the fundraising for the air ambulance and Dave Wood the Province’s Charity Steward.

Note the new Provincial Royal Arch ties worn by the Companions in the photo – The introduction of the Crest from the Craft typifies the increasing alignment between the Provinces’ two Orders.

Distinguished guest, M E Second Grand, Principal, Russel Race address’s the Companions the Convocations lunch.



Distinguished guest, M E Second Grand Principal, Russel Race address’s the Companions during the Convocation lunch.