En: Grand Lodge of Prussia, called Royal York of Friendship

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Grand Lodge of Prussia, called Royal York of Friendship


The epoch-marking dates of this Grand Body are:—

1768.— Erection of Ziimen- 1772— August 11.— Land- 1777— April 27.— Itepu- 1819— April 6.— Contract dorfPs first Lodge grave of Hesse- diation l>y of Amity with

at Potsdam. Darmstadt, G.M. Sweden. Sweden, and com-

1770— June 24.— Creation 1773— November 30.— 1788— April 23.— Repu- pletion of Rite.

of the National Compact with diation by Eng- 1853 — Nov. 5. — Initia-

Grand Lodge. England. land. tion of the Crown

Prince of Prussia. 1870— June 24.— Centenary festival, and Prince Frederick William's speech.

V. The Grand Lodge of Prussia, called Eoyal York of Friendship, at Berlin. 1

On May 5, 1760, the Lodge of the Three Globes was informed that several resident French Masons— Frederick the Great had established a large colony of that nationality in Berlin— had petitioned for a warrant to enable them to meet as a Lodge — " Joy and Peace "—to initiate Frenchmen only, offering to pay all their income into the funds of the Mother-Lodge. In fact it was to be merely a distinctly French branch of the Three Globes. The request was granted, and in the same year — August 10 — Von Printzen constituted the Lodge under the name of the " Three Doves." No reason is assigned why the title originally chosen was not adhered to. In 1761 — March 13 — the Mother-Lodge took into consideration a request to enlarge the powers of its daughter, as it was found impossible to recruit the Lodge solely from Frenchmen and to carry it on without funds. The petition was acceded to, and a fresh warrant granted— April 12 — whereby the Lodge became an independent sister Lodge of the Three Globes. Its title had at this time been altered to " Friendship of the Three Doves." In the same year it joined with the " Three Globes" and " Concord" in forming the Masonic Tribunal of which Von Printzen was elected Grand Master. 2

From the character and composition of the Lodge it was inevitable that degrees beyond that of Master Mason would be wrought. These appear as early as 1763 to have included some or all of the following: — "Elect of 9, of 15, and of Perpignan; Bed Scots Degree and St Andrew's Scot ; Knight of the East ; Knight of the Eagle or Prince Sovereign Eose Croix : the members of this last and 7th degree forming a Sublime Council, which ruled all the others. To vest these degrees, it is possible, with an enhanced authority, the Lodge procured — March 6, 1764 — a Scots patent from the Scots Lodge " Puritas," at Brunswick.

The work was, of course, conducted in French, but not without exceptions. Thus in 1764 we find an instance of a Lodge transacting its business in German, but the minutes record a resolve not to do so again. A most curious minute occurs in 1765, when a member proposed for initiation, " somebody " — having forgotten the candidate's name !

July 27, 1765, was a most important date for this Lodge. On that day it initiated into the Craft H.E.H. Edward Augustus, Duke of York, the brother of George III., and his com- panion, Colonel Henry St John. On August 2 the Prince signified his acceptance of the title of patron of the Lodge, and authorised it to assume the name of " Eoyal York of Friendship."

1 The history of this Lodge has been very well, although somewhat too concisely, told in its official publication, " Haitptmommte der Geschichte der Grossen Loge von Preusscn genannt Royal York zur Freundscliaft," Berlin, 1849. The following sketch is given in the main on the authority of that work. For biographical notices and dates I am indebted chiefly to the excellent " Allgemeines Handbuch." Other sources will be mentioned when made use of.

2 Ante, p. 243.

The Lodge then applied to the Grand Lodge of England for a patent, and entrusted the petition to St John. To this circumstance may be due the fact that the Lodge never joined the Strict Observance system, but on the contrary always strenuously opposed it.

The next few years furnish two events which may be recorded. On September 6, 1765, the Lodge warranted its first daughter, at Eheims; and in 1707 — June 6 — it initiated a Jew. This is remarkable, because in 1779 it had so far modified its views as to refuse admission to two English Masons because they were of the Hebrew persuasion. 1 The latter position it retained until the revision of the Statutes in 1872 ; but the Jewish question does not appear to have evoked the same strife in this Lodge as in the Three Globes and in the Eclectic Union.

In 1767 — June 24 — it received a warrant from England as No. 417, successively altered by the closing up of numbers to 330, 260, and 219 (1770, 1781, 1792)— after 1813 it disappears from our lists.

Its next step was to apply for a patent as a Grand Lodge, but — February 14, 1769 — De Vignolles wrote refusing the request as beyond England's power to grant — a Grand Lodge being the result of several Lodges combining for the purpose. He, however, authorised the Lodge to grant a three months' dispensation to brethren to act as a new Lodge, during which time they were expected to apply for a constitution from England. 2

The " Eoyal York " formally seceded from the Three Globes in 1768. Zinnendorff's pro- ceedings within its precincts in 1772 have already been narrated. 3 In 1772 it sent a cypher to London in which to conduct its correspondence, and the same year forwarded by this means the statutes and rituals of its Scots degrees for approval. The result is unknown to me. In the same year also it warranted a Lodge at Besancon. Of this and the former Lodge at Eheims no further notices appear. In 1773 the Lodge gradually ceased to work in French, and — August 13 — constituted its first legitimate daughter at Cassel. This Lodge was registered in London, November 19, 1773, as No. 459.

Meanwhile the treaty — so often cited — had been contracted between Zinnendorff and the older or legitimate Grand Lodge in London, and by it the Lodge " Eoyal York " came under the jurisdiction of the National Grand Lodge. The Eoyal York succeeded in making terms by which it was to preserve its own ritual and in a great measure its former autonomy, and concluded a treaty of union May 19, 1774. Quarrels, however, ensued and appeals to London, and in the end the " Eoyal York " reasserted its independence in 1776, a course of action which was approved by England, April 11, 1778.

In 1778 the Eoyal York constituted its second Lodge — at Mannheim — and in 1779 one each at Munich and Potsdam. A proposal for union with the Three Globes fell through in this year, but a treaty of friendship was entered into, which is still in effect.

In 1779 — November 24 — Baron Heyking was commissioned by the Lodge to travel throughout Poland, and where he found Masons in sufficient numbers to erect Lodges. This resulted in the formation (1780) of no less than eight Lodges, and ultimately of an English Provincial Grand Lodge of Poland. 4 From 1782 to 1795 nothing of importance demands record beyond the constitution of seven Lodges, and the occasional use of the names Mother-

1 It had meanwhile been for a few years in close alliance with Zinnendorff's National Grand Lodge, which always has been, and is now, intensely Christian, which may account for the change of views regarding the Jews.

2 Nettelbladt, Geschichtc Freim. Systeme, p. 624. 3 Ante, p. 253. 4 Ante, p. 221.

Lodge and Grand Lodge as applied to the Eoyal York, but without a specific assertion of

either of these titles.

With 1796 there commenced a period of evolution and internal change in this Lodge, not unaccompanied by strife. The central figure of the movement was one of the most prominent Masons of that or any time, noteworthy not only as a Mason, but also as a theologian, poli- tician, and author— Ignatius Aurelius Fessler. I regret that the exigencies of space forbid anything approaching a detailed biography of this remarkable man. The following few data must therefore suffice.

Fessler was born in Lower Hungary in 1756, his father being a retired soldier, and his mother a religious devotee. Educated by the Jesuits, but refused admission to their ranks, he took the Capuchin vows in 1773. In 1779 he was ordained priest, and was at that time of a most serious and earnest disposition, verging on bigotry. But above all things he was plain- spoken, and in 1781 called the Emperor's attention to the disgraceful morals of conventual life. No longer safe in the monasteries from papal vengeance, he was placed in professional chairs at the universities, and led from that time to his death a most eventful and kaleido- scopic life, pursued by the unrelenting hate of the Jesuits. In 1789 he embraced the Lutheran faith, and in 1796 came to Berlin. He entered the Craft at Lemberg in 1783, a period coeval with the fall of the Strict Observance, the founding of the Eclectic Union, and the commence- ment of the first serious attempts to study and appreciate Freemasonry. Throwing himself with his usual ardour into this new pursuit, he succeeded in a few years in making himself acquainted with the broad facts of Masonic history, and the whole series of fantastic theories and rites to which the original institution had nearly succumbed. Such a man could not fail to attract the attention of his Masonic fellows, and accordingly, we find that having joined the Eoyal York, May 12, 1796, he was much against his wish forced by the brethren — November 20— to become a member of the Sublime Council. The Three Globes, Frankfort, and Hamburg G.L. had all reformed their rites or were engaged in so doing, the Eoyal York felt it necessary to follow suit, and in Fessler lay their best hope. One other matter also loomed lar^e on the horizon. In consequence of the French Eevolution an edict against secret societies might be expected, and although the Lodges would probably be tolerated, yet it was to be feared that the Eoyal York would be called upon to submit to the jurisdiction of a Grand Lodge, unless its position as a Grand Lodge in itself could be satisfactorily settled. De Vignolles' letter, already referred to, had indicated the only legal means of attaining this object, and we shall see that Fessler was not the man to neglect such a hint.

Scarcely was Fessler a member of the Sublime Council than he received a commission to draft a constitution, and to revise the ritual and bring the various degrees into accord. He threw himself with almost superhuman energy into the work. His first inclination, as was natural to an enlightened Masonic student, was to abolish all high degrees, and he made this proposal, April 12, 1797. 1 His coadjutors were, however, not yet prepared for such a drastic remedy, so he contented himself with making each (so-called) high degree a separate course of philosophy, and with remoulding the Sublime Council, which became the Innermost Orient. 2 His new ritual and constitutions were rapturously approved and accepted, August 3 1797. The constitution was to be subject to revision in three, six, and afterwards

i Fimiel, p, 485. 2 " Innermost " for Grand, and " Inner " for private, Lodges.

every nine years. 1 In 1798— June 11— at Fessler's instance, the Lodge, Royal York of Berlin, was divided into four Lodges — Frederick William of Justice, Victorious Truth, Urania of Immortality (with Fessler as W.M.), and Pythagoras of the Flaming Star. These four Lodges remained in many respects one. Membership is still interchangeable. The officers of one Lodge may be chosen from the members of another. They also possess in common a general and a charity fund. These four Lodges then combined to erect from among them- selves the " Grand Lodge of Prussia, called Eoyal York of Friendship," with 14 daughters, viz., 4 in Berlin, and 10 previously warranted elsewhere. The Grand Lodge was at once recognised by the Three Globes, and by the King ; but the National Grand Lodge refused to do so, maintaining that a Grand Lodge could not be formed by a single Lodge divided ad hoc, nor could such a body be established in a kingdom where one already existed — though when Zinnendorff established his Grand Lodge for Germany, the Three Globes and others were already in existence. — But even in the Eoyal York itself the measure met with bitter opposition from shortsighted and undiscerning brethren. Fessler, a strong man, imperious, hasty, though wanting in conciliation, overbore all opposition, but his victory made him enemies.

De La Goannere was first Grand Master, and Fessler Dep. G.M. ; but the Grand Master being called to Corufia as Consul, resigned, October 5, 1798, and was succeeded, October 28, by F. W. A. Von Sellentin.

In the same month — October 20 — the Eoyal Edict appeared, wherein the Eoyal York is named as one of the three authorised Grand Lodges of Prussia.

On December 20, 1798, the Berlin Lodge, "Victorious Truth," initiated and admitted to active membership, H.E.H. Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, sixth son of George III., and nephew to the Duke of York, initiated in 1765. 2 From 1813 to 1843 the Duke of Sussex was Grand Master of England. Some idea of Fessler's rite may be acquired from the following facts. The Duke of Sussex was passed to the degree of Fellow Craft, January 19, 1799; raised a Master Mason, February 4 ; received the degree of Perfect Scots Architect, March 6 ; of Master of Mount Heredom, March 10 ; of the Cross and Eagle, March 22 ; and became an Elect of the New Jerusalem, December 23. In 1839, being then G.M. of England, he renewed his permission to continue his name on the books of the Lodge as an active member. Long previously — April 5, 1799 — the Duke had agreed to accept the position of representative of Grand Lodge, Eoyal York, at the G.L. of England.

In the same year (1799) three new Lodges were warranted, and in 1800 the period arrived for the first revision of the constitutions.

Fessler, meanwhile, had entered into very friendly relations with another reformer — F. L. Schroeder 3 — whose influence now began to act through him on the Eoyal York.

In August 1800 Fessler once mere proposed to abolish high degrees, but the time for this salutary reform had not yet arrived. Something in the nature of an extrinsic degree was still

1 It was revised accordingly in 1800, 1803, 1806, 1815, 1824, 1832, 1836, 1845, 1854, 1863, 1872, and probably in 1881, but of this I have no precise record.

" Almost every writer states that the Prince was made in the Royal York Lodge, which of course is incorrect, as the name then only applied to the Grand Lodge or Legislative Body. But the mistake is excusable— at least I hope so, having committed it myself (Chap. XX., p. 484)— as it is easy to confuse the four allied Lodges with the Grand Lodge. Even Mr G. W. Speth — I am somewhat relieved to find— in his recently issued "Royal Freemasons" has fallen into the same error.

8 Ante, p. 227 ct seq.

urgently in demand. A compromise was effected. In lieu of the high degrees Fessler elaborated a history of Freemasonry, its origin, revival in 1717, early progress and subsequent obliquities. This was communicated to Master Masons in five " Steps to Knowledge," Erkcnnt- niss-stufen, and to satisfy all parties, each step was preceded by a ceremonial, designed to symbolically illustrate various phases in man's life on earth. The ritual of the three degrees was remodelled on the basis of that of Schroeder, and the constitutions altered in accordance therewith. The complete revision was accepted, December 31, 1800. 1

In this year (1800) one new Lodge was warranted, and the Sun Lodge at Bayreuth — now the " Grand Lodge of the Sun " — was affiliated, and remained for a time a Provincial Grand Lodge under the " Eoyal York."

In 1801 — June 5 — the G.M. Von Sellentin resigned on account of ill health, and — September 13 — Em. Ferd. Klein was installed as G.M. The same year saw the birth of a Lodge at Charlottenburg, and of the Lodge Socrates at Frankfort. 2 The total of private Lodges had now risen to 16. 3 In 1802 one Lodge was warranted, and the closing scenes of Fessler's connection with the Lodge were enacted. For some time angry feelings had been at work on both sides, want of appreciation on the one produced bitterness on the other, and Fessler's own domineering temper added fuel to the flame. At length the G.M. himself went over to Fessler's enemies. According to the constitution the Dep. G.M. was the all-powerful prime minister — the G.M., a very limited monarch. But Klein — a man of character and determination— was little inclined to play the part of Roi Faineant to that of Fessler's Main, dn Palais, and the position became too strained to continue.

On April 30, 1802, Fessler wrote that to facilitate a reconciliation he intended to lay down his offices pro tern., and requested all complaints against him to be at once openly preferred. On May 7 the Grand Lodge agreed to consider this as a formal resignation, and Fessler, indignant, resigned his offices as Dep. G.M. and W.M. of Urania on the 9th. His Lodge was then ordered to exclude him from membership, and Fessler hearing of this order — August 15 — wrote — September 6 — with haughty scorn, washing his hands once and for all of both Lodge and Grand Lodge. 4 After many troubles in private and public life, Fessler entered the service of the Czar Alexander in 1809, and died December 15, 1839, aged 83, being at the time President of the Eussian Lutheran Consistory at Saratow.

In 1803 the Statutes underwent their periodical revision, the Innermost Orient was remodelled, and besides overlooking the dogma and ritual of the Fraternity, became the dis- penser of the Steps to Knowledge, and its subordinate Inner Orients were charged with the same duties in the provinces. But these steps were reduced to a single one under the name of Scots Master, and the initiations were abolished, so that practically from henceforth we have a modification of the Hamburg Engbnnd, and the rite of the Eoyal York may be looked upon as in all essentials that of Schroeder. The irony of fate willed that Fessler's original plans should be adopted within a few months of his expulsion.

In 1806 the Grand Lodge was closed during the French occupation, but the presence of the enemy served to draw closer the rival German rites, and the National Grand Lodge entered into a pact of amity with the Eoyal York. In 1808 the G.L. resolved that the officers of private Lodges must be confirmed and approved by itself, thus somewhat, though possibly

1 Nettelbladt, p. 636 ; and Findel, p. 487. 2 Ante, p. 236. 3 Findel, etc., p. 490. 4 Nettelbladt, p. 641.

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