This title is given by Masonic historians to that system of Freemasonry Which is supposed to have been invented by the adherents of the exiled House of Stuart for the purpose of being used as a political means of restoring, first, James II, and afterward his son and grandson, James and Charles Edward, respectively known in history as the Chevalier Saint George and the Young Pretender. Most of the conclusions to which Masonic writers have arrived on the subject of this connection of the Stuarts with the advanced Degrees of Freemasonry are based on conjecture; but in the opinion of Doctor Mackey there is sufficient internal evidence in the character of some of these Degrees, as well as in the known history of their organization, to establish the fact that such a connection did actually exist.
The first efforts to create a Masonic influence in behalf of his family is attributed to James II, who had abdicated the throne of England in 1688. Of him, Noorthouck says (Constitutions, 1784, page 192), that he was not "a Brother Mason," and sneeringly adds, in his index, that "he might have been a better King had he been a Mason." But Lenning says that after his flight to France, and during his residence at the Jesuit College of Clermont, where he remained for some time, his adherents, among whom were the Jesuits, fabricated certain Degrees with the ulterior design of carrying out their political views. At a later period these Degrees were, he says, incorporated into French Freemasonry under the name of the Clermont System, in reference to their original construction at that place. Gädicke had also said that many Scotchmen followed him, and thus introduced Freemasonry into France. But this opinion is only worthy of citation because it proves that such an opinion was current among the German scholars of the eighteenth century.
On his death, which took place at the Palace of St. Germain en Laye in 1701, he was succeeded in his claims to the British throne by his son, who was recognized by Louis XIV, of France, under the title of James III, but who is better known as the Chevalier Saint George, or the Old Pretender. The word Pretender here should be given the understanding of claimant. He also sought, says Lenning, to find in the high Degrees of Freemasonry a support for his political views, but, as he remarks, with no better results than those which had attended the attempts of his father.
His son, Prince Charles Edward, who was commonly called by the English the Young Pretender, took a more active part than either his father or grandfather in the pursuits of Freemasonry; and there is abundant historical evidence that he was not only a Freemason, but that he held high office in the Order, and was for a time zealously engaged in its propagation; always, however, it is supposed, with political views.
In 1745 he invaded Scotland, with a view to regain the lost throne of his ancestors, and met for some time with more than partial success. On September 24, 1745, he was admitted into the Order of Knights' Templar, and was elected Grand Master, an office which it is said that he held until his death. On his return to France after his ill-fated expedition, the Prince is said to have established at the City of Arras, on April 151 1747, a Rose Croix Chapter under the title of Scottish Jacobite Chapter. In the Patent for this Chapter he styles himself "King of England, France, Scotland, and Ireland, and, as such, Substitute Grand Master of the Chapter of Herodem, known under the title of Knight of the Eagle and Pelican, and since our misfortunes and disasters under that of Rose Croix."
In 1748, the Rite of the Veille-Bru, or Faithful Scottish Masons, was created at Toulouse in grateful remembrance of the reception given by the Freemasons of that Orient to Sir Samuel Lockhart, the Aide-de-camp of the Pretender. Ragan says (Orthodoxie Maçonnique, page 122), in a note to this statement, the "favorites who accompanied this prince into France were in the habit of selling to speculators Charters for Mother Lodges, Patents for Chapters, etc. These titles were their property, and they did not fail to make use of them as a means of livelihood." Ragon says (Thuileur General, page 367), that the degrees of Irish Master, Perfect Irish Master, and Puissant Irish Master were invented in France, in 1747, by the favorites of Charles Edward Stuart and sold to the partisans of that Prince. One Degree was openly called the Scottish Master of the Sacree Vault of James VI, as if to indicate its Stuart character. The Degree still exists as the Thirteenth of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, but it has been shorn of its political pretensions and its title changed.
Findell has given in his History of Freemasonry (English translation, page 209), a very calm and impartial account of the rise of this Stuart Freemasonry. He says: "Ever since the banishment of the Stuarts from England in 1688, secret alliances had been kept up between Rome and Scotland; for to the former place the Pretender James Stuart had retired in l719, and his son Charles Edward was born there in 1720; and these communications became the more intimate, the higher the hopes of the Pretender rose. The Jesuits played a very important part in these conferences. Regarding the reinstatement of the Stuarts and the extension of the power of the Roman church as identical, they sought, at that time, to make the society of Freemasons subservient to their ends. But to make use of the Fraternity to restore the exiled family to the throne could not possibly have been contemplated, as Freemasonry could hardly be said to exist in Scotland then.
Perhaps in 1724, when Ramsay was a year in Rome, or in 1728, when the Pretender in Parma kept up an intercourse with the restless Duke of Wharton, a Past Grand Master, this idea was first entertained; and then, when it was apparent how difficult it would be to corrupt the loyalty and fealty of Freemasonry in the Grand Lodge of Scotland, founded in 1736, this Scheme was set on foot, of assembling the faithful adherents of the banished royal family in the high Degrees! The soil which was best adapted for this innovation was France, where the low ebb to which Freemasonry had sunk had paved the way for all kinds of newfangled notions, and where the Lodges were composed of Scotch conspirators and accomplices of the Jesuits. When the path had thus been smoothed by the agency of these secret propagandists, Ramsay, at that time Grand Orator, an office unknown in England, by his speech completed the preliminaries necessary for the introduction of the high Degrees; their further development was left to the instrumentality of others, whose influence produced a result somewhat different from that originally intended. Their course we can now pursue, assisted by authentic historical information.
In 1752, Scottish Masonry, as it was denominated, penetrated into Germany, Berlin, prepared from a ritual very similar to one used in Lille in 1749 and 1750. In 1743, Thory tells us, the Masons in Lyons, under the name of the Petit Elu, or the Lesser Elect, invented the Degree of Kadosh, which represents the revenge of the Templars. The Order of Knights Templar had been abolished in 1311, and to that epoch they were obliged to have recourse when, after the banishment of several Knights from Malta in 1720 because they were Freemasons, it was not longer possible to keep up a connection with the Order of Saint John or Knights of Malta. then in the plenitude of their power under the sovereignty of the Pope. A pamphlet entitled Freemasonry Divested of all its Secrets published in Strasburg in 1745, contains the first glimpse of the Strict Observance, and demonstrates how much they expected the Brotherhood to contribute towards the expedition in favor of the Pretender. "
From what has been said, it is evident there was a strong belief that the exiled House of Stuart exercised an important part in the invention and extension of what has been called the High Masonry. The traces of the political system are seen at the present day in the internal organization of some of the advanced Degrees especially in the derivation and meaning of certain significant words. There is, indeed, abundant reason for believing that the substitute word of the Third Degree was changed by Ramsay, or some other fabricator of Degrees, to give it a reference to James II as "the son of the widow," Queen Henrietta Maria. Further researches are needed to enable any author to Satisfactorily write all the details of this interesting episode in the history of Continental freemasonry . Documents are still wanting to elucidate certain intricate and, at present, apparently contradictory points.
In the Jacobite Lodge at Rome, by Brother William James Hughan, the author states (page 25): "Many statements have appeared from time to time respecting Prince Charles Edward Stuart's connection with Freemasonry, documents being submitted to prove that he even held the highest possible rank in the craft; but so far as I have been able to discover, all such claims are of an apocryphal character. Some are most absurd, while others are directly opposed to the actual facts of the case."
This may be supplemented by what Brother George W. Speth states on page 27 of the same work where he advises students, "to put no trust whatever in amounts connecting the Stuarts with Freemasonry. We have, too, in the Young Pretender's own written and verbal statements that they are absolutely baseless, pure inventions." However, as Brother Robert Freke Gould tells us, some "have affirmed, and with perhaps the greater share of reason, that the Prince was compelled by altered circumstances of his cause to repudiate any relations with Freemasonry," and, of course, that gives another view of the matter, though it is curious that all through these years the tradition should have held its own with such remarkable tenacity.
- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry