Holy Royal Arch
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The Holy Royal Arch is a degree of Freemasonry. It is present in all main masonic systems, though in some it is part of 'mainstream' Freemasonry, and in others it is an 'additional' degree.
In the United States, Canada, Brazil, Israel, Mexico, Paraguay, and the Philippines, the Holy Royal Arch degree forms part of the York Rite system of additional degrees. In England, Scotland, Ireland, most of Europe (including the masonically expanding states of eastern Europe), and the nations of the Commonwealth (Canada excepted) it is a stand alone degree, but mainstream, being defined as part of "pure ancient Masonry" along with the three Craft degrees; a candidate for Exaltation into an English Holy Royal Arch Chapter is required to have been a Master Mason for four weeks or more. In Scotland the candidate must also be a Mark Master Mason, a degree which can be conferred within the Chapter if required. Once exalted a candidate becomes a companion, with Royal Arch meetings being described as a convocation.
The exact origins of the Holy Royal Arch are unknown except that it dates back to the mid 18th century.
While tantalising glimpses of Royal Arch vocabulary appear in Masonic literature from the 1720s, the first verifiable appearance of Royal Arch Masonry is in Ireland in the 1740s. The Arch is held aloft by two "Excellent Masons" in a Dublin Procession, and the degree is mentioned disapprovingly in Dr. Dassigny's "Serious and Impartial Inquiry" of 1744. Separate notes in this work indicate that the rite was practised in Dublin, London and York, and described it as an "organis'd body of men who have passed the chair" (i.e. served as the Master of a lodge).
Laurence Dermott, the Ancient's Grand Secretary, was exalted (admitted to a Royal Arch Chapter) in Dublin in 1746. Until much later, the degree was restricted to masons who had served as Master of a lodge. Dermott regarded it as the fourth degree. However, the degree was met with hostility in the original, Moderns Grand Lodge. In 1764, a lodge of Scottish masons attached to the Ancients switched to become Caledonian Lodge under the Moderns. The next year, they assisted in setting up a chapter admitting masons from the Moderns constitution, and in 1766, with the exaltation of the Grand Master, Lord Blayney, it became the "Excellent Grand and Royal Arch Chapter", taking on administrative responsibilities and becoming the first Grand Chapter. James Heseltine, the Grand Secretary of the Moderns appeared to be hostile to Royal Arch Masonry, writing to a senior German mason that "It is part of Masonry but has no connection with Grand Lodge". He was also a participant, and one of the signatories on the charter establishing Grand Chapter. The minutes of Grand Chapter show that it met in the Turks Head, in Soho, the same tavern that had recently hosted the birth of the Ancients Grand Lodge. Unusually, a mason was elected to hold the office of Z (head officer of the Chapter) in the absence of the Grand Master and Deputy Grand Master. That man was Thomas Dunckerley, later appointed Grand Superintendent, who promoted Royal Arch masonry in the Modern's provincial lodges with considerable energy and success.
At Dermott's instigation, the Ancients formed their own Grand Chapter, which met for the first time in 1774. Its members were Grand Lodge officers who happened to hold that degree, its meetings were ordained by Grand Lodge, and its proceedings approved by that same body. While the Moderns' Grand Chapter was independent out of necessity, the Ancients' was tied to Grand Lodge. For these masons, the Royal Arch became recognised as the fourth degree, open to those who had served as a master of a lodge. The Grand Chapter was little more than a cipher, registering names and processing fees (for submission to Grand Lodge). Effective governance of the Royal Arch rested with Grand Lodge and the individual lodges that worked the degree.
As the two Grand Lodges moved towards union, Royal Arch masonry became a sticking point. The "word" of the Royal Arch was still embedded in the Moderns third degree, and even appeared on some of their floorcloths and tracing boards. The Act of Union started with the compromise, that "Pure and Antient" masonry had only three degrees, the Entered Apprentice, the Fellowcraft, and "the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch". Although the Antient and Modern Grand Lodges united in 1813, it was another four years before the formation of the "Supreme Grand Chapter" in 1817. The Antient's Grand Chapter had, however, ceased meeting after 1813, and their remaining members were simply absorbed into what had been the Moderns Grand Chapter. The last significant constitutional development in English Royal Arch Masonry occurred in 1823, when Master Masons were allowed to join chapter without passing through the chair of a Craft Lodge. Much of the ritual was reformed in 1835, when part of the ceremony known as "Passing the Veils" was dropped. It was re-adopted by Bristol Chapters at the turn of the next century.
Orders and Degrees 
The Holy Royal Arch is affiliated to many different constitutions worldwide, many of which place different emphasis on the order.
- England, Europe and Australasia: A Holy Royal Arch Chapter is required to be sponsored by a Craft Lodge and bears the same number (and in almost all cases the same name); however, the HRA is a separate Order from Craft Freemasonry. Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter is governed from the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England, but the administration remains distinct - though many officers of the Grand Lodge hold the equivalent office in the Grand Chapter. In these countries the Order of the Royal Arch consists of a single 'Royal Arch' degree, although there are three related ceremonies, one for the installation into each of the three Principals' chairs. As a compromise, at the union of two rival Grand Lodges in 1813 (one of which considered the Royal Arch a 'Fourth Degree', whilst the other almost totally ignored it) English Freemasonry recognised the Royal Arch as part of "pure, ancient masonry", but stated that it was not an additional degree, but merely the "completion of the third degree". However, this was merely a compromise position, and one which was in opposition to normal masonic practice, and consequently on 10 November 2004 (after much deliberation by a special working party) the Grand Chapter (at its regular meeting in London) overturned this compromise position, and declared the Royal Arch to be a separate degree in its own right, albeit the natural progression from the third degree, and the completion of "pure, ancient Masonry", which consists of the three 'Craft' degrees, and the Royal Arch. Words in the ritual which propounded the earlier compromise position were removed, by mandatory regulation. The English system of Royal Arch Masonry is found in most European states (outside Scandinavia, which has a unique system), and is currently being introduced to many eastern European states, including Russia and Serbia.
- Scotland: The degree is conferred in a Royal Arch Chapter which is within a wholly different administrative structure, the "Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland". This body administers Mark Masonry, Royal Arch Masonry, and the degree of Excellent Master which is an essential preamble to the Royal Arch degree. English Royal Arch Masons will not be allowed into a Scottish chapter during a Mark working, unless they also hold that degree, which in England is administered by a separate body. The Excellent Master degree does not exist in England, and members of the English Grand Chapter are not permitted to attend these workings. They may also be excluded from part of the Royal Arch working which they no longer use, although this is at the discretion of individual chapters. These restrictions do not apply to members of chapters in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and North America.  The position of the Bristol chapters, who re-assimilated "Passing the Veils" (similar to the Excellent Masters working) is unclear.
- United States, Canada, Brazil, Israel, Mexico, Paraguay, Philippines: In these countries, the Holy Royal Arch degree forms part of the York Rite system of additional degrees.
Organisational Structure 
Chapters are ruled over by three Principals, who conjointly rule the Chapter, sitting together in the east of the assembly.
Chapters in England are grouped as either a Metropolitan area or Provinces (based on the old Counties), and Chapters overseas are grouped in Districts. Metropolitan, Provincial, and District Grand Chapters are ruled over by a Grand Superintendent who is appointed by the 'First Grand Principal' (see below) as his personal representative for the particular area. The Grand Superintendent is usually assisted by a Deputy, and always rules conjointly with a Second Provincial Grand Principal and a Third Provincial Grand Principal (the word 'Provincial' being replaced with the word 'Metropolitan' in a Metropolitan Area such as London, or the word 'District' in an overseas area controlled from England).
The Supreme Grand Chapter is ruled over from London by three Grand Principals, with a Pro First Grand Principal when the First Grand Principal is a Royal Prince, as is currently the case.
Chapter Officers 
In addition to the three Principals, who rule conjointly, a Holy Royal Arch Chapter has elected and appointed officers with individual responsibilities within the Chapter. Similar offices exist at the Supreme Grand Chapter (national) level, and also at the intermediate level (Metropolitan, Provincial, or District), with appropriate prefixes to the titles.
- Zerubbabel - Prince of Jerusalem
- Haggai - the Prophet
- Joshua or Jeshua - the High Priest
- Scribe Ezra
- Scribe Nehemiah
- Director of Ceremonies
- Principal Sojourner
- 1st Assistant Sojourner
- 2nd Assistant Sojourner
- Assistant Director of Ceremonies
- Steward (there may be several Stewards)
All of these offices are listed in, and regulated by, the constitutions or regulations of the various national Grand Chapters, including those of the 'mother' Grand Chapter, the Supreme Grand Chapter of England. Within the 'York Rite' version of Royal Arch Freemasonry the Janitor may be known as the Tyler or Sentinel.
In Ireland, in 1864, the founding legend of the Royal Arch became based on the renovation of the First Temple under King Josiah. The three principals are now the Excellent King, High Priest and Chief Scribe. The Sojourners and Scribes were replaced by the Royal Arch Captain, the Captain of the Scarlet Veil, the Captain of the Purple Veil and the Captain of the Blue Veil. Although not referred to as such in the ritual, the three principals are taken to be King Josiah, the High Priest Hilkiah and the scribe Shaphan.
See also 
- See references to eastern European expansion of the Royal Arch here.
- See this official web page.
- See the 'Preliminary Declaration' of the combined-volume "Grand Lodge Constitutions & Grand Chapter Regulations" for England and Wales.
- (English)Supreme Grand Chapter of England How to Join Royal Arch
- Douglas Knoop, "The Genesis of Freemasonry", Manchester University Press, 1947
- Harry Carr, The Relationship between the Craft and the Royal Arch, in Harry Carr's World of Freemasonry, Lewis Masonic, 1984, p 383
- Pietre-Stones The Fourth Degree in the Craft, Yasha Beringer, retrieved 19th July 2012
- Camberley Lodge A.D. Matthews, An Historical Perspective on The Holy Royal Arch, Lecture July 2009, retrieved 18th September 2012
- Phoenix Masonry Bernard E.Jones, Freemason's Book of the Royal Arch, revised Carr, 1966, retrieved 23rd September 2012
- Grand Chapter of England The First Grand Chapter, retrieved 20th September 2012
- Thomas Dunckerley, his life, labours, and letters by Henry Sadler, Kenning, London, 1891 pp 244-255
- Mackey's article on Jehovah retrieved 14th September 2012
- United Grand Lodge of England Constitutions 2001, p 1
- In England the Royal Arch has four ceremonies: the exaltation ceremony to bring in new members and an installation ceremony for each of the three Principals - statement of ruling Grand Chapter on its official website here.
- No other Constitution has ever claimed that the 3rd Degree and the Royal Arch are two parts of a single whole; the English Grand Chapter eventually questioned its own reasoning, as stated by its Pro First Grand Principal in November 2003. His speech is reproduced in "Freemasonry Today" magazine, issue 27, Winter 2003. Text available online here almost half way down page, headed "Changes Proposed in Royal Arch".
- There are many public-domain documents verifying these changes. This one is merely one example of many which demonstrate the requirement for removal of all references to the former compromise linking the Royal Arch with the Third Degree.
- See statements at this webpage, for example.
- Website of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland
- Regulations of the Supreme Grand Chapter of England, with the Grand Officers listed on pages 202 and 203, and officers of private Chapters listed on page 232.
- Royal Arch Chapter of Research No. 222 Robert J. W. Harvey, Royal Arch Masonry in Ireland in the Early 19th Century, The Lodge of Research No. CC: Transactions for the years 1969 – 1975, Volume XVI, retrieved 8th October 2012
- Pietre Stones Arturo de Hoyos, The Mistery of the Royal Arch Word, Heredom, vol 2, 1993