Royal Black Institution

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Royal Black Institution
Formation1797; 226 years ago (1797)
HeadquartersLoughall, County Armagh
Areas found:
United Kingdom (based mainly in Northern Ireland and Scotland),
Republic of Ireland (almost exclusively in County Donegal),
United States,
New Zealand
other Commonwealth countries
William Anderson
Imperial Grand Registrar
William Scott
Members of the Royal Black Preceptory 241, photographed in 1948.
Token from a Canadian lodge of the RBI, with various symbols pertaining to the society.

Symbol of the Institution, and logo — In Hoc Signo Vinces.

The Royal Black Institution, the Imperial Grand Black Chapter Of The British Commonwealth, or simply the Black Institution,[1] is a Protestant fraternal society though some scholars[who?] argue is an Ulster syncretism of ritualistic Freemasonry.


The Royal Black Institution was formed in Ireland in 1797, two years after the formation of the Orange Order in Daniel Winter's cottage, Loughgall, County Armagh, Ireland.

The society is formed from Orangemen and can be seen as a progression of that Order although they are separate institutions. Anyone wishing to be admitted to the Royal Black Institution must first become a member of an Orange Order Lodge, and many are members of both.

The Royal Black is often referred to as "the senior of the loyal orders".[2]

Members wear a sash or collarette of which the predominant colour is black.

Organisation and events[edit]

Its headquarters are in Loughgall, County Armagh. Members refer to each other as "Sir Knight", whereas in the Orange Order members are referred to as "Brother" or "Brethren".[3] The RBI claim that their basis is the promotion of scripture and the principles of the Protestant Reformation. However, this is contested by people who suggest that the rituals are not biblical.[4] It has preceptories throughout the world, mainly in the major English-speaking countries, and is particularly strong in Newfoundland.

In 1931, on the day before a planned demonstration by members of the Royal Black Institution, crossing the border from Northern Ireland and into the then Irish Free State, the IRA occupied Cootehill in County Cavan, as a counter protest.[5]

In Northern Ireland it holds an annual parade in the village of Scarva, County Down, on 13 July (the day after the Orange Order's 12 July celebrations). It is commonly referred to as "The Sham Fight" as it involves a mock fight between actors reenacting the Battle of the Boyne.[3] The other major parade of the year is "Black Saturday", also known as "Last Saturday", held on the last Saturday in August at several locations throughout Ulster (including a major parade in Raphoe in the Laggan district of East Donegal, Ireland).[3]: 480 

The society is also popular in Scotland, where 60 preceptories exist organised into 11 districts across the country.[6] Twenty-six marches by the Black Institution have taken place in Glasgow alone between 2009 and 2010.[1]

2012 apology[edit]

The Royal Black Institution has adopted a more conciliatory attitude to contentious parades than the Orange Order, and is less overtly political, though not without political influence.

After loyalist bands defied a Parades Commission ruling on Black Saturday by playing music outside St Patrick's Catholic Church on Donegall Street, Belfast, the Royal Black Institution issued an apology to the clergy and parishioners of the church for any offence caused. The parish priest, Father Michael Sheehan, welcomed the apology and "the sincere Christian spirit behind it".[7]


The society's members are assigned one of eleven degrees, as follows, in descending order:

  1. Royal Black Degree
  2. Royal Scarlet Degree
  3. Royal Mark Degree
  4. Apron and Royal Blue Degree
  5. Royal White Degree
  6. Royal Green Degree
  7. Gold Degree
  8. Star and Garter Degree
  9. Crimson Arrow Degree
  10. Link and Chain Degree
  11. Red Cross Degree

The Institution also possesses a final retrospective overview degree, which is essentially an overview of the eleven.

Sovereign Grand Masters[edit]

A chronological list of Sovereign Grand Masters of the Royal Black Preceptory:

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Orange Parades to be limited in Glasgow City Centre", BBC News, 9 December 2010
  2. ^ Beattie, Jilly (26 August 2017). "Royal Black's Last Saturday parades in pictures". BelfastLive.
  3. ^ a b c Haddick-Flynn, Kevin (2019). Orangeism, a Historical Profile. Troubador Publishing Limited.
  4. ^ E.g. by W. P. Malcomson, in "An Evangelical View of Freemasony and the Loyal Orders", The Evangelical Truth website
  5. ^ "Southern Orange commemorations, past and present". History Ireland. 6 March 2013.
  6. ^ "Locations of The Royal Black Institution". The Royal Black Institution. Archived from the original on 28 September 2010 – via
  7. ^ "Royal Black Institution apology to St Patrick's Church over march". BBC News. 6 September 2012.

External links[edit]