The names of royalty, statesmen, judges, military top brass, bishops and police have been found in a secret archive
Freemason: Winston Churchill making his famous V for Victory sign, 1942
The huge influence Freemasons had in ruling British society for almost 200 years has finally been revealed.
The names of royalty, statesmen, judges, military top brass, bishops and police have been found in a secret archive which lists two million Freemasons.
The masonic records – from 1733 to 1923 – are set to be made available to the public for the first time.
They show Kings Edward VII, Edward VIII and George VI were all Freemasons.
Military leaders the Duke of Wellington and Lord Kitchener were also members of the clandestine group founded by a group of men in a London coffee house in 1717.
Britain’s wartime Premier Sir Winston Churchill was also a Freemason along with literary greats Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde and Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Freemason legend: Captain Robert Falcon Scott
Freemason: Douglas Jardine
Others include music legends Gilbert and Sullivan, explorers Ernest Shackleton and Captain Robert Scott, England cricket captain Douglas Jardine and scientist Sir Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin.
Rudyard Joseph Kipling
More than 5,500 police officers, thousands of military figures, 170 judges, 169 MPs, 16 bishops and an Indian prince are listed in the Freemasons archive to be made public by family history website Ancestry.
A member: Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Also a member: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Businessman Harry Selfridge is named in the archive along with social reformer Thomas Barnardo, famous bridge builder Thomas Telford and thousands of engineers who made Britain a world industrial power.
Apic Pocket watch with Mason symbol
Key member: Alexander Fleming
The extent to which Freemasons wielded power over the British Empire may lead to a re-examination of two centuries of our history.
Big role: William Schwenck Gilbert
The all-male group was originally formed to enable “men of integrity” to get together while avoiding issues of religion and politics.
Freemason: Arthur Sullivan
They adopted the compass, square and apron used in stonemasonry as symbols for the group.
Key member: Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State at the start of World War One
Publication of the archive comes after initiatives by the Freemasons in recent decades to make the organisation more open.
Also a member: Edward VIII in 1935
There are believed to be six million Freemasons in the world today – including two million in the United States.
A freemason: King George VI of Great Britain in 1939
Ancestry’s senior UK content manager Miriam Silverman said: “We’re delighted to be able to offer people an online window into a relatively unknown organisation.”
Huge influence: The Freemasons were key in the inquiry of SS Titanic.
Freemasons had a huge influence over a controversial inquiry into the Titanic disaster in which more than 1,500 passengers and crew died.
The secret archive shows the judge who presided over the British Wreck Commissioner’s inquiry was a Freemason along with leading investigators and some who escaped censure.
A US investigation blamed the British Board of Trade for lax rules which allowed the Titanic to set off on its maiden voyage in 1912 with just 20 lifeboats for 2,208 people on board.
But the Board of Trade was exonerated by the British inquiry led by Lord Mersey.
Records show the judge was initiated as a Freemason in 1881 at the Northern Bar Lodge in London.
Tragedy: Photograph purporting to be of the iceberg that sank the Titanic
President of the Board of Trade Sydney Buxton was also a long-standing Mason after being initiated in 1888 at Limehouse in East London, where he was local MP.
Two of the inquiry’s five expert assessors were also listed as Masons – naval architecture specialist John Harvard Biles and senior engineer assessor Edward Chaston.
Another key figure in the inquiry listed as a Freemason was Lord Pirrie.
He was chairman of the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast which built the Titanic and a directors of shipping line White Star’s parent company.
Nic Compton, author of Titanic on Trial, told History.com: “The Titanic inquiry in Britain was branded a ‘whitewash’ because it exonerated most of those involved.
Only three passengers were interviewed, and they were all from first class.
“The only person both inquiries heaped scorn on was the captain of SS Californian, the ship that had stood by about eight miles off, its crew watching the emergency flares being fired by Titanic, without doing anything about it until it was too late.”
The Titanic sank on April 15 1912, after hitting an iceberg in the Atlantic on the way from Southampton to New York.
There were 700 survivors. The British inquiry decided ship’s captain Edward Smith did “only that which other skilled men would have done in the same position”.
White Star and its parent company were cleared of negligence.
Jack The Ripper
Cover up: Was Michael Maybrick the notorious killer?
Infamous Victorian serial killer Jack The Ripper may have escaped justice because of a Freemason cover-up.
The notorious murderer is believed to have been a second-rate singer called Michael Maybrick who is identified as a Freemason in the archive records.
Maybrick was a member of the St Andrew’s Lodge in London for more than 20 years.
He left a year before five women were murdered in the East End in nine weeks in 1888.
The case is one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in British criminal history.
Records show the part played by Freemasons in the failed Scotland Yard inquiry.
Failed investigation: Jack The Ripper
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren was a Mason along with his “eyes and ears” on the case Chief Inspector Donald Swanson.
Coroners Wynne Baxter and Henry Crawford who ruled on the murders were also Masons along with at least three police doctors who examined the bodies.
Maybrick was on the Supreme Grand Council of Freemasons and toured Britain as a performer.
His handwritten entry in the records describes him as a “vocalist”.
Met police chief Sir Charles was a senior member of the Masonic Society.
Author Bruce Robinson, film director of Withnail and I, claims in a new book that the Ripper murders bore the hallmarks of Masonic ritual.
He said proof came in the form of a pair of compasses carved into the face of victim Catherine Eddowes, removal of meal buttons and coins from the bodies of Eddowes and Annie Chapman and cryptic graffiti daubed on a wall which was “the most flagrant clue of all”.
Robinson – whose book is called They All Love Jack: Busting the Ripper – said: “The whole of the ruling class was Masonic, from the heir to the throne down. It was part of being in the club.
“Part of the whole ethic of Freemasonry is whatever it is, however it’s done, you protect the brotherhood – and that’s what happened.
“They weren’t protecting Jack the Ripper, they were protecting the system that Jack the Ripper was threatening.
“And to protect the system, they had to protect him. And the Ripper knew it.”
- There are 250,000 Freemasons in 8,000 Lodges in England and Wales.
- Be a man who comes of his own free will.
- Believe in a Supreme Being (the form of which is left to open interpretation by the candidate).
- Be at least the minimum age (from 18-25 years old depending on the jurisdiction).
- Be of good morals, and of good reputation.
- Be of sound mind and body.
- Be capable of furnishing character references, as well as one or two references from current Masons, depending on jurisdiction.