Royal Order of Scotland
The Royal Order of Scotland is one of the most historic Orders within Freemasonry and can trace its regal roots back 700 years to Robert the Bruce. That royal connection originates with Robert the Bruce, who is said to have conferred knighthoods on a group of Freemasons who assisted him in his victory over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Those knights are recognized as the first members of the Royal Order of Scotland.
The Royal Order of Scotland is a global Order that initially spread throughout France, during the mid to late 18th Century before receding just as quickly, perhaps as a result of the persecution of Freemasons . However, by the middle of the 19th century it had a foundation to start to grow again.
The Order’s oldest existing Provincial Grand Lodge was formed around this time in Sweden. In a masonic building in Stockholm, a Tower of Refreshment was uncovered that is used in awarding one of the two degrees of the Order and used as proof of the longstanding connection between Sweden and the Royal Order of Scotland.
Today, the Headquarters of the Royal Order of Scotland is in Edinburgh, as it has been for over 250 years. The Grand Lodge is unusual as it is one of the few Grand Lodges to admit new members itself, and is unique in the fact that it has no local lodges.
By the Constitution of the Royal Order, the King of Scots is its hereditary Grand Master, for whom at every meeting of the Order, wherever held, a vacant chair or throne must be placed at the right hand of the presiding officer. The acting head of the Order is the Deputy Grand Master and Governor, who appoints a Deputy Governor.
The Head of the Order and chairman of the Grand Lodge has the title of Deputy Grand Master and Governor. The honor is held today by Brother Ewan Rutherford. He presides over a network of 91 Provincial Grand Lodges around the world; five in Scotland and 33 in England, with the remaining spread across the rest of Europe, Canada, the US, Australasia, Africa, East Asia and the Caribbean.
The Royal Order comprises two Degrees, that of Heredom of Kilwinning and that of the Rosy Cross. Tradition tells us that the former was established in Judea, in Palestine, but whether at the time of the Crusaders of much earlier origin, tradition is silent.
The word “Heredom” has been variously interpreted, but the most obvious derivation is from the Hebrew word “Harodim”, meaning “The Rulers”, and the name of Kilwinning refers to the re-establishment of the Order by King Robert the Bruce at Kilwinning, where he presided as its first Grand Master.
The Degree of Heredom of Kilwinning is a peculiarly interesting Degree and full of instruction to Craft Masons, as in its lectures it explains the symbolism and teaching contained in the first three Degrees of what is sometimes referred to as St. John’s Masonry.
The Rosy Cross Degree; tradition takes its origin on the field of Bannockburn on Summer St. John’s Day 1314 and was instituted by King Robert the Bruce, who having in the course of the battle for Scottish independence, received assistance from a body of sixty-three knights who may have been original Knights Templar and Freemasons. He conferred upon them, as a reward for their services, the civil rank of Knighthood. Each received a characteristic considered descriptive of his performance at Bannockburn. He granted them permission to confer the honor on such Scottish Freemasons professing the Christian religion and had shown themselves worthy of the honor. The number on whom the Knighthood might be conferred was limited to sixty-three, but over the years, owing to the large number of worthy Freemasons who coveted this honor, the Grand Lodge of the Order, when it found it necessary to establish Provincial Grand Lodges elsewhere than in Scotland, granted each Provincial Grand Lodge permission to promote sixty-three Freemasons of the Degree of Heredom to the honor of Knighthood under the Grand Lodge. In some of the Provincial Grand Lodges where the members of Heredom number many hundreds, special powers have been given to increase the number of Knights of the Rosy Cross. This Degree, as its name implies, deals more with the subject matter of the Rose Croix Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite than with that of Craft Masonry. The Degree of Knighthood can only be conferred in the Grand Lodge of the Royal Order, which has its seat in Edinburgh, or by the special authority by a Provincial Grand Master or his deputy. This authority is purely personal to a Provincial Grand Master, and cannot be transmitted by him to his successors.
Originally, membership in the Order was limited to Scotsmen or those of Scottish descent, but later the privilege was extended to Master Masons of other nationalities. The Order has now, besides Provincial Grand Lodges in Scotland and in England, Provincial Grand Lodges all over the world, including the United States of America, where the Order is very highly prized and is not conferred on anyone who has not received the Thirty-second Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, although this may be waived if the petitioner is a Knight Templar.