The Royal Black Institution
The Royal Black Institution is the senior religious society of the Orange Order. It is viewed by many Protestant Loyalists as the elite body within the Loyal Orders family. Its influence is seen throughout the British Commonwealth where Irish Protestantism has gained a hold. A candidate for the Royal Black Institution must be a Protestant male over the age of 18 who has progressed through all the degrees of the Orange Order and the Royal Arch Purple Chapter. What is more, he must be in good standing within the two lower Orders.
If one were to ask the average Protestant in Northern Ireland his view of the Royal Black Institution the most common answer given would be: “The Black is more religious and dignified than the Orange Order.” From outward appearances this would be a reasonable assumption, in that the average Blackman is usually older than the Orangeman, thus giving the impression of maturity and propriety. The Royal Black Institution also tends to employ more respectable and disciplined bands for its marching processions. Unruly elements, which may have found their way into the Orange Order, are rarely attracted to the more staid Royal Black Preceptory. Notwithstanding, this has been changing over recent years. The Royal Black also tends to portray more biblical themes on its banners, whereas the Orange Order is more akin to portraying historic Boyne scenes, historical and political art.
The full title of the organisation is the ‘Royal Black Institution’. Notwithstanding, it is most commonly referred to by its members by the shortened designation ‘the Black’. The Institution is also widely known as the ‘Royal Black Preceptory’. Preceptory of course is a designation borrowed from the Masonic Knights Templar. The longer inscriptions ‘The Royal Black Knights of the British Commonwealth’ and ‘The Royal Black Knights of the Camp of Israel’ are also used at times to describe the same Institution – especially in official documents. Sometimes, for the sake of brevity, the Royal prefix is removed, the body being simply identified as ‘the Black Institution’ or ‘the Black Preceptory’. Others keep the Royal prefix and describe the body as the ‘Royal Black’.
A member of the Royal Black Institution is called a ‘Sir Knight’. This is another name that has been borrowed from the Masonic Knights Templar.
Appointment to the authentic state ancient Royal orders comes in the form of knighthood. Knighthood is an honour exclusively conferred by the Monarch in recognition of outstanding personal merit. British honours are awarded to acknowledge exceptional achievement or service. These special awards are
bestowed upon both men and women and involve the title “Sir” or “Dame” according to gender. The title is prefixed to the first name of the beneficiary.
The Black Order mimics the Royal conferment with its self-styled bogus status of Royal knighthood and its own peculiar type of knighting. This involves the large-scale bestowal of the knightly title upon all its members, when initiates are awarded a certificate of achievement on reaching the summit of their degree journey in the Black. In the final address of the opening Black degree candidates are assured: “you have been knighted.” In keeping with the Royal pattern, they are honoured and recognized by prefixing their first name with the title “Sir.” This can be seen on any Red Cross certificate or Black Lecturer’s certificate. Such accolades give the candidate a real sense of attainment and importance even though the awards are spurious, unlawful and counterfeit.
Confirmation of this elevated recognition is found in the Black Institution’s Red Cross certificate, which reads: “It has been duly certified to us that our well beloved Brother Sir (John Smyth) Knight of our Magnanimous and Invincible Order and a Member of Preceptory No. (123) … has regularly gone through the several Degrees and Colours recognised and allowed by the rules and regulations of this Grand Chapter and has been lawfully Initiated, Installed and Confirmed in all the Rights, Titles and Ceremonies thereunto belonging.”
The Black Lecturers certificate also states: “This is to certify that our trusty and well beloved Brother Sir (John Smyth) Preceptory (123) has by his zealous labour acquired great skill in the Ceremonies, Secrets and Mysteries of our most Noble Ancient and Christian order of Royal Black Knights.”
Despite these notional accolades, the Black Knights carry no stately or legal warrant to confer these honours, for these are marks of distinction which can only be awarded by Her Majesty the Queen. Stealing titles, positions and authority which do not belong to the organisation is an activity which is totally unacceptable. The Royal Black Institution should immediately remove the Royal prefix from its name and amend the spurious practice of secretly conferring knighthoods upon its members.
The Royal Black Institution consists of eleven degrees, as follows: –
(1) Royal Black degree – exposed and biblically examined
(2) Royal Scarlet Degree – exposed and biblically examined
(3) Royal Mark degree – exposed and biblically examined
(4) Apron and Royal Blue degree – exposed and biblically examined
(5) Royal White degree – exposed and biblically examined
(6) Royal Green degree – exposed and biblically examined
(7) Gold degree – exposed and biblically examined
(8) Star and Garter degree – exposed and biblically examined
(9) Crimson Arrow degreee – exposed and biblically examined
(10) Link and Chain degree – exposed and biblically examined
(11) Red Cross degree – exposed and biblically examined
The Institution also possesses a final retrospective degree, which is essentially an overview of the 11 degrees that the candidate has traversed.
Red Cross Grand Charge – exposed
For the first time in history we reveal a detailed history of the Royal Black Institution, the Black Knights of Malta and the Royal Britannic Association. We document the origin and development of the Royal Black movement and the origin and development of the degrees. This is a must for anyone interested in “Loyal” Orders history.
Along with the skull and bones, the red cross is probably the most distinctive symbols in the Black Institution. Whether on a Black collarette, banner or certificate, this emblem is very much to the fore. Those who have advanced to the dizzy heights of the Red Cross degree (the 11th and final degree in the Black Institution) are qualified to wear this emblem. However, many Blackmen display the red cross knowing little about its history or true significance. What are the actual origins of the red cross? Where did its usage within Christendom come from? The origin of the blood red cross can be traced back to the Crusades in 1146. The then Pontiff, Pope Eugenius III, created the symbol and granted it to the Knights Templar as a mark of appreciation for their faithfulness to the church and their willingness to die in the advance of the cause of Roman Catholicism. The Black emblem is a red cross lying notably at an angle, accompanied by a crown underlain by the slogan In Hoc Sign Vinces. This symbolism was appropriated directly by the Masonic Knights Templar who own the same image. We should note that Constantine’s cross was not believed to be an upright cross as is found in most “Christian art,” but a pagan X (as has been mentioned earlier). This would explain the tilt of the cross in this familiar symbol. The joining of the cross and crown most likely represents the uniting of the secular and religious power that occurred in the office of Emperor of the Roman Empire, with Constantine’s success.
The Royal Black Institution is modelled on the ancient chivalry knights. Modern secret chivalry societies take their influence and inspiration from the Crusading Knights Templar. They model themselves on these ancient Knights and claim a religious identity with them. They profess to replicate many of their traditions and customs. Some even claim a direct unbroken lineage back to the Crusaders, even though there is little or no credible evidence for this.
The revelation of the hidden mysteries of the Black comes in the form of gradua
lly unfolding enlightenment. Bit by bit as the Blackman advances upward through the different degrees he receives more and more knowledge on the inner doctrines of the Institution. This teaching can only be obtained through undergoing a series of peculiar ritual initiations. This instruction is not written down anywhere, but is solely an oral tradition. The secrets of the Order are typically revealed through a drama in which the candidate is the main actor – but a drama he knows nothing about.
The hidden theology of the Order is not easy to grasp as it is presented in the style of a strange and cryptic catechism. The lectures, lessons and addresses must be articulated by two trained lecturers. They must be proficient in all the degrees, although they are only meant to perform one degree per night. The teaching is impressed by way of a time-honoured question and answer engagement between the two. The unusual teaching they convey is spoken in an unconventional manner, as if they are speaking on behalf of the candidate. The new member is required to attentively listen to the instruction.
It is only as the candidate ascends the degree ladder that the full picture comes together. The bottom rungs are merely preparatory opening steps in his initiatory experience, designed to acclimatize him to this unusual style of learning and give him some insight into the esoteric secrets unfolded gradually by these fraternities. Secrecy, initiation and the impartation of hidden knowledge is the currency of all secret societies. These bodies associate the acquiring of this mysterious knowledge with the important principle of enlightenment.
The concept of the degree refers to the different steps a member must undergo in the overall initiation process of the Institution. Degrees are the various ceremonies through which the candidate must travel in ascending the secret society ladder. He can only travel one degree per monthly meeting. It is in these degrees that esoteric knowledge is imparted to the initiate, and when this knowledge is acquired the member is under strict obligation not to divulge it. The teaching contained in the degrees is standard wherever the Black is found although there can be some differences in the practical working of the rites – with parochial idiosyncrasies coming into play. This gives the initiate a real sense of belonging through the energy of shared experience. The Royal Black Institution speaks often of the mysteries they possess, which must of necessity be concealed from the broad masses.
The Royal Black Institution and the Royal Arch Purple speak often of the mysteries they possess, which must of necessity be concealed from the broad masses. The Blackman’s journey into the secret world of mysteries is mentioned to him as soon as he enters the Royal Arch Purple Chapter (the Order he must attain before joining the Black), where he is informed, “Before we can impart to you any of the secrets or mysteries of the Royal Arch Purple degree you will be required to take upon yourself an … obligation.” After he has advanced through this degree the recruit is then qualified to climb higher up the ladder into the more advanced mysteries of the Royal Black Preceptory.
A perusal of a Black lecturer’s certificate will confirm that the Royal Arch Purple initiate has yet further mysteries to receive on his journey of enlightenment. The Black certificate states: “That our trusty and well beloved Brother Sir (John Smyth) Preceptory (123) has by his zealous labour acquired great skill in the Ceremonies, Secrets and Mysteries of our most Noble Ancient and Christian order of Royal Black Knights.”
When the Grand Black Chapter was formed on 14th September 1846 it affirmed in its new rules and regulations that it was set up to observe the mystical secrets propagated within the various secret societies down the centuries. It avowed: “It is calculated to instruct and inform those who are desirous of obtaining a knowledge of divine truth and sublime mysteries.”
What exactly are these mysteries?
There was a large common pool of esoteric degrees that where the product of ritualistic imaginations which existed among the secret fraternal underworld from the late 1700s through to the 1800s and from which they all secret societies seemed to have trawled. This explains why there is such a likeness in practice, teach and symbol between the various secret bodies.
Masonic historian A E Waite says in his exhaustive work – A New Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry: “The Mysteries were affirmed to be fundamentally the same in all countries; that is to say, they were united in method and purpose and were indifferently spiritual in character. Amidst distinctions of title and signal variations of pageant, there is no question as to the force of this view … all shrouded their Rites under similar veils of secrecy; all purposed the same method of communicating instruction by symbol, allegory and purposed fable; all shrank from committing their Mysteries to writing; all inculcated the immortality of the soul and a future state of retribution and reward.; all had analogous ways of exhibiting their doctrinal system in the pictorial ceremonies of institution … although bearing many names in different countries and referred to various founders, they were all regulated by the same Ritual when in their first and purest condition.”
Two great influences have lain behind all secret society thinking since the formation of Freemasonry in 1717. Whilst these are not mentioned specifically by name in every secret order, their effect is evident in every esoteric doctrine propagated within the fraternal world and by every procedure practised. These influences are Gnosticism and the Kabbalah (also known as Cabalah or Qabalah). In fact, together, these two ancient beliefs lie at the heart of what secret societies are all about, for they have moulded their whole thinking. Most people are ignorant of these two religious schools of thought, including even those in membership of brotherhoods. Those who take the time to scrutinise the different fraternal bodies will find that these influences are the key driving force behind the arcane brotherhoods.
Whilst the Black Institution in Ireland likes to give the impression that it has around 40,000 members, the figure is now more likely to be below 17,000, and falling. Even the Orange Institution (from which the Black exclusively recruits) has recently admitted its membership had fallen to 35,700 by 2006. This is in marked contrast to the 93,447 Orangemen it claimed in 1968. Senior member of the Orange Order, member of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Order for more than 25 years, and convenor of its Education Committee for many years, Rev. Brian Kennaway claims the fall is steeper. He suggests it had collapsed to around 30,000 by 2006 in his book The Orange Order: A Tradition Betrayed.
The Royal Black Chapter recently admitted during discussions with the Church of Ireland June 2015 that the current membership totals approximately 17,000 in over 550 local perceptories, of whom some 16,000 reside within the British Isles.” That means there is now only 1,000 Royal Blackmen outside of Ireland throughout the world. This is a minuscule figure compared to what they have previously boasted. Think about this: this includes Orange heartlands such as Scotland, England, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Robert Dane, Assistant Sovereign Grand Master, speaking at the Armagh Black demonstration on Black Saturday (30/08/14), admitted that the Institution in America was fighting for its very survival. Whilst Black records 10 years ago claimed that the organization had 15 Preceptories in the US, today it has collapsed to 4. In fact, the Assistant Sovereign Grand Master admitted on Black Saturday that “the Grand Black Chapter of the United States of America became dormant a number of years ago, due to a decline in membership.” When you compare this to 1914 when the Loyal Orange Institution boasted of 364 lodges and 30,000 members in America, many of which were Blackmen, you see the distress the Black is in today.
In Tony Gray’s educational book The Orange Order, published in 1972, which also covers the Royal Arch Purple and Royal Black Institutions, he was reliably informed that the Black Institution then had 423 Preceptories in Canada. By 2004 Canada was reduced to 160 Preceptories. That is 62% in 32 years. In this past 10 years the Canadian Black has disintegrated.
Please read: The decline of the Royal Black Institution
There has been a growing evangelical opposition to the highly degrading Masonic ritualistic practices of the Royal Arch Purple and the Royal Black Institutions within the Orange over this past number of years. The public exposure of these two organisations for the first time in over 200 years in Behind Closed Doors and Inside the Royal Black Institution, has hit the Orders hard. The Royal Black in particular won’t openly talk about the startling revelations because it fears a public scandal and more evangelical resignations from the Black. Numbers on parade are notable down. Preceptories are being forced to amalgamate for survival.
By the early 1990s there was growing unease inside the Royal Black Institution at some of the mystical practices and extra-biblical teaching contained within the Order. A group of concerned evangelicals within the Royal Black in County Down challenged many of the non-biblical elements within the Institution. Much to the disappointment of these believers, the Black dismissed all the main concerns albeit they made some minor changes to part of the 4th Apron & Royal Blue degree catechism. This evangelical group was headed by Deputy Grand Chaplain Rev. Brian Blacoe and County Down Black Lecturer Malcolm McClughan. A petition was signed by those concerned, W P Malcomson (the author of Behind Closed Doors and Inside the Royal Black Institution) being one of the signatories, pressing for change. Through this failed attempt a number of evangelical Blackmen resigned from the Black Institution, including Mr McClughan and W P Malcomson.
Rev. Brian Blacoe persisted in his efforts to see reform of the organisation. He was able to bring his concerns to Grand Black with the backing of other Blackmen at local level in County Down. He was also supported by another evangelical minister Rev. Duane Russell, a District Chaplain in County Armagh. They pressed for immediate and sweeping changes to some of the main practices and teaching of the Order, especially some of the more unsavoury aspects of the 1st Black Degree like drinking from human remians. The Grand Black Chapter of the Royal Black Institution was forced to address the issue at a meeting on 25 January 1997 although a diluted response was again made. This resulted in the resignation of these two senior clergy and other Blackmen of an evangelical persuasion. An ongoing exodus of evangelical Blackmen from the Institution has continued ever since.
Who can join?
To be eligible to join the Royal Black Institution one must be a Protestant male over the age of 18 who believes in the Trinity. What is more, the entrant must be a member of the Orange Order and the Royal Arch Purple Order (for at least three months). The potential member must also affirm that he is an active member of a Protestant denomination. On top of this, he must swear not to marry “a member of the Romanish Church or Papist, nor stand sponsor for the child of a Roman Catholic when receiving baptism by a Priest of Rome, nor permit a Papist to stand sponsor for my child at its baptism.” The Black must be satisfied that the potential recruit has been faithful to the secrets and mysteries of the lower Loyal Orders and that his behaviour is of an acceptable standard.
Prospective candidates do not normally apply to join the Black but are usually invited to become members by those already in the Institution. However, this procedure has been relaxed in recent times due to the dramatic fall in membership numbers. The Black has been forced to water down this policy, and to engage in a proactive recruiting campaign amongst Orange members and within the wider Protestant community. The Institution knows that if it continues to lose members as it has been over this past number of years many more preceptories will soon be faced with dissolution.
Secrets of Royal Black Institution revealed (Irish News report on Inside the Royal Black Institution – 17th September 2009)
Macabre rituals detailed in book (Banbridge Chronicle story on Inside the Royal Black Institution, 16th Sept 2009)
Black Response to this story by prominent County Down Blackman Drew Nelson (who is also Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland)
Evangelical response to Mr Nelson from Paul Malcomson
Roy Garland (Irish News) response to book – “Fundamentalists, not Jesuits, infiltrated the loyal orders”
John Coulter (Irish Daily Star) claims this book is “the best piece of anti-Protestant propaganda since the notorious Proclamation of the 1916 Easter Rising” ( 1st December 2009)
Testimonies from former leading Royal Blackmen Rev. Canon Brian T. Blacoe (former Deputy Grand Chaplain of the Royal Black Institution), Malcolm McClughan (former Royal Black Lecturer) and David Carson (Chairman of the United Protestant Council).
A book for Blackmen to seriously consider by Cecil Andrew of Take Heed Ministries.
The Royal Black Institution and British Israelism
United Protestant Council reject the “Royal” Black Institution