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The Royal Black Institution

in hoc signo vinces

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. This has been changing over recent years.

In the pages to follow a large amount of information will be revealed which has never before been disclosed to the public. For the first time in history we will examine the internal rites of the Royal Black Institution, observing teaching and mysteries that have never in history been exposed. This should facilitate a fair, open and informed analysis of the Royal Black and result in a better understanding of this highly secretive group.

Black Titles

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.

Black Degrees

The Royal Black Institution consists of eleven degrees, as follows: -

(1) Royal Black degree - (a biblical anlysis)
(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 degreee
(10) Link and Chain degree
(11) Red Cross degree

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

Black History

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.

The history of the Royal Black Institution New!
The history of the Black degrees New!
The beginning of the chivalrous secret society concept New!

Black Imagery

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.

Black teaching

The revelation of the hidden mysteries of the Black comes in the form of gradually 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 acclimatise 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?

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.

Membership numbers

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 15,000, 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.

And with barely 40 to 50 per cent of Orangemen moving into the Black such a figure is entirely unachievable. Indeed, it is highly unlikely that the Royal Black Institution has anywhere near 40,000 members worldwide. Ireland is its principal source of strength, but even there it is struggling badly. The Institution is relatively active in Canada and Scotland and in a token way in Australia, England, New Zealand, the United States of America, and the West African countries of Ghana and Togo. However, numbers are falling considerably faster abroad than in Ireland.

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.


in hoc signo vinces


Purchase direct: Inside the Royal Black Institution

Irish News

Secrets of Royal Black Institution revealed (Irish News report on Inside the Royal Black Institution - 17th September 2009)

Banbridge Chronicle

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
Full Evangelical Truth response to Blackman Drew Nelson

Roy Garland (Irish News)

Roy Garland (Irish News) response to book - "Fundamentalists, not Jesuits, infiltrated the loyal orders"

John Coulter (Irish Daily Star)

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)

Reviews of Inside the Royal Black Institution from 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 Black Oath

The Royal Black Institution and British Israelism

United Protestant Council reject the "Royal" Black Institution