Grand Orange Lodge Of Ireland opposes
Royal Arch Purple and Royal Black degrees

Chronicling Grand Orange Lodge Of Ireland opposition to the Royal Arch Purple and Royal Black degrees

(c) National Maritime Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation


Grand Orange Lodge Of Ireland (November1834)

After the re-forming of the Orange Institution, it was inevitable that the Royal Arch Purple and Royal Black ritualists would once again raise their heads. However, there was not a lot that Grand Orange Lodge Of Ireland could do about that apart from remain diligent. As the nature of the beast is when dealing with secret underground alliances, the plotting was not immediately discernible. It took a few years for it to reorganize itself, poke its head above water and flex it muscles. However, when it was discovered Grand Lodge took immediate action and released a strong unambiguous censure to every Lodge in Ireland, which declared, “That we have heard with the deepest regret that there exists in various parts of Ireland Lodges professing to be in connection with the Orange Institution numbering among their members Brethren of this Institution adopting other Orders and degrees than the Orange and Purple, the two original and only recognized Orders by us, that we cannot too strongly express our conviction that all such unlicensed Orders were highly detrimental to our best interest and injurious to the character of our Institution and we hereby request our brethren to abstain from all connection with Black Lodges or Lodges granting Degrees of Royal Arch Purple or Purple Marksman or any other unrecognized names or systems different from those established by our fundamental Rules and we request all Grand Officers of Counties wherein such Lodges exist to use their influence for their suppression or proper conformity to the said Rules and Regulations.”

Grand Orange Lodge Of Ireland remained steadfast and unwavering in their opposition to the Royal Arch Purple and Royal Black degrees. They implacably resisted any form of neo-Masonic practice. They refused to give it an inch in their repudiations. They did not mince their words in confronting it. They viewed this ritualism as being “highly detrimental to our best interest and injurious to the character of our Institution.” This couldn’t have been clearer. Orangeism was resolute in its opposition to degrees and Orders that are widely accepted today as wholesome and integral to the Loyal Orders family.

Grand Orange Lodge Of Ireland

(12th – 14th November 1834)

At the Grand Orange Lodge meeting from 12th to 14th November 1834 in Grafton Street Dublin a strong statement of position was reiterated: “We refer to your consideration the propriety of disavowing, by a resolution to that effect, and connection with Lodges calling themselves Black Lodges, or any other name not provided for in our rules, and repudiate the practice of granting degrees, such as Royal Arch Purple, or Purple Marksman, or whatever the titles may be, which are not in accordance with the regulations and principles of the Orange institution.”

Grand Orange Lodge Of Ireland was determined to confront, expose and arrest the exist of and progress of the degrading and ritualistic Royal Arch Purple and Royal Black degrees. Their consistent and implacable opposition left the Orange membership in no doubt as to where they stood.

We should note in passing, the Royal Arch Purple degree was still known in some areas as ‘the Purple-Marksman degree.’ This statement from Grand Lodge incorporated both existing titles so as to cover the different local terminologies.

House Of Commons Select Committee Enquiry Into the Orange Order (1835)

Grand Orange Lodge Of Ireland Representation

(8th June 1835)

The Grand Orange Lodge Secretary Stewart Blacker and the Grand Chaplain Rev. Mortimer O’Sullivan were selected to give evidence on behalf of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, to the Select Committee of the House of Commons set up to look into Orange Lodges.

In a reply to a question about the nature and true origin of the “higher orders” the Grand Secretary replied, “I have not the slightest idea, but imagine they arose from the desire of the lower orders to have something more exciting or alarming in the initiation of members. I think it may be a mixture of Freemasonry with that of the old Orange System, a species of mummery innocent of itself and originated in the strong desire that vulgar minds in general manifest for awful mysteries and ridiculous pageantry.”

The Grand Chaplain – Rev. Mortimer O’Sullivan confirmed the Orange Order’s strict prohibition of “granting degrees, such as Royal Arch Purple or Purple Marksman or whatever the title may be, which are not in accordance with the regulations and principles of the Orange Institution.”

Grand Orange Lodge of Great Britain Representation

(20th August 1835)

The Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of England C.E. Chetwoode was chosen to give evidence, on behalf of the Orange Institution of England, to the Select Committee.

Asked about the “higher orders” he stated, “These are persons who continue what they call Orders that are not recognised by the Orange Society, what some would consider nonsensical Orders. The Orange Society does not recognise those Orders at all. These were some of the over zealous Orangemen, and they are chiefly confined to the lower orders, who wished to keep up what were considered their old Orders, formerly several Orders were allowed in the Orange Institution, now they have only two as set forth in the rules, Orange and Purple.”

Orangeism publicly and unambiguously nailed its colors to the mast. It distanced itself from any connection to, or support of, the Royal Arch Purple and Royal Black degrees/orders. In doing so it did not miss the mark. It dismissed their very existence as mummery (meaning, “a ridiculous ceremony or ritual”), “awful mysteries” and “ridiculous pageantry” originating from “vulgar minds.”

King and Prime Minister Discourage Political Societies 1836

The result of this parliamentary enquiry saw the Orange Order and other similar political Orders outlawed by government. The Prime Minister, Lord John Russell decided that a humble address should be presented to his Majesty, “praying that he would be graciously pleased to take such measures, as his Majesty might deem desirable for the effectual discouragement of Orange Lodges, and, generally, all political societies, excluding persons of different religions, and using secret signs and symbols, and acting by means of associated branches.”

The King willingly assented and decreed, “It is my firm intention to discourage all such societies in my dominions and I rely with confidence on the fidelity of my loyal subjects to support me in this determination.”

Read a detailed exposure:

Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Dissolved to Comply with Law of the Land

(14th April 1836 – 3rd August 1846)

Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Re-Formed

On the 3rd August 1846 a provisional Grand Lodge was elected and set up, with the Earl of Enniskillen elected as Grand Master along with the full complement of Grand Lodge Officers from the old leadership. However, it wasn’t until 12th & 13th November 1846 that Grand Lodge was formally operating.

Grand Black Chapter of Ireland Formed

(14th September 1846)

Up until now the Black Order had operated in a disjointed ad-hoc manner. This was in order to avoid any persecution by the Orange Institution. The dissolution of Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland gave an impetus to the ritualists within the Orange family to re-establish their practises.

The Grand Black Chapter of Ireland was formed on 14th September 1846

(1st March 1847)

On 1st March 1847 the Grand Black Chapter brought together the three different strands of Black structures existing in the British Isles – the Grand Black Chapter of Ireland, the Grand Black Lodge of the Knights of Malta (Scotland) and the Grand Brittanic Institution (England).

Orange historian Aiken McClelland reports of this union: “There can be little doubt that the reason for the amalgamation was the reconstitution of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland in 1846, and the fear that the new Grand Lodge would succeed in crushing smaller bodies, but would find a larger organisation a more difficult proposition.”

Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland


After its reforming, Grand Lodge’s position towards the varying ritualistic bodies remained unchanged. The stringent rules prohibiting the Royal Arch Purple and Black degrees of old stayed in place. They re-emphasized the Order’s abhorrence of these degrading ‘Heathenish Rites’. Every Orangeman was required to affirm that he would not “admit or assist at the admission of any member into any other order purporting to be part of the Orange System, than the Orange and Purple, which are the only Orders recognized by the Rules of the Orange Institution.”

In their book, ‘History of the Royal Arch Purple Order’, the Royal Arch Purple Chapter admits, “The loose, flexible structure adopted by the Royal Arch Purple Order and its policy of keeping out of sight while staying close as possible to the Orange organisation, especially at Lodge level ensured it survived unscathed.”

For the sake of survival, the Royal Arch Purple Order remained a hidden underground movement within the Orange camp.

For more on the internal debate within the Orders:

Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland

(August 1861)

The formation of the Grand Black Chapter created much unease within the ranks of Grand Lodge. Opinion was split on how best to deal with it. Some wanted it publicly faced down whilst most felt that the stringent rules of the Orange Institution were sufficient to dissuade Orangemen from joining.

In August 1861 the Grand Chaplain – Rev. Thomas Drew – resigned from the Orange Institution at the Order’s failure to root out the Royal Black Institution. This notable loss seemed to precipitate Grand Lodge into action, as, not long after this, they released a strong statement condemning the Black Institution.

(4th December 1862)

Grand Lodge declared, “It having appeared to the Grand Lodge, from some facts recently before it, that the interests and welfare of the Orange Institution, and its effectual working for the objects for which it has been established, are seriously handicapped and endangered by any Lodge or members becoming connected with an Association styled the Grand Black Chapter, this Grand Lodge declares, that, any connection with any association is contrary to the true spirit of the Orange Institution. Therefore the Grand Lodge of Ireland hereby cautions all members of the Orange Institution against becoming or continuing to be in any way identified with that Association.”

There was clearly no softening within the Orange on its view of the Black. However, they were dealing with a better organised and more formidable enemy now since the formation of its ruling Grand Black Chapter.

Orange Order Pamphlet


The Orange Institution outlined its clear position on ritualism in a pamphlet released in 1875 called ‘Orangeism: Its principles, its purposes and its relation to society – defined and defended’:

“Ritualism should not be left an inch of ground nor a foot to stand on within the domain of Protestantism, a little leaven leavens the whole lump. There is no necessity for keeping on parallel lines with the heresies of Rome…A prudent mariner will never risk the safety of his ship and cargo, or imperil the lives of his passengers, by deliberately going out of his direct course, where deep waters abound, in order to vaunt his skill in navigating through the intricacies of rocks and shoals and lurking sandbanks. In like manner, Protestants should studiously avoid the pit-falls of Rome as they would an epidemic. Too close a similarity to her doctrines, rituals and Church discipline have proved contagious.”

Referring to the alarming growth of ritualism within the Church of England at the time, the booklet warned, “Any approach to ‘High Church doctrine and practice’ should be eschewed: it is a mild and deceptive term, under which lie dangerous tendencies and disastrous results. In a word, it may be taken as Romanism in its first stage; for what is in itself a tiny and seemingly innocuous seed, when deposited in a good soil passes through the natural course of germination, and soon reaches the second and more pronounced stage of its development, currently known as “Ritualism;” and if the climate be congenial, and other circumstances propitious, it ultimately bursts forth into full-blown Romanism…It is Popery minus the Pope…Shakespeare spoke truly when he said – ‘Disguise! I see thou art a great wickedness. Wherein the enemy doeth much.”

The document continues, “A bold attempt is being made to undo the work of three centuries – to undermine, and finally overthrow, the majestic pile that was built with the bones and cemented with the blood and treasures of martyrs and confessors. And shall we, as their sons, and the heirs of the greatest and most glorious hereditary inheritance – civil and religious liberty – stand by with folded arms and make no effort to arrest the progress of devastation?”

It continues, “Latimer’s ‘candle’ has not yet gone out, but its brilliancy is being dimmed by an excrescence – in short, it requires to be snuffed, and the question of the moment is, who is to do it? The Orangemen, I answer, will do it. They have already begun to work, and will not rest until it be accomplished. Where Orangeism flourishes, ritualism cannot gain a footing. The atmosphere is uncongenial to its growth. In Ulster it dare not enter – it would not survive a single day…As surely as Ritualism is a bane (or cause of ruin), so surely is Orangeism the antidote.”

We recommend Should A Christian Be A Mason David W Daniels

Grand Lodges opposition to Royal Arch Purple and Black degrees

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

We recommend a revealing book written by the great revivalist Charles Finney who was a former Freemason (The Character, Claims And Practical Workings Of Freemasonry):