B.5.2 The Premier Grand Chapter
A premier Grand Chapter was introduced in the late eighteenth century. In the 1760′ many Brethren of the “Moderns” took the Royal Arch Degree in an irregular way since there was no authority that could issue charters to chapters, and the “Moderns” Grand Lodge was not prepared to regularise the fact that Royal Arch Degrees were given in its Craft lodges. At the same time, “Antients” Brethren received regularly their Royal Arch Degrees in their own lodges belonging to what was popularly known as “the Grand Lodge of the Four Degrees”. The “Moderns” Masons needed a Grand Chapter both to regularise the past practice and to meet the competition of the “Antients”, and this was done in 1766 with the first Grand Chapter of the Royal Arch Masons. The “Antients” created their own Grand Chapter in 1771 and in York they had a short-lived “York Grand Chapter”, or “Grand Chapter of All England”, in 1778.
There was quite a succession of “Moderns” Grand Chapters:
. The first dates from 1766 and is known as “The Grand and Royal Chapter” or “The Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter”.
. In 1795-96 the name became “The Grand Lodge of Royal Arch Masons”.
. In 1801 this was changed again to “The Supreme Grand Chapter”.
Presently there is “The Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of England” that was founded after the union in 1817 of the Grand Chapter of 1766 and the Royal Arch Masons under the former Grand Lodge of the “Antients”. Ireland has had its Grand chapter in 1829 and Scotland in 1817.
After the first Grand Chapter was formed, there was a formative period of growth and development in both the “Moderns” and “Antients” systems. The ritual continued to develop and by 1800 the Grand Chapter had issued 116 warrants. Some Masonic terms changed: the “lodge” became the “chapter”, the Royal Arch “Brother” became known as “Companion” and the candidate instead of being “raised” became “exalted”. The Grand Chapter issued also charters allowing lodges to work the Royal Arch, the charter being attached to the warrant of the lodge as it is still the case to day. In the Grand Lodge the “Zerubbabel” was “appropriately Invested and Installed”, but nothing is known of the original Installation ceremony. The social activities of the Grand Chapter started from the beginning and are still important now. A code of laws and regulations for the “Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter” and for the ordinary chapters was approved in 1778 and revised and/or republished in 1782, 1796, 1807 and 1817.
The “Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter” was, on one hand, a private chapter but on, the other, it was also a Grand Chapter able to warrant private chapters. However a regulation of 1798 stated that a Royal Arch Mason exalted in a lodge, as opposed to a chapter, could not become a member or a visitor of a chapter. This means that, at that time there were still some “Moderns” lodges working the Royal Arch whereas the general feeling was that a regular Royal Arch Mason had to be exalted in a chapter and not in a lodge. More or less at the same time Sunday meeting of the lodges and chapters were forbidden by the Grand and Supreme Grand Chapter.