The District Grand Council of Northumberland

Royal and Select Masters


There are over 240 Councils under the Grand Council, administered from Mark Masons' Hall. The Order of Royal and Select Masters comprises four 'degrees' - The Select Master, Royal Master, Most Excellent Master and Super Excellent Master. They are jointly known as the 'Cryptic' degrees. The degrees of this Order make the link between the third degree of Craft Freemasonry and the recovery of the lost Word in the Royal Arch. Candidates for membership must be members of the Craft, Royal Arch Chapter and Mark. To pass through the chair a brother must have passed through the Masters' chairs in the Craft and Mark degrees and the First Principal's chair in the Royal Arch Chapter - hence the term 'Thrice Illustrious Master'. The business of private councils is transacted in the degree of Select Master. Lodges of Most Excellent Master, Councils of Royal Masters and Councils of Super-Excellent Masters are opened only to admit candidates.

The degree of Select Master takes place in the fifth year of the building of the Temple (i.e. 969 BC) and the Secret Vault is being constructed to house the sacred treasures and other important artefacts of the Jewish people in order to keep them safe from attack by enemy forces. The construction of the vault and its approach tunnel is carried out by specially selected craftsmen and the existence of the vault is known only to the three Grand Masters and those actually engaged in the work. A craftsman not entitled to be there accidentally enters into the vault and is sentenced to death; however, his fortunes turn and he is eventually pardoned and admitted to the elite band of Select Masters.

The degree of Royal Master follows chronologically. The vault has been completed and is in the process of being loaded up with the sacred treasures. Adoniram, one of the senior overseers, engages in conversation with H.A. and the latter inadvertently explains how he intends to ensure that the Master Word shall never become lost. In the course of this explanation the candidate hears what is often considered to be the most magnificent piece of Masonic ritual - certain to remain in his mind for a long, long time. H.A. realises, too late, that he has revealed to Adoniram something he should not have done and Adoniram is sworn to secrecy. Shortly after this, H.A. is slain and it is only through Adoniram's knowledge of H.A.'s intentions that the Master Word is indeed preserved.

The degree of Most Excellent Master takes for its scenario the point where the Temple is being dedicated to the glory of God and King Solomon determines to reward some of his most skilful craftsmen with the rank of Most Excellent Master.

The degree of Super Excellent Master is the fourth and final degree in this series and is built around the invasion of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the siege and fall of the city and the eventual destruction of the Temple and the removal of the Jews to Babylon, where they remain in captivity for seventy years until, by the good grace of Cyrus, King of Persia, they are allowed to return to Jerusalem and make a start on building a second temple on the site where the first formerly stood.