Partisans of the House of Stuart, opposed to the Hanoverian rule in Britain from 1714, the Jacobites took their title from the Latin version (“Jacobus”) of the names of the exiled James II and his son, the “Old Pretender.” On James’s daughter Queen Anne’s death in 1714, Parliament gave the throne to the minor German prince George of Hanover, a descendant of one of James I’s daughters. In response, the Old Pretender landed in Scotland in 1715 and attempted to start a rebellion against the new king. The rebellion fizzled out, though, and most of James’s supporters had to flee to France.

The collapse of the 1715 rising may have played a central role in one of the crucial events in Masonic history, the organization of the first Grand Lodge of England in 1717. Many of the first accepted Masons to be initiated into what were then still stonemasons’ guilds, men such as Elias Ashmole and Sir Robert Moray, had been staunch supporters of the Stuarts, and a sizeable number of Jacobite exiles after the 1715 rebellion were Freemasons. The Grand Lodge, however, was firmly in the Hanoverian camp from the first, and the lodges affiliated with it followed its lead. Many Masonic historians have suggested that the Grand Lodge was at least encouraged, and may have been covertly sponsored, by supporters of the House of Hanover to deny the Jacobites a potential network for espionage and subversion. See accepted Mason; Ashmole, Elias; grand lodge; Moray, Robert.

If this was their intention, the challenge was taken up by the Jacobites. Between 1723 and 1730, Masonic lodges organized by Jacobite exiles sprang up in France. In 1732 the first French lodge chartered by the English Grand Lodge in London was founded, and from then until 1738 Jacobite and Hanoverian factions in French Masonry fought a bitter covert struggle in which the English ambassador in Paris, Lord Waldegrave, had a part. The Jacobites fared poorly in these struggles, not least because Hanoverian England had enormous prestige in eighteenth-century France.

The Jacobite loss of control over Masonry was a serious blow, but not fatal. The Jacobites responded with a double strategy that had immense consequences. First came a burst of official sanctions against French Masonic lodges. In Paris, Masonic meetings were broken up by police in 1737 and 1738, though the widespread popularity of Masonry and the high social standing of some of its members made it difficult for Cardinal Fleury, who headed the police, to go too far. More serious action came from Rome, where in 1738 Pope Clement XII issued the bull In Eminenti, the first Catholic condemnation of Freemasonry, which excommunicated all Masons and reserved the right to absolve them to the Pope alone. See Antimasonry; Roman Catholic Church.

The second phase of Jacobite strategy had equally sweeping results. Starting around 1740, a new form of the Craft, called “Scottish Masonry,” appeared in France. Until late in the decade its presence was little more than rumor: “I am not unaware,” wrote Gabriel Calabre Perau in a 1744 antimasonic book, Les secrets de l’Ordre des Franc-Maçons dévoilés (The Secrets of the Order of Freemasons Unveiled), “that a vague rumor circulates among Freemasons concerning a certain order they call Scottish, superior to ordinary Freemasonry, with its own special ceremonies and secrets” (quoted in Roberts 1972, p. 95). See Scottish degrees.

This “Scottish” Masonry was not Scottish at all. Scots Masonic records yield no trace of the Scottish degrees until they were imported from America in 1833. Where eighteenth-century sources talk about its origins at all, they trace it directly to the Jacobites. Providing justification for the new degrees was the famous 1737 oration of Andrew Michael Ramsay on the origins of Masonry, which for the first time traced the Craft back to the knightly orders of the Crusades; Ramsay had connections on both sides of the Stuart–Hanoverian split, but as a devout Catholic and a former tutor to the Old Pretender’s two sons, his loyalties lay with the Jacobite cause. See Ramsay, Andrew Michael.

The Scottish degrees probably formed part of the Stuart grand strategy that led up to the 1745 rising, a strategy focused on spreading disaffection and undermining the legitimacy of the Hanoverian regime in advance of the planned revolt. Networks of Jacobite Masons in Britain and Europe played a role in these preparations. The strategy seemed to work at first; when Charles Stuart, the Young Pretender (James II’s grandson), arrived in Scotland many of the Highland clans rallied to him, and his forces seized Edinburgh with little difficulty and marched south as far as Derby. But the general uprising never happened; the Jacobites never grasped the depth of popular resentment and Protestant distrust toward the Stuart line. As the British army closed in, Charles Stuart’s forces retreated into Scotland and were crushed in 1746 at the battle of Culloden.

The disaster at Culloden put an end to the dream of a Stuart restoration, though it did not bring an immediate end to Jacobite activities. Masonic networks in France and Sweden that had been organized to support the rising found a new purpose helping Jacobite refugees who had fled Scotland with nothing but their lives. Yet the failure of the ’45 condemned the Jacobite element in continental Masonry to death by irrelevance. In 1754 the once-secret Templar grades became public knowledge; in that year the Rite of Perfection was founded in Paris while the Rite of Strict Observance appeared in Germany. See Rite of Perfection; Rite of Strict Observance.

There the Jacobite cause rested until the Victorian period, when the Stuarts became the focus of romantic nostalgia and eccentrics could embrace the Jacobite cause with the same enthusiasm that went into schemes for universal languages and clothing reform. They had the advantage of two living claimants to the Stuart title – John Sobieski-Stuart, Count d’Albanie, and his brother Charles – who claimed to be Charles Stuart’s grandsons; their actual names were John and Charles Allan and their claim has been dismissed even by modern Jacobites, but at the time they attracted much attention. A secret society titled the Order of the White Rose existed to promote the Stuart cause, and Samuel Liddell Mathers, one of the founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, added this to his other interests. See Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn; Order of the White Rose.

While the claims of the House of Stuart may seem to belong on the far end of irrelevance nowadays, yet another claimant has surfaced in the rejected knowledge scene in recent years. Belgian author Michel Lafosse (1958–), who writes under the name of HRH Prince Michael of Albany, claims to be a legitimate descendant of the Young Pretender and the rightful heir to the throne of Scotland. His claims, backed by the usual lack of evidence and blatant errors of fact, have found him an enthusiastic audience in today’s rejected knowledge scene. His major supporter, author Laurence Gardner, has also claimed that J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is a work of history, which may suggest something of the factual basis of “Prince Michael’s” claim. See rejected knowledge.


The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006