Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent, who joined the Antients
The Duke of Atholl, former Grand Master of the Antients
Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent
Edward (1767-1820) was, like his brothers, Frederick and
Ernest, destined for a military life. As a soldier he was known
as a strict disciplinarian who sometimes treated his men too
harshly, but outside of the army he was interested in liberal
politics, social reform and charities. The early socialist Robert
Owen was among his circle of friends.
His military training took him to Geneva, where in 1789
he was initiated into Masonry in the Loge Union des Cours
of the Grand Orient of Geneva. It was also in Geneva where
he met the French noblewoman Julie de St. Laurent, who
became his mistress and companion for 28 years.
In 1790 he was placed in command of the garrison in
Gibraltar and the Moderns used this as an opportunity to
make him Provincial Grand Master there. Edward had two
unsuccessful postings running the Gibraltar garrison.
His policy of closing public houses and confining the men
to barracks when there was little to do, led to two mutinies and
his withdrawal by the Duke of York. In 1791 he was stationed
in Quebec with his regiment, the Royal Fusiliers, and he spent
the next nine years in Canada and the West Indies.
Edward was still unpopular with his men, but socially
with the local population he and Madam St. Laurent proved
a success. During this period Edward agreed to become
Provincial Grand Master for Lower Canada for the rival
Antients Grand Lodge.
It is not known why Edward decided to join the Antients,
but his decision to do so would be significant for both Grand
Lodges. He certainly helped the cause of the Antients in
Canada. In 1791 there were only three Antients lodges in
Canada, but there were 20 by 1813, some of which had
switched allegiance from the Moderns.
In 1794 he expressed his desire to see the unification of the
two rival Grand Lodges. He was made Duke of Kent in 1798
and returned to England in 1800. His interest in Freemasonry
extended to other Orders, and from 1804–1806 he was Grand
Master of the Knights Templar.
In 1813 the Duke of Atholl, who had also been keen on
unification, stepped down as Grand Master of the Antients
Grand Lodge and Edward took his place. With his brother the
Duke of Sussex as Grand Master of the Moderns, unification
took place and the United Grand Lodge of England was born
at the end of 1813.
It was about this time that Edward’s involvement in
Masonry stopped. In 1817 the Prince of Wales’s daughter
had died and public pressure was put on the other brothers to
produce an heir to the throne to succeed the Prince Regent.
Madam St. Laurent retired to a nunnery in 1818 and the Duke
of Kent married Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg. By 1820,
the year of Edward’s death he had fathered a daughter,
Princess Alexandrina Victoria, who the world would later
know as Queen Victoria.
Web site created by Mark Griffin