Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex|
The Duke of Sussex stands tall over English Freemasonry.
He was born in 1773, the ninth child and sixth son of George
III. Augustus, who was educated abroad, was supposed to
follow his brother William into the navy, but he had severe
asthma, so avoided military service altogether.
His father tried to keep him abroad, firstly for his health and
secondly to avoid English women who might lead him astray.
George failed and Augustus met Lady Augusta Murray on a
trip to Rome in 1792. Against the Royal Marriage Act, they
secretly married and later had two children. The eldest child,
Augustus Frederick d’Este, would eventually become a Past
Junior Grand Warden in the United Grand Lodge of England.
Augustus was probably the most liberal of the sons. Like his
brother Edward, he involved himself in Whig politics, social
reform and charity work. He was also interested in languages,
art and science. He became a Freemason whilst in Berlin,
joining the Lodge Victorious Truth in 1798.
Once back in England he joined the Prince of Wales’s
Lodge in 1800. He really took to Freemasonry, joining the
Lodge of Friendship No. 6 in 1806, the Lodge of Antiquity
No. 2 in 1808 and Royal Alpha Lodge No. 16 in 1820. By
1820 he was Master of all these Lodges.
In 1810 he became Grand Principal of the Grand and Royal
Chapter, in 1812 Deputy Grand Master and in 1813 succeeded
the Prince Regent as the Grand Master of the Premier Grand
Lodge of England. For a number of years senior Masons in
the two rival Grand Lodges had been negotiating behind
the scenes for unification. When the Articles of Union were
signed by the two Dukes, Kent and Sussex, Augustus described
it as the happiest day of his life. Augustus Frederick, Duke
of Sussex was now Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge
of England, a position he would hold to his death in 1843.
He exercised strong leadership over the newly united
Grand Lodge. He took measures to reinforce the Union,
such as establishing the Lodge of Reconciliation to regulate
the ritual and placing emphasis on the Craft degrees and
the Royal Arch rather than allowing expansion of the
Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex – stands tall over English Freemasonry
His liberal attitude towards religion (he was in favour
of Catholic Emancipation and had many Jewish friends),
influenced the creation of a more inclusive, less obviously
Christian Grand Lodge. He was a dedicated attendee at
Grand Lodge, even when his eyesight and health was failing
and he saw the United Grand Lodge through its infancy.
In his public life he continued to back charities and social
reform. He built up a huge library, which landed him in debt,
a situation he shared with all his brothers with the exception
of Ernest. He supported Catholic Emancipation and the
Reform Bill despite most of his older brothers’ opposition.
He illegally married again in 1831 to Celia Underwood
and in 1840 he gave away Queen Victoria at her wedding to
Prince Albert. He died in 1843 and was widely mourned in
both the Masonic and the non-Masonic world. In 1846,
a six-ton statue by Edward Hodges Bailey RA was erected
in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall. The statue now
dominates the Sussex corridor of the current Freemasons’
Hall in Great Queen Street, a little like the man himself.
The seventh son of George III was Adolphus Frederick.
He was born in 1774 and died in 1850. In 1801 he was given
the title Duke of Cambridge, and after a military career, acted
as Governor of Hanover until his brother Ernest became
King. It is unknown why he did not follow his brothers into
Fulford, Roger Royal Dukes: the father and uncles of Queen Victoria (London: 1933)
Van der Kiste George III’s Children (Stroud: 1992)
The Library and Museum has a free information sheet giving details of
the Masonic careers of all Royal Freemasons which is available on request.
Web site created by Mark Griffin