ISSUE 15, October 2005
Editorial
Historic: Nelson and Freemasonry
Grand Lodge: Pro Grand Master's Speech
Grand Lodge: Quarterly Communication
Hurricane Katrina: Grand Charity Relief Chest
Royal Arch: John Knight
Masonic Embroidery: A stitch in time...
Travel: Walzing along the Danube
Specialist Lodges: Martial arts
Library & Museum: The two Freemasons' Halls
    Anniversary: Jersey's Liberation
Anniversary: Dorset's 225 years
Obituaries: Lord Swansea OSM
Pro Grand Master: Whither directing our course?
Charmian Hussey: A Mason's wife on Masonry
International: The Grand Lodge of Israel
Education: Sheffield's big plans
Education: Forthcoming events
Education: The Second Degree
Masonic Charities
Letters, Book Reviews, Gardening

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© National Portrait Gallery, London

Above:
A portrait of Nelson dated 1800 by Sir William Beechey, commissioned by the City of Norwich, and considered the most faithful likeness of him

    When the editor and I were planning the current issue of MQ, as its publication coincided with the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar, we debated whether or not we should include an article on the question of whether or not Lord Nelson was a Freemason.
     Until recently there appeared to be a certain amount of circumstantial evidence but no documentary proof of his initiation, membership of a Lodge or even of his having visited a Lodge.
     The appearance, last year, of Martyn Downer’s Nelson’s Purse provided more circumstantial evidence, which prompted us to go ahead. Almost at the last moment some additional information came to hand, which appears to have justified our decision.
     An article in the Freemasons’ Quarterly Review in 1839 baldly stated, without evidence, that both Lord Nelson and his servant Thomas Allan had been Freemasons. That produced the first two pieces of evidence which appeared to link Nelson with Freemasonry.
     On 16 December 1805, the Master of the Union Lodge at York (now York Lodge No. 236) proposed that a public procession be held on the day of Nelson’s funeral to commemorate “a departed Brother and National Hero.”
     For the procession, a banner was prepared, decorated with the Bible, square and compasses, the sun, moon and stars and the inscription “England Expects Every Man to do His Duty. In Memory of Horatio Viscount Nelson who fell in the Moment of Victory off Cape Trafalgar Oct. 21st 1805. We rejoice with our Country But Mourn for Our Brother.”
     The second item is amongst the treasures of the Lodge of Friendship No. 100 at Yarmouth. It is a block of white marble about the size of a house brick. One of the long sides is engraved:
     In memory of Bror. Ld. Vt. Nelson of the Nile & of Burnham Thorpe in Norfolk, who lost his life in the arms of Victory in an engagement with ye combined Fleets of France and Spain of (sic) Cape Trafalgar Octr. 21 1805. Proposed by Bro. John Cutlove.
     The fact that two Lodges in 1805 believed Nelson to be a Freemason is, of course, not evidence that he was. The magazine article and the two artefacts led to searches being made to trace a Lodge with which Nelson might have been connected, without any success.
     In the late 19th century and in the mid-20th century extensive searches were made of the pre-1805 Grand Lodge Registers and of such Lodge records that exist in Norfolk and the West Indies, again without any mention of Nelson being found.
     Fuel was added to the rumours by the discovery of a silver medal with a portrait bust of Nelson on the obverse and a host of Masonic symbols on the reverse. It was issued by the Nelsonic Crimson Oaks, an organisation of which little is known, but appears to have been a benevolent society for sailors, the earliest reference to which comes in 1811. Why Nelson is perhaps easy to explain, but why Masonic symbols should have been used cannot be explained.


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