This was a time when it was fashionable to be a Freemason.
King George VI was an overt supporter and active member of
the Craft. He had been a Past Grand Master Mason of
Scotland and Provincial Grand Master for Middlesex,
accepting the rank of Past Grand Master on his unexpected
accession to the throne in 1936. Geoffrey Fisher had reached
the top of his profession and there were many members of the
clergy, not so prominent, who were also active Freemasons.
His appointment to the highest office an Anglican clergyman
can aspire to attain took place at the end of the war in 1945
and lasted until 1961.
As Archbishop of Canterbury, his contributions to so many
aspects of the religious and social structure in England had a
telling effect on millions of individuals. Yet he will remain
best remembered for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
in Westminster Abbey on 22 June 1953, which followed on
his marrying the then Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip,
Duke of Edinburgh, in 1947.
As Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher broke
new ground in many areas. He had to cope with significant
problems brought about by the rebuilding and peace process
that followed the Second World War. He became a great
traveller, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1950, to
visit Australia. He visited New Zealand, all parts of Africa
and the Far East, as well as Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus and,
famously, Jerusalem in 1960 prior to a meeting with the
Pope in Rome, the first such meeting since the reformation
in the 16th century.
He was particularly active in the World Council of
Churches and the revision of the Canon Law. He was
an influential man and his contributions to education in
particular and his political and social views have remained
as part of his legacy to the present time.
As to Freemasonry, he continued with his membership,
gradually decreasing attendance of his Lodges. He is recorded
as having visited, for the last time, his mother Lodge, Old
Reptonian No. 3725, in 1939.
In February 1965, at the ripe old age of 78, he resigned from
St Anselm Lodge No. 5166 in Chester and at the next meeting
in October of the same year he was made an honorary member.
He was a great man who derived much pleasure and pride from
the Craft, and whose Masonic involvement has been of great
moral and practical benefit to us all.
Brother Geoffrey Fisher died peacefully on 15 September
1972 in the small village of Trent in Dorset, having achieved
the greatest ambition of his heart, to become the assistant
As a postscript, there is an interesting Masonic connection
with the current and 104th Lord Archbishop of Canterbury,
Reverend Rowan Williams, who, following an exchange
of letters some weeks after his appointment, wrote to the
Grand Secretary on 23 January 2003:
Since my late father was a member of the Craft for many years,
I have had every opportunity of observing the probity of individual
members … I welcome the manner in which Freemasons have
engaged in debate and especially the increasing openness of recent
years. Their commitment to charitable causes and the welfare of
the wider community is beyond question.
Bibliography and credits
Carpenter, Edward: Archbishop Fisher – His Life and Times, Canterbury Press,
1991. (Note: this is an 820-page voluminous and pedantically detailed book that,
quite surprisingly, does not make one single reference to Bro Fisher’s extensive
Companion Denzil Phillips, Scribe E of Chapter of Justice No 253.
John Hart, as always|
The Archbishop with the American
evangelist Billy Graham at Wembley
Stadium in May 1954
Web site created by Mark Griffin