Subscription to the tontine required four quarterly payments
of £12 10 shillings at or before Midsummer (24 June),
Michaelmas (29 September) and Christmas 1775 and Lady
Day 1776 (25 March). Each subscriber was allocated a share
number to help with the administration and they were issued
with a parchment Freemasons’ Tontine share certificate.
The printed list of subscribers to the Freemasons’ Tontine
shows that prominent Freemasons of the time purchased
shares including Lord Petre, the Grand Master, Henry, 5th
Duke of Beaufort, who had been Grand Master 1767-71 and
HRH the Duke of Cumberland, who became Grand Master
The subscribers to the tontine were required to nominate
an individual (a nominee) on whose life the share was staked.
They could nominate themselves or another individual
of any age. The total annual dividend of £250 (5% of £5,000)
was split amongst the subscribers as long as their nominee
As the number of nominees fell through death, the £250
was divided amongst this smaller number of qualifying
subscribers until, finally, one subscriber received the full £250
dividend annually until the death of their nominee. In an age
when life expectancy was uncertain, subscribing to a tontine
was a risky investment. In one sense, a tontine was an early
form of life insurance.
It was common in tontines for the subscribers to name
their children or young relations as nominees. Through
nominating an individual of a younger age there was a good
probability that their nominee would survive longer to
benefit from the tontine, in the Freemasons’ Tontine 39
of the nominees were aged 10 or younger.
The youngest nominee was Rebecca Lara, just nine
months old when her father, Joshua Lara, nominated her.
Rebecca died in 1847, aged 72, making her one of the longest
surviving nominees. However, nominating a young child
was still a gamble at a time of relatively high infant mortality.
Francis Case, nominated by Dr Isaac Sequiera of Mark Lane,
East London, was recorded as being 15 months old on the
list of subscribers and nominees printed in 1775. His death
two years later, on 24 December 1777, is noted in the
Subscribers did not have to know their nominees
personally. For example, four different subscribers chose the
Prince of Wales, later George IV, as their nominee. He was
14 at the time and was nominated not only by his uncle, the
Duke of Cumberland, but also by Charles Taylor of Villiers
Street, Junior Grand Warden in 1769, James Galloway, Junior
Grand Warden in 1781 and Thomas Sandby, who designed
the first Freemasons’ Hall.
Perhaps they believed that as heir to the throne he would
be well cared for by physicians and thus live to a good age.
This he proved to do, dying aged 68, despite his extravagant
lifestyle, at a time when the average life expectancy was
Photograph courtesy of the Library & Museum of Freemasonry
The Chevalier Ruspini leads a
procession of girls from the Royal
Cumberland School during a fundraising
dinner, showing the interior
of Sandby’s Hall
Web site created by Mark Griffin