• THE FIRST RECORDED INITIATION IN ENGLAND

    THE FIRST RECORDED INITIATION IN ENGLAND

     

    BY BRO. DUDLEY WRIGHT, ENGLAND

     

    THE BUILDER 1921

     

    "At Neucastell the 20 day off May, 1641.The quilk day ane serten nomber

    off Mester and others being lafule conveined, doeth admit Mr the Right

    Honerabell Mr Robert Moray, General quarter Mr to the Armie of Scotlan,

    and the same bing aproven be the hell Mester off the Mesone of the Log

    off Edenroth, quherto they heaue set to ther handes or markes.A.

    Hamilton, R. Moray, Johne Mylln. James Hamilton."

     

    THUS RUNS the entry of the first ascertained recorded Masonic initiation

    on English soil into Speculative Freemasonry.It is the record of the

    initiation of one of the most remarkable men of his time. His name, by

    writers other than himself - for he always signed his name in bold

    characters as "R. Moray" - is spelt variously as Moray, Murray, and Murrey,

    and a singular mistake occurs in the standard edition of Evelyn's Diary,

    where the entries occur as "Murray," while in the Correspondence, the only

    letter that appears from Moray is, of course, signed in the correct manner,

    with the result that both forms appear in the General Index.In Chester's

    Registers of Westminster he is described as a son of Sir Robert Moray of

    Craigie, by a daughter of George Halket, of Pitferran, but Burke's History

    of the Landed Gentry and other authoritative works of reference state that

    he was a son of Sir Mungo Murray, and this undoubtedly is correct.

     

    Sir Robert Moray was a descendant of an ancient and noble Highland

    family.He was educated partly at the University of St. Andrew's and partly

    in France, in which country he secured military employment under Louis

    XIII.He gained very high favour with Cardinal Richelieu, to such a degree

    that French historians have remarked that few foreigners were so highly

    esteemed by that great minister as was he. It was possibly through the

    influence of the all-powerful Cardinal-statesman that Moray was raised to

    the rank of Colonel in the French army. When, however, the difficulties of

    Charles I increased, Moray returned to Scotland and was appointed

    General of Ordnance when the Presbyterians first set up and maintained

    their government.He was in charge of the Scottish army at Newcastle at

    the time of his initiation, which took place two months before that city was

    evacuated by the soldiers.Moray was knighted at Oxford on 10th of

    January, 1643, by Charles I.

     

    Moray was also on good terms with Mazarin and fought with his regiment

    in Germany, and, in 1645, he was made a prisoner of war in Bavaria. About

    the same time he was appointed Colonel of the Scotch regiment in

    succession to James Campbell, Earl of Irvine, and he was nominated by

    the Scots as a secret envoy to negotiate a treaty between France and

    Scotland, by which it was proposed to attempt the restoration of Charles

    I. His release in Bavaria was therefore obtained and he returned to

    England.In December, 1646, when Charles was with the Scottish army in

    Newcastle, Moray prepared a scheme for the escape of the king.One,

    William Moray, afterwards Earl of Dysert, provided a vessel at Tynemouth,

    onto which Sir Robert Moray was to conduct the king, who was to assume

    a disguise.The king put on the disguise and even went down the back

    stairs with Sir Robert, but fearing that it would scarcely be possible

    successfully to pass all the guards without being discovered "and judging

    it highly indecent," says Burnet, "to be taken in such a condition, he

    changed his resolution and went back"

     

    After the accession of Charles II to the throne of Scotland, Moray, in May,

    1651, was appointed Justice-clerk, an office which had been vacant since

    the deprivation of Sir John Hamilton, in 1649.A few days afterwards, he

    was sworn as a privy councillor, and, in the following month, was

    nominated a lord of session, though he never officiated as a judge. His

    various appointments were, however, merely nominal, in order to secure his

    support to the government, particularly if it be true, as Wood asserts, that

    "he was presbyterianly affected." His uncle, the Rev. John Moray, was a

    great opponent of the bishops and suffered imprisonment for his opinions.

    However, at the Restoration, Sir Robert Moray was re-appointed

    justice-clerk and a lord of session, in addition to being made one of the

    lords auditors of the exchequer.

     

    The Royal Society may be said to have been founded by Moray: it was

    certainly the outcome of suggestions made by him, and Bishop Burnet says

    that "while he lived he was the life and soul of the Royal Society."

     

    A quibble has frequently been raised over the statement made by writers

    that Moray was the first president of the Royal Society, since the name of

    Viscount Brouncker appears in that capacity on the Charter.Moray was the

    sole president of the Society from its first formal meeting on 28th

    November, 1660, until its incorporation on 15th July, 1662, with the

    exception of one month from 14th May to 11th June, 1662, during which

    short period Dr. Wilkins occupied that honourable position, though in a

    Latin letter addressed to M. de Montmor, president of the Academy at

    Paris, dated 22 July, 1661, he styled himself "Societatis ad Tempe Praeses."

    Nor is too much to say that it was through his influence the charter of

    incorporation was obtained. He was the bearer of the message from

    Charles II to the effect that his Majesty Approved the objects of the Society

    and was willing to encourage it and, generally he was the organ of

    communication between the king and the Society.Moray was also the

    prime mover in the framing of the statutes and regulations.

     

    Wood, the well-known Oxford historian, states that he was "a single man

    and an abhorrer of woman," but here he is in error, for he married the Hon.

    Sophia Lindsay, elder daughter of the first Earl of Balcarres, who died,

    without issue, at Edinburgh, and was buried at Balcarres on 11th January,

    1653.If the daughter inherited the tastes and pursuits of her father, the

    marriage must, indeed, have been a felicitous one, since it is recorded that

    Sir David Lindsay, the first Earl of Balcarres, "chose a private life without

    ambition, was learned, and had the best collection of books in his time and

    was a laborious chymist.There is in the library of Balcarres ten volumes

    written by his own hand upon the then fashionable subject of the

    philosopher's stone." He was raised to the peerage when Charles I visited

    Scotland in June, 1633.

     

    After the death of his wife, which apparently affected him greatly, Moray

    lived, apart from his philosophical meetings, a hermit-like existence.In a

    letter dated 23rd February, 1658, he wrote to a friend who had accused him

    of being in love:

     

    "If you think no more of a mistress not take more pains to look after one

    than I do, I know not why one may not think that you may lead apes

    among your fellow virgins when you dy.You never maet with such a cold

    wooer as I: since ever I came to this place I never visited male nor female

    but two or three cousins, and they never three times. The truth is I never go

    out of doors but to the church except I have some glasses to make, and

    then I go to the glass house. Nor do I receive visits from anybody once in

    two months, except it be the commander, so that I am here a very hermit."

     

    In his correspondence with Kincardin during that year (1658), he describes

    how he was making chemical experiments on a large scale.At one period,

    when he was at Maestricht, he had two rooms with a kitchen and cellar.

    One of the first he converted into a laboratory and there he spent his days

    in perfect content. "You never saw such a shop as my laboratory," he wrote,

    "so there's a braw name for you, though means matters." He constantly

    speaks of his chemical labours in the language of an enthusiast."It is

    somewhat considerable that I afford you such volumes in the amount of my

    chemicall operations.I have had seven stills going these two days with

    one fire, most upon juniper berries, some with water, some with sack, and

    some dry."

     

    Moray was naturally of a retiring disposition.During a portion of his life he

    was called upon to take up a prominent position, but he never cared to be

    "in the limelight" in politics and he did his best to keep out of the political

    arena altogether.His books, his chemical furnaces and retorts, his music,

    his medical and mechanical investigations, and his philosophical friends

    were more to him than "such stuff," as he once impatiently caged politics.

    He was happier, far more satisfied to be President of the Royal Society than

    Deputy Secretary for Scotland, Lord of Commission, or Privy Councillor.

     

    There are few characters in history, particularly among those who have

    undertaken peculiarly difficult, and even dangerous, diplomatic tasks, so

    generally revered as was Sir Robert Moray.Birch, one of the historians of

    the Royal Society,describes him as being "universally loved and esteemed

    and eminent for his piety, spending many hours a day in devotion in the

    midst of armies and courts.He had an equality of temper in him that

    nothing could alter, and was in practice a stoic, with a tincture of one of the

    principles of that sect, the persuasion of absolute decrees.He had a most

    diffused love to mankind and delighted in every occasion of doing good,

    which he managed with great zeal and discretion.His comprehension was

    superior to that of most men.He was considerably skilled in mathematics

    and remarkably so in the history of nature."

     

    Nor is Birch a solitary appreciator of his character.Bishop Burnet, a

    historian of higher rank, styled him the "wisest and worthiest man of his

    age"; and, on another occasion, he wrote: "I have every joy that next to my

    father I owe more to him than to any other man." To Evelyn he was a

    "deare and excellent friend"; Sheldon, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was

    absolutely won by his charm of manner; Pepys speaks of him as "a most

    excellent man of reason and learning, and understands the doctrine of

    music and everything else I could discourse of very finely"; while his

    sovereign and personal friend, King Charles II, tersely gave expression to

    his independence of character by the statement that he (Moray) was "head

    of his own church." A writer in the Scottish Review for January, 1885, said:

    "To the beautiful and remarkable character of Robert Moray justice has yet

    to be done.Few men of so strong and decided a personality have left

    behind them so little trace upon the public documents of their time: except

    in a few Privy council letters his signature does not appear at all." A writer

    in the Biographica Britannica says that "his general character was excellent

    in the highest degree.He was beloved and esteemed by men of every

    party and station."

     

    But these expressions of opinion found some exception.Was ever man

    placed in a position of responsibility and influence who did not encounter

    enemies? From 1660 to 1670 the infifience of Moray affected the whole

    course of the Scottish government, and he guided, controlled, and

    supported Lauderdale against the cabals that were formed to oust him.

    Thus it was that Sharp, Alexander Burnet, and other apostles of repression

    came to look upon him as an enemy to be dreaded, and one, Lord

    Glencairn, made an attempt to break and ruin him.A letter was pretended

    to be found at Antwerp, as written by him to one William Murray, formerly

    whipping-boy to Charles I. This letter gave an account of a bargain alleged

    to have been made by Moray with another man for murdering the king, the

    plan to be put into execution by William Murray.Sir Robert was questioned

    and put under arrest, and the rumour got abroad that he had intended to

    kill the king, but, says Burnet, the historian, "upon this occasion Sir Robert

    practised in a very eminent manner his true Christian philosophy without

    showing so much as a cloud in his whole behaviour."

     

    It was in the society of such men as Andrew Marvell, John Evelyn, and

    Robert Moray that Charles II loved to linger; his delight was not, as some

    have asserted, in consorting with less noble types of humanity. Wood is of

    opinion that the degree of intimacy existing between Charles II and Sir

    Robert Moray was probably more upon a philosophical than a political

    basis "for he was employed by Charles II in his chemical processes and

    was indeed the conductor of his laboratory." Birch says that it was Moray

    who first interested the sovereign in philosophical pursuits.Charles II was

    a frequent visitor to the laboratory in Whitehall, which, though nominally

    Moray's workshop, is said to have been conducted by him for and on

    behalf of the king, and there may be truth in the opinion more than once

    expressed that Charles II was also a royal initiate of the ancient and

    honourable order known as Freemasons.In any case, assuming, which is

    very unlikely and improbable, that Sir Robert Moray was the first non-

    operative to be initiated into the mysteries of the Craft in England,

    Freemasonry has no reason to be ashamed when it looks to the rock

    whence it was hewn.

     

    Moray was the friend and benefactor of the well-known mystic, Thomas

    Vaughan, who, says Wood, settled in "London under the protection and

    patronage of that noted chymist, Sir Robert Murray, or Moray, Knight,

    Secretary of State for the kingdom of Scotland." At the time of the plague,

    Vaughan accompanied Moray to Oxford and the latter was with Vaughan

    when he died there.Vaughan was buried in the church of Aldbury, or

    Oldbury, about eight miles from the university city, "by care and charge of

    the said Sir Robert Moray." This was in 1673, shortly before Moray's own

    death and but a few hours after he had informed Wood of the passing of

    Vaughan.

     

    Moray's life came to an end in a very sudden manner.It occurred on 4th

    July, 1673, and Burnet, recording the event, wrote: "How much I lost in so

    critical a conjuncture, being bereft of the truest and faithfullest friend I had

    ever known: and so I say I was in danger of committing great errors for

    want of so kind a monitor."

     

    Under date of 6th July, 1673, Evelyn wrote in his Diary: "This evening I went

    to the funeral of my dear and excellent friend, that good man and

    accomplished gentleman, Sir Robert Murray, Secretary of Scotland.He

    was buried by order of his Majesty in Westminster Abbey," and then he

    added in a footnote: "He delighted in every occasion of doing good.He

    had a superiority of genius and comprehension." Moray was not only buried

    in the Abbey by the King's express command, but also at the King's

    personal expense.His grave is by the Vestry, door, close to the grave of

    Sir William Davenant, sometime laureate to Charles II; the name appearing

    in the register as "Sir Robert Murray."

     

    His memory remained green with John Evelyn, for six years afterwards - on

    11th July, 1679 - writing to Dr. Beale, he said,referring to the Royal

    Society: "You know what pillars we have lost, Palmer [Dudley Palmer, d.

    1666, one of the first council, with Moray, of the Royal Society], Moray,

    Chester [Dr.John Wilkins, Bishop of Chester], Oldenburg, etc."

     

    Evelyn made frequent mention of Moray in his Diary, as will be seen from

    the following excerpts:

     

    "9th March, 1661. I went with that excellent person and philosopher, Sir

    Robert Murray, to visit Mr. Boyle at Chelsea, and saw divers effects of the

    coliple for weighing air."

     

    "9th May, 1661.At Sir Robert Murray's, where I met Dr. Wallis, Professor

    of Geometry at Oxford, where was discourse of several mathematical

    subjects."

     

    "22nd August, 1662 (the day after Evelyn was sworn one of the Council of

    the Royal Society), I dined with my Lord Brouncker and Sir Robert Murray."

     

    "25th January, 1665.This night being at Whitehall his Majesty came to me

    standing in the withdrawing room, and gave me thanks for publishing The

    Mystery of Jesuitism, which he said he had carried two days in his pocket,

    read it, and encouraged me; at which I did not a little wonder; I suppose

    Sir Robert Murray had given it to him."

     

    "19th July, 1670. I accompanied my worthy friend, that excellent man, Sir

    Robert Murray, with Mr. Slingsby, Master of the Mint, to see the latter's seat

    and estate at Barrow-Green in Cambridgeshire."

     

    Wood, recording the demise of Moray, wrote: "He had the king's ear as

    much as any other person and was indefatigable in his undertakings. . . .

    He was most renowned chymist, a great patron of the Rosi-Crucians, and

    an excellent mathematician. His several relations and matters of experiment,

    which are in the Philosophical Transactions (of the Royal Society, many of

    which referred to the phenomena of the tides) show him to be a man well

    vers'd in experimental philosophy."

     

    After his initiation into the Craft there is only one other record of his

    attendance at a meeting of the Lodge of Edinburgh, which was on 27th

    July, 1647, on the occasion of the admission of "William Maxwell, doctor off

    Fisick ordinate to his Maj'stie hines," when he signed the minute of the

    meeting. ln his correspondence, however, he frequently made use of his

    Masonic mark (a five-pointed star), particularly in his correspondence with

    Lauderdale, and this has been reproduced in the Lauderdale Papers

    without comment, beyond the mere statement that Moray frequently made

    use of his Mason mark when he referred to himself or had anything of

    importance to communicate.If this had been an unusual occurrence in

    correspondence at that day one would think that more notice would have

    been taken of such an incident.

     

    An interesting story might be woven around "Moray and his Circle," for the

    men who composed that circle bore names which are familiar to every

    student of the history of the Craft.Such men as Wren, Ashmole,

    Brouncker, and others, all of whom are accredited with having been

    initiated into Freemasonry. Moray's name, together with that of Christopher

    Wren, is to be met with on almost every page of the early volumes of the

    Journal of the Society.

     

    It is also of interest - may it not even be said, of significance - to compare

    the constitutions of the Royal Society with those of the Masonic Order.

    Sprat, the earliest historian of the Royal Society, says that they freely

    admitted men of different religions, countries, and professions."This they

    were obliged to do, or else they would come far short of the largeness of

    their own declarations. For they openly profess not to lay the foundation of

    an English, Scotch, Irish, Popish, or Protestant Philosophy, but a

    Philosophy of Mankind." Members were elected by ballot, being proposed

    at one meeting and balloted for at another.The duties of the President

    were to call and dissolve the meetings, to propose the subjects for

    discussion or experiment, to regulate the proceedings, to change the

    enquiry from one thing to another, to admit the members elected.The

    President, on his installation, took an oath as follows: "I . . . do promise to

    deal faithfully and honestly in all things belonging to the Trust committed

    to me, as President of the Royal Society of London for improving Natural

    Knowledge.So help me God."

     

    Whatever, however, may be the deductions on this ground, it will

    unhesitatingly be admitted that none could more have sought the study of

    the liberal arts and sciences that came within the compass of his attainment

    than did Brother Sir Robert Moray, the first known initiate into the Craft of

    Freemasonry on English soil.


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