The Story Behind Forget Me Not Emblem!

In the years between World War 1 and World War 2 The blue Forget Me Not Emblem (Das Vergissmeinnicht) was a standard symbol used by most charitable organizations in Germany, with a very clear meaning: “Do not forget the poor and the destitute“.

It was first introduced in German Masonry in 1926, well before the Nazi era, at the annual Communication of the Grand Lodge Zur Sonne, in Bremen, where it was distributed to all the participants. That was a terrible time in Germany, economically speaking, further aggravated in 1929 following that year’s Great Depression.

That economic situation, contributed to Hitler’s accession to power. Many people depended on charity, some of which was Masonic. Distributing the forget-me-not at the Grand Lodge Communication was meant to remind German Brethren of the charitable activities of the Grand Lodge. 

In early 1934, it became evident that Freemasonry was in danger.  In that same year, the Grand Lodge of the Sun (one of the pre-war German Grand Lodges, located in Bayreuth) realising the grave dangers involved, adopted the little blue Forget Me Not flower as a substitute for the traditional square and compasses.

It was felt the flower would provide brethren with an outward means of identification while lessening the risk of possible recognition in public by the Nazis, who were engaged in wholesale confiscation of all Masonic Lodge properties. Freemasonry went undercover, and this delicate flower assumed its role as a symbol of Masonry surviving throughout the reign of darkness.

In 1936 the Winterhilfswerk (a non- Masonic winter charity drive) held a collection and used and distributed the same symbol, again with its obvious charitable connotation. Some of the Masons who remembered the 1926 Communication possibly also wore it later as a sign of recognition. We have no evidence of that and its general signification still was charity, but not specifically Masonic charity.

During the ensuing decade of Nazi power a little blue Forget Me Not flower worn in a Brother’s lapel served as one method whereby brethren could identify each other in public (although even then it was not always safe to wear any non-Nazi pin), and in cities and concentration camps throughout Europe. The Forget Me Not distinguished the lapels of countless brethren who staunchly refused to allow the symbolic Light of Masonry to be completely extinguished.

When the Grand Lodge of the Sun was reopened in Bayreuth in 1947, by Past Grand Master  Beyer, a little pin in the shape of a Forget Me Not was officially adopted as the emblem of that first annual convention of the brethren who had survived the bitter years of semi-darkness to rekindle the Masonic Light.

At the first Annual Convent of the new United Grand Lodges Of Germany AF&AM (VGLvD), in 1948 Bro. Theodor Vogel, Master of the Lodge “Zum weißen Gold am Kornberg”, in Selb (then in Western-occupied Germany), remembered the 1926 and 1936 pin, had a few hundred made and started handing it out as a Masonic symbol wherever he went. When Brother Vogel was later elected GM of the Grand Lodge AFuAM of Germany and visited a Grand Masters’ conference in Washington, DC, he distributed.

But is the story True?

Information about the Masonic tradition surrounding the blue forget me not amounts to very little. It is true that the flower was used by some German Masons about 1926, and it appears likely that in March 1938 some of them did wear it again as a Nazi badge, even though by an extraordinary coincidence, it had been chosen as a Masonic emblem twelve years earlier. It is likely not true that it was ever worn after March 1938 as a secret mean of recognition.

However, even if many German Masons (together with the great majority of German citizens of that time) never objected to the Nazi politics and went so far as to support Hitler, some were brave enough to fight him openly.

Based on the membership of all the then existing German Lodges, it is likely that around 1 or 2%. Out of the 174 Lodges which participated in the creation of the first United Grand Lodge of Germany, five only belonged to the Symbolical Grand Lodge of 1930, the only German Grand Lodge which resisted Hitler.

For human and political reasons as well, those Masons who thought it their duty to rebuild German Freemasonry once the War was over could hardly tell the whole truth to their foreign brethren. I personally believe they might have told the story of those dark years in a different way, but I am ready to admit that it is probably easier to say so in 2009 than it was in the 1950s.

Accordingly a legend was born. Not the legend of the forget-me-not, but that of a German Freemasonry too weak to resist, banned as soon as Hitler became Chancellor of the Reich, wearing a badge on the streets and – of all things ! – in concentration camps. That legend was likely born as the result of an unconscious effort to inhibit the past as well as a conscious manoeuvre. It was believed not only because it was the logical thing to do, but also because it was reassuring to imagine Freemasons acting according to their ideals, fighting for freedom and defending it.

Lets keep it at that and let us admit to the Masonic Brotherhood of the blue Forget Me Not  and thus did a simple flower blossom forth into a symbol of the fraternity, and become perhaps the most widely worn emblem among Freemasons in Germany.

In the years since adoption, its significance world-wide has been attested to by the tens of thousands of brethren who now display it with meaningful pride.

Linking the Knights Templar to Freemasonry

KT LogoAs many of you are undoubtedly aware, there are several small-crafttheories regarding a possible physical relationship between Freemasonry and the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, commonly known as the Knights Templar.

 

Many modern scholars vehemently refuse to examine objectively the prospect of any connection between the two Orders, however, there is a significant handful of learned scholars whose hearts and imaginations have been stirred by the possibility and who keep tripping over little hints of evidence which keep the theories alive.

 

The purpose of this Blog is to acquaint you with a theory that could suggest a potential Link between Freemasonry and the ancient Knights Templar.  This Link is represented by the St Clair (Modern: Sinclair) family of Scotland and a small unfinished Collegiate  chapel, constructed and lying in a tiny hamlet just south of Edinburgh, named Rosslyn.

After the Dissolution

When Pope Clement V and King Philip of France affected the successful dissolution of the Templars on 13th October 1307ce, many knights escaped and some managed to take refuge in the highlands of Scotland. The Scots were currently embroiled in a struggle for sovereignty and against their neighbours, England.

robert-de-bruce

 

Their emerging leader, Robert De Bruce, was then under an order of excommunication issued by the Pope and was at war with Edward II of England and his allies.

Consequently, having nothing to loose, De Bruce gave his approval for the outlawed Templars to be sheltered and merged into the Knights Hospitallier or to take refuge in the Highlands of Scotland, thus enabling them to live out their lives.

 

Seven years later, in 1314ce, Sir Henry St. Clair, who was allegedly a member of the Knight Templar, and his two sons, William and Henry, took part in the famous Battle of Bannockburn where the Scots were able to preserve an independent Scotland for the King, Robert the Bruce.

 

An exciting and romantic legend links the Templars to the battle of Bannockburn. The legend tells us that Scots were outnumbered three to one and were struggling desperately against the forces of Edward II, losing men and ground rapidly, when there appeared on the horizon a well-equipped and obviously highly professional band of knights in full armor and mounted on heavy horses. the knights, although superbly equipped and obviously experienced in military battle tactics, bore no markings on their shields and carried no battle standards flying their colours.

 

These mysterious soldiers joined the battle on the side of King Robert the Bruce and quickly turned the tide in favour of the Scots who won the battle and freedom for Scotland. The knights then rode off over the horizon without making known their identities or from whence they came.

 

Many scholars believe these mysterious knights to be a contingent of the refugee and internationally outlawed Knights Templar that the King had permitted to take refuge in the highlands. Were they returning the favor while pledging loyalty to Scotland and King Robert the Bruce?  There is a Masonic degree based on this story.

 

Many sources tell us that years later, Sir Henry St. Clair was appointed the Hereditary Grand Master of all the Masonic guilds of Scotland by royal charter (the King of Scotland remains the Sovereign Grand master).

 

This Hereditary Grand mastership was to abide with the Sinclair family until 1736ce, when Sir Henry’s heir, Sir William St. Clair of Rosslyn resigned his stewardship of the Scottish Masons to affect the creation of the Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland. A body to which he was immediately elected the Grand Master.

Rosslyn Chapel

rosslyn_chapelIn 1440ce a mere 133 years (just two generations) after the suppression of the Templars by King Philip and Pope Clement, the Earl of Orkney, a descendant of Sir William St. Clair designed and began the project of building a church in the family seat of Rosslyn. His intention was to build a great sanctuary to the glory of God and the Templar tradition. It was to be constructed in the form of a cross with a lady Chapel and a high tower in the centre.

 

He imported the best stonemasons available, as well as tradesmen from the other guilds as necessary. The Master masons were paid a sum of 40 pounds per annum and the lesser skilled masons were paid 10 pounds. Simultaneously, he built the small hamlet of Rosslin to support and house his craftsmen during the project and see to their every need. The great sanctuary’s construction was never completed.

 

Through the centuries, St Clair’s unfinished sanctuary survived several invading armies and the brutalities of the Reformation as well as Scotland’s civil war of the mid-seventeenth century. It’s said that during this period, the armies of Oliver Cromwell occupied the areas in and around Edinburgh, including Rosslyn. Indicative of the disdain for which the Puritan church and Cromwell held divergent theological beliefs, after razing nearby Rosslyn castle, Cromwell stabled his invading troops horses and livestock in the chapel at Rosslyn.

 

There is a legend that says Cromwell recognizing the exoteric religious and Masonic symbolism and himself being a Brother, the unit’s commander was careful to preserve and protect the chapel and its artifacts during his troops occupation. Other religious structures and their icons did not fare as well during this turbulent time.

 

The Dirge of Rosabell is described in prose as our Brother Sir Walter Scott spoke of the ancient Barons of Rosslyn who were buried in the crypt of the chapel. His famous poem, The Lay of the Last Minstrel speaks of the ghosts and spirits of the honoured knights laid to rest in the ancient Gothic chapel’s crypt.

 

In 1787ce, our esteemed Brother Robert Burns, the recognized Poet laureate of Scotland and Masonry visited the chapel with a friend and artist, Alexander Nasmyth and implored him to paint his portrait while at Rosslyn.

Conclusion

The chapel that remains today, many scholars say, is probably one of the most remarkable examples of Gothic architecture in Scotland, not because of its design when viewed primarily from and architectural point of view, but because of the profusion of overt and esoteric design and symbolism shown in such abundance everywhere within the chapel.

 

When first viewed Rosslyn Chapel has an almost haunting quality exhibited not only in its Gothic spires and flying buttresses, but the chapel’s spiritual and ghostly esoteric qualities are manifested in the profuse and intricate carvings and hieroglyphics evidenced on the interior’s every square inch of masonry surface.

 

In this small cathedral, it’s a short and misty road from the present to the past. It’s a place where you enter into a world of “intellectual oblivion” expressed in design and stone by our spiritual Brothers of a different time. It is impossible, in this environment to deny that the genesis of our Order is shrouded in esoteria and rooted in the cryptic origins of contemplative man.

 

The ornate carvings and depictions in stone are almost overwhelming to everyone who views the chapel. But the abundant, half-hidden Templar and Masonic symbolism is profound and easily identified by the Initiated. There abounds hundreds of references to Christian parables, Biblical characters, the ancient Knights Templar, Freemasonry, and commentary on the religious-political climate of that time in our long past.

 

The chapel is a perfect exemplification of our sacred geometry and incorporates many easily recognized Masonic and Templar symbols in its architectural designs. The Apprentice Pillar with its attendant carvings, the Master’s Pillar, the hidden and much speculated upon contents of the subterranean crypt, the proliferation of Templar splayed and floriated crosses, obvious reference to the Masonic degrees, transparent references to Templarism, and so much more, can be found everywhere. There is a lintel at the east end of the south aisle bearing a familiar inscription in Latin which translates:

 

“Wine is strong, a King is stronger, women are even stronger, but Truth conquers all”

 

There is such a profusion of intricate carvings incorporated into the design and construction of every minute detail, that you can easily lose yourself for hours while just wandering.

 

To the best of my knowledge, Rosslyn Chapel represents the only place where such an obvious and overtly profuse collection of Masonic and Templar esoterica and symbolism is displayed together in a structure predating the traditional origins of the Craft.

 

Additionally, the founder and builder was documented as an heir to the heritage of the Knights of the temple as well as a Knight Templar himself. The dating of the construction of the chapel as well as its proximity to other known Templar and Masonic sites of pilgrimage leads me to the conclusion that Rosslyn Chapel is of significant importance to Masons and Knights Templar and may well be the common factor linking the respective orders.

A Brother in Arms – Arthur, Duke of Wellington

Freemasonry was a thread that ran through the life of Arthur, Duke of Wellington, his life was divided by a triumphant military career and an equally successful political one.  His early involvement in both fields kept him away from home, which may explain why, he never progressed beyond the first degree of Freemasonry. 

Arthur Wesley, whose original 12th century name Wellesley was reverted to by the family in 1798, was almost certainly born in Dublin on 1 May 1769. Wellington was the third of the five sons born to Garret Wesley III and Anne Hill. All of the Wesley children excelled in his own field of endeavour.

Arthur attended Eton College from 1781 to 1784 and after an additional two years of private tuition, he joined the prestigious Royal Academy of Equitation at Angers in Anjou, France. Through the influence of his elder Brother Richard, he was launched on a military career from the start. 

He returned to Ireland in February 1788 and was appointed aide-de-camp to the Lord Lieutenant, and simultaneously followed in the political footsteps of the family. A Wesley had had a presence in the Irish Parliament since its inception as an independent Assembly in 1782. In April 1790 Arthur was elected MP for Trim, Ireland, aged 21. 

His was initiated into the family Lodge, Trim No. 494, on 7 December the same year. Both his father and his brother served as Masters, and they both became Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. 

Garrett Wellesley, first Earl of Mornington, was proposed as a member of the Lodge by one of its founders, John Boulger, and was raised a Master Mason in July 1775. A year later he served as Master of the Lodge and was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, serving for one year, as was customary at the time, being succeeded by the Duke of Leinster in 1776. His eldest son, Richard, third Baron and second Earl of Mornington, was raised on 31 July 1781, having paid his late father’s arrears and his own admission fee a few weeks earlier. A year later he followed in the footsteps of the Rt. Hon. William Randall, Earl of Antrim (who also served as Grand Master of the Antients Grand Lodge of England) as the new Grand Master of Ireland.

Wellington would no doubt have followed in their footsteps had time permitted him to pursue his Masonic career. There is no reason to suppose that the young Arthur was in anyway disenchanted with the Craft. The Lodge records show that on 7 December 1790 he paid his admittance fee of £2 5s 6d.

He is here referred to as ‘the Honorable Capt. Wesley’. A second entry, on 26 June 1792, states: ‘Pd now in advance Br. Wesley 14s 1d’. The records continue to show several occasions on which his dues are paid, the last entry on 8 September 1795. 

A further telling entry of his continued, even active, interest in Lodge affairs is his part purchase of an English Lottery Ticket on 16 February 1795 from the Lodge treasurer. The minutes for that date show that two English lottery tickets, the property of the only remaining seven regular Brethren of the Lodge, cost £45 10s 0d and: 

…the members who subscribed and are entitled to benefit of the tickets purchased of part of their fifty pounds are…the Honorable A. Wesley… 

The logical conclusion that Arthur had intentions to progress in the Craft is supported by Lord Combermere, Provincial Grand Master of Cheshire, at the death of Wellington. On 31 December 1852 the Freemasons’ Quarterly Magazine and Review reported verbatim Lord Combermere’s words, addressed to the Brethren of the Province on 27 October that year:

Perhaps it is not generally known that he (the Duke of Wellington) was a mason; he was made in Ireland; and often when in Spain, where Masonry was prohibited, in conversation (with Lord Combermere), he regretted repeatedly how sorry he was his military duties had prevented him taking the active part his feelings dictated.

In June 1794 Wellington left Cork for Ostend in command of a brigade for his first taste of active service, and resigned from the Lodge when he was posted to Austria and then to India in 1796.

He returned to England in September 1805, and in April 1806 was elected MP for Rye in Sussex. He was later to represent Mitchell, Cornwall and Newport, Isle of Wight. A year later he joined the Duke of Portland’s Tory Government as Chief Secretary for Ireland.

Meanwhile, his military career was reaching a peak. In 1808 he was made a Lieutenant General and was involved in the various military campaigns against Napoleon, known as the Peninsular War. Whilst stationed in Portugal in the autumn of 1809, an interesting episode provides an insight into his attitude toward Freemasonry. The Portuguese government, no doubt still under the influence of the several catholic Papal Bulls banning Freemasonry, had a natural political and religious distrust of Freemasons and other liberal bodies considered to be anti-clericals.

Freemasonry prospered in Portugal, not least since several of Napoleon’s officers were active in the Craft, including Marshals Lannes, Junot and Ney. Troops under Wellington held a Masonic meeting in Lisbon, following which they walked in procession and full regalia through the streets of the city. The Masons were stoned and only narrowly escaped being shot at, which was an embarrassment to the Duke, then acting as Marshal General of the Portuguese Army.

In an attempt to diffuse the tension, and in typical awareness of the sentiments of the local populace, Wellington issued a General Order dated 5 January 1810 addressed to his officers, requiring them to refrain from overt Masonic activity: an amusement which, however innocent in itself and allowed by the law of Great Britain, is a violation of the law of this [Portugal] Country, and very disagreeable to the people.

Five years later Wellington was again to come face to face with his Masonic reputation. Marshal Michel Ney, who met his end during the ‘White Terror’ as a traitor, executed by a firing squad on 7 December 1815 in a Paris public park, recognised Wellington as a Masonic brother.

In a document now apparently lost between Apsley House and the Southampton University archives, Marshal Ney appealed to Wellington ‘as a Brother’ to help save his life, but Wellington was not in a position to intervene. Ney had been initiated in Le Trinosophes Lodge No. 494 in Paris under the Grand Orient of France in 1826, and a legend has persisted that the ‘Bravest of the Brave’, as he had been referred to by Napoleon, escaped execution with the help of French Freemasons and the Duke of Wellington.

The legend is perpetrated by the inscription on Peter Stuart Ney’s tomb in the Third Creek Presbyterian Church in rural Rowan County, North Carolina, USA: In memory of Peter Stuart Ney, a native of France and soldier of the French Revolution under Napoleon Bonaparte, who departed this life Dec. 15, 1846, aged 77 years. Peter Stuart Ney, a schoolmaster, was buried there in 1846. His last words on his deathbed are reported to have been: By all that is holy, I am Marshal Ney of France.

Wellington’s military career was to reach its glorious peak on 18 June 1815 with the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. He served as Commander-in-Chief of the Occupation forces until his return to England in November 1818, and within a month joined the Cabinet as Master- General of Ordnance. His political career was crowned with success when he became Prime Minister on 9 January 1828.

Much has been made of the Duke’s negative remarks about his initiation into Freemasonry. In 1838 when Lodge No. 494 of Trim decided to move to Dublin, the new secretary, Edward Carleton, wrote to the Duke asking for permission to rename the Lodge in his honour. The Duke’s reply was polite and firm:

…(the Duke) perfectly recollects he was admitted to the lowest grade of Free Masonry in a Lodge which was fixed at Trim, in the County of Meath. He has never since attended a Lodge of Free Masons. He cannot say that he knows anything of the Art. His consent to give this Lodge his Name would be a ridiculous assumption of the reputation of being attached to free Masonry; in addition to being a misrepresentation, The Duke of Wellington hopes, therefore, that Mr Carleton will excuse the Duke for declining to comply with his suggestion…

But the Lodge members did not to give up so easily. In March 1843 the secretary applied to the Grand Lodge of Ireland as follows:

To The Right Worshipful the Grand Lodge of Ireland

The Memorial of Lodge No. 494 formerly held in Trim but now in Dublin respectfully sheweth that on the seventh day of December 1790 His Grace The Duke of Wellington then the Honorable Capt. Wesley was admitted a member of said Lodge No. 494.

That his Grace the Duke of Wellington having since that period signalized himself in a manner universally known Lodge No. 494 therefore prays that if in your wisdom you shall find it not inexpedient you will permit said Lodge No. 494 to bear the name and title of The Wellington Lodge and your memorialists aim duty bound will pray 

Dated Lodge Room 20 March 1843 

James McDonnell Master
William Wilson SW
Frank Thorpe Porter JW
Richard Pim Secretary 

The response is recorded in the Grand Lodge of Ireland Minutes of 6 April 1843: 

Read a Memorial from Lodge 494 requesting permission to take the title of the Wellington Lodge. The Board recommend that said request be granted. Postponed for the reconsideration of Lodge 494

The 17 April 1843 minutes of Lodge 494 show their decision not to pursue the matter: 

That this Lodge do communicate to the Grand Lodge their sense of the kind feeling they have received through the Secretary respecting the Memorial presented praying to be allowed in future to call themselves the Wellington Lodge and in consequence of the suggestions by him so expressed they beg to withdraw said memorial. 

It may have been the reluctance by members of the Lodge to publicise these various communications that led to much confusion of the Duke’s membership of the Craft. These were added to following Wellington’s death on 14th September 1852.

In the Freemasons’ Quarterly magazine for 31 March 1854, a Mr Walsh sent in a letter dated 6 March, referring to the various fraternal tributes being paid to the memory of the late Duke of Wellington. Mr Walsh stated that he had been writing a book to be entitled Ancient Builders of the World and: I was anxious to have the name and date of reception into Freemasonry of every illustrious man…For this purpose, I wrote to the Duke of Wellington, and the following is his reply:

London October 13, 1851 – F M The Duke of Wellington presents his compliments to Mr Walsh. He has received his letter of 7th ult. The Duke has no recollection of having been admitted a Freemason. He has no knowledge of that association.

Chetwood Crawley has correctly pointed out that the Duke of Wellington was now in his 82nd year, and that his blunt retort to an impertinent inquirer is much in character.