Grand Master (Masonic)
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In Freemasonry, a Grand Master is the leader of the lodges within his Masonic jurisdiction. He presides over a Grand Lodge, and has certain rights in the constituent lodges that form his jurisdiction.
Just as the Worshipful Master of a lodge annually appoints lodge officers to assist him, so the Grand Master of each Grand Lodge annually appoints grand lodge officers to assist him in his work. Grand Lodges often elect or appoint Deputy Grand Masters who can act on behalf of the Grand Master when he is unable to do so. In English Freemasonry, where a member of the Royal Family is often the Grand Master, he may also appoint a Pro Grand Master to deputise for him when he is involved in affairs of State. The Pro Grand Master has no function when the Grand Master is present, and is distinct from the Deputy Grand Master.
There are two distinct traditions in connection with the office of Grand Master. Generally speaking the European practice is for the same Grand Master to be re-elected for several consecutive years, maybe even several decades, whilst in other countries a Grand Master serves a set term of only one to three years, and then retires.
The first unambiguously recorded Grand Master was Anthony Sayer, elected as the first Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge of England in 1717. There are earlier references to Grand Masters (for example, the architect Christopher Wren), but there is no unambiguous proof that the term is used in its current sense in those contexts (the references may refer to operative stonemasonry).
In several European countries, the position of Grand Master has often been held by members of royal families or the high nobility. In some Protestant northern European countries, the position was held by the King for a long time. In England and Wales, the current Grand Master is Prince Edward, Duke of Kent.
The same title is used for the leader of masonic jurisdictions for women, where there is a general preference for the use of historical terms, rather than contrived female versions.
- Hodapp, Christopher. Freemasons for Dummies. Indianapolis: Wiley, 2005