History of the Masonic Orders
The earliest Speculative Freemasons were probably all Christians as a matter of course. Although Andersen's 'Constitutions' of 1723 and 1738 opened the door of English Freemasonry to "all Good Men and True" who were not "stupid atheists", in the 1740's specifically Christian Masonic Rites began to appear in France, and possibly in England also. For the most part these Rites were 'chivalric', and by the 1770's vestiges of the Templar-Malta ceremonies had reached England. These were originally worked as a single Degree, possibly in association with others with which we are familiar today, and the ceremonies took place in 'Encampments' derived from Royal Arch Chapters under the Grand Lodge of the' Antients'. I n 1791 probably seven (there is some doubt about the precise number) of these Encampments joined together to form a Grand Conclave under the rule of Thomas Dunckerley.
After the Union in 1813 the Duke of Sussex became Grand Master, but it was only after his death in 1843 that the Orders flourished with renewed vigour. Although 'Encampments' later became known as 'Preceptories', and the 'Grand Conclave' changed its name to 'Great Priory', the latter is, after the Grand Lodge of the Craft itself, the longest established English Masonic authority. It presides over more than 600 Preceptories at home and abroad, each of which (with the exception of 'Baldwyn' at Bristol and 'Antiquity' at Bath) works the 'Official' ritual, and which are grouped into 39 Provincial Priories. Great Priory meets twice a year, periodically a Church Service is arranged for Knights and their friends, and the Orders give considerable support to the St. John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital, a charitable foundation of the (non-masonic) Venerable Order of St. John
About The Order
The full title of the United Orders is "The United, Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta in England and Wales" which makes clear, these are Christian Masonic Orders. Candidates for Installation must be both Master Masons and Companions of the Holy Royal Arch, and they must also profess the Trinitarian Christian Faith. The Masonic Orders comprise two separate Ceremonies, those of Knights Templar and of Knights of Malta.
The Orders can claim to have inherited little more than the names of the two Knightly fraternities which were formed in the Holy Land at the time of the First Crusade. That of 'Knights Templar' was derived from the fact that in 1118 King Baldwin II granted the members of the original Order quarters on the reputed site of King Solomon's Temple - more probably it was the site of the King's Palace stables. Before this in 1113, Pope Paschal II had given a Charter to the guardians of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, the 'Knights Hospitaller', who, when driven from the Holy Land, were eventually granted the Island of Malta, and became known as The Knights of Malta. The latter ceased to exist as a military force in 1798.
Today the Masonic Orders comprises the following Degrees:-
The candidate is admitted in the character and garb of a pilgrim and is first required symbolically to undertake a period of pilgrimage. After taking an Obligation in the name of the Holy, Blessed and Glorious Trinity, he assumes the garb of a Soldier of the Cross, and symbolically proceeds on a period of warfare. He is instructed how penance and meditation play a vital part in preparation for Knighthood, after which he is received, armed and proclaimed a Knight of the Temple.
The somewhat elaborate Regalia is based on the dress worn by the Crusaders. The Knights Templar ('K.T.') wear a white tunic faced with a Red Cross, together with a white mantle and a red cap, each also bearing a cross, and also wear a sash, belt and sword, though not a two-handed one as was in general use among the Crusaders.
Knight of St Paul
This is a short passing Degree conferred in a room adjoining a Priory of Malta in the course of which the Mediterranean Pass is communicated. The Degree is based on Scriptural Readings and must be taken before the Degree of Knight of Malta can be conferred.
Knight of St. John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta
The subsequent history of the Knights Hospitaller, and their arrival in the Island of Malta, is recounted in this further Degree of Christian Masonic Knighthood.
In the Order of Malta ('K.M.') a red tunic, black mantle and a black cap is worn, each bearing an Amalfi Cross, also together with a belt and a sword. A Knight of Malta can use K.T. Regalia generally. In addition, in each of the Orders, various appropriate jewels are worn.