Metropolitan Provincial Grand Orange Lodge
Orangeism has many roots, which include the “Christian Unions” which came into being among continental Protestants during the Thirty Years War; the Scottish Covenanters who were persecuted for their faith by Charles II and James II and VII; and the Whig exclusionists in England.
The first Orange Association was founded by King William III at Exeter Cathedral in November 1688, shortly after the arrival of the Prince of Orange with his followers from Torbay. During the eighteenth century, the spirit of Orangeism was kept alive by a number of Clubs and Societies which were founded to keep alive the memory of King William III, his great achievements, and the principles for which he contended. These included the Kit-Cat Club, the Loyal and Friendly Society of the Orange and the Blew (sic), and various Revolution Clubs, named after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which brought to the Throne William of Orange and his wife Mary.
Orange societies existed in Ireland from 1688, and it was there, in the 1790’s, that Orangemen adopted the lodge system. They then went on to play a major part in the suppression of the rebellion of the United Irishmen. British Army regiments who were serving in Ireland at this time were so impressed by the courage and loyalty of the Orangemen that they formed lodges in their own regiments. When the regiments returned to England they took their lodges with them. Even when the regiments disbanded, the demobilised soldiers carried on their lodges and civilians began to join also, attracted by the principles of Protestantism and patriotism. Lodges proliferated and, in 1808 the Grand Orange Lodge of England was formed in Manchester with Colonel Samuel Taylor of Moston as the first Grand Master. The number of lodges continued to grow, and the movement attracted the support of the Hanoverian princes.
Frederick, Duke of York, was Grand Master for a time, followed in 1827 by his brother Ernest, Duke of Cumberland.
In the 1830’s the Orange Institution was subject to a campaign of monstrous lies, which inferred that lodges in the British Army would carry out a coup d’etat to put Cumberland on the throne instead of his young niece Victoria. Cumberland dissolved the Grand Lodge in 1836. It was thought that this would be the death-knell for Orangeism, but the true vitality of the movement lay in the local lodges, most of who stubbornly resolved to carry on.
The Loyal Orange Institution of Great Britain continued in existence, with its main support in Liverpool. With the election of Edward Harper to the position of Grand Master in the 1850’s, the Institution grew rapidly in strength and increased its geographical spread.
Another Orange body had come into existence amidst the confusion of 1836. This was the Grand Protestant Confederation, founded by J.W.Sylvester in Huddersfield in 1836. It changed its name to the Grand Protestant Association of Loyal Orangemen, and from 1844 had the Earl of Enniskillen as Grand Master.
In 1876, the two societies merged to form the Loyal Orange Institution of England,
which is the body that, to this day, is the authentic representative of Orangeism in England. From this time until the Great War the Orange Order held a position of influence in the nation. It enjoyed a high quality of leadership at both national and local level, but more importantly it upheld values which were cherished by a large proportion of their fellow-countrymen and women. Members of Parliament of both houses, clergymen, and senior figures in both the army and the navy were members.
During the Great War of 1914-18 the Orange Institution made a supreme effort to support the cause of the British Empire and the democratic and progressive principles for which it stood. There was also a recognition of the spiritual needs of those who risked their lives in this cause. Millions of Bibles and tracts were supplied to the servicemen. Orangemen served in the forces in large numbers, often being the most enthusiastic volunteers. They won many decorations, including the Victoria Cross. There was a lodge in the Hawke Battalion of Royal Marines who were sent to defend the Belgian fortress of Antwerp in 1914. When they had to retreat into the neutral Netherlands they were interned for the rest of the War, and carried on holding lodge meetings in the internment camp. When ships like the Hampshire were sunk, the Orange lodges which existed among the ship’s crew were wiped out to a man.
After 1918, the Orange Institution had to exist in a very different world. The decline of the churches, a mood of cynicism, and the emergence of class conflict, were inimical to Orangeism. There was also the onset of economic decline in some of the Institution’s heartlands. Docks, shipyards, coalfields, steel mills, and the like all began a decline that continues to this day.