The Ancient & Accepted Rite is an Order of Freemasonry comprising of 33 degrees of which the Rose Croix is the 18th Degree. Outside Britain and in France and the USA it is also known as the Scottish Rite or Ecossais masonry which refers to a mythical connection to Scotland that has never been proved.
The Order originated and evolved mostly in France in the early 1700s as a Christian ‘Rite of Perfection’ consisting of up to 25 ‘higher’ degrees and by the mid 1700’s had spread via the trade routes to the West Indies and Britain. In the Grand Constitutions of 1786, which are still used to this day, the number of degrees in the Order was increased to 33, followed in 1801 by the establishment of the first governing body known as a Supreme Council, that of the Southern Jurisdiction of the USA formed at Charleston, South Carolina. There are now over 60 Supreme Councils throughout the World.
Local bodies of the Order are known as Rose Croix Chapters and all business of a Chapter is conducted in the 18th Degree of the 33 where candidates are admitted, this being the only degree that is permitted to be worked in full at local Chapter level although demonstration workings of selected other degrees are performed annually.
The election of a Most Wise Sovereign – equivalent to a Worshipful Master in Craft Masonry occur annually as in other Masonic Orders.
The Rose Croix degree was first recorded in England in about 1770 when it was worked within the evolving Knights Templar Encampments – the degree becoming the final or ‘ne plus ultra’ (nothing beyond) degree of the Templars. However, following the establishment of the England & Wales Supreme Council in 1845, the degree gradually moved over to their present position as the 18º of the Ancient & Accepted Rite and being worked within stand alone, or sovereign, Chapters.
The Supreme Council 33° of the Ancient & Accepted Rite for England and Wales and its Districts and Chapters Overseas was established in 1845 under a Patent issued by the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the USA and is composed of nine eminent members of the Rite, all holders of the 33rd and last degree in freemasonry.
HRH The Duke of Kent, KG, Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, is the Grand Patron of the Order which illustrates the very close link between the Craft and the Ancient & Accepted Rite.
Chapters are organised into just over 50 Districts in England and Wales, each under the jurisdiction of an Inspector General who is appointed by the Supreme Council to have charge and supervision over the Chapters within his District.
The Ancient & Accepted Rite has a very flat structure and there is no equivalent to a Grand Lodge or Provincial Grand Lodge in the Order which also means there are no Provincial officers other than a District Recorder to assist the Inspector General in administration business.
The Inspector General is the representative of the Supreme Council in his District and is responsible for upholding the authority, standards and dignity of the Order.