© 2008 Provincial Grand Court of Wessex
“The Haliwell Manuscript or Regius Poem”  A Paper Presented by W.Bro. David R. Attwater,  ProvGOrganist
When we are initiated into Freemasonry, the Charge to the Initiate urges us “to endeavour to make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge”. This paper has been put together with this in mind and to give us an insight into the origins of English Freemasonry and the historical relevance of this to our Order. The “Old Charges” of Masons’ Lodges were the documents describing the duties of the members, part of which, the Charges, every Mason had to swear on admission. For this reason, every Lodge had a copy of its Charges, occasionally written into the beginning of the minute book, but usually as a separate manuscript roll of parchment. With the coming of Grand Lodges, these were largely superceded by printed constitutions, but the Grand Lodge of All England at York, and the few Lodges that remained independent in Scotland and Ireland, retained the hand-written Charges as their authority to meet as a Lodge. From the reign of Henry VI to the Elizabethan period, about 1425 – 1550, surviving   documents   show   the   evolution   of   a   legend   of   Masonry,   starting   before   the   flood,   and   culminating   in   the   re- establishment of the Craft of Masonry in York during the reign of King Æthelstan. King   Æthelstan   reigned   from   924   to   939   AD   and   was   the   grandson   of   Alfred   the   Great.   William   of   Malmesbury,   who   is considered   to   be   the   foremost   historian   of   the   12th   century,   wrote   that Alfred   the   Great   honoured   his   young   grandson with a ceremony in which he gave him a scarlet cloak, a belt set with gems, and a sword with a gilded scabbard. Ninth-century   West   Saxon   Kings,   before Alfred   the   Great,   are   generally   described   by   historians   as   Kings   of   Wessex,   or of   the   West   Saxons.   In   the   880s,   Æthelred,   Lord   of   the   Mercians,   accepted   West   Saxon   Lordship,   and   Alfred   then adopted   a   new   title,   King   of   the   Anglo-Saxons,   representing   his   conception   of   a   new   polity   of   all   the   English   people who   were   not   under   Viking   rule.   This   endured   until   927,   when   Æthelstan   conquered   Viking   York   and   adopted   the   title “Rex   Anglorum”,   King   of   the   English,   in   recognition   of   his   rule   over   the   whole   of   England.   New   coinage   was   issued advertising   his   newly   exalted   status   with   the   inscription   “Rex   Totius   Britanniae”,   King   of   All   Britain.   Historians   regard Æthelstan as the first King of England and one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon Kings. The   Halliwell   Manuscript,   also   known   as   the   Regius   Poem,   is   the   earliest   of   the   English   “Old   Charges”   and   is   unique   as it   is   set   in   verse.   It   is   made   up   of   64   vellum   pages   consisting   of   794   lines   written   in   rhymed   couplets.   It   is   significantly different from all other “Old Charges” and was still lost when the modern constitutions were drawn up in the 1700s. The   main   text   is   written   in   Middle   English,   which   describes   the   dialects   of   the   English   language   used   between   the   High and Late Middle Ages and was spoken throughout the Plantagenet era (1154 – 1485). The   text   on   the   manuscript   is   barely   recognizable   today   because   it   is   in   a   Gothic   or   Germanic   lettering   style,   and   the alphabet   and   spellings   have   changed,   but   if   sounded   phonetically,   most   of   the   words   are   still   understandable   in   our language today. There   are   also   34   lines   of   headings   with   no   spacings   around   them,   but   they   are   set   apart   by   being   in   red   ink   rather   than black,   by   being   in   Latin   instead   of   Middle   English,   and   by   not   participating   in   the   rhyming.   Whilst   the   scribe   may   have been   a   literate   Mason,   he   was   more   likely   to   have   been   a   priest   or   monk   commissioned   by   a   local   Operative   Masonic Lodge. Whoever he was, it has long been assumed that he was paraphrasing and extending an even earlier Masonic document that was then still in existence. The   origins   of   the   document   are   obscure   and   it   was   recorded   in   various   personal   inventories   as   it   changed   hands   until it came into possession of the Royal Library. King George II had no interest in reading, or in the arts and sciences, and he donated the Royal Library to the British museum in 1757, four years after its foundation. In   1854,   genealogist   Richard   Sims’s   Handbook   to   the   Library   of   the   British   Museum   states:   “In   the   year   1757,   King George   II,   under   an   instrument   that   passed   the   Great   Seal,   presented   the   Library   to   the   nation.   At   that   time   it   was deposited   in   the   Old   Dormitory   at   Westminster,   at   which   place   it   had   been   removed   from   Ashburnham   House,   at   the time   of   the   lamentable   fire   which   broke   out   in   that   building   on   23rd   October,   1731   from   which   it   fortunately   sustained but slight injury.” The   manuscript   came   to   the   attention   of   Freemasonry   much   later,   this   oversight   being   mainly   due   to   librarian   David Casley   who   described   it,   in   his   Catalogue   of   the   Manuscripts   of   the   Old   Royal   Library,   as   “a   Poem   of   Moral   Duties” when   he   recorded   it   in   1734.   It   is   currently   held   by   the   British   Library   in   the   Royal   Manuscript   Collection,   catalogue reference 17 AI. The   significance   of   the   document,   as   relating   to   Freemasonry,   was   not   realized   until   James   Halliwell   drew   attention   to   it in   a   paper   “On   the   introduction   of   Freemasonry   into   England,”   which   he   read   before   the   Society   of   Antiquaries   in   the 1838-39   session.   He   thereafter   published   two   small   editions   of   a   work   entitled   “The   Early   History   of   Freemasonry   in England”. James   Orchard   Halliwell-Phillips   was   born   in   London,   in   1820,   and   was   educated   privately   and   at   Jesus   College, Cambridge.   He   devoted   himself   to   antiquarian   research   and   particularly   into   early   English   literature.   He   was   not   a Freemason   himself   and   was   only   eighteen   years   old   when   he   brought   the   manuscript   to   the   attention   of   The   Society   of Antiquaries    of    London.    This    Fellowship    is    charged,    by    its    Royal    Charter    of    1751,    with    “the    encouragement, advancement and furtherance of the study and knowledge of the antiquities and history of this and other countries”. The   manuscript   was   bound   in   its   present   cover   in   or   about   the   year   1838,   probably   soon   after   Halliwell   had   drawn attention   to   its   significance,   and   bears   the   Royal Arms   of   King   George   II,   stamped   on   front   and   back,   and   the   date   1757. It   was   given   the   title   of   “Regius   Poem”,   Regius   meaning,   “of   or   belonging   to   a   King”,   by   the   historian   of   Freemasonry Robert   Freke   Gould,   in   an   essay   in   1889,   to   replace   the   less   enticing   names   of   “17   AI”,   “Poem   of   Moral   Duties”,   and “Halliwell   Manuscript”.   It   was   named   the   Regius   Poem   not   only   because   it   was   presented   to   the   British   Museum   by King George II, but also because Gould considered it to be the “King” of the Old Charges.
The age of the manuscript has been variously estimated. Halliwell supposed it to have been written about 1390, or earlier. Masonic scholar, Rev. Adolphus Frederick Alexander Woodford, supported this view. Rev. Woodford became Grand Chaplain in 1863. The curator of manuscripts at the British Museum, Edward Augustus Bond, dated it to be 50 years later, but this was largely dismissed. It was long accepted that the document dates from 1390, but, after research, circa 1425 is now considered a more likely date and it is believed that it was composed in Shropshire. This dating leads to the hypothesis that the document’s composition, and especially its narrative of a royal authority for annual assemblies, was intended as a counterblast to a statute of 1425 banning such meetings. The poem begins by evoking Euclid and his re-invention of geometry in ancient Egypt, and then the spreading of the art in “divers lands”. As in all the “Old Charges”’ Masonry is made synonymous with Geometry, a thing very different in those days from the abstract science over which we laboured during our school days. The opening Latin heading reads, “Hic Incipiunt Constituciones Artis Gemetriae Secundem Euclydem” and translates as, “Here begin the constitutions of the Art of Geometry according to Euclid”. Euclid was a Greek mathematician, around 300 BC, often referred to as the “Father of Geometry”. He was active in Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy I, 323 - 283 BC. Euclidean geometry is a mathematical system that he described in his set of textbooks entitled “Elements”. Although many of Euclid’s results had been stated by earlier mathematicians, Euclid was the first to show how these propositions could fit into a comprehensive, deductive and logical system. The Halliwell Manuscript relates how the Craft of Masonry was brought to England, from Egypt, during the reign of King Æthelstan. It tells how all the Masons of the land came to the King for direction as to their own good governance, and how, together with the nobility and landed gentry, forged the fifteen articles and fifteen points for their rule. This is followed by fifteen articles for the Master concerning both moral behaviour and the operation of work on a building site. There are then fifteen points for Craftsmen, which follow a similar pattern. Warnings of punishment for those breaking the ordinances are followed by provision for annual assemblies. There then follows the legend of the Four Crowned Martyrs that, according to Roman Catholic tradition, actually relates to two groups of martyrs. The first group of four, whose names could not be authentically established and after whom the legend is named, were thought to have been soldiers who refused to sacrifice to Æsclepius, who was god of medicine and healing in ancient Greek religion and associated with the Roman/Etruscan god Vediovis. They were killed by order of Diocletian who was Roman Emperor from 284 – 305 AD. The second group of five, that have since been linked with the first four, were, according to tradition, sculpters from Sirmium, which was a city in Roman Pannonia, the location of which is now in modern Serbia, who refused to fashion a pagan statue of Æsclepius, for the Emperor Diocletian, and were put to death as Christians. A series of moral aphorisms follow. Aphorisms being original thoughts written in a concise and memorable form. And finally, the manuscript finishes with a blessing. Halliwell originally transcribed the document into modern alphabet, but retained the Middle English words. A slightly corrected version was edited and published in 1889, by George William Speth, Secretary and a founder member of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge. The Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 is the Premier Lodge of Masonic Research based at Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street, London. Its Latin title meaning “Four Crowned Ones”. Medieval writing had a number of characters we no longer use, which Halliwell and Speth translated into their modern equivalents. It has had several amendments made since, particularly as our language, and the meaning of certain words, has changed over the years. The genealogist Richard Sims carried out the first Modern English translation in 1874, and the most recent version was in 1914 by Brother Roderick H. Baxter, who became Worshipful Master of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge some four years later. At the end of the Instruction of a Candidate in our Order, and before the “circle of nine”, the Master recites “let me congratulate you on taking this day a very important step on your Masonic journey. It is hoped and intended that it will stimulate your mind to further Masonic research.” The Halliwell Manuscript or Regius Poem states that Masonry was brought to England in the reign of King Æthelstan and asserts that the King was a supporter of the Craft and assisted in the composition of its earliest Charges. The last lines of the manuscript are transcribed as: “Well this book to know and read, Heaven to have for your mede. Amen! Amen! So mote it be! So say we all for charity.” “Mede” is the original Middle English word and is retained so that the verse scans poetically. It translates as “reward” Thus: “Heaven to have for your reward”. Amen! Amen! So mote it be! Paper researched and prepared by W Bro David Robert Attwater Provincial Grand Organist for the Province of Wessex, Master and Acting Secretary of Ædelred Court No. 66 Presented in Open Court at Installation as Master of the Court of Ædelred No. 66, 20 October 2014 Also presented at the Province of Wessex Annual Assembly at Perranporth, 16 May 2015 LINK TO THE TOP OF THE PAGE
                   © 2008 Provincial Grand Court of Wessex
“The Haliwell Manuscript or Regius Poem”  A Paper Presented by W.Bro. David R. Attwater,  ProvGOrganist
When we are initiated into Freemasonry, the Charge to the Initiate urges us “to endeavour to make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge”. This paper has been put together with this in mind and to give us an insight into the origins of English Freemasonry and the historical relevance of this to our Order. The “Old Charges” of Masons’ Lodges were the documents describing the duties of the members, part of which, the Charges, every Mason had to swear on admission. For this reason, every Lodge had a copy of its Charges, occasionally written into the beginning of the minute book, but usually as a separate manuscript roll of parchment. With the coming of Grand Lodges, these were largely superceded by printed constitutions, but the Grand Lodge of All England at York, and the few Lodges that remained independent in Scotland and Ireland, retained the hand-written Charges as their authority to meet as a Lodge. From the reign of Henry VI to the Elizabethan period, about 1425 – 1550, surviving   documents   show   the   evolution   of   a   legend   of   Masonry,   starting   before   the   flood,   and   culminating   in   the   re- establishment of the Craft of Masonry in York during the reign of King Æthelstan. King   Æthelstan   reigned   from   924   to   939 AD   and   was   the   grandson   of Alfred   the   Great.   William   of   Malmesbury,   who is   considered   to   be   the   foremost   historian   of   the   12th   century,   wrote   that   Alfred   the   Great   honoured   his   young grandson   with   a   ceremony   in   which   he   gave   him   a   scarlet   cloak,   a   belt   set   with   gems,   and   a   sword   with   a   gilded scabbard. Ninth-century   West   Saxon   Kings,   before Alfred   the   Great,   are   generally   described   by   historians   as   Kings   of   Wessex, or   of   the   West   Saxons.   In   the   880s,   Æthelred,   Lord   of   the   Mercians,   accepted   West   Saxon   Lordship,   and Alfred   then adopted   a   new   title,   King   of   the Anglo-Saxons,   representing   his   conception   of   a   new   polity   of   all   the   English   people who   were   not   under   Viking   rule.   This   endured   until   927,   when   Æthelstan   conquered   Viking   York   and   adopted   the title   “Rex   Anglorum”,   King   of   the   English,   in   recognition   of   his   rule   over   the   whole   of   England.   New   coinage   was issued    advertising    his    newly    exalted    status    with    the    inscription    “Rex    Totius    Britanniae”,    King    of   All    Britain. Historians regard Æthelstan as the first King of England and one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon Kings. The   Halliwell   Manuscript,   also   known   as   the   Regius   Poem,   is   the   earliest   of   the   English   “Old   Charges”   and   is   unique as   it   is   set   in   verse.   It   is   made   up   of   64   vellum   pages   consisting   of   794   lines   written   in   rhymed   couplets.   It   is significantly   different   from   all   other   “Old   Charges”   and   was   still   lost   when   the   modern   constitutions   were   drawn   up in the 1700s. The   main   text   is   written   in   Middle   English,   which   describes   the   dialects   of   the   English   language   used   between   the High and Late Middle Ages and was spoken throughout the Plantagenet era (1154 – 1485). The   text   on   the   manuscript   is   barely   recognizable   today   because   it   is   in   a   Gothic   or   Germanic   lettering   style,   and   the alphabet   and   spellings   have   changed,   but   if   sounded   phonetically,   most   of   the   words   are   still   understandable   in   our language today. There   are   also   34   lines   of   headings   with   no   spacings   around   them,   but   they   are   set   apart   by   being   in   red   ink   rather than   black,   by   being   in   Latin   instead   of   Middle   English,   and   by   not   participating   in   the   rhyming.   Whilst   the   scribe may   have   been   a   literate   Mason,   he   was   more   likely   to   have   been   a   priest   or   monk   commissioned   by   a   local Operative   Masonic   Lodge.   Whoever   he   was,   it   has   long   been   assumed   that   he   was   paraphrasing   and   extending   an even earlier Masonic document that was then still in existence. The   origins   of   the   document   are   obscure   and   it   was   recorded   in   various   personal   inventories   as   it   changed   hands until it came into possession of the Royal Library. King George II had no interest in reading, or in the arts and sciences, and he donated the Royal Library to the British museum in 1757, four years after its foundation. In   1854,   genealogist   Richard   Sims’s   Handbook   to   the   Library   of   the   British   Museum   states:   “In   the   year   1757,   King George   II,   under   an   instrument   that   passed   the   Great   Seal,   presented   the   Library   to   the   nation.   At   that   time   it   was deposited   in   the   Old   Dormitory   at   Westminster,   at   which   place   it   had   been   removed   from Ashburnham   House,   at   the time   of   the   lamentable   fire   which   broke   out   in   that   building   on   23rd   October,   1731   from   which   it   fortunately sustained but slight injury.” The   manuscript   came   to   the   attention   of   Freemasonry   much   later,   this   oversight   being   mainly   due   to   librarian   David Casley   who   described   it,   in   his   Catalogue   of   the   Manuscripts   of   the   Old   Royal   Library,   as   “a   Poem   of   Moral   Duties” when   he   recorded   it   in   1734.   It   is   currently   held   by   the   British   Library   in   the   Royal   Manuscript   Collection,   catalogue reference 17 AI. The   significance   of   the   document,   as   relating   to   Freemasonry,   was   not   realized   until   James   Halliwell   drew   attention to   it   in   a   paper   “On   the   introduction   of   Freemasonry   into   England,”   which   he   read   before   the   Society   of Antiquaries in    the    1838-39    session.    He    thereafter    published    two    small    editions    of    a    work    entitled    “The    Early    History    of Freemasonry in England”. James   Orchard   Halliwell-Phillipps   was   born   in   London,   in   1820,   and   was   educated   privately   and   at   Jesus   College, Cambridge.   He   devoted   himself   to   antiquarian   research   and   particularly   into   early   English   literature.   He   was   not   a Freemason   himself   and   was   only   eighteen   years   old   when   he   brought   the   manuscript   to   the   attention   of The   Society of   Antiquaries   of   London.   This   Fellowship   is   charged,   by   its   Royal   Charter   of   1751,   with   “the   encouragement, advancement    and    furtherance    of    the    study    and    knowledge    of    the    antiquities    and    history    of    this    and    other countries”. The   manuscript   was   bound   in   its   present   cover   in   or   about   the   year   1838,   probably   soon   after   Halliwell   had   drawn attention   to   its   significance,   and   bears   the   Royal   Arms   of   King   George   II,   stamped   on   front   and   back,   and   the   date 1757.   It   was   given   the   title   of   “Regius   Poem”,   Regius   meaning,   “of   or   belonging   to   a   King”,   by   the   historian   of Freemasonry   Robert   Freke   Gould,   in   an   essay   in   1889,   to   replace   the   less   enticing   names   of   “17 AI”,   “Poem   of   Moral Duties”,   and   “Halliwell   Manuscript”.   It   was   named   the   Regius   Poem   not   only   because   it   was   presented   to   the   British Museum by King George II, but also because Gould considered it to be the “King” of the Old Charges. The age of the manuscript has been variously estimated. Halliwell supposed it to have been written about 1390, or earlier. Masonic scholar, Rev. Adolphus Frederick Alexander Woodford, supported this view. Rev. Woodford became Grand Chaplain in 1863. The   curator   of   manuscripts   at   the   British   Museum,   Edward Augustus   Bond,   dated   it   to   be   50   years   later,   but   this   was largely   dismissed.   It   was   long   accepted   that   the   document   dates   from   1390,   but,   after   research,   circa   1425   is   now considered a more likely date and it is believed that it was composed in Shropshire. This    dating    leads    to    the    hypothesis    that    the    document’s    composition,    and    especially    its    narrative    of    a    royal authority for annual assemblies, was intended as a counterblast to a statute of 1425 banning such meetings. The   poem   begins   by   evoking   Euclid   and   his   re-invention   of   geometry   in   ancient   Egypt,   and   then   the   spreading   of the   art   in   “divers   lands”.   As   in   all   the   “Old   Charges”’   Masonry   is   made   synonymous   with   Geometry,   a   thing   very different   in   those   days   from   the   abstract   science   over   which   we   laboured   during   our   school   days. The   opening   Latin heading   reads,   “Hic   Incipiunt   Constituciones   Artis   Gemetriae   Secundem   Euclydem”   and   translates   as,   “Here   begin the constitutions of the Art of Geometry according to Euclid”. Euclid was a Greek mathematician, around 300 BC, often referred to as the “Father of Geometry”. He was active in Alexandria   during   the   reign   of   Ptolemy   I,   323   -   283   BC.   Euclidean   geometry   is   a   mathematical   system   that   he described   in   his   set   of   textbooks   entitled   “Elements”. Although   many   of   Euclid’s   results   had   been   stated   by   earlier mathematicians,   Euclid   was   the   first   to   show   how   these   propositions   could   fit   into   a   comprehensive,   deductive   and logical system. The   Halliwell   Manuscript   relates   how   the   Craft   of   Masonry   was   brought   to   England,   from   Egypt,   during   the   reign   of King   Æthelstan.   It   tells   how   all   the   Masons   of   the   land   came   to   the   King   for   direction   as   to   their   own   good governance,   and   how,   together   with   the   nobility   and   landed   gentry,   forged   the   fifteen   articles   and   fifteen   points   for their rule. This is followed by fifteen articles for the Master concerning both moral behaviour   and the operation of work on a building   site. There   are   then   fifteen   points   for   Craftsmen,   which   follow   a   similar   pattern.   Warnings   of   punishment   for those breaking the ordinances are followed by provision for annual assemblies. There   then   follows   the   legend   of   the   Four   Crowned   Martyrs   that,   according   to   Roman   Catholic   tradition,   actually relates   to   two   groups   of   martyrs.   The   first   group   of   four,   whose   names   could   not   be   authentically   established   and after   whom   the   legend   is   named,   were   thought   to   have   been   soldiers   who   refused   to   sacrifice   to   Æsclepius,   who was   god   of   medicine   and   healing   in   ancient   Greek   religion   and   associated   with   the   Roman/Etruscan   god   Vediovis. They   were   killed   by   order   of   Diocletian   who   was   Roman   Emperor   from   284   –   305 AD.   The   second   group   of   five,   that have   since   been   linked   with   the   first   four,   were,   according   to   tradition,   sculpters   from   Sirmium,   which   was   a   city   in Roman   Pannonia,   the   location   of   which   is   now   in   modern   Serbia,   who   refused   to   fashion   a   pagan   statue   of Æsclepius, for the Emperor Diocletian, and were put to death as Christians. A series of moral aphorisms follow. Aphorisms being original thoughts written in a concise and memorable form. And finally, the manuscript finishes with a blessing. Halliwell   originally   transcribed   the   document   into   modern   alphabet,   but   retained   the   Middle   English   words.   A slightly   corrected   version   was   edited   and   published   in   1889,   by   George   William   Speth,   Secretary   and   a   founder member of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge. The   Quatuor   Coronati   Lodge   No.   2076   is   the   Premier   Lodge   of   Masonic   Research   based   at   Freemasons’   Hall   in Great Queen Street, London. Its Latin title meaning “Four Crowned Ones”. Medieval   writing   had   a   number   of   characters   we   no   longer   use,   which   Halliwell   and   Speth   translated   into   their modern   equivalents.   It   has   had   several   amendments   made   since,   particularly   as   our   language,   and   the   meaning   of certain   words,   has   changed   over   the   years.   The   genealogist   Richard   Sims   carried   out   the   first   Modern   English translation   in   1874,   and   the   most   recent   version   was   in   1914   by   Brother   Roderick   H.   Baxter,   who   became   Worshipful Master of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge some four years later. At the end of the Instruction of a Candidate in our Order, and before the “circle of nine”, the Master recites “let me congratulate   you   on   taking   this   day   a   very   important   step   on   your   Masonic   journey.   It   is   hoped   and   intended   that   it will stimulate your mind to further Masonic research.” The    Halliwell    Manuscript    or    Regius    Poem    states    that    Masonry    was    brought    to    England    in    the    reign    of    King Æthelstan   and   asserts   that   the   King   was   a   supporter   of   the   Craft   and   assisted   in   the   composition   of   its   earliest Charges. The   last   lines   of   the   manuscript   are   transcribed   as:   “Well   this   book   to   know   and   read,   Heaven   to   have   for   your mede. Amen! Amen! So mote it be! So say we all for charity.” “Mede” is the original Middle English word and is retained so that the verse scans poetically. It translates as “reward” Thus: “Heaven to have for your reward”. Amen! Amen! So mote it be! Paper researched and prepared by W Bro David Robert Attwater Provincial Grand Organist for the Province of Wessex, Master and Acting Secretary of Ædelred Court No. 66 Presented in Open Court at Installation as Master of the Court of Ædelred No. 66, 20 October 2014 Also presented at the Province of Wessex Annual Assembly at Perranporth, 16 May 2015 LINK TO THE TOP OF THE PAGE