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time immemorial

3 September 1189

The date of the coronation of King Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) was fixed as time immemorial in English law by statute at the Parliament summoned at Westminster by King Edward I in the third year of his reign. In this context time immemorial was beyond the memory of any living person. Proof of unbroken possession or use of any right since that date made it unnecessary to establish the original grant. This Parliament enacted legislation in Norman French rather than Latin. These statutes recall the language of Canute or Alfred; common right is to be done to all, both poor and rich, without respect of persons. By about 1600, time immemorial in popular usage meant, beyond the reach of memory, record, or tradition.

On Saint John the Baptist's day, 1717, in the third year of the reign of King George I, an Assembly and Feast of freemasons was held at the Goose and Gridiron. The formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717 was followed by the formation of the Grand Lodge of Ireland in 1725 and the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1736. During the preceding century, ruling these three diverse kingdoms proved difficult for James and his successor Charles, particularly when they tried to impose religious uniformity on the three kingdoms. Religious disputes centered on whether religion was to be dictated by the monarch or the choice of the subject. The related civil questions were to what extent the king's rule was constrained by parliaments; in particular his right to raise taxes and armed forces.

The Grand Lodge of England evolved into a regulatory body, which attracted lodges meeting outside London and began to offer central guidance and direction to these exisiting lodges. The Anderson Constitutions of 1738 introduced the idea that Prince Edwin had obtained a charter from his brother, King Athelstan. Both Edwin and Athelstan were grandsons of King Alfred, the first anointed King of England who translated the Holy Bible into the Saxon language when he had brought the land into rest and peace, built many great works, and encouraged many Masons from France and elsewhere.

That Prince Edwin, the King's Brother, being taught Geometry and Masonry, for the love he had to the said Craft, and to the honorable principles whereon it is grounded, purchased a Free Charter of King Athelstan his Brother, for the Free Masons having among themselves a Connection or a power and freedom to regulate themselves to amend what might happen amiss and to hold an yearly Communication in a General Assembly.

That accordingly Prince Edwin summoned all the Free and Accepted Masons in the Realm, to meet him in the Congregation at York, who came and formed the Grand Lodge under him as their Grand Master, AD. 926.

That they brought with them many old Writings and Records of the Craft, some in Greek, some in Latin some in French, and other languages; and from the contents thereof, they framed the Constitutions of the English Lodges, and made a Law for themselves, to preserve and observe the same in all Time coming

The source of this idea appears to be the Halliwell or Regius Manuscript from about the year 1390.

This craft came into England, as I tell you, in the time of good king Athelstan's reign; he made then both hall, and also bower and lofty temples of great honor, to take his recreation in both day and night and to worship his God with all his might. This good lord loved this craft full well, and purposed to strengthen it in every part on account of various defects that he discovered in the craft. He sent about into all the land, after all the masons of the craft, to come straight to him, to amend all these defects by good counsel, if it might so happen. He then permitted an assembly to be made of divers lords in their rank, dukes, earls, and barons, also knights, squires, and many more, and the great burgesses of that city, they were all there in their degree; these were there, each one in every way to make laws for the estate of these masons. There they sought by their wisdom how they might govern it; there they found out fifteen articles, and there they made fifteen points.

In less than decade, the kingdom of Athelstan became by far the greatest power in the British Isles. Athelstan may have considered his rule in some way imperial: the style basileus is found in his charters and he is the first king to bear the title rex totius Britanniae. According to William of Malmesbury, relics such as the Sword of Constantine (Emperor of Rome) and the Lance of Charlemagne (first Holy Roman Emperor) came to Athelstan. Charlemagne has summoned both counts and bishops to a general assembly every year, where they would advise the emperor and hear his directives.

The Prince of Wales, Frederick Louis (sometimes written as Lewis), had been made a Freemason in the previous year on 5 November 1737

Again let it pass to the ROYAL lov’d NAME,
Whose glorious Admission has crown’d all our Fame:
May a LEWIS be born, whom the World shall admire,
Serene as his MOTHER, August as his SIRE.

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