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William Saint Clair

The Saint Clairs of Roslin, often spelt Rosslyn held a connection which lasted for some 300 years, with the Freemasons of Scotland.

King James II

In 1441, King James II appointed William Saint Clair, Earl of Orkney and Caithness, as Patron and Protector of Scotland’s Freemasons, an office which became hereditary one for the family.  With the death of William Saint Clair in 1484, the office of hereditary patron, was passed down to his descendants.

Rosslyn Chapel

In the year 1446, a founding charter was received from Rome, allowing for the construction of Rosslyn Chapel: Collegiate Church of St. Mathew, the family church of the St.Clairs.

William St.Clair spent four years exploring French Cathedrals and their gothic design, for the design of Rosslyn Chapel.  Then he invited skilled stonemasons from across Europe to come to Scotland, and build the chapel dedicated to the Knights Templar.

According to Scottish tradition, its kings exercised the right in nominating office-bearers to the Freemasons craft.  Only one king neglected to carry out the orders.  First, he be King James VI of Scotland (1567-1603) and carried out his duties, and then as King James I of England (1603-1625), during which time he omitted to carry out his duties.

William St.Clair died in 1484, the office of hereditary Patron was passed down through the family timeline, to the next living descendant.

Around 1600, Freemasons found they were without Protector, and duly appointed William Saint Clair of Roslin, who presided over the order until 1630 when he went to Ireland.  A charter was issued, granting his son Sir William Saint Clair to take over his position in Scotland, and signed off by Masters and Wardens of Scottish Lodges.  Over the next hundred years, the craft continued to flourish, in terms agreed between the Laird of Roslin and Freemasons of Scotland.

The year was 1736 and William Saint Clair to whom the Hereditary Protectorship had descended by right of succession, had no children, and feared the Office of Grand Master, should not become vacant upon his death. 

Accordingly, thirty-two representatives from Edinburgh Lodges assembled, on the 30th November 1736, where their current leader, resigned his post, making way for the election of a new Grand Master.  William Saint Clair was chosen as the new Grand Master in 1737, the last in the line of that noble family, who held the post until January 1778 when he died aged seventy-eight.

The Grand Lodge of Scotland, paid their respects on the announcement of his death, convening a funeral lodge: Four hundred brethren paid tribute to the great man.

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