The Lodge was honoured by the Grand Master HRH the Duke of Connaught & Strathearn’s acceptance of the office of first Worshipful Master of the Lodge. The Grand Master was the President of Wellington and the son of the driving forces behind the schools foundation.
The Grand Master was unanimously re-elected in subsequent years and went on to hold the office until his death in 1942, and was pleased to appoint Worshipful Deputy Masters to rule the Lodge on his behalf.
Those 32 years comprise one of the longest single periods of office held by any mason in a private lodge, a feat the Grand Master himself outstripped in 3 instances: in his ruling of his mother Lodge, the Prince of Wales’s Lodge for 39 years; the 44 years he ruled Aldershot Army & Navy Lodge No 1971; and his longest reign, the 53 years he ruled over the London Irish Rifles Lodge No 2312.
The Grand Master had been initiated into the Prince of Wales’s Lodge No 259 in 1874, the first of many strong connections between ‘259’ and the Old Wellingtonian Lodge which have continued to this day.
The Duke of Connaught was the third son and seventh child of Queen Victoria. He was born at Buckingham Palace and educated at the Royal Military Academy Woolwich before being commissioned into the Royal Engineers. He later served with the Royal Artillery before commanding his father’s regiment, the Rifle Brigade.
The Duke was closely associated with the Duke of Wellington. He was born on Wellington’s 81st birthday, named after the Iron Duke, and was also one of Wellington’s godchildren. The Duke of Connaught & Strathearn was only 2 years old when Wellington died and was reported to have been terribly upset by the news. It is said that he kept repeating that “the Duke of Wellikon is Arta’s godpapa.”
The First of May by Winterhalter shows the Duke of Wellington presenting Queen Victoria with a casket to mark the Duke of Connaught’s christening hangs at Windsor, and a copy by Souter hangs in Old Hall at Wellington. A copy of the Souter copy was presented to the present day Grand Master in 1992 on the occasion of the Lodge hosting the PSLC Festival.
The Duke of Connaught became an active member of many lodges. In addition to those noted above, he was a member of Royal Alpha Lodge No 16, of which he was Master in 1881; Navy Lodge No 2612; Jubilee Masters’ Lodge No 2712; Nil Sine Labore Lodge No 2736; Household Brigade Lodge No 2614; and the Royal Colonial Institute Lodge No 3556.
When he accepted the permanent mastership of our Lodge in 1909 The Freemason’s Chronicle noted that this was only the fourth Lodge to be so honoured, after Aldershot Army & Navy, Household Brigade and Nil Sine Labore.
He became President of Wellington in 1901, a post he also held until his death some 41 years later. The Duke’s holding of the three offices of Worshipful Master, Grand Master and President of College would be repeated again a hundred years later by the Duke of Kent.
The Duke of Connaught & Strathearn’s son Prince Arthur also joined the Lodge.