As I have touched on previously (Rituals of the Order) Denmark had a period, when it went from using the Strict Observance to the Rectified Rite (before finally landing on Swedish Rite). But this “interim” period is not very well covered, and I have been wondering why it doesn’t seem to match the descriptions I have encountered of the Rectified Scottish Rite (as the two should be synonymous).
Well, yesterday I attented a meeting of the Danish Lodge of Research, Friederich Münter (I am a corresponding member), on this very subject. The presented lecture was written by one of the original founders of the lodge, who is also a member of Chevalier bienfaisant de la Cite Sainte in Belgium. It was a very thorough paper focusing on the historical spread of the rite and the masonic climate in Europe in which it proliferated, and later diminished (or consolidated), up until today.
The complete answer to my question goes beyond the scope of this blog, but basically what happened was this: the convent at Wilhelmsbad, 1782, agreed that the Strict Observance (SO) had outlived itself, and that Willermoz’ Rectified Scottish Rite should take its stead. But the SO was capitulated before agreement had been reached on how exactly to implement the higher degrees of the new system. So the Danish freemasons simply decided to bring home the three Craft-degrees and skip the higher degrees (and the managerial aspects of the order) until the next convent could agree on their design. Unfortunately Prince Ferdinand von Braunschweig, who was the head of SO and took charge of the renewal, died before this could happen. But there was already an existing Grand Chapter in Denmark, and some of its members were loath to give up their status, and others had been promised positions under the new, rectified system; so this institution carried on and handled the leadership (as a grand lodge of Denmark), as the newly imported rite didn’t come as a fully fledged organisation, and it had been decided not to take on Willermoz’ high degrees. Not until 1817 and 1819 did Prince Carl von Hessen-Kassel, the ruler of the Danish freemasons, start Scots (St. Andrew’s) lodges in Denmark, and in 1819 he also instituted a Masonic Directorate to handle the ruling of Masonic affairs. But the faulty system that was introduced in 1782 was never really repaired, because Denmark and Germany ran afoul in political matters. And instead, the Swedish Rite found its way here in 1853 and marked a new beginning.
So, things might have been very different, had the issues at Wilhelmsbad been resolved; imagine: a national regular grand lodge working the full vision of Willermoz (rather than the priories that exist today) … It also explains why Denmark ended up being, by some, considered the last remaining vestige of Strict Observance in Europe (even if that was only due to bad luck and/or lack of leadership).
Pictures: the shield of Lodge of Research Friederich Münter; portrait paintings of Prince Carl von Hessen-Kassel and Prince Ferdinand von Braunschweig (from Wikipedia).