The Royal Arch Degree seems not to have been known to what are called modern Masons as late as about 1750. That portion of the old Freemasons who met at the famous Apple-Tree Tavern, in 1717, and formed the society upon somewhat new principles, that is, so far as to admit into fellowship, indiscriminately, respectable individuals of all professions, were denominated, by the non-adherents to this plan, modern Masons. This affair caused the division of the Masonic Society into two parties, which continued till 1813, nearly one hundred years. To the rivalry occasioned by this schism, Masonry, it is presumed, is mainly indebted for the great celebrity it has obtained in the world.
It appears that the non-conformists to this new scheme, who considered themselves the orthodox party, by rummaging among the old records of the Order, first discovered the Royal Arch Degree, which had probably lain dormant for centuries; during which time, it would appear, the society had been confined almost exclusively to operative masons; who continued the ceremonies only of the apprentice, fellow-craft or journeyman, and master mason, these being deemed appropriate to their occupation.
A society of Royal Arch Masons is called a Chapter, and not a Lodge, as in the previous Degrees. All Chapters of Royal Arch Masons are “dedicated to Zerubbabel,” and the symbolic color of this Degree is scarlet. The several Degrees of Mark Master, Present or Past Master, and Most Excellent Master, are given only under the sanction of the Royal Arch Chapter; and a Master Mason who applies for these Degrees usually enters the Chapter also, and sometimes the four degrees are given at once. If he takes the four, he is only balloted for once, viz.: in the Mark Master’s Degree. Candidates receiving this Degree are said to be “exalted to the most sublime Degree of the Royal Arch.”