Red Cross of Constantine in Hertfordshire
The Red Cross of Constantine
Constantine, a Roman, was destined for the College of Emperors, but following the death of his father, he was hailed by the Legions in York as Augustus and became the Governor of Britain and Gaul. After several successful battles across the Alps and Italy he eventually established himself as the lawful Emperor of both the East and West, and transferred the capital of The Empire from Rome to Byzantium, later to be named after him.
He was the first Roman Emperor to openly encourage Christianity. His conversion began one evening after a long day’s march with his army when, in what he believed was a sign from Heaven, he and his army saw in the sky, and by the rays of the setting sun, a pillar of light in the form of a special cross. To sanctify the minds of his pagan army, he had made a standard, bearing a Cross like that seen, and ordered it to be carried before him in the wars. Several Christians in his army came forward and avowed their faith following which Constantine directed that they should wear on their armour - a red cross.
Having been successful in battle, it is said that Constantine, with the help of his Chief Bishop, Eusebius, opened a Conclave of the Knights of the Order, whose members became the bodyguard of their Sovereign.
The 'Masonic' Order of the Red Cross of Constantine appears to have been first organised in the United Kingdom by Charles Shirreff about 1780 AD, and was re-organised in 1804 by Waller Rodwell Wright.
During the next fifty years, the Order was not very active until, in 1865, Grand Imperial Conclave was reassembled for the election and enthronement of William Henry Wright.
Since 1865, there has been steady and continuous working, and daughter Grand Imperial Conclaves have been formed from England throughout the world, and in recent years, in Germany, France and Finland.
The Order of the Red Cross of Constantine belongs to the 'East and West' class of Initiatory Rites, and consists of three degrees - Knight, Priest-Mason and Prince-Mason - titles which represent grades in the scale of Initiation.
Every RCC Conclave has 2 banners - one (the Labarum standard) is a simple purple background with the "chi-ro" Greek letters in white. This is placed behind the Viceroy or Eusebius who sits in the Craft Senior Warden's position when any Conclave is opened and only moves to the East when a new Viceroy is consecrated. The other banner - the Standard of Constantine - is placed over the VSL in the centre of the Conclave and moved to and from behind the Sovereigns chair when the Conclave is opened or closed. Each of these is the same pattern with a central cross surmounted with a crown over a double headed eagle and has the Greek capitals of alpha and omega either side at the foot of the cross. in the centre of the cross or occasionally at the end of each arm are the letters "I H S V" and there are 4 stars on each arm. The name and number of the Conclave is on a scroll/ribbon either above or below the cross. These banners are shown seperately under each conclave.
The Conclaves in Hertfordshire are as follows:
The Rose Walk Conclave No. 389 at Radlett
Hertfordshire Conclave No. 421 at Royston
Walnut Tree Conclave No. 440 at Cheshunt
Nicholas Breakespeare Conclave No. 459 at Watford
The Conclave of Albanus No. 497 at Ashwell House.
In addition to individual conclave banners, there is also a Hertfordshire Divisional Banner (similar in design to the Constantine Standard but with "Division of Hertfordshire" in place of the Conclave name and number) which accompanies the Intendant General on every official visit and is placed behind his seat in the East (to the right of the Most Puissant Sovereign).
The individual Conclaves take it in turns to be "The Banner Conclave" at the Annual Divisional Meeting (held annually on the 4th Saturday in February, usually at Ashwell House) at which both the Conclave and Divisional Banners are displayed.
Further details of the order can be found here