Freemasonry is very much an English affair although exactly when it originated is
shrouded in the mists of time. What is known is that originally there was only the
one degree with the second being introduced in the Age of Enlightenment, i.e. around
1725, whilst the third came into being later still.
Freemasonry of the early eighteenth century was associated with the freethinkers
of the period for it must be said that England at the time was a fairly liberal place
where free debate was allowed even if it did sometimes go against the establishment.
The situation was quite different on the Continent where intellectuals chafed against
the absolutist monarchy and the oppressive religious rule of the Catholic Church.
They looked upon the liberal attitudes of England with envy so that when freemasonry
was introduced to France in 1730 they took it up with enthusiasm.
Indeed it has been estimated that more than 1100 degrees were invented in the salons
of Paris between 1730 and about 1790. The degree of Knights Templar is probably one
of those introduced in 1740 although it has been suggested that it might have had
its roots in the Rite of Strict Observance, a form of freemasonry attributed to the
minor German baron, von Hund.
One significant point about the Masonic degree is that unlike the Craft degrees,
it is overtly Christian, demanding a firm belief in the Trinitarian Christian faith
from each one of its members. The degree became a firm favourite of the freemasons
in the British Army, so that with them it travelled the world and became universally
accepted. Many army lodges were Antient lodges who worked the Craft degrees, the
Holy Royal Arch and the Christian Knights Templar degree under the one Craft warrant;
the Master and his Wardens simply assumed the offices of the three Principles to
confer the Holy Royal Arch degree and then took office as Commander and Constables
to install a brother a Knight Templar