What is certain therefore is that other lodges had come into existence in France by this time and were under the authority of a Grand Lodge that, according to Anderson, had been asserting its independence for some time and had been managing its own affairs under its own Grand Master.
It is hardly necessary perhaps to refute the other argument that by 1728, the Duke of Wharton was so chronic an alcoholic that he would not have been considered for such a position, but as the charge has been made, it should be considered and in doing this I have drawn heavily on the writings of that eminent Masonic scholar and writer, Bro. R. F. Gould.
Certainly the Duke of Wharton was renowned for his excesses, but one has to remember that such accusations were not unusual in those days and often were justified so that, although it would certainly debar him from consideration for such an office now, one must not judge him by todays standards. Furthermore, as has been pointed out by other writers, an even more consummate profligate, the first Earl of Rosse, was appointed Grand Master of Ireland in 1725 and again in 1730.
What is the true assessment of the Duke of Wharton? On 27 November 1725 the Lodge at the Kings Arms, St. Pauls Churchyard, re-elected him as Master. As he had left England the previous June, it can only be thought that they considered he had honoured them by accepting that office.
On 16 July 1725 Bishop Atterbury, a keen supporter of the Stuarts, writing from his exile in Paris, said
'He has all the talent requisite to dive into the intentions of those he deals with, and an extraordinary degree of application, when he pleases, and is intent upon compassing any point. He will be at a distance from all that company which misled him sometimes into frolics at home, and will, I hope, have no starts of that kind in a foreign country and a grave court.'
He had in mind a mission to the Court at Vienna on which the Pretender had employed him and, in the event, the Duke of Wharton executed a very delicate mission to the entire satisfaction of the Pretender, who conferred on him the Order of the Garter, together with the ducal titles of Wharton and Northumberland and sent him as his Ambassador to Spain.
It was at this time that the Duke of Wharton distinguished himself at the siege of Gibraltar, showing remarkable bravery in the face of the enemy and a coolness and complete disregard of his personal safety. Following this, the King of Spain appointed him 'Colonel Aggregate' to one of his Regiments. The Duke of Wharton also showed his continued interest in Masonry at this time by founding a Lodge in his apartments at Madrid; the Lodge subsequently became No. 50 on the English list.
He was in France from June 1728 to June 1729 and this seems the most likely time for him to have accepted an invitation to become Grand Master of France. It was also at this time that Sir Robert Walpole sent two special messengers to him to indicate that there was a way open for him to return to England and enjoy the benefit of his estates; but the Duke had finally turned his back on England and the Hanoverian cause. This would be a very strange act on the part of a British Prime Minister if the Duke was so far sunk in alcoholic depravity as to be unfit to be considered for the Grand Mastership of France!
Moreover, in the Spring Of 1729, he entered a convent in Order to prepare for Easter and
'he behaved himself so well there, and discoursed upon all Points of Religion, that the good Fathers beheld him with Admiration.'
Why should he have been chosen as Grand Master of France? He was in France at the time when, I suggest, the new Jacobite Grand Lodge was just beginning to take form; he had repudiated England and the Hanoverians; his close connection with the Jacobite Gormogons, of which he may well have been the founder, was well known; he professed the same religion and political leanings as the Pretender, had been employed by him at a high political level and had been honoured by him subsequently. In addition, he had been the second Grand Master of England of noble birth and had obviously taken his duties seriously, because Dr. Andersons Constitutions of 1723, even if prepared under his predecessor, had been authorized by him and contained 'The manner of constituting a New Lodge as practis'd by His Grace the Duke of Wharton'. Further, Dr. Anderson spoke well of the way he discharged his duties:
'Therefore the Grand Master was obliged to constitute more new Lodges, and was very assiduous in visiting the Lodges every Week with his Deputy and Wardens; and his Worship was well pleas'd with their kind and respectful Manner of receiving him, as they were with his affable and clever Conversation.'
Obviously he was an excellent choice and, I maintain, became the only person ever to be Grand Master of the two Obediences, England and France.
It could well be that he accepted an invitation to be Grand Master of France rather than being elected and formally installed and perhaps, for most of the time, he was little more than a figurehead. Nevertheless, it is possible it was he who suggested that Regulations be adopted based on those of the Grand Lodge of England, to which he had given his approval on 17 January 1723.
He probably continued in office until his death on 31 May 1731 and he was probably succeeded by James Hector Macleane, for reasons already stated.
Excerpted from AQC vol. 86 (1973), p. 24-25.