Allied Masonic Degrees (AMD), is an invitation organization composed of detached degrees and honors, one of which is known as the Royal Order of the Red Branch of Eri. The Red Branch of Eri is said to be an ancient order that was established in Ireland that was passed down through the generations before being housed within the AMD. This order exists "within the bosom of the Grand Council and is a Chamber thereof" and is considered the pinnacle of the Allied Masonic Degrees. It is important to note that there is a slight difference between the English and American orders. The American confers this order for meritorious service while in England a member needs to be a VIº in the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia before they are eligible.
The degrees embodied in the Royal Order of the Red Branch of Eri are:
Man-at-Arms or Associate, Red Branch of Eri (ARBE)Esquire or Member, Red Branch of Eri (MRBE)Knight or Knight Red Branch of Eri (KRBE)Knight Commander or Knight Commander Red Branch of Eri (KCRBE)Knight Grand Cross or Knight Grand Cross Red Branch of Eri (KGCRBE)Knight Supreme Grand Cross or Knight Supreme Grand Cross Red Branch of Eri (KSGCRBE)
Councils may elect a Brother a Man-at-Arms (ARBE) for exceptional service to their Council and who are not presently holding an elected office. Each year, a Council may elect up to two Brothers who hold office in a Council to the rank of Esquire (MRBE). For distinguished service to the AMD and having membership in the AMD for 7-years, each year a Council may honor up to two Brothers by investing them with the rank of Knight (KRBE). For those Brothers who have served or are currently serving as Sovereign Master of an AMD Council, they can be elected to be invested with the rank of Knight Commander (KCRBE). The rank of Knight Grand Cross (KGCRBE) is available for those Brothers who are Present or Past Grand Officers of the Grand Council. The rank of Knight Supreme Grand Cross (KSGCRBE) is for those Brothers who currently or have served as the Most Venerable Sovereign Grand Master of the Grand Council.
Like the Blue Lodge, the Red Branch of Eri presents the legendary history of the order and a series of lessons for the candidates being invested with the rank of Man-at-Arms, Esquire, and Knight. The ranks of Knight Commander, Grand Cross, and Supreme Grand Cross are not exemplified.
The basic organizational unit is known as a Faslairt and represents an encampment. Per the Constitution of the Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees of the USA, only Knight Commanders may preside over a Faslairt or serve as a governing official. Tradition holds that the Senior Knight Commander presides over the Faslairt which is composed of the following officers:
Commander or ChieftainArd BrehonArd CruimthearArd OllamFour BardsMaster of CeremoniesCaptain of the GuardHerald or BollasainStandard BearerSword BearerSentinelTrumpeter4 Knights
NOTE: 'Ard' and 'Knight' are used synonymously, though 'Ard' actually means 'High.'
The Jewel of the Order is a white Salem Cross having a red branch in leaf superimposed thereon, but not all wear this jewel. Each degree wears a slightly different regalia. Men-at-Arms (ARBE) wear a blue and white sash and their jewel is that of a red cross over a green wreath (see Fig 1).
Esquires (MRBE) wear a sash of green, white, and blue and their jewel is a green Templar cross suspended from a blue ribbon (see Fig 2).
Knights (KRBE) wear a yellow, green, white, and blue sash; a pocket jewel that depicts the motto "Erin Go Bragh" a circle surrounding a harp with an 8-pointed star; and they wear the jewel of the order suspended from a green ribbon (see Fig 3).
Knight Commanders (KCRBE) wears a sash of red, yellow, green, white, and blue; the same pocket jewel as Knights do; a gold Latin cross with clovers adorning it; and their jewel is a Patriarchal cross surmounted with a crown (see Fig 4).
Knights Grand Cross (KGCRBE) wear a sash of black, red, yellow, green, white, and blue; a pocket jewel that depicts the motto "Erin Go Bragh" looped around a Patriarchal cross embossed upon a style of a Maltese cross; and they wear the same jewel as Knight Commanders (see Fig 5).
Knights Supreme Grand Cross (KSGCRBE) wears a pocket jewel that depicts the motto of the order which surrounds a Salem Cross surmounted with a cross, and a collar from which a Salem cross surmounted with a crown is suspended (see Fig 6).
According to legend, the Red Branch of Eri traces its history back to ancient Ireland. An ancient book known as 'The Annals of the Four Masters of Ireland' tells of the Knights of the Collar of Eri as instituted by King Eamhium and his eight princes over the armies of the four provinces of Ireland, i.e.: Ulster, Munster, Leinster, and Connaught. In these ancient times, there seem to have been multiple knighthoods and this order seems to be an amalgamated descendant of those knighthoods.
As to the modern history of the order, Worshipful Brother F. G. Irwin, of Inhabitants Lodge No.178, received the order in 1858 from the O'Donnell family who had passed it down father to son. W:.Bro. Irwin would go onto restore and reorganize the order in England under the aegis of the Grand Mur-Ollamham; the name "Mur-Ollamham" translates as "College of the Learned." Bro. John Yarker of England would preside over the "English Revival Order of the Red Branch of Eri" and whose ritual is currently used. In 1933, John R. Shute and William M. Brown, both Past Sovereign Grand Masters, obtained permission from England to establish the order in the US.
1. Article XX, Constitution. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Council, Allied Masonic Degrees, USA: https://www.amdusa.org/downloads/AMD.Constitution.Draft.pdf
2. Dominic, J. (2016, October 31). Royal Order of the Red Branch of Eri. Retrieved from Doylestown Lodge 245: https://www.doylestownmasons.org/royal-order-of-the-red-branch-of-eri/#:~:text=Legend%20says%20that%20the%20Royal,Ireland%20possessed%20highly%20developed%20literature.
3. Moore, T. (1835). The History of Ireland. Paris: Baudry's European Library. Retrieved from https://highlander.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Thomas-Moore-History-of-Ireland-Vol-1.pdf
4. Red Branch of Eri. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Council, Allied Masonic Degrees, USA: https://www.amdusa.org/degrees/RBE.html