A tentative reconstruction of a “Standard Original” version of the Old Charges
Taken from the 1986 Prestonian Lecture “The Old Charges”
By Dr. Wallace McLeod
Part Seven – Nimrod
And at the making of the Tower of Babylon, there was Masonry first made much of. And the King of Babylon, Nimrod, was a Mason himself and loved well the craft, as is said with the Master of Stories. And when the city of Nineveh and other cities of the east should be made, Nimrod, the King of Babylon, sent thither sixty Masons at the rogation of the King of Nineveh his cousin. And when he sent the forth he gave them a charge on this manner: That they should be true each of them to other; and that they should love truly together; and that they should serve their lord truly for their pay, so that he might have worship for sending them to him. And other charges he gave them; and this was the first time ever any mason had any charge of his Craft.
Part Eight – Euclid
Moreover, when Abraham and Sara his wife went into Egypt, and there he taught the seven sciences to the Egyptians; And he had a worthy scholar that was Euclid, and he learned right well, and was master of all the seven sciences. And in his days it befell that the lords and estates of the realm had so many sons that they had gotten, some by their wives and some by other ladies of the realm, for that land is a hot land, and plenteous of generation, that they had no competent livelihood to find their children, wherefore they made much care. And when the King of the land made a great council and a parliament, to wit how they might find their children, and they could find no good way, And then they did cry throughout the realm, if there were any man that could inform them, that he should come unto them, and he should be well rewarded for his travel, that he should hold himself well pleased.
Part Ten – Euclid’s Charge
And he gave them a charge on this manner. The first was that they should be true to the King and to the lord that they served. And that they should love well together, and be true each one to other. And that they should call each other his fellow or else his Brother, and not servant nor his knave, nor none other foul name. And that they should truly deserve for their pay of the lord or master that they serve. And that they should ordain the wisest of them to be Master of the Work, and neither for love nor great lineage nor riches nor favour, to set another that have hath little cunning to be Master of the lord’s work, whereby the lord should be evil served and they ashamed. And also that they should call the governor of the work Master in the time that they work with him. And other many more charges that are too long to tell. And to all these charges he made them swear the great oath that men used at that time. And ordained for them reasonable pay that they might live honestly by. And also that they should come and assemble together every year once, how they might work best to serve their lord for his profit and their own worship. And to correct within themselves if they had trespassed. And thus the Craft grounded there. And that worthy clerk gave it the name of Geometry; and now it is called Masonry.
Part Eleven – David
Thereupon long after, when the children of Israel were come into the land of Behest, that is now called amongst us the Country of Jerusalem, King David began the temple that is called Templum Domini (Temple of the Lord), and is named with us the temple of Jerusalem. And the same King David loved well Masons, and cherished them much, and gave them good pay. And he gave them the charges and manners as he had it out of Egypt, given by Euclid, and other charges more that ye shall hear afterwards.
Part Twelve – Solomon
And after the decease of King David, Solomon, that was son unto David, performed out the temple that his father had begun. And he sent after Masons of divers lands, and gathered them together, so that he had fourscore thousand workers of stone, and were all named Masons. And he had three thousand of them that were ordained to be Masters and Governors of his Work.
And there was a King of another region that men called Hiram, and he loved well King Solomon, and gave him timber to his work. And he had a son called Aynon, and he was master of Geometry, And was chief Master of all his Masons, and master of all his graving and carving, and of all other manner of Masonry that belonged to the temple. And this Witnesseth the Bible, in Libro Regum tertio, caputulo quinto ( Book of Kings in the third time, in the fifth chapter). And this same Solomon confirmed both charges and manners that his father had given to Masons. And thus was that worthy Craft of Masonry confirmed in the country of Jerusalem and in many other kingdoms.
Part Thirteen – Charles of France
Curious craftsmen walked about full wide into divers countries, some because of learning more craft, and some to teach their craft. And so it befell that there was a curious mason named Naymus Grecus, that had been at the making of Solomon’s temple. And he came into France, and there he taught the science of Masonry to men of France. And there was one of the royal line of France named Charles Martell. And he was a man that loved well such a craft, and drew to this Naymus Grecus abovesaid, and learned to him the Craft, and took upon him the charges and manners. And afterwards, by the Grace of God, he was elect to be King of France. And when he was in his estate he took many Masons, and did help to make men Masons that were none, and set them on work, and gave them both charges and manners, and good pay, as he had learned of other Masons; and confirmed them a charter from year to year, to hold their assembly, and cherished them much. And thus came the Craft into France.
Part Fourteen – St. Alban
England in all this season stood void of any charge of Masonry, until the time of Saint Alban. And in his days, the King of England, that was a pagan, did wall the town about that is know called Saint Albans. And Saint Alban was a worthy knight, and was chief steward with the king, and had the governance of the realm, and also of the making of the town walls; And he loved well Masons, and cherished them much. And he made their pay right good, standing as the realm did then; For he gave them two shillings sixpence a week, and threepence to their nuncheons (refreshments). And before that time throughout all the land a Mason took but a penny a day and his meat, until saint Alban amended it. And gave them a charter of the king and his council for to hold a general council, and gave it the name of assembly; And there at he was himself; and helped to make Masons, and gave them charges, as you shall hear afterwards.
Part Fifteen – Athelstan and Edwin
Right soon after the decease of Saint Alban there came great wars into England of divers nations, So that the good rule of Masonry was destroyed until the time of King Athelstan, that was a worthy King in England, and brought the land into good rest and peace, and builded many great works of abbeys and castles and divers other buildings. And he loved well Masons, and he had a son that was Edwin, and he loved Masons much more than his father did. And he was a great practiser in Geometry, wherefore he drew him much to commune and talk with Masons, and to learn of them the Craft. And afterward, for love that he had to Masons and to the Craft, he was made a mason. And he got of the King his father a charter and a commission, to hold every year once an assembly where they would within the realm, and to correct within themselves faults and trespasses that were done within the Craft. And he held himself an assembly at York; and there he made Masons, and gave them charges, and taught them manners, and commanded that rule to be holden ever after, and gave them the charter and commission to keep, and made an ordinance that it should be renewed from King to King.