Thursday, May 19, 2022

‘New novel: Doneraile Court’

‘A young woman faces death when she’s caught spying on a dark and bloody secret initiation ritual. Based on a true story.’ Click here.

The following is not a book review, because I haven’t read the book, but I want to share the news of a fictionalized take on one of Masonic history’s oddest oddities. Speaking of Ireland (see post below), a newly published novel romanticizes the famous story of a lady who found herself initiated into Freemasonry one night several years prior to the birth of the grand lodge era.

Doneraile Court: The Story of the Lady Freemason by Kathleen Aldworth Foster is based on the singular occurrence of an Irish lodge making a Freemason of the teenaged Elizabeth St. Leger.

Doneraile Court was the home of the young lady and her family. For those who don’t know, during the embryonic period before lodges bought their own buildings, chose proper names, and were assigned sequential numbers by their grand lodges, they often met inside Masons’ homes. (It was the early years of the Accepted Mason.) This was the case of Bro. Arthur St. Leger (d. 1727) of Doneraile House, who was made 1st Baron Kilmayden and Viscount Doneraile in 1703 by Queen Anne. Not an average Joe.

Masonic meetings, attended by the baron’s sons and select close friends, convened inside a ground floor lodge room with an adjoining library. As some remodeling work was underway, certain walls were temporarily incomplete, and so Elizabeth, age either 17 or 19, was able first to hear, and then to see Masonic ritual work. She was discovered by the lodge tyler (his lordship’s butler), and the rest is the stuff of weird Free and Accepted anecdote.

As I said, I don’t have any idea what is contained in the pages authored by Ms. Aldworth Foster. For an impressively researched disquisition of the event and its aftermath, replete with family tree and house floor plan, I can refer you only to Bro. Edward Conder’s “The Hon. Miss St. Leger and Freemasonry,” published in AQC Vol. VIII (1895).

Ms. Aldworth Foster is an experienced journalist and publicist in New Jersey. Maybe someone should contact her to arrange a nice dinner and reading/signing event. (I just learned of her appearance four days ago at Soldato Books in Jersey.)

You are wondering about the Aldworth part. Yes, Elizabeth St. Leger married Richard Aldworth, becoming The Hon. Mrs. Aldworth. The author, in her publicity, says there is no family tie.

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