The Honourable Francis Charteris
(later Lord Elcho)
The Hon Francis Charteris affiliated as a member of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning on 3 March 1779, when he was Depute Master of Lodge St John Kilwinning in Haddington.
He was Grand Master Mason from 1786 to 1788, and it was in this capacity that he attended a meeting of Lodge Edinburgh St Andrew on 12 Jan 1787 which, Robert Burns was believed also to be attending. The Master of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning, Alexander Fergusson of Craigdarroch was also in attendance as Provincial Grand Master of the Southern District.
As Robert Burns recounted to his friend John Ballantine in a letter on 14 January 1787: "The Grand Master who presided with great solemnity, and honour to himself as a Gentleman and a Mason, among other general toasts gave "Caledonia and Caledonia's Bard, Brother Burns" which rung through the whole assembly with multiplied honours and repeated acclamations. As I had no idea such a thing would happen, I was downright thunder struck, and trembling in every nerve made the best return in my power. Just as I finished, some of the Grand Officers said so loud as I could hear, with a most comforting accent, "Very well indeed," which set me something to rights again". However Burns letter of 14 January 1787, at the beginning of the 4th paragraph, reads as follows: “I went to a mason-lodge yesternight”
The Honourable Francis Charteris’s uncle, David, Lord Elcho had been implicated in the Jacobite uprising of 1745, and was attainted and so lost the right to inherit the title of Earl of Wemyss. David's father and Francis’s grandfather, the 5th Earl was Grand Master Mason at the time of the 1745 uprising.
Strictly speaking, The Honourable Francis Charteris’s father was not entitled to inherit the title because of his elder brother's involvement in the 1745 uprising, but became the de jure 7th Earl of Wemyss.
The Honourable Francis Charteris became Lord Elcho on his uncle's death in May 1787, just a few months after the date depicted in the painting. However, as The Honourable Francis Charteris died seven months before his father in 1808, he never inherited the title of Earl of Wemyss, which passed to his son, also Francis Charteris.
In 1826 the title was formally restored to this son who became the 8th Earl of Wemyss.
The (12th and current) Earl of Wemyss resides at Gosford House near Longniddry, East Lothian, about twelve miles east of Edinburgh. The large mansion was designed by Robert Adam (initiated into Freemasonry in Lodge Canongate Kilwinning) and built 1790-1800.
The Honourable Francis Charteris was party to an agreement between Lodge Canongate Kilwinning and Lodge St John Kilwinning of Haddington whereby each Lodge would recognise members of the other Lodge as members of their own, or in other words reciprocal membership.
This proposal was submitted to a committee in Lodge Canongate Kilwinning for consideration and agreed upon, thereby creating endless problems for subsequent historians in determining if an individual was a member of one Lodge or the other. Because of the reciprocal arrangement, an individual could be considered a member of the lodge at the time, but there may be no mention of him in the minutes. However, because The Honourable Francis Charteris had affiliated to Lodge Canongate Kilwinning before the agreement came into being, he is recorded as being a member in Lodge Canongate Kilwinning minutes.
The Honourable Francis Charteris signed the minute of the meeting of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning on 7th December 1786 when he attended the Lodge as Grand Master Mason together with his Grand Office Bearers.