Secrets of Royal Black Institution revealed
Secrets of Royal Black Institution revealed

Loyalist secret societies have “cultivated hatred and sectarianism” and should be disbanded, according to the author of a new book on the Royal Black Institution.

In the book, Inside the Royal Black Institution, Paul Malcomson takes issue with the secretive Protestant marching order’s interpretation of the bible and its use of teachings from non-biblical sources.

Paul Malcomson’s book exposes some of the hidden secrets, rites and mysteries of the institution which he says makes new recruits drink from a human skull cap as part of their first ‘initiation ceremony’.

Oaths taken by members feature “derogatory” terminology for Catholics and “there is a mindset within the orders that Catholics are a lesser creature, a lesser people”.

“It is elitism and to me that has fostered the paramilitary behaviour,” Paul Malcomson said.

“It has permeated and had a big impact on the Protestant psyche in Ulster for hundreds of years.”

Paul Malcomson said that to become a member of the Royal Black Institution one must first pass through the ranks of the larger Orange Order as well as the Royal Arch Purple Institution. He classes all three as ‘secret societies’.

“We live in a country where there’s a lot of sectarianism and hatred and it grieves me as a Christian to see the hatred of Catholics towards Protestants and Protestants towards Catholics and as someone who was brought up in the Protestant tradition I feel shame at the hatred that’s fostered by secret societies,” he said.

“I believe these institutions don’t need a reform they need to be disbanded.”

There are 500 preceptories (or branches) of the Royal Black Institution in Ireland and the author said the organisation claims to have 15,000 members.

He believes members have been falling away because there has been “a lot of division within the order” partly due to his first book Behind Closed Doors which looked at the Royal Arch Purple Institution.

The author is a former member of all three organisations and resigned several years ago “on biblical grounds”. He now works as an evangelical writer and speaker.

Mr Malcomson said the “higher you go” in these societies “the more you are accepted in loyalist and Protestant circles” and that, at one time, membership would have been beneficial in professional life.

He recalled belonging to “a workforce within a workforce”.

“It also helps your promotion within politics. Whenever you’re getting unionist election material through the post they’ll boast of their Orange, Royal Arch Purple and Royal Black membership. It’s a badge that gets them votes.

“The Royal Black is seen as more religious and more dignified than the Orange, it’s the respectable face of Orangeism. No outsider has ever known what’s going on behind closed doors.”

However, he said such organisations “nurtured sectarianism”.

“I know from experience, from being caught in that,” he said. “These orders are part of the problem, not part of the answer.”


There are 11 degrees that are conferred upon a member of the Royal Black Institution with the highest being the Red Cross degree which Paul Malcomson received.

The organisation says it is based on the teachings of scripture but Mr Malcomson said he has found this not to be the case, adding that “it is not Christian, not Protestant, not evangelical and not biblical”.

Among the practices and beliefs the book details are:

  • the drinking of a toast from a human skull and an oath to ‘Brother Joseph’. Candidates entering the first of the 11 degrees are also instructed in the presence of “exhumed” human remains - a skull and crossbones. The book argues that this all is “the complete antithesis of Christian worship” and there is “little or no difference between this and an occult ceremony”.

  • secret handshakes, knocks and passwords. To enter a meeting the individual must knock 1-2-3, 1-2-3, “in a swift staccato manner, there being a momentary gap after each 3”. The handshake “Is quite unusual” and involves both people bending the four fingers of the right hand slightly and allowing their thumbs to meet. They follow this by covering their clasped hands with their left hand. There is a changeable annual password taken from Scripture and given to members “to identify one member to another and to protect the secrecy of the order”

  • every recruit takes a lengthy oath that includes the following paragraph: “I will have such a sense of my duty as a Protestant that I will not marry a member of the Romanish Church or Papist, nor stand sponsor for the child of a Roman Catholic when receiving baptism by a priest of Rome nor permit a Papist to stand sponsor for my child at its baptism”

  • another oath warns members that if they “betray” the organisation he “deserves no better fate than that which befell Judas Iscariot”. According to the book “The warning directed towards the candidate is real and decidedly menacing”

    - Inside the Royal Black Institution is written by Paul Malcomson and is published by Evangelic Truth.

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