I am a conspiracy theorist. But I've grown to view the fixation on the Bavarian Illuminati as a bit of a distraction. They are relevant, but I think the greater narrative is less that they took over Freemasonry and more that older agendas within Freemasonry hijacked their methods. I've alluded to much of this before in Illuminati Vs Esoteric Freemasonry.
The source of the Conspiracy I believe in is British Freemasonry, and related institutions of the British Occult. I find it suspicions that England's Monarchy was the only one never toppled by the Masonic influenced Revolutions of the late 18th and 19th Centuries. Given how Organized Freemasonry began in Britain and then spread to other regions from there. A fact I make a point of talking about in England and Egypt.
1717 is the year the Premier Grand Lodge of England was founded. The same year George I became King establishing the House of Hanover. In the party system of England at that time the Whig Party was the party that was most allied with King George himself. It's interesting then how many notable Freemasons of this period, including Grand Masters, were Whigs. Philip Wharton was the most notable exception, he was an Early Grand Master, but was a Jacobite rather then a Whig. He also founded the original Hellfire Club, which has no provable connection to the more famous one.
Sir Robert Walpole was a Freemason, in fact it seems the Masons sometimes met in his residence.
He was a very important figure in the Whig party. He is considered both the first Prime Minister, and still the longest serving one, his ambitions pretty much created the office and made it rather then the King the real Head of State. His rise to power is also tied to The South Sea Bubble.
Many notable Freemasons of of the 18th Century, including Grand Masters, were members of the Royal Society first. Isaac Newton was in charge of the Royal Society from the beginning of the Century until his death in 1727. Newton is not known to have been a Freemason himself. But John Theophilus Desaguliers was a important early Grand Master and was also a student of Isaac Newton. Newton was involved in Alchemy and Rosicrucianism, which goes back to Sir Francis Bacon and his mentor John Dee. And among his occult studies was a fixation on studying the architecture of Solomon's Temple, an important theme of Freemasonry.
At the same time he ran the Royal Society he was also in charge of the Royal Mint. Newton is really the one who invented the Gold Standard. Contrary to what many Libertarians think Silver far more often then Gold was the standard unit of common currency for most of Human History. Just studying financial transactions in The Bible will show that. Gold was used mostly in really large transactions.
All these connections of Newton are probably why the authors of the Priory of Sion hoax made him one of it's Grand Masters. It's a Hoax I know full well is a Hoax but I can't help but be curious about the logic that went behind who they chose to make Grand Masters. At first it makes sense, people in positions to possibly care about an alternative claim to the French Throne, (besides two random Italians). But from 1595-1745 they are all Englishmen. Most of them part of England's occult history. Then two members of the House of Lorraine, then Frenchmen who weren't Monarchists at all.
Much has been written about how Espionage used to often be carried out via Occult Secret Society Circles, back before they had official Government Agencies like the CIA or MI6. Francis Walsingham spymaster of Queen Elizabeth is often credited with inventing modern espionage. There is reason to suspect John Dee served as a spy under him, and also Francis Bacon.
It is possible that within these circles there would also develop different factions driven by the different political factions England was divided into. Support for the new post Stuart monarchs allied with the Whigs, and Jacobites supporting the Stuarts who were often Catholic. But perhaps also Anti-Monarchists descended from various factions of the failed English Revolution. Like those I talked about on my other Blog about Libertarian-Communism.
The early development of organized Freemasonry in France and Italy can both be traced to English Freemasonry. Dilon claimed that Voltaire was initiated into a Lodge in England while he was there in his early life, but there is no real independent evidence to confirm that claim. The Count of Saint-Germain also first popped up in England. And Cagliostro founded his Memphis-Misraim lodge in England in 1776, then spread it all over the continent.
Sir Francis Dashwood who founded the famous Hellfire Club has no known connection to the original Hellfire Club. But like it's founder he was an enemy politically of Walpole. And while not openly a Jacobite there is reason to suspect he might have been one secretly. Also I know of no evidence he was a Freemason but he was a member of the Royal Society.
Benjamin Franklin makes at least one known overlap between the Hellfire Club and the Nine Sisters Lodge, a Lodge in France devoted to gaining French support for the American Revolution. And I've discussed on this blog before reasons to suspect a Jacobite connection to the American Revolution.
Nicolas Bonneville wrote books on Freemasonry while being involved
in Freemasonry in England before returning to France to be a vital
figure in the French Revolution. It seems he was friends with John Oswald, I don't know if he can be proven to have been a Mason.
Erasmus Darwin was a documented member of English Freemasonry, as was his brother and son. He was the Grandfather of Charles Darwin and Francis Galton, and actually anticipated their Pseudo-Scientific theories in his own writings.
In 1795-98 The Orange Lodge and Orange Order were founded, which could be viewed as the Anglican Church's counterpart to the Jesuits. It has been strongly politically involved in opposing both Irish and Scottish independence. And they encourage belief in British Israelism.
In the 19th Century it starts becoming common for the Grand Master to be a member of the Royal Family. The father of Queen Victoria was a Grand Master and very involved in reorganizing Masonry at the time. Later her son and Crown Prince would be Grand Master until he took the Throne and then the Grand Mastership was taken by his brother. The Grand Masters during World War II were a brother and brother in-law of the then reigning King. The current Grand Master is the heir of one of the WWII Grand Masters.
The movie From Hell is based on a Comic Book based on a real theory about Jack The Ripper and his murders being tied to Freemasonry and the Royal Family. Not sure if I think that theory is the correct one, but it's interesting.
Giuseppe Mazzini who was an important figure in both Italian Freemasonry and the Carbonari before creating his own Secret Societies (starting with Young Italy and Young Europa), was harbored in England and closely tied to Lord Palmerston, who had been Prime Minister, and had a complicated relationship with Napoleon III. Palmerston has been a focus of many conspiracy theory themed books. At the moment I do not know if it can be confirmed that he was a Freemason. But I know he wasn't the official Grand Master as Dilon made it sound.
Aleister Crowley was an Englishman. There is no proof he was a Mason like many claim. But the Secret Societies he was involved with before creating his own were ones founded by 19th Century English Freemasons, chiefly the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.