The Freemasons are causing something of a ruckus in Britain at the moment.

The United Grand Lodge Of England has taken out adverts in major newspapers, the Times, the Guardian, and the Daily Telegraph. In these adverts, the governing body of Freemasons complains about the ‘gross misrepresentation’ of Freemasons.

All this is in response to claims from outgoing chairman of the Police Federation, Steve White. In an interview with the Guardian, White claimed that Freemasons within the police were blocking reform:

“What people do in their private lives is a matter for them. When it becomes an issue is when it affects their work. There have been occasions when colleagues of mine have suspected that Freemasons have been an obstacle to reform.

“We need to make sure that people are making decisions for the right reasons and there is a need for future continuing cultural reform in the Fed, which should be reflective of the makeup of policing.”

White suggested that Freemason police members promoted less-qualified fellow Freemasons ahead of other candidates. As the Freemasons are a predominantly white male organisation, this has a knock-on effect on police diversity – he claimed.

The Guardian also reported that two Freemason lodges were located within Westminster, the centre of British politics.

One of these lodges, its report claims, is  for political journalists, while the other is for politicians. The Freemasons do not deny the existence of these lodges but claim their members are not politicians or journalists.

In the Freemason advert, chief executive Dr David Staples argued against the accusations. He cited the £33m charitable donations raised by the Freemasons in the UK last year. Staples also explained that any race, faith, age, class or political persuasion were welcome in the 300-year-old organisation.

He said there are currently 200,000 Freemasons in England and Wales and over 7,000 lodges.

The Freemasons handshake

Despite his defence of freemasonry, Staples refused to share the Freemasons handshake with viewers of BBC Breakfast where he was being interviewed this week. Staples claimed he had “promised” not to do so.

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Different handshakes are said to be offered by different orders of Freemasons. This YouTube video claims to show some of these handshakes.

The most famous Freemasons in history

Despite the scale of the freemasons organisation, it can be difficult to work out who is and who isn’t a member. This is partially because of secrecy of the organisation.

Here are the names of some famous figures alleged to be freemasons:

  • Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin American astronaut. Second human to set foot on Extra-Terrestrial soil.
  • Apathy stage name of underground rapper, born Chad Bromley.
  • Silvio Berlusconi, Italian media tycoon and politician, Prime Minister of Italy.
  • William F. Cody, a.k.a. Buffalo Bill.
  • Robert Burns, National poet of Scotland.
  • Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
  • Walter Chrysler, founder of Chrysler Corporation.
  • Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also known as Mark Twain. American author.
  • Nat King Cole, pianist and ballad singer.
  • Davy Crockett, 19th-century American folk hero, frontiersman, soldier and politician.
  • Walter “Walt” Elias Disney, founder of The Walt Disney Corporation.
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, British physician and author, creator of Sherlock Holmes.
  • Richard Dreyfuss, U.S. actor.
  • Gustave Eiffel, Designer and architect of the Eiffel Tower.
  • John Entwistle, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member of The Who.
  • Henry Ford, Founder of the Ford Motor Company.
  • Benjamin Franklin, American inventor and statesman.
  • Harry Houdini, escape artist.
  • Rudyard Kipling, UK author and poet, Lahore, India; founding member.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
  • Shaquille O’Neal, NBA basketball player.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt, U.S. President.
  • Harland Sanders, American businessman and founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  • George Washington, general, politician, and first President of the United States.
  • John Wayne, American actor.
  • Oscar Wilde, Irish playwright, novelist, and poet.
  • Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Husband of Queen Elizabeth II.