Francis Scott, 5th Earl of Dalkeith and 2nd Duke of Buccleuch, succeeded to his titles in 1724. The grandson of the 1st Duke of Monmouth, the eldest illegitimate son of Charles II who was beheaded by James II, Dalkeith was wealthy, well-connected and ardently pro-Hanoverian. He was rewarded with membership of the Privy Council in 1725 and investiture as a Knight of the Thistle, Scotland’s premier chivalric order.
Although he maintained a large house in London, Dalkeith lived principally at his castle on a large estate surrounding the town of Dalkeith, south-east of Edinburgh. And although absent in Scotland at the time, Dalkeith was declared Grand Master in June 1723 at a meeting of Grand Lodge at which Desaguliers presided as Deputy Grand Master:
The Ancient Society of Free and Accepted Masons … assembled to the Number of about 600 at Merchant Taylors’ Hall where they unanimously chose the Earl of Dalkeith their Grand Master for the year ensuing.
Dalkeith was present at subsequent meetings of Grand Lodge during his year in office and the following year named the Duke of Richmond, his cousin, as his successor.
The date and place of Dalkeith’s initiation as a freemason is unknown but he is listed in the 1723 Constitutions as Master of the Rummer, Charing Cross, Lodge XI in Anderson’s list of lodges. William Stukeley also recorded the duke’s attendance at the lodge at the Fountain Tavern in the Strand on 3 November 1723.
Dalkeith appointed Desaguliers his Deputy, and Francis Sorrel and John Senex as his Wardens, and under Dalkeith’s auspices Desaguliers re-established stability at Grand Lodge after Wharton’s disruptive year in office. He also began to centralise control over Freemasonry, with Grand Lodge resolving that no new Lodge nor its Master and Wardens would be recognised unless it had been regularly constituted by Grand Lodge. Moreover, ‘no Brother belonging to any lodge within the Bills of Mortality [would] be admitted to any lodge as a Visitor unless he be known to… that lodge’, nor any ‘Strange Brother, however Skilled in Masonry… without taking the Obligation over again’.