The members of lodge Willem Fredrik enjoy its vibrant, creative and dynamic energy. There are no splintered factions and we thoroughly enjoy our craft together. Our lodge has almost doubled in size over the past decade to around 50 members currently. To facilitate this growth, and strengthen the vertical bonds of the lodge, each new member is appointed a personal mentor. A system that has proven to work very fondly, for both new and older members. The lodge organises two visits to foreign lodges per year, also to strengthen the ties amongst it’s members, which is important for a growing lodge, but also to strengthen the historic relations with lodges throughout Europe. We pay attention to instruction on the rituals an to knowledge and skills to ensure continuity and safeguard the future. The lodge has grown quickly, but more importantly, we’ve hardly lost anyone along the way.
Willem Fredrik is men only and generally of higher education, but fortunately it’s members do represent a wide diversity of different lifestyles, world views and nationalities. We welcome new members with a different profile, colourful and of any creed. Exceptional in our lodge is the relatively large amount of members living and working abroad, and international members living and working in Amsterdam.
Members of our lodge represent many generations and are aged from their early thirties to in their nineties. We pride ourselves in the very amicable and fond relationships between younger and older brothers. The ‘seniors’ safeguard the knowledge and skills, and are the gatekeepers of history, the perseveres of knowledge and the coaches. The ‘younger’ generation provides new officers and performers. Together we are building towards a new future.
Loge ‘Willem Fredrik’ positions itself where tradition and modernity meet, which seems like two oceans colliding. But what seem like opposites, do not always have to clash. Private ritual craft, yet very much engaged with the world; ancient symbols, yet progressive discourse on the themes of our time. Together, the lodge crafts a philosophical and practical perspective on developments in society, technology, economy, science and culture. The seemingly contradictory approach help provide the dynamics and energy, that characterise Willem Fredrik.
Although we are fully engaged with the world, our meetings are private, secret if you will. A notion that has become almost radical; that in a day and age where almost everything is publicly visible and monitored, there are still havens where privacy and free thought are respected and valued.
On a practical notion, the lodge has introduced several new elements over the past few years as well:
Lodge Willem Fredrik is inspired by the spirit, values and courage of the freemasons of the Enlightenment. We aim for masonic depth, but also feel the duty to be personally relevant in this day and age through what we do
Characteristic for lodge Willem Fredrik is perhaps it’s unruliness through the ages, “Willem Fredrik as ‘enfant terrible’ of freemasonry in Amsterdam.
In 1810, the Kingdom of Holland was annexed by the French Empire. French troops led by Marshal Oudinot, Duke of Reggio, occupy Amsterdam and French officers and soldiers settle in the city. Among them are many freemasons.
Soon after the annexation Amsterdam has four active French lodges. They can expect little sympathy from the four existing Amsterdam lodges. Especially the lodge “Saint Napoleon” is a thorn in the side of the Amsterdam brothers. This lodge was founded on October 15, 1810, with Marshal Oudinot as honorary chairman. The short but turbulent existence of “Saint Napoleon” (1810 – 1813) is in itself worthy of a study. For example, Vice Admiral De Winter, who was a prominent member of the Saint Napoleon, is in the Paris Panthéon buried because of great merits for the Empire, as the only Dutchman in history.
Following Napoleon’s failed Russian campaign in 1812, prominent Orangist Freemasons in Amsterdam start preparation for the restoration of Dutch rule. They want to establish a special lodge for this, operating under the French Grand Orient. They fail at doing so, and in stead join the lodge “Saint Napoleon. From that moment onwards, “Saint Napoleon” is becoming more a more a Dutch and Orangist lodge.
When the Napoleonic reign falls in the Netherlands, the French lodges have little reason to exist in Amsterdam. The later King William I gives permission to “Saint Napoleon” to bear his name in 1813. This is done through the advocacy of a member of the Saint Napoleon, and of the son of the new sovereign ruler. Thus, becoming lodge ‘Willem Fredrik’ (without a second ‘e’ in Frederik, because unity spelling does not exist yet). In this way, the future king secures the support of a lodge that has many members in prominent places of governance, which is available asset during the turbulent transition from French to Dutch rule.
Despite the patronage of King William I and the honorary presidency of the future King William II, lodge Willem Fredrik faces much opposition while switching to the Dutch Order of Freemasons from the four original Amsterdam lodges. But on June 12, 1814 the junction is at last a reality.
According to Floor Meijer (in ‘World Citizens: Freemasons and the city of Amsterdam’) lodge Willem Fredrik was “by far the most fancy lodge of Amsterdam” during most of the 19th century. An important reason for this was the long presidency of Public Lawyer, politician and writer Jacob van Lennep. For a long time the lodge was known as “the aristocratic lodge ‘, a title which it kept mainly due to the strict manner of balloting. Because of this, and its reluctance to cooperate with other lodges, gave it the reputation of being an “haughty outsider’. During the era of Lennep, who was a close family friend of the royal House of Orange, and thanks to membership in the lodge of King William II, the lodge temporarily took distance from its French origin.
During most of the 19th century, lodge Willem Fredrik is a principal representative of a conservative movement within Freemasonry, which as a whole is in transition. The lodge maintains the playful 18th-century atmosphere of the lodge as a playground for the urban elite. Besides the ritual work, the lodge greatly values the table lodges, the diners at the conclusion of the lodge activities, that traditionally serve to strengthen the fraternal bond, which at that time were seen as an increasingly objectionable relic of more frivolous times.
In the late 19th century, against the trend, Willem Fredrik is going through very turbulent times, and a new progressive perspective focused at the rapid developments in society takes hold. Floor Meijer writes: “Around 1880 Willem Fredrik turned into the most progressive Amsterdam lodge and it became the center of a social and community-oriented movement within the Dutch order. Where lodge Willem Fredrik in earlier decades exceeded the other lodges in conservatism, they now far exceeded her sister lodges in progressive focus”
In 1905 Loge Willem Fredrik moves into a new lodge building, purchased by a member of Willem Fredrik, on the Vondelstraat 39-41. After the Imperial Kolfbaan, Diligentia, Frascati, Odeon, Krasnapolsky and Keizersgracht 444-446 the lodge finds a permanent place. At the moment, this lodge building, that was thoroughly renovated in 2012, is home to all the lodges in Amsterdam.
In light of the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Willem Fredrik cancels the celebration of its centenary. In stead, on August 4, 1914 the lodge building is offered to the Red Cross and led by General L. van Lier, Director of Military Medical Service and a member of Willem Fredrik, and converted into hospital. Wards, an operating room and a pharmacy are equiped with funds from the Amsterdam lodges.
In the period between 1918 and 1939 the lodge is doing very well. But nevertheless anti-masonic propaganda is rising throughout Europe from religious and political corners. At the 125th anniversary of the lodge in 1939 there is a bleak sense of expectation.
On September 4, 1940 the Germans prohibit all Masonic activities. The lodge building in the Vondelstraat is expropriated and occupied by NSB and SS. Who wants to refer to ‘Willem Fredrik “, now speaks of ‘Wynand Fockink’, the name of a local distillery in Amsterdam with the same initials. The brothers of ‘Willem Fredrik’ defiantly continue to meet each other, disguised as a ninepins club, at the Parkhotel, a headquarters of the enemy.
After the arrest of several Amsterdam brethren the ninepins club is temporarily “retired” and quietly reopens elsewhere. The club remains active throughout the war and even keeps existing until the late eighties for sports. The lodge is not unscathed from the war. Many members do not survive the war or spend it in captivity.
After the war, the lodge can successfully re-focus. Willem Fredrik reclaims it’s former strength for the first decades, and at its peak it has over 120 members. A rapidly changing world, increasing individualization and natural regression attribute to a much smaller lodge of very modest numbers at the beginning of the 21st century.
At the beginning of this century the outlook for Willem Fredrik seems rather bleak. The lodge draws few new members and has trouble keeping them on board. In hindsight this existential crisis unearthed the best side of the lodge. The spirit for restoration of the lodge and a new fervour were reborn then. With nothing to lose, the lodge chose not to go gentle into that good night. To extinguish the lights, or masonic reinvention, that was the question! Since then, the lodge has doubled in numbers to around 50 currently
On 1st November 2014, lodge Willem Fredrik celebrated it’s 200 year centenary with a double initiation according to a brand new, more historic and dramatic ritual followed by a festive dinner attended by over 100 freemasons from all corners of Europe.
Lodge Willem Fredrik is perhaps still the enfant terrible of the Amsterdam freemasonry: unruly, drawing from a grand history and tradition, a focus on the future, with it’s heart in the right place. A lodge to love.