The White Swan Lodge
In the heart of London, England, there are a small number of lodges that are not under the jurisdiction of the United the Grand of England, in fact they are not English lodges at all. Two of these lodges are French lodges, the other one being a lodge under the Grand Lodge of Italy. One of the French lodges operates under the Grande Loge de France, and has been meeting in England for a number of years. It was named the White Swan Lodge, according to their website, after a pub in Coulsdon, Surrey, where the French Resistance met during World War II. The lodge history puts forward that In this pub, Maurice Druon and his uncle Joseph Kessel wrote the ‘Chant Des Partisans’ – the memorable hymn of the French Resistance against Nazi occupation. Druon and Kessel went on to be notable French writers after the war, Druon being the author of The Accursed Kings, a novel which depicts the death of the last Grand Master of the Knight Templars, and how King Philip the Fair was cursed by the Grand Master Jacques de Moley. Kessel is famous outside of France for writing the novel Belle de Jour, which was adapted as a film in 1967. The White Swan Lodge No. 1348, is described on its website as a lodge of St John of the Grande Loge de France, working in the French language, in London, being independent and self-governing, working the three Craft or Blue degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. They meet monthly in alternate places in London, sometimes meeting at Hexagon House in Surbiton, south-west London.
However, in a 2004 interview with the BBC, Druon indicated that the French hymn was actually written in a golfing club hotel called Ashdown Park, which was a bit further south from the village of Coulsdon, down the A23 near Hooley (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3599837.stm), and there is no White Swan in Coulsdon. There is a White Swan in Twickenham, which is not too far a distance from Coulsdon, but there is no current known association there to the writing of the hymn on the premises. A search around the internet will find conflicting stories about where the hymn was written, and some support the White Swan story, while others merely state the hymn was written in London. Historically, there was a lodge that once met at the White Swan Inn at Norfolk in the eighteenth century, and there are a number of White Swan pubs in and around London. What is interesting is that the Swan is a symbol of strength, wisdom and purity, a somewhat majestic symbol that represents the attainment of balance, something that reflects the sacrifice and courage of the French Resistance in the face of the Nazis who occupied France.
The other French lodge that operates in London is Hiram Lodge, which works under the Grand Orient de France, and accepts both men and women. This particular lodge has been meeting in London since 1899, and, like the White Swan Lodge, still meets as a French speaking lodge and sometimes meets at Hexagon House in Surbiton. I find it interesting how there are Masonic lodges operating to serve both men and women from other countries and cultures within London, working in different languages and conducting their ritual in diverse and wonderful ways. Having an equal measure of mystery and diversity and a balance of harmony and beauty brings me back to the symbol of the swan – what better name for a lodge.
The same article in French can be found here.