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Posted: Monday Jan 23, 2012

January 23, 2012

Dr. Susan Mitchell Sommers, professor of history at Saint Vincent College in the School of Humanities and Fine Arts, has signed a contract to publish her book, Thomas Dunckerley and English Freemasonry, with Pickering and Chatto Publishers in London, England, later this year.

“Thomas Dunckerley (1720-1795) is an icon of British Freemasonry, whose story is a fascinating morality tale of identity, self-invention and self-deception in the late eighteenth century,” Dr. Sommers Said. “On the surface, Dunckerley was a real success story. He rose from obscurity to a 20-year career in the Royal Navy, the centerpiece of which was the famous Siege of Quebec. He retired from the navy to climb to the highest echelons of English Freemasonry, holding Grand Masterships and Provincial Grand Masterships across England and across Orders. He was a tender family man, an inspiring leader and an heroic patriot. He also had a secret. When Dunckerley was in his forties, his mother left a deathbed confession of her seduction and adultery, and his illegitimacy. As Dunckerley revealed his mother’s confession, his friends were thunderstruck to discover he was not the son of a porter at Somerset House, but of the late King George II. For his contemporaries and biographers, all good things in his later career seemed to flow from this revelation. His mother’s confession wasn’t Dunckerley’s real secret, however. What he actually hid, even from his wife of 50 years, was that the confession, the seduction, the hidden royal birth – were all lies – but so well-crafted that even now, more than 200 years after his death, they are still held as Masonic gospel. Until this book is published, that is.”

“In addition to the biographical subject of the book, the text deals with important sub-themes, including the changeable nature of personal identity in the 18th century, the history of the Royal Navy, the institutional development of English Freemasonry between 1750 and 1813 (the date of unification of the two rival Grand Lodges), the history of the Royal Family, and changing methodology and expectations with regard to biography,” Dr. Sommers continued. “Along the way, the manuscript also touches on changes in institutional record keeping over the course of the eighteenth century, the relationship of various Masonic degrees and Orders, women in Freemasonry, clandestine marriages and other brief but relevant discussions that render the text more accessible to a non-specialist audience."