Two years after the formation of the Orange Order in 1795, the Royal Black Institution came into existence in Ireland in 1797 with its foundations based firmly on scriptural truths and the propagation of the Christian Reformed Faith.
Unfortunately, records covering the immediate intervening years are scant, however, the earliest printed record available is dated 1858. This was printed and published at the Downpatrick Offices of “The Downshire Protestant”
From that period the printed annual reports of the proceedings of the Institution are available and provide valuable insights into the progress of the Royal Black Institution throughout the English-speaking world in its initial formative years and afterwards.
It was on September 14th 1846, at a meeting held in Portadown, that the Royal Black Institution was placed on a permanent base through its re-constitution. From that point in time the Institution was infused with new life, vitality, inspiration and discipline, a foundation, which has helped it stand the test of time and helped greatly in expanding the Institution to the worldwide membership that exists today.
The tiered structure of the Institution has its foundation in the local Preceptory, which is known as the Royal Black Preceptory or RBP for short. Each Preceptory has a unique number, which is allocated by the governing body when a new warrant is issued.
The Preceptory elects officers who represent their membership at the next tier, namely a District Chapter. Officers from the various local District Chapters come together and form a County or Provincial Grand Chapter.
The Officers of the various County or Provincial Chapters constitute the membership of the governing body known as the Imperial Grand Council. This Council is recognised by all members of the Imperial Grand Black Chapter of the British Commonwealth, which is the title of the Institution. This is the title inscribed on all warrants, certificates correspondence etc. However, the Institution is commonly referred to as the Royal Black Institution.
One of the Institution’s most colourful and well-attended events is the annual demonstration at Scarva in Co. Down, Northern Ireland, held traditionally on the 13th of July each year. Preceptories from Portadown, Newry, Tandragee, Markethill,, Banbridge, Rathfriland and Lower Iveagh take part along with many national and international visitors.
Other demonstrations attended by the majority of Preceptories in Northern Ireland are organised on the last Saturday in August each year, usually across six different venues.
A demonstration is also organised on the second Saturday in August in Fermanagh attended by Preceptories from Fermanagh, Cavan Donegal and Monaghan as well as one in Scotland attended by all the Scottish Preceptories.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the Royal Black Institution is poised to continue its valuable role in maintaining its witness for the Christian Reformed Faith and fostering friendly relations among people of a common heritage on what is truly a worldwide scale.