Royal Arch Masonry is the first part of the York Rite system of the Masonic degrees.
Royal Arch Masons meet as a Chapter, and the Royal Arch Chapter confers four degrees: Mark Master Mason, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason.
After the independence of the American Colonies in 1776, Freemasonry in the United States remained relatively little influenced by the rivalry between the “Antients” and “Moderns” in England. In 1797, a group of Royal Arch masons met in Hartford to try to establish some sort of governing body for degrees that were largely conferred in the New England states, which became the Grand Chapter of the Northern States, and later was broken down into the state-by-state Grand Chapter system. This body later became the General Grand Chapter, Royal Arch Masons International.
On 10 November 2004, the Grand Chapter of the Holy Royal Arch in England declared the Royal Arch to be a separate degree in its own right, albeit the natural progression from the third degree, and the completion of “pure, antient Masonry”, which consists of the three Craft degrees and the Royal Arch.Following this decision by the Grand Chapter in 2004, there are currently significant ritual differences between Royal Arch Masonry as worked in England and Royal Arch Masonry worked as part of the York Rite in the USA. Fraternal inter-relations remain as before.