The Holy Royal Arch commonly referred to as a Chapter is an additional degree of Freemasonry.
A candidate for Exaltation into a Holy Royal Arch Chapter is required to have been a Master Mason for four weeks or more. In Scotland the candidate must also be a Mark Master Mason, a degree which can be conferred within Chapter if required. Once exalted a candidate becomes a companion, with Royal Arch meetings being described as a convocation.
The exact origins of the Holy Royal Arch are unknown except that it dates back to the mid 1700s.
The precise history of the Royal Arch is unclear, but from historical documentation it can be shown that Royal Arch existed in London, York and Dublin in the 1730s. At that time the degree was an appendage of the Master Mason's degree, but as with the Craft Freemasonry of the time, the Antients and Moderns held very different views on the Royal Arch. The Antients then regarded it as a fourth degree and conferred it as such together with various other degrees within their Lodges, maintaining that a Lodge Charter or Warrant empowered them to carry out any Masonic work.
The Moderns, however, regarded it as being separate from Craft Freemasonry and as early as 1766 constituted the Grand and Royal Chapter of the Royal Arch of Jerusalem, parent of the present Supreme Grand Chapter.
Earliest records indicate that HRA members of the premier Grand Lodge formed the first Grand Chapter by signing the Charter of Compact at its meeting on the 22nd July 1766. The Grand Chapter became The Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter of the Royal Arch of Jerusalem, the first Grand Chapter in the world.
The Holy Royal Arch is affiliated to many different constitutions worldwide, many of which place different emphasis on the order.
The Royal arch, not being a separate degree in Freemasonry confers no additional seniority on its members over members of Master Masons.
Chapters are ruled over by three Principals, who conjointly rule the Chapter, and the Grand Chapter is ruled over by three Grand Principals, with a Pro First Grand Principal when the First Grand Principal is a Royal Prince.
In addition to the three Principals, very much like Craft Lodges a Holy Royal Arch Chapter has elected and appointed officers with individual responsibilities within the Chapter.