All Candidates for Mark Masonry in England and Wales must be a Master Mason. In most other parts of the world membership of Mark Masonry is required before Exaltation into Royal Arch Masonry. The current Provincial Grand Master for the Mark Degree in Staffordshire & Shropshire recommends membership of Mark Masonry before becoming a Royal Arch Mason, a progressive and more logical step after Raising and prior to Exaltation into the Royal Arch. In fact during the ceremony of a making a Mark Master Mason the Candidate takes his 'fourth regular step in Freemasonry'. (quotation from the Advancement ritual)
An early form of Mark Masonry was practiced in Scotland before 1599 and records show the Degree being well established and worked in Durham in the 1750's. But the most quoted "first record" was when Thomas Dunkerley, Grand Superintendent in and over Royal Arch Masonry for several Provinces, conferred the degrees of Mark Man and Mark Master Mason at a Royal Arch Chapter in Portsmouth in 1769. Later the Mark Degree was also practiced in many Craft Lodges throughout England and Wales.
At the union of the Antients and Moderns Grand Lodges and the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813 the second Article of Union stated there would be 3 Degrees ONLY - the E.A., F.C., and MM. - including the Royal Arch. Thus the Mark Degree was excluded. For this reason, while in the rest of the world Mark Masonry became firmly attached to Royal Arch Chapters or Craft Lodges, in England it was proscribed until the 1850's. As Freemasonry spread across the globe in the 18th and 19th centuries Mark Masonry became well established and now has a worldwide presence. (The Grand Lodge of MMM's for England & Wales etc. has 8 Daughter Grand Lodges worldwide and is in amity with further 83 Grand Chapters and Grand Craft Lodges throughout the world, inc.UGLE) Following a failed attempt in 1856 to re-introduce Mark Masonry as part of English Craft Masonry the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons was set up to govern the Degree as an independent Sovereign body. The current Grand Master is HRH Prince Michael of Kent the younger brother to the Duke of Kent.