The Fourth Degree was established shortly after the birth of our Order to serve a special purpose. Its aim then and now is to understand, nurture, celebrate and perpetuate our democratic society and its laws, privileges and rights. The Fourth Degree, in a special manner, fosters the spirit of patriotism, enlightened by our Catholic faith.
The first Exemplification of the new Degree was scheduled to be held in the Astor Hotel in New York City on February 22, 1900. However, there were so many candidates, the Exemplification had to be moved to a larger venue. Therefore the site was moved to the Lenox Lyceum. At this first Exemplification of the Fourth Degree 1,100 members of the Knights of Columbus, being in good standing "took their fourth." The second Exemplification, held in Boston on May 8, 1900 saw another 750 Third Degree knights join the ranks of Sir Knights.
In the early years of the Fourth Degree, members met as part of their councils, mostly after meetings. In 1910, during a reorganization of the Order's leadership, the first Assemblies were created. Additionally the position of Supreme Master was established to lead the Fourth Degree internationally. Vice Supreme Masters lead Provinces and Masters head Districts. This system has spread and flourished as Sir Knights not only serve their local Church through their service to local councils but also their joint efforts in these Assemblies. The Honour Guard, first called for in 1886 was officially formed in 1902, for ceremonial purposes. Since that time, the uniforms of the Colour Corps have varied, however all have shared the similar theme of mariners. Most noticeable in today's current uniform is the chapeau worn with ostrich feathers.
The Color Corps is an ELECTIVE division of the Fourth Degree, whose distinctive presence in parades, wreath-laying ceremonies, Confirmations and other Catholic functions is a visible reminder of our service to the community. The tuxedo, chapeau, cape and sword worn by the Color Corps were inspired by 19th century naval uniforms, with different cape colors representing nine different program ranks. The ceremonial sword symbolizes Christian Knighthood, and is carried to signify reverence to Church, Eucharist, country and freedom. Color Corps members wear the colors with pride, knowing they represent the very best of the Knights of Columbus.
On 28 February 1922 the Fourth Degree members of council No. 728, Kingston and No. 755, Cornwall organized to form an assembly. This new Assembly was named in honour of Archbishop James Vincent Cleary, 6th Bishop and 1st Archbishop of Kingston.