Ceremonial maces in the United Kingdom
Ceremonial maces in the United Kingdom began as lethal weapons of medieval knights, evolving into ceremonial objects carried by sergeants-at-arms, and now represent a monarch's authority in parliaments and councils, and at the State Opening of Parliament and British coronations.
Some British universities also have their own mace for ceremonial purposes.
- 1 Crown Jewels
- 2 England
- 3 Scotland
- 4 Wales
- 5 Ireland
- 6 Northern Ireland
- 7 Universities
- 8 References
- 9 Bibliography
- 10 External links
In the late 17th century, there were 16 royal maces in the Crown Jewels, but only 13 survive, 10 of which are on display in the Jewel House at the Tower of London. The other three are on permanent loan to the Houses of Parliament. All are of a type adopted, with slight variations, by Charles II at the Restoration of the monarchy. Two maces from the Jewel House are carried in the royal procession at State Openings of Parliament and coronations. Each mace has a core of oak, around which 13 silver-gilt parts fit together. At the top is either a small crown or a monde and cross pattée; below that are four crown arches, a coronet, a plate engraved with the coat of arms (facing upwards), a cup-shaped head with the royal cypher, a bracket of scrolls, a knop, the upper stem, a knop, the lower stem, a knop (in two halves), and the butt.
The maces in the Jewel House are numbered 1–10:
|1||c. 1670||Charles II||1.57 m (5.2 ft)||10.17 kg (22.4 lb)||Probably made for the English House of Commons||31784|
|2||1660–61||Charles II||1.38 m (4.5 ft)||7.29 kg (16.1 lb)||One of 13 made for Charles II's coronation||31781|
|3||c. 1685||James II||Francis Garthorne||1.6 m (5.2 ft)||10.8 kg (24 lb)||One of three made for James II's coronation||31785|
|4||c. 1685||James II||Francis Garthorne||1.6 m (5.2 ft)||10.6 kg (23 lb)||One of three made for James II's coronation||31786|
|5||c. 1689||William III and Mary II||Robert Cooper?||1.56 m (5.1 ft)||10.65 kg (23.5 lb)||Made for William and Mary's coronation||31791|
|6||c. 1689||William III and Mary II||Robert Cooper?||1.54 m (5.1 ft)||10.35 kg (22.8 lb)||Made for William and Mary's coronation||31792|
|7||c. 1692||William III and Mary II||Francis Garthorne||1.67 m (5.5 ft)||9.86 kg (21.7 lb)||Probably made for the Irish House of Commons||31788|
|8||c. 1689||William III and Mary II||Francis Garthorne||1.65 m (5.4 ft)||11.15 kg (24.6 lb)||Made for William and Mary's coronation||31787|
|9||c. 1674||Charles II||Francis Garthorne||1.48 m (4.9 ft)||10.13 kg (22.3 lb)||Originally made for the English Lord Chancellor's
Sergeant-at-Arms; sent to Ireland for use by the
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1692
|10||c. 1670||Charles II||1.51 m (5.0 ft)||9.35 kg (20.6 lb)||Sent to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1692||31789|
Houses of Parliament
In the Houses of Parliament, two ceremonial maces represent the monarch's authority. The monarch is referred to as the "third part of Parliament" and signs Bills into law. Parliament cannot lawfully sit, debate, or pass any legislation without a mace being present in the chambers. They are carried into and out of the two chambers in procession at the beginning and end of each day.
The House of Lords has two maces, one of which is carried by the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod and placed behind the Lord Speaker on the Woolsack before the House sits. All members are required to bow their heads to the mace upon entering the chamber. It is absent when the monarch delivers his or her speech from the throne at State Openings of Parliament. The other mace accompanies the Lord Chancellor on official duties outside the House of Lords. Mace A was made in the reign of Charles II c. 1672, is 1.56 m (5.1 ft) long and weighs 11.21 kg (24.7 lb). Mace B was made in the reign of William III and Mary II in 1695, is 1.58 m (5.2 ft) long and weighs 11.82 kg (26.1 lb).
In the House of Commons, a mace, carried by the Serjeant-at-Arms, is placed on brackets at the end of the Table of the House in front of the Speaker. When the Commons sits as a Committee of the Whole House, or when Finance Bills are discussed, the Mace sits under the table. The mace is 1.48 m (4.9 ft) long and weighs 7.96 kg (17.5 lb). It was made in 1660, but was refurbished in 1767, and is one of five used in the Commons at various periods since the Restoration: from 1660 to 1670, 1678 to 1690, and 1825 to the present day.
On the rare occasion that a monarch addresses both houses in Westminster Hall, for example in 2012 for Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee, the Lords and Commons maces are both present, and are covered with a red and a green cloth respectively as he or she enters the hall.
Incidents with the Mace in the House of Commons
In 1653, during the Rump Parliament, Oliver Cromwell derided the mace as a "fools' bauble" and ordered his troops to take it away. In the 20th and 21st centuries, MPs have used the symbolism of the mace to make various protests.
In 1930, John Beckett, a member of the Labour Party, was suspended from the House of Commons for showing disrespect to the mace by trying to leave the chamber with it as a protest against the suspension of another member; it was wrested from his grip at the door.
In 1976, Michael Heseltine, a member of the Conservative Party, seized the mace from the table and held it above his head after Labour MPs on the government side started to sing "The Red Flag", the traditional anthem of the Labour Party, during a heated debate on the controversial Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, which nationalised large parts of the UK aerospace and shipbuilding industries.
In 1988, Ron Brown, Labour MP for Leith, picked up the mace during a debate on the so-called poll tax and threw it to the floor in protest at the government's proposals. The mace was damaged, and Brown was ordered to pay £1,500 towards the cost of repairs.
In 2009, John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, in which Heathrow Airport is located, was suspended from the Commons after disrupting a debate on the proposed expansion of the airport. Following the Transport Secretary's announcement that the government had decided to approve a new runway without a vote in the Commons, McDonnell took the mace and dropped it on an empty bench. He was named by the Deputy Speaker and suspended from the Commons for five days for contempt of Parliament.
In 2018, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown, picked up the mace and walked towards the chamber's exit in protest at Prime Minister Theresa May's delaying of the meaningful vote on a Brexit deal in the Commons. A servant took the mace from him and put it back before he could leave. He was ordered to withdraw from the house for the remainder of the sitting. Russell-Moyle told the press "they stopped me before I got out of the chamber and I wasn't going to struggle with someone wearing a huge sword on their hip".
The Mace of the City of London
The Lord Mayor of London is preceded by both a Mace Bearer and a Serjeant-at-Arms. This is only for his status as head of the City of London Corporation: as an alderman he is also accompanied, as are the other 25 aldermen, by his ward beadle, carrying the ward mace. All are displayed and used on the City's eight grand ceremonial occasions of each year. There are many more maces in store than the current number in use, because each division of the wards and their parishes also had its own mace. The City also has a Crystal Sceptre, not strictly a mace, made of crystal and gold set with pearls; the head dates from the 15th century, while the mounts of the shaft are older, dating from the early Middle Ages. These various maces take many forms and are from different periods, but most are no earlier than the Restoration of Charles II. A mace of a most unusual form from that period is that of the Tower Ward of London, whose head resembles the White Tower in the Tower of London, complete with tiny cannons.
In 2017, the City of London mace travelled with the Lord Mayor to Dublin, Ireland, as a symbol of friendship between the two countries.
Other ceremonial maces
Mayoral and aldermanic maces are carried in ceremonial processions in other boroughs and cities throughout England as symbols of the authority of the mayor or lord mayor and council, although the office of alderman has largely been abolished. A mace is commonly of silver gilt, the largest examples being the great maces of the cities of Oxford, Winchester, and Newcastle upon Tyne.
In 1663, Charles II presented a silver-gilt mace to the Royal Society, which he founded in 1660. It is very similar to the maces used in the Houses of Parliament and has the royal cypher "C.R.". Most livery companies have their own mace, as do county councils throughout England.
The present Scottish Parliament has a silver mace, which was designed in 1999 and incorporates a gold wedding ring. The Scottish Parliament was presented with this mace by Queen Elizabeth II at the opening ceremony on 1 July 1999. It was designed and crafted by Michael Lloyd, a renowned silversmith who has a studio in south-west Scotland. The mace is constructed of Scottish silver with an inlaid band of gold panned from Scottish rivers. The gold band is intended to symbolise the marriage of the Parliament, the land, and the people. The words "Wisdom, Justice, Compassion, Integrity" are woven into thistles at the head of the mace to represent the aspirations of the Scottish people for the Members of their Parliament. The head of the mace bears the words: "There shall be a Scottish Parliament – Scotland Act 1998".
The Lord President's Mace (sometimes known as the Old Exchequer Mace) dates from 1667. It is made of gilt solid silver, measures 4 ft 8 inches and weighs 17 lb 5oz. In 1856, on the merging of the courts, it was transferred from the Court of Exchequer to the First Division of the Court of Session to be used by the Lord President. The mace remains in daily use in the court. The mace, and lesser ones used in the other courts, are borne by Macers, officers of the court who act as assistants to the judges. The Lord President's Mace is borne by the Falkland Macer. A new mace was presented to the Court in 2006.
The National Assembly for Wales has a gold, silver and brass mace which bears the Assembly's official symbol at its head. The mace was presented to the assembly by the Parliament of New South Wales at the ceremony to mark the official opening of the Assembly Building, the Senedd, in Cardiff on St David's Day in 2006. Melbourne goldsmith Fortunato Rocca was commissioned in 2002 to design it. The mace took 300 hours to craft and is made of gold, silver and brass. In 2006, it was worth around £10,500 (A$25,000) and was handed over to the National Assembly during the opening ceremony. Before then, the assembly used a glass, gold, iron and coal sculpture known as the "Tlws" as its mace. The Tlws was presented to the assembly by the Queen at the official opening of the First Assembly in 1999 and currently resides in the Siambr Hywel debating chamber in the Tŷ Hywel building adjoining the Senedd.
Ireland left the United Kingdom in 1922 and returned several maces to London. A mace made in 1765 for the Irish House of Commons was purchased by the Bank of Ireland in 1937 from the descendants of John Foster, its last Speaker, the House having ceased to exist upon the Acts of Union 1800. It is 1.5 m (58 in) long and weighs 8.4 kg (295 oz). The bank paid IR£3,100 for the mace at a Christies auction. In 2015, it represented Ireland at the 800th anniversary of the Lord Mayor's Show in the City of London.
The Great Mace of Dublin
The Great Mace of Dublin is used at major civic and ceremonial events alongside the Great Sword, such as when the Lord Mayor awards the honorary Freedom of the City. It was made in 1717 and contains parts of an earlier mace made for the city's first Lord Mayor, Sir Daniel Bellingham.
Some district councils in Northern Ireland, e.g. Belfast, also meet with maces present.
Ceremonial maces, symbols of the internal authority over members and the independence from external authority, are still used at many educational institutions, particularly universities. The University of St Andrews in Scotland has three maces dating from the 15th century. The university also has four other maces of a more recent origin. These are on permanent display at the Museum of the University of St Andrews. The University of Glasgow has one from the same period, which may be seen in its arms.
At the University of Oxford there are three dating from the second half of the 16th century and six from 1723 and 1724, while at the University of Cambridge there are three from 1626 and one from 1628. The latter was altered during the Cromwellian Commonwealth and again at the Stuart Restoration. The mace of the general council of the University of Edinburgh has a threesided head: one with the seal of the University, one with the university's coat of arms, and the third with the coat of arms of the City of Edinburgh. The wood for the shaft of the mace is from Malabar and was presented by the Secretary of State for India (R. A. Cross) at the First International Forestry Exhibition (1884). The mace of the Open University reflects its modernist outlook, being made from titanium.
- Dixon-Smith, et al., p. 12.
- Mears, et al., p. 8.
- Thorne, p. 33.
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- "Mace (No 4)". Royal Collection Trust. Inventory no. 31786.
- "Mace (No 5)". Royal Collection Trust. Inventory no. 31791.
- "Mace (No 6)". Royal Collection Trust. Inventory no. 31792.
- "Mace (No 7)". Royal Collection Trust. Inventory no. 31788.
- "Mace (No 8)". Royal Collection Trust. Inventory no. 31787.
- "Mace (No 9)". Royal Collection Trust. Inventory no. 31790.
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- Winchester Civic Silver, etc.,: "The Great Mace" states "1.6 metres" (or 5 ft 3 inches) (www.winchester.gov.uk)[not specific enough to verify]
- Newcastle Civic Insignia: "The Great Mace" states "4 ft 11 inches" (www.newcastle.gov.uk)[not specific enough to verify]
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- "St. Salvator's Mace". University of St Andrews. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
- "The General Council of the University of Edinburgh". Archived from the original on 19 June 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2012.
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- Media related to Ceremonial maces of the United Kingdom at Wikimedia Commons