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Speaker's Chair

Object name: Speaker's Chair
Artist: Augustus Welby N. Pugin
Maker: Harry Hems & Sons (Great Britain)
Sculptor: William Leonard Jones and others
Date: 1921
Material: Oak; velvet
Dimensions: 407.5 x 165.1 x 121.9 cm
Catalogue no.: O-1685

The Speaker's Chair is an exact replica of the original Speaker's Chair designed by Augustus W. N. Pugin for the British House of Commons around 1849. The Members of the United Kingdom Branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association presented the Chair to the Canadian House of Commons on May 20, 1921. The gift of a permanent Speaker's Chair ended a long tradition for the House of Commons. Since 1874, each outgoing Speaker had been presented with the elaborate chair or throne from which he had presided over sessions of the House.

The masterly carved gothic Speaker's Chair is surmounted by an overhead canopy featuring the Royal Arms sculpted from an original piece of oak taken from the roof of Westminster Hall (1397). The front pinnacles of the canopy bear the monogram "VR" (Victoria Regina). Below the canopy, on a back chamfered panel, there are two important symbols of authority: the sceptre surmounted by a dove (justice and equity), and the mace on a background of intertwined cords and oak leaves with acorns. The exterior sides of the chair feature seven Latin mottoes on a ribbon twisted around a delicate vine. The mottoes include: "NEC PRECE NEC PRETIO" ("Neither by entreaty nor reward"), or "LIBERTAS IN LEGIBUS" ("Liberty lies in the law").

In 1926, the Members of the United Kingdom Branch made a similar gift to the Australian House of Representatives. However, the second replica had not only a piece of oak from the roof of Westminster Hall, but also from Nelson's Flagship, the H.M.S. Victory. This has lead to some confusion regarding the oak content of the Canadian Speaker's Chair.

The carved oak and ebony screen behind the Speaker's chair was designed by architect John A. Pearson and made in Great Britain by Haughton Bros., in 1921.

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