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The Mace: A Ceremonial Object Rich in History and Tradition

David Monaghan, Curator, Curatorial Services

Photo 1 - The Current Mace

The mace is one of the most important symbols that we inherited from the British parliamentary tradition and continue to use today. It is a massive sceptre, heavy and ornate, which is kept in the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms. It symbolizes the authority of the Speaker and the right conferred on the Commons by the Crown to meet and pass laws.

The mace used in the Canadian House of Commons (photo 1) is an almost exact replica of the one in the British House, apart from some typically Canadian decorative elements. Made of gilded silver, it measures 148.6 cm by 22.9 cm. The vase-shaped head consists of four panels bearing the Arms of Canada, the rose of England, the harp of Ireland and the thistle of Scotland. The initials ER (for Elizabeth Regina) are carved on each side of the panel. The head of the mace is in the shape of the Tudor crown, with the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom appearing on it in relief. Roses, shamrocks, thistles, fleurs-de-lys and maple leaves are carved on the staff.

Photo 2 - The Temporary Mace of 1916

The mace in use today dates from 1917 and replaced the original House of Commons mace that was destroyed in the Centre Block fire on February 3, 1916. A temporary mace (photo 2), made of painted wood and metal, was used until March 28, 1917, when the new mace was presented in London to Prime Minister Robert L. Borden. Since the 1980s, the temporary mace is used when the House sits on February 3 to commemorate the fire.

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