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The Esses Collar of the Sergeant-at-Arms

David Monaghan, Curator, Curatorial Services

Esses collar of the Sergeant-at-Arms.

Parliamentary life is filled with many ceremonies, symbols and artefacts. These items play an important role in connecting the present with the past. One unique item, worn only by the Sergeant-at-Arms, is aform of necklace referred to as an Esses Collar.

The Esses Collar of the Sergeant-at-Arms is comprised of 74 scrolled "S" shaped links made of silver. The links are divided into two groups of 37 by a pair of silver gilt pendants featuring the Royal Crown supported by a shamrock, a rose and a thistle with the motto Dieu et mon droit.

In the Middle Ages, costumes, colours, and symbols, referred to as livery, were worn by retainers to show their loyalty to a lord or a monarch or as an insignia of office. The Esses Collar, named after the interconnected "S" shaped links that form the necklace, dates back to the 14th century in the United Kingdom.

Many important objects associated with the House of Commons were lost in the fire of 1916, including the original mace. However, recent research indicates that the Esses Collar worn by the Sergeant-at-Arms pre-dates Confederation and was not lost in the fire. The distinctive hallmarks on the sterling silver collar confirm that it was made in London, England, in 1859. The House of Commons is fortunate that this collar survived the fire of 1916 as it serves as a tangible reminder of our long and unbroken Parliamentary tradition.

Detail of one of two silver gilt pendants that divide the 74 s shaped links into two groups of 37.

Detailed images, former Sergeant-at-Arms wearing the collar and an early collar example

Detail of hallmarks and maker's mark.
Detail of silver s shaped links.
Lieutenant-Colonel Donald Macdonell, Sergeant-at-Arms, 1867-1892.
Lieutenant-Colonel Henry William Bowie, Sergeant-at-Arms, 1918-1930.
Opening of Parliament, parade to the SenateChamber. Major-General Maurice Gaston Cloutier, Sergeant-at-Arms, 1978-2005.
Sir Thomas More (1527), by Hans Holbein, the Younger (1497-98-1543) wearing an esses collar.
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