The Mace – The Parliament Collection Victoria
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The Mace – The Parliament Collection Victoria

November 26, 2019


Our Westminster system of parliament features
some very distinctive traditions and symbols. Many of these are centuries-old and can still be found in the day-to-day operations of our modern democracy. Perhaps one of the most striking of these
is the ceremonial mace. In Victoria’s Legislative Assembly, and
in other parliaments around the world, the mace is an ornamental and highly decorated
symbol of authority. But originally it had a much more practical purpose. The medieval mace became popular as a weapon
of war in the 12th century and was introduced into parliament as a form of protection for
the Speaker. It was carried by the Serjeant-at-Arms,
who was responsible for security in the chamber and maintaining order in the public galleries. It’s likely that the mace was last used
as an actual weapon during the reign of Queen Elizabeth the first, but today the Serjeant-at-Arms
has many of the same responsibilities and still carries the mace when leading the Speaker
into a sitting of parliament. It’s placed on the table of the Assembly
to signify that parliament is in session. Victoria’s first mace was introduced in
1857 and is made of wood, with a thin layer of gold leaf. When you compare it to the elaborate ceremonial
maces used in other parts of the world, and even against our current mace,
it’s a relatively humble artifact. However, its value and its significance lies
in the role it has played in our state’s history. and the history of our country. Before Canberra was founded as our capital,
Melbourne was home to the Federal Parliament and this mace was used in Australia’s
House of Representatives from 1901. The mace even traveled to Canberra in 1927, when
the federal parliament relocated there and it was used right up until the early 1950s. Victoria’s Legislative Assembly has actually
had three maces. In 1866 a more elegant and ornate gold and
silver mace replaced the original wooden mace. This became known as the infamous ‘Missing
Mace’, when it was stolen from the Speaker’s chambers on the 9th of October 1891. Despite an extensive investigation and a huge
amount of speculation in the press, our second mace was never seen again. Even as recently as 2001, a reward for information
leading to its discovery was increased to fifty thousand dollars. So it’s definitely
worth checking your shed or local op-shop. Today, Victoria’s first mace – and the first
mace of our Commonwealth Parliament – takes pride of place in the Parliamentary Library. It’s just one of the many artefacts from
our State’s history that you can find if you come and visit us here
at the Parliament of Victoria.

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