History of the mace
The origin of the mace was that it was a club, carried to defend the mayor. It has since developed into the ornate version displayed to a symbol of office, as the first citizen.
It was bought in 1671 when the borough sold some silver (paid in lieu of taxes) from London, at a cost of £71.6s.8d, for the mayor, Richard Clarke.
The mace is hollow, made of silver gilt, with gold leaf. It is only handled using gloves to avoid wearing of the gold leaf. It is not heavy, weighing approximately 4kg.
Emblems and symbols
The mace includes the emblems of:
- England (rose)
- Ireland (harp)
- Scotland (thistle)
- France (fleur de lys)
Where there is a crown over the heraldic symbol for a country, it emphasises the claim to that kingdom. There is no symbol for Wales on this mace, because Wales was seen as a principality and not a kingdom.
Beside the thistle is a portcullis, the symbol of parliament. It also bears the coat of arms of the Stuarts.
The top of the mace has the letters "CR", which stands for Carolus Rex, with the coat of arms of Charles the Second.
The mace today
The mace is present at every council meeting. It rests on the purpose-made stands on the front bench, with the crown facing towards the clock.
On civic occasions, the mace is carried by the macebearer over his right shoulder in an upright position, in front of the mayor. When the Queen is visiting the borough, it is reversed, to show that the Queen has seniority over the mayor.