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The Mace

Swale Borough Council's Mace

Swale Mace

Swale's Civic Mace is the Great Mace of the former Borough of Queenborough Council, produced in silver gilt in 1678 by Jacob Bodendick. Just over one metre (three feet eight inches) in length, it has an iron centre rod and its design is of the late Stuart type. On its base is a chasing of Queen Phillipa overlooking her Castle. The larger end - an exaggerated version of the handle - is an arched crown with shields depicting four royal emblems: the rose of England, the thistle of Scotland, the harp of Ireland and the fleur-de-lys of France. It also shows the Stuart coat-of-arms and is supported by four "S" shaped shoulders. An orb and cross rest above the crown.

Inscription

The engraved stem has two round knops, the lowest carrying a Latin inscription:

"Ex dono Viri Honorabilis Jacobi Hearbert Armigeri Municipio Quinburgensi Venerabili Henrico Knight Praetore Armigero An Dom MDCLXXVIII Anoq Regni Caroli 2 XXXI".

Translated, this reads:

"By the gift of the Honourable James Hearbert, Esquire, to the Municipality of Queenborough, the Mayoralty of the venerable Henry Knight, Esquire, 1678, in the 31st year of the reign of Charles II".

The Latin word armiger means 'entitled to use heraldic arms' but for the sake of brevity has been translated here as 'esquire'.

Rewriting History

The phrase "in the 31st year of the reign of Charles II" indicated that James Hearbert and Henry Knight were Royalists, loyal to Charles II. We think this because Charles actually took the throne in 1660, when he returned to England after staying abroad while Cromwell ruled the country. This would have made 1678 the 18th year of his reign. The "31st year" must be meant to take us back to 1649, the year when his father, Charles I, was executed. However there is a discrepancy, because on this basis 1679-80 was the 31st year of Charles II's reign. It is thought that whoever drafted, or engraved, the inscription on the mace, may have made a mistake, using the Roman number 'xxxi' (31) instead of 'xxix' (29). The 29th year of the reign, in Royalist terms, was 1677/8. The alternative explanation is that someone made a simple arithmetical miscalculation.

Below the knop the corporate seal and maker's mark are engraved. A shield is also displayed, inscribed with a list of jurats:

Nich: Taylor
Pet: Lenn
John Knott
John Marshall

The Tradition Survives

Queenborough Council was first granted a charter by Richard II in 1369. It became Queenborough-in-Sheppey Borough Council in 1968, which in turn became part of Swale Borough Council when it was established in 1974. At this point the mace was officially adopted as part of the civic regalia of the new authority. Since then its ceremonial importance has been maintained through a number of traditional practices. The Mayor's Attendant also acts as official Serjeant-at-Mace and is the only person entitled to touch the mace, carrying it before the civic head to and from meetings of the full council and other civic occasions. It is raised again when he or she rises to leave. When the Mayor is seated the mace is laid on a special stand presented in 1990 by Bay Class Yachts to Councillor Jean Newman who was then Mayor.

A Remarkable Face Lift

In November 1999 the mace left the Mayor's Parlour in Swale House to undergo specialist restoration work in London to be ready for the new Millennium. Being 300 years old, this was long overdue. Members and staff at the Council waited expectantly to see the results. No-one, however, was prepared for the glorious transformation. Previously an imposing but rather lustreless object, the mace re-appeared in bright, gilded splendour and is a truly impressive emblem for the Borough.

History of the Mace

Today a highly ornate mace forms the centrepiece in the civic regalia of many councils across the country. We admire them in the same way we would a precious crown or piece of jewellery. However, these beautiful objects are the ceremonial descendants of the oldest and most universal weapon produced by man - a giant club with spikes capable of piercing armour and bludgeoning down opponents in battle. Originally carved from wood they were later bound with iron and by the 12th century were made from iron and steel alone.

The name mace comes from the aromatic herb mace which it resembled in shape and which, in the Middle Ages, was both rare and valuable.

Eventually, when swords were introduced as a more effective weapon, the mace was no longer used in conflict, but kept by kings and noblemen as a sign of their status and power. It was then that the spikes disappeared and the mace became richly decorated.

Because it was by now so large and heavy, the mace was always carried by a trusted knight. In England the mace was a symbol of the King's authority and a sign of his presence. It was carried before him in processions and official occasions and placed before him while he was sitting, for example in Parliament.

Mayor's Chain and Badge of Office

The Mayor's Chain and Badge of Office comprises a Chain and Pendant made of gold which is inscribed with the Armorial Bearings of the Borough. The Chain is joined at the front by a link pin formed by four sea swallows facing inwards. This is also the more generally used logo of the Borough Council.

On less formal occasions the Mayor may dispense with the Chain and support the Badge of Office on a wide neck ribbon (Collarette).

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