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Old Dominion, New Mace

MACES OF AMERICA: PART IV
THE HOUSE OF DELEGATES OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

VIRGINIA IS THE birthplace of Anglo-America, and as such it has managed to maintain higher standards of propriety than most other places in the States, including its long-time rival, New England. Governors, for example, still wear morning dress for their inaugurations rather than the lamentable business suit which has usurped events even so high and mighty as the inauguration of the President of the United States. (Carter abolished morning dress for the inauguration, Reagan wore it for his first with a stroller instead of tailcoat, but since then it’s been suits all around). Roger Scruton, Britain’s greatest living Conservative thinker, recently moved with his family to Virginia to enjoy the fruits of American freedom since one of his favorite pasttimes, outlawed back in the Mother Country, thrives in his new home. The origin of Virginia’s traditional nickname, ‘the Old Dominion’, is from King Charles II who granted the Colony that title of Dominion as a recognition of its steadfast loyalty to the Crown during the trying days of the Interregnum.

Some traditions, however, have been mournfully discontinued. Virginia’s House of Burgesses was the first legislative body in the New World but its name was changed to the House of Delegates during the Revolution. (North Carolina, meanwhile, kept its House of Commons until it was defeated by the United States in the Civil War). Nonetheless, the House sat in the antiphonal pattern akin to the British and Commonwealth parliaments until 1904 when it adopted the dastardly French republican semicircular seating plan. To my knowledge, it was the last American legislature (outside of Canada, of course) to arrange its seating in the traditional way.

The House of Delegates does, however, have a mace, though not nearly as old as that of the Virginian City of Norfolk. The original mace was presented to the House of Burgesses by the Royal Governor of the Colony and Dominion of Virginia in 1700. That mace, alas, has since been lost. The current mace dates only from the Edwardian period, and is constructed of silver covered in 24-karat gold. It was purchased by the Jamestown Foundation and presented to the House of Delegates in 1974. It is processed by the Serjeant-at-Arms into the current House chamber in the Virginia State Capitol (seen above) whenever the House is in session and removed to the old House chamber in the same building every day at the adjournment of the House.

This post was published on Thursday, January 5th, 2006 2:30 pm. It has been categorised under History Maces and been tagged under .
Comments
  1. Paul
    25 August 2007
    5:38 pm

    Interesting mace series! I thought I’d mention (although you may already be aware of it) Yale College’s mace. I don’t know how old it is or its history, but it is quite impressive when carried by the President into Convocation and Commencement…I found a picture of it here:

    http://mssa.library.yale.edu/madid/
    showzoom.php?id=ru&ruid=690&pg=9&imgNum=1209

  2. 19 July 2011
    3:22 am

    Andrew,

    I am writing a blog entry on maces in State legislatures adorned with the Crown of St. Edward, because my parents recently visited Virginia and told me of the British symbolism still there used.

    — James

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