The silver gilt ceremonial maces sold to the bailiffs and freemen of Kingston in 1617 turn 400 years old on the 29 November.
Belonging to the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, the maces are priceless items. The ceremonial mace is a symbol of the monarch’s authority, which is vested in the mayor as the first citizen of the borough.
Kingston’s ‘Great Mace’ (the Mayor’s Mace), and smaller ‘Bailiff Mace’ (the Deputy Mayor’s Mace), are believed to be the oldest working maces in London.
The mace is carried in procession in front of the mayor at civic and ceremonial events such as Remembrance Sunday and is placed in front of the mayor at full council to give him or her the authority to preside over the meeting.
The mace is carried by the macebearer over their right shoulder, with the head up, except if the monarch is present then the head points down as the mace is no longer needed as a symbol of the monarch’s authority.
To mark the 400th anniversary, Kingston’s current macebearer, Brian Sullivan, has been piecing together the history of the Kingston mace:
“Originally maces were weapons but the history of the Kingston mace, which can be traced back to the fifteenth century, is a ceremonial one. Kingston is proud of its royal heritage and the tradition of mace bearing maintains the borough’s connection with the monarchy.
“Delving into the archives at the Kingston History Centre it’s been fascinating to discover how precious the Great Mace and Bailiff Maces both are, and how close they came to be being destroyed during the civil war.
“In 1617 it’s documented they cost £25 in old money. Today, to replace them, a modern equivalent would cost an estimated £300,000 but they’re worth a great deal more when you try to put a price on 400 years of history.”