Gavels (and maces)

UK courtrooms may not use the gavel but don’t they (at least sometimes) use the mace? i.e., that staff they bang three times on the floor and say “hear ye, hear ye”, or something like that? Or am I thinking of sessions of Parliament?

There’s a twitter account called Inappropriate Gavels that fulminates against UK media/film/TV illustrating British justice with gavels.

There’s a seemingly inexhaustible supply of material (mostly because of the lazy use of stock images, I suspect)

Maces are a Royalty/Parliament thing mostly

“Useless tool.” Heh.

If they did, it would be called a tipstaff, not a mace. I’ve never seen one.

Thumping a staff on the floor three times is a tradition at the Comédie Française in Paris, as that was what used to be done to announce the start of theatrical performances in the 17th (and 18th?) centuries. It was also the way orchestras were conducted (the composer Lully died as a result of an infection when he managed to thump his staff on his own foot).

But I’ve never heard of it in the UK: maces are carried in ceremonial processions as a symbol of authority, not just in Parliamentor for the judiciary, but often for occasional ceremonials in local government (one of my great-uncles was Macer for Edinburgh City Council), universities and organisations like City livery companies, but AFAIK they’re just shown - too expensive to be whacked on a floor - and court ushers and clerks just use a stentorian voice for any calling a court into session.

If there’s any “Hear ye!” to be done, these days it’s just the surviving Town Criers - and they use a handbell.

How do you search the Front page archive now?

Ignorance fought, although the reserves are limitless.

Gilbert’s own illustration for Trial by Jury shows the Usher with a tipstaff. Note that Gilbert was a barrister, and noted that the set, costumes, etc., should be as realistic as possible.

the last bit of Cecil’s column seems to line up with my experience. the two times I’ve been in a courtroom (voir dire) I didn’t even see if the judge had a gavel on the bench. IIRC it’s when the judge says “Court is now in session” that everything becomes on-the-record official proceedings.

And see:

A British MP once got in trouble for picking up the House of Commons’s mace and brandishing it during a debate:
The U.S. House of Representatives has a mace:
As does the Virginia House of Delegates:
The South Carolina Senate has a state sword, of all things! Scroll down here:

South Carolina also has a mace for the House of Representatives. According to the link you provided regarding our sword, the mace is the only state ceremonial mace still in existence that was made prior to the Revolution.

Yeah, South Carolina can be all about the pomp at times. Indeed, we’ve been called pompous before. :smiley:

While re-reading this, a thought sprang to mind about the Bailiffs mace. I have no idea where I got the idea that a Bailiff carries a “mace” but www confirms that it’s true: traditionally they do. The web tells me that the Bailiffs mace is far removed from the idea of a weapon: it is explicitly a symbol of authority, like a police badge or warrant card.

all the Canadian legislatures have maces. If it’s on the clerks’ table, that means the House is in session. If it’s in the hooks on the end of the table, that means the House is sitting in committee.

No gavels in any Canadian court I’ve ever been in.

There have never been gavels in Canadian courts.
It doesn’t stop many news websites from using gavels in their generic court photo images.

And if it’s being carried by the sergeant-at-arms, it means he’s about to use it to smash the head of an ISIS gunman.

(yes, yes, I know that he actually used a pistol in that incident, but it’s still an amusing image)

I don’t know about Canada, but the ceremonial maces in the UK have evolved so far from their origins as weapons that they have tiny warheads and huge decorative pommels.

I wouldn’t want the Sergeant-at-Arms to wallop me on the head with the current Canadian mace. Looks like it would hurt.

Technically, isn’t the monarch of the Commonwealth the only person legally entitled to actually use it as a weapon? ( :stuck_out_tongue: )

Some zany hijinks recently with the Nigerian Senate’s mace: