The Lord Chancellor's Mace and Purse
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The Lord Chancellor's Mace and Purse

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The Lords possess two Maces. The newer Mace dates from the time of William III, and is made up of pieces of earlier Maces. Maces have their origin as medieval weapons for hand-to-hand fighting. They gradually came to stand for the power of the Lords - and, in the case of the Commons, of the elected Parliament of the land.

The Maces are held in the custody of the Lord Chancellor and one is used as a symbol of Royal authority whenever the House of Lords sits and the Sovereign is not present. It is laid on the Woolsack directly behind the Lord Chancellor at all times except at the State Opening when it is not needed as the Sovereign is present in person.

The Lord Chancellor's Purse has for a long time held a traditional role in the State Opening of Parliament. As the procession moves into the Chamber of the House of Lords, the Lord Chancellor can be seen to be carrying a large purse. It is this purse which contains the Queen's speech.

The Queen's speech is prepared by the government, and until this moment has been kept secret. The Lord Chancellor brings the official copy to the State Opening, and stands to the left of the throne. When the Speaker of the House of Commons has arrived at the Bar, he kneels at the steps, takes the speech from the purse, and thus delivers it to the Queen - who in turn reads it to Parliament.

The elaborately decorated purse displays the familiar symbols of the Lion and Unicorn, surrounding the royal crest.

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