The mace is an object of great symbolic significance, indicating the authority delegated by the
Sovereignty to the Commons. It features in all major ceremonies and when the Commons conducts
general business the mace rests on the table in front of the Speaker. When the House goes into Committee
the mace is transferred to two supports below the table.
At first the mace was provided by the Sergeant at Arms himself. In 1649 the Commons ordered a mace
at its own expense. The present mace which dates from 1660 has been in use since 1819. It measures 1.49 metres
in length and is of silver gilt. Disrespect for the mace implies contempt for the House. Such contempt incident
concerning the mace happened in 1976 when Michael Heseltine smashed the mace onto the table, because in a debate on
the nationalisation of the aircraft and ship-building industries he was so angered by the Labour government's
arguments. The following morning, however, he apologized for his disrespectful behaviour.