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College mace

If you have attended RCVS Day or an RCVS Council meeting, you will have seen the College mace in all its glory. It is a beautiful object, and imbues important RCVS meetings with an air of dignity and ceremony. But where did it come from, and what does it depict?

RCVS maceThe mace was presented to Council on 3 April 1903 by the then-President Professor William Owen Williams. According to reports in The Veterinary Record (11 April 1903), Professor Williams explained his commissioning of the mace to Council: "I did think that as this body was becoming more and more important in the eyes of the public, and as it is generally advancing in the estimation of the public, it would perhaps be a nice thing to have some insignia of office."

The RCVS Annual Report for 1902-3 describes the mace as:

"Thirty-six inches long and eighteen and a half inches in circumference at the largest portion of the head; the head of the mace is cup-shaped, covered, surmounted by Royal crown with orb and cross; the bottom portion of the top contains four panels with intersecting intervals."

The first panel has the following inscription: "Hoc caduceo Collegium Veterinariorum Britanniorum Regale Gulielmus Owen Williams Ejusdem Socius et Praeses donavit III dei Aprilis anno Domini MCMIII."

The second panel contains:

"a representation of a shepherd with a flock of sheep; the third panel cattle, and the fourth panel a horse. The intervening spaces are filled with representations of the rose, thistle, shamrock and leek. The whole of this work is executed in bas-relief. This is surmounted by an ermine band with coronet above, jewelled and surmounted with open work, fleur-de-lis, and conventional roses, again surmounted by a Royal double arch with orb and cross...The head is partly attached to the shaft by four open scrolls with dragons’ heads...

The head is partly attached to the shaft by four open scrolls with dragons’ heads

The whole of the work is executed in gold plate, with the exception of the staff of the shaft, which is ebonite."

Accepting the gift on behalf of the Council, Council member Mr AC Cope asked Council to consider the matter of procuring "a badge of office for our President ......... [to] provide some distinction in the personal dress of the President from the ordinary individual who is a member of Council."

This suggestion resulted in the commissioning of a ceremonial medal, which is still worn by the President on official business.

To view the mace, or any other item in the archives, please contact the us at library@rcvsknowledge.org or 020 7202 0752 to arrange an appointment.

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