THE ROYAL NORFOLK MACE
The historic sterling silver "Royal Mace,“ a gift from the British Crown’s Lieutenant Governor of the Colony of Virginia, represents the political birth of the City of Norfolk during the colonial era.  As a symbol of civic authority, it is the only municipal mace in the United States still retained by the city for which it was commissioned, having remained in Norfolk since 1754.  As a gift from a crown official, it was an expression of his "great Regard and Affection“ for Norfolk.

Its untold history, however, is as shrouded in mystery as it is with interpretation, embellished with heraldic symbols depicted to represent the individual parts of the realm of King George II's dominion, at least one of which, the fleur-de-lis, documents the King’s putative claim, even as late as 1753, to the throne of France.


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in cooperation with
The Norfolk Mace Chapter, NSDAC

is pleased to avail to the public
the following items from our


Royal Mace Jewelry Collection

(100% Pewter with Surgical Stainless Steel Findings)



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(10% discount available for existing members only.)
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THE ROYAL MACE OF AUTHORITY, given to the City of Norfolk in the Colony of Virginia, is the oldest civic mace in any of the United States still retained by the city for which it was made. Viceroy, the Honorable Robert Dinwiddie (1693-1770), the Lieutenant Governor and Commander-in-Chief of “the Old Dominion” (the traditional nickname given Virginia, England’s oldest colony on the continent, by King Charles II, who granted the Colony the title in recognition of its steadfast loyalty to the Crown during the trying days of the Interregnum), commissioned London silversmith Fuller White (1734-1773) to make the Mace for the City of Norfolk, the largest and most prosperous town in the crown colony in the mid-18th century. The inscription below surrounds the base of the Mace bowl (or cup), denoting the generous donation.
The Gift of the Hon.ble Robert Dinwiddie Esq.r Lieu.t Governour of Virginia to the Corporation of Norfolk, 1753

Given the inscribed date of 1753, the Mace must have taken longer than expected to reach Virginia's shore, as the minutes of the Norfolk Common Council record the actual presentation on April 1, 1754, thus climaxing a friendship between the colonial official and Virginia's principal seaport.

At a Common Council held this 1st day of April, 1754, the Honourable Robert Dinwiddie, Esq., his Majesty’s Lieutenant Governor and Commander in Chief of this Dominion, this day presented to the Borough of Norfolk a very handsome Silver Mace, which was thankfully received… as a Token of his great Regard and Affection for the said Borough.
In the Middle Ages, a mace would have been used as a weapon to crush metal armor.  Its spiked head was greatly feared.  In later times maces, like this one, were used as symbols of honor to acknowledge the presence of a public official. 

Norfolk’s historic mace, commissioned by a British colonial administrator who served as lieutenant governor of colonial Virginia, symbolized the governor’s power bestowed upon him from the king of England.
 
It is made of ten interlocking sterling silver pieces centered around a wooden rod. Weighing 104 ounces, it measures 41½” long from the very bottom of the base to the apex of the crown.

The bowl, or head, its single largest piece, is surmounted by an openwork crown.  Depicted in three places on the Mace, most prominently outside the bowl (below the crown and inside its base), are the Royal Arms of Great Britain during the reign of George II (1683-1760), its second German king and known for his poor grasp of the English language.
 
The national emblems of his realm are depicted in several places: around the center of the bowl are the emblems of Great Britain (the rose), Scotland (the thistle growing from the same stem), Ireland (the harp, signifying the Irish herald), and France (the fleurs-de-lis, lilies which surround the lid of the cup, revealing the king’s claim to the throne of France, maintained at the time and prominently depicted).

Crowned center of the Mace supports a globe or orb, above which is a cross. The staff of the Mace is ornamented with alternating leaves, scrolls, and spirals. Around the base of the cup are engraved the inscriptions marked on plain areas of the shaft in two places: "F.W." and a lion passant. Marked on inside lip of cup: crowned leopard's head, lion passant, date letter "4" (1752-1753) & maker's mark: "F.W.“

As was the given custom, the Mace preceded the Mayor in the public processions of Norfolk after its arrival, and by custom, an outgoing mayor would present the Mace to the incoming mayor to symbolize the transfer of authority.

During the Revolution most of Norfolk’s structures were burned by Patriots under orders of the Virginia Convention, and those “Royalists” who participated were reported to have evacuated the City before it was eventually occupied by North Carolinian rebels.

John Murray, the 4th Earl of Dunmore and last royal Governor of Virginia, ordered his fleet to bombard Norfolk in the very early hours of January 1, 1776.  Excepting Saint Paul's Episcopal (then Borough) Church, the structures of the City did not survive the fire from the inhabitants’ burning and Lord Dunmore’s vengeful bombardment.  Combined with the preceding looting by rebel troops, once the violence had ended, Norfolk miraculously arose from the ashes reborn, like the mythical firebird, the phoenix.

The Mace, too, survived, having been removed by the loyal denizens to "Kempe’s Landing," modern day Kempsville and the site of another important battle of the Revolution, presumably because it was buried in a garden along with other important city documents.

The Royal Norfolk Mace was featured on a 1936 United States half dollar coin minted to commemorate the Borough of Norfolk land grant of 1636.

The first recorded appearance of the Mace after the great disruption in the government of the land was its presence in a parade held on July 4, 1788 in celebration of the ratification of Virginia's new Constitution. It was returned to Norfolk's Clerk of Court in 1790. 

Though proposals were made in 1794 and 1836 to rid the Mace of its royal symbolism, it remained unaltered in form, which is fortunate, since the latter year marked the 150th anniversary of Norfolk’s Royal Charter, which was paraded together with the Royal Mace through the streets of the City on September 15, 1836. To mark the 250th anniversary of Virginia, it was recalled with the Mace’s presence at Jamestown's Commemoration on May 13, 1857.

In May 1862, as Confederate troops prepared to evacuate Norfolk, the mayor, Colonel William Wilson Lamb of the Confederate Army, concealed the argent Mace beneath the library fireplace in his house at 420 Bute Street. Although the house was occupied by Union troops, the mace was not discovered.

Following the Civil War, the Mace was passed between various mayors, falling on "evil days" and for decades becoming practically forgotten.  From 1881 to 1885, it rested in the vault of the Exchange Bank of Norfolk and, when the bank eventually foreclosed, the Mace disappeared, only to reappear nine years later.

Norfolk's Chief of Police C. J. Iredell discovered it “in a state of disrepair in a heap of litter and old records in a room at the police station” located behind the Norfolk Court House (now MacArthur Museum). Norfolk City officials approached Norfolk National Bank, later a part of Virginia National Bank (now Bank of America), which agreed to serve as its custodian, displaying the Mace for many years in a specially built glass case in its downtown Norfolk main branch.

The Mace appeared again at the 1907 Jamestown Exposition in celebration of Virginia’s tercentenary.  It led both a 1919 parade on the first anniversary of the Armistice and, in 1932, a procession commemorating the 250th anniversary of the Founding of Norfolk.

On April 26th 1935, the original Royal Mace was brought out for public display on the occasion of the annual celebration of "Cape Henry Day," marking the first landing of English colonists in April 1607.


Lieutenant Governor Joseph L. Hurley of Massachusetts; Virginia Governor George Campbell Peery; Norfolk police officer A. D. Cooper; Norfolk Councilman Hugh Butler; Norfolk Mayor W. R. L. Taylor; Norfolk Councilman J. H. Reed; and Councilman John A. Gurkin. Governor George Campbell Peery and Lt. Governor Hurley were greeted by Mayor Taylor at Commercial Place while the delegation was making its way to Virginia Beach for Cape Henry Day ceremonies held in Virginia Beach. (Photo courtesy of the Sargeant Memorial Collection of Norfolk Public Library, taken by Charles Borjes for Pilotonline.com - The Virginian-Pilot on April 26, 1935.)


In 1952, two sterling silver replicas of the Mace were made by Sam Rubenstein of the Keystone Silver Company.  One was given to the Norfolk City Council for everyday use, preventing additional wear to the original; the second was donated to the Chrysler Museum of Art on behalf of the Norfolk Bank of Commerce by its president, John S. Alfriend.  Today the replica, which bears the inscription "Presented to the Norfolk Museum by the National Bank of Commerce March 12. 1954" is on display at Chrysler's Norfolk History Museum, on the first floor of the Willoughby-Baylor House.

On February 16, 1989, the original colonial Mace presented to the Borough of Norfolk in 1754, in its carefully restored state, was delivered by City Clerk Breck Daughtrey, escorted by armed police officers, to the Chrysler Museum of Art in order to be on permanent display.

 

        

The Royal Arms on the civic Mace of Norfolk, Virginia.


Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Dinwiddie entered the colonial service at an early age and was collector of customs in Bermuda from 1727 to 1738. In the latter year he was promoted to surveyor general of the customs for the Southern ports of America, and as holder of the post he became a member of the Virginia Council in 1741.

As surveyor general of customs and council member, Dinwiddie became intimately acquainted with Norfolk's mercantile and civic affairs, and when the borough officials made him a burger, he reciprocated by presenting them with a seal, which was duly acknowledged at a meeting of the Norfolk Common Council on July 7th 1741. 

Miniature replicas have been worn as pins, or broaches, by Norfolk residents, Norfolk city government employees and historians for years.  Originally reproduced by special authority of the Corporation Council of the City of Norfolk, it represents the tumultuous and often historically confusing Loyalist history of Norfolk as a major mid-Atlantic seaport, as strategically significant today as it was during the American Revolution. Though once available by the City of Norfolk and, later, sold by the Chrysler Museum, the mace jewelry items are available for purchase today only through our alumni association.
  


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I am the Brock Curator of American Art at the Chrysler Museum, and I recently read your website on the history of the Norfolk Mace. Congratulations on a beautiful and informative page! The Mace is truly a magnificent work of art and a valuable piece of history. The Museum is honored to be able to present this in our galleries (now completely free of charge to all visitors).

I saw no questions or problems with your account of the Mace and its history. You’ve related its anecdotes with wonderful wit and brevity, and the parallels between its history and that of the city and your organization are appropriate and memorable.

The Chrysler Museum is hoping over the next few years to renovate and expand its permanent collection galleries, and one of my personal objectives within this project is to design an even more glorious and dynamic presentation of the Mace. I have no firm idea yet what form this will take, but the Mace deserves a splendid home, and I hope you, the members of your organization and, of course, the public will come view it in person often, both before and after these renovations.

December 2011
Crawford Alexander Mann III
Brock Curator of American Art


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Excerpts of the history of the Royal Norfolk Mace/Royal Mace of Authority were extracted from Chapter 10 of the Norfolk Historical Society's "Norfolk Highlights 1584-1881" by George Holbert Tucker,  "Maces of America:  Part II - the City of Norfolk in Virginia" by Andrew Cusack, the Chrysler Museum Online Collection database for "The Norfolk Mace" and the "Replica of Norfolk Mace," the Library of Virginia "Questions about Virginia", by Warren M. Billings, and the City of Norfolk Mace facts page.

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