An Open Cambridge event will tell the fascinating story of Cambridge’s civic insignia and historic charters through 800 years of history.
It’s a small miracle that we have the King Charles Mace today to remind us of a turbulent period in British history."—Chris Cracknell, Sergeant-at-Mace, Cambridge Mayoral Office
In 1575 the Borough of Cambridge received a charter from Queen Elizabeth 1 granting the town its own coat of arms.† The original charter carrying the coat of arms, which brings together many of the elements that make Cambridge distinctive, is still in the safekeeping of the Guildhall.
Cambridge’s coat of arms depicts a shield decorated by a bridge over a river with three sailing boats, their sales furled. The shield is topped by a castle and flanked by a pair of magnificent seahorses. Below the castle is a helmet from a suit of armour and above the bridge are two roses and a fleur-de-lis signifying Cambridge’s royal connections. It was granted following an application from the Mayor of Cambridge, Thomas Kimbold, and the request followed the granting of a coat of arms to the University two years earlier.
Along with an array of items telling the story of Cambridge as an important centre for local and regional government and an international seat of learning, the original 1575 charter will be shown to the public during a talk, The Civic Insignia and Historic Charters, at the Guildhall on Friday 7 September and Saturday, 8 September, 11am to 12.15pm.† The talks are part of Open Cambridge, a programme of free public events taking place from 7 to 9 September.
The talk will be given by Chris Cracknell, who has been Sergeant-at-Mace in Cambridge’s Mayoral Office at Cambridge City Council for the past four years.† His day-to-day work is to provide practical support to the Mayor in his or her engagements and ensure that the age-old traditions associated with the mayoral role are upheld. This includes looking after the Mayoral chains, uniform and ceremonial maces, which are both unique and precious, and ensuring their safety. Each item has a fascinating history linking it with a different period in British history.
Even earlier than the 1575 charter is the charter that granted the Borough the right to appoint its first Mayor. It was issued by King John and dates from 1207, several decades before the establishment of the first of the Cambridge Colleges, Peterhouse, in 1284.† The 1207 charter is another of the Guildhall’s treasures and will be shown during the Open Cambridge talk.† The Latin text is written on vellum and carries the Royal Seal. Not all the charters received by the Borough were favourable in intention. A charter dated 1382 registers Richard II’s displeasure with the town following a revolt by townspeople, encouraged by the mayor, who attacked university officials and destroyed their property.