The Mayoralty

At the time of the Norman Conquest, the Sovereign appointed the chief magistrates of cities. That of London was called the Port Reeve, but Henry II changed the word to the Norman "Maire" - our term Mayor. King John made the office annual.

The rights and privileges of the Mayor in the middle ages were almost unbelievable by today's standards. As chief magistrate he held awesome power over his fellow citizens and his privileges and income from various offices, were second only to the Sovereign.

What are the duties of the Mayor?

Much can be written of the history of the Mayoralty, and as such one would be writing the history of England. The Mayoralty provides a vital link with our heritage, the office having presided over the unfolding fabric of English Local Government. The duties and privileges of the Mayor have reflected the changes in our Society. The Mayor no longer has absolute powers; they chair the meetings of Margate Charter Trustees and act in a ceremonial role at local, state and many other functions.

They are the Town's Ambassador at large, and have many engagements during their year of office, ranging from Coffee Mornings and Theatre Visits, meeting members of the Royal Family when in Margate, to patronising local Charities and fund raising events.

Like most English institutions, the Mayoralty has evolved to reflect the times in which they serve in office. However, unlike some outmoded and dated titles that have suffered the fate of not moving with the times, the office and status of Mayor is alive and well, and will undoubtedly pass on into the 21st Century.

How does the Mayor achieve office?

Since the last re-organisation of Local Government in 1974, the Mayor is elected by the Charter Trustees and takes up the Badge of Office in May at the annual Mayor Making Ceremony. The Mayor appoints a Mayoress, and by ancient custom if the Mayor is a woman, still appoints a Mayoress, being known herself as Mr Mayor, or Madam Mayor.

A list of Mayors since 1857 can be seen in the Margate Museum of Local History.

The Badge of Office and the Mayoral Chain

The badge of office is a tradition dating back to the age of chivalry when Officers of State and Local Government were more readily identifiable by their and "badges of rank and office". Today the badge is symbolic, is supported by a chain. The chain is often referred to as the chain of office, another myth that has been handed down through time to the present day.

The Mayoral Chain was presented to the borough of Margate in 1882 by George Lansell, cousin of the Mayor at that time, Cllr. John Bayly. As a young man George Lansell left his home town of Margate for Australia. There he found gold, and it was from his own mine in Sandhurst, Victoria that the gold came to make the chain. It consisted of a shield for each Mayor since the incorporation of the borough in 1857, many subsequent Mayors presenting their own shield to add to the chain. About 1933, however, this practice was discontinued as the chain then contained 30 shields and was found to be getting too lengthy.

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