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Page last updated at 14:46 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010
The Isle of Man's Sword of State
The Sword of State

The Sword of State is hugely important to the Isle of Man, it is a symbol that Tynwald is the oldest continuous parliament in the World.

It depicts the Manx national symbol, the three legs of Man and despite various upgrades over the centuries, probably has its origins in the 1400s.

The sword is one of the earliest objects to associate the symbol of the three legs with the Isle of Man.

There have been three swords of states through the ages.

One is still used in the parliamentary process today, the second is in the Manx Museum on the Island and the third is lost - since the 1760s when the Lord of Mann sold his rights to the British Crown.

The Librarian at the Tynwald Library is Geoffrey Heywood. He said the sword it still used every month in Tynwald and annually on Tynwald Day.

Tynwald Hill 1774
A print of Tynwald Hill in St John's on the Isle of Man dating back to 1774

"The original sword is reputed to have belonged to Olaf the Second who was King of Mann and the Isles. He put down a rebellion led by his brother which culminated in a battle at Tynwald in St John's.

"His brother was killed as were his brothers' supporters, so Olaf used the sword as a symbol of the fact he had defended his right with the sword and anyone who challenged his right was going to cop it!"

The sword has been introduced on Tynwald Day ever since and still represents the authority of the Sovereign which is now Her Majesty the Queen. Everything which happens at Tynwald is done in the Queen's name.

On Tynwald Day when the sword is processed in from of the Governor, the Isle of Man is showing deference to the authority of the Crown.

On Tynwald Day the Coroner still gives out an order for everyone to be quiet and in days gone by if people didn't comply they were dealt with quickly and harshly
Tynwald Librarian Geoffrey Heywood

Geoffrey Haywood continues, "On Tynwald Day the Coroner still gives out an order for everyone to be quiet and in days gone by if people didn't comply they were dealt with quickly and harshly.

"Everyone had to stop what they were doing and shut up. That tradition went on even up to the early 20th Century.

"It has become more of tourist spectacle now and some people really don't get what the ceremony is actually about. I've been going to Tynwald for 30 years and that is a change I have seen. I'm not sure if it's a change for the better".

The Sword of State can be seen on a tour of the Tynwald Buildings. Regular tours are held each week (excluding public holidays).

It is not usually necessary to book but if you wish to reserve a place you may do so by calling the Tynwald Library on (01624) 685220 or emailing library@tynwald.org.im.

There is no charge for tours and they usually take approximately an hour and a half.


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