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Sunday, 31 January 2016

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Forgotten Royal ties

The Royal Court of Arms of the United Kingdom hidden away in an unobtrusive corner in the Presidential Secretariat is a reminder of a bygone era:

 Royal Coat of Arms
Pix : Saman Sri Wedage

Mounted on a wall in an inconspicuous corner in the Presidential Secretariat is a Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, a gift from the UK branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association by which name the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association was called at the time. Vestiges of a bygone era, one may say. Such remnants are still found in places one least expects.

This discovery comes at a time when Sri Lanka is preparing to celebrate the 68th anniversary of Independence from British colonial rule.

The Royal Coat of Arms is the official insignia of the British Monarch. Other members of the Royal family as well as the British Government use variants of the Royal Arms. Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, has a conjugal (combined) Coat of Arms, which was announced by the Kensington Palace after their marriage.

The nearly four-foot tall stone-work from the British Parliament in 1936 was gifted to Sri Lanka's State Council, a few years after it was appointed in 1931.

The monument was placed at the old Parliament building (facing Galle Face), which housed the State Council.

The history of this stone emblem was hard to trace.

The small library within the old Parliament which houses the Presidential Secretariat today, had very little information on this monument.

Erected on a wall in an inconspicuous corner inside the Presidential Secretariat is a Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, a gift from the UK branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association

However, the Royal Coat of Arms still looked noble, although it has lost its original grandeur.

A library document revealed that the British Coat of Arms adorned the top of the facade of the State Council building until 1948, the year Sri Lanka won Independence. It was thereafter replaced by the Arms of the Dominion of Ceylon.

The Royal Coat of Arms

Later, in 1972, the Arms of the Dominion of Ceylon was replaced with the arms of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. It did not describe how and when it was handed over.

Greek architecture

The old Parliament building housed the country's legislature for 53 years, till the new Parliament complex was opened in Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte in 1983.

Inspired by Greek architecture, the old Parliament was originally built to house the Legislative Council of Ceylon and the building was opened by Governor Sir Herbert Stanley on January 29, 1930.

Much of the stone carving of the monument has withstood the test of time. But the lion figure on the left of the stone-work and the figure of the unicorn on the right is damaged somewhat.

This probably during the time it was removed from the original location.

What is left of the two figures are only the two front legs of the animals holding the crest.

The staff at the Secretary's Bureau, which is entrusted with handling special projects by the President's Secretary, is currently in charge of it.

"We don't know the history, but we regularly clean and dust it.

It was once given a special coat of paint to give the stonework the current metallic hue," Ajith Wijeratne, a senior officer said.

The room where it stands today was the record room earlier.

An imprint on a brass sheet below the monument states, 'The Royal Court of Arms' removed from the stonework of Parliament House in Westminster is presented to the State Council by the Empire Parliamentary Association. U.K.Branch, 1936."

According to the above description this gift by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, a memorabilia of the colonial rule marks its 80th year this year.

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