Baton (symbol)

Baton (symbol)

For other uses, see Baton
The word baton, from the French bâton (stick, also in ordinary senses; itself from Late Latin bastum "stout staff," presumed of Celtic origin), has been used in English at least since 1590 (earlier as a weapon) to indicate a type of formal attribute of office in the shape of a rather short stick, shorter than a staff, not for use (unlike the swagger stick) but an ornate symbol of authority, often worn with a uniform.

A short, heavy white baton was the symbol of the imperial mandate given (as his title reflects) to a Roman military legate; he held it high proclaiming 'above your head and mine' to invoke his right to represent the emperor with an authority no one present could challenge.

After this Roman symbol the French kings, and next Napoleon I Bonaparte, creator of the First French Empire, modelled the ornate batons for their marshals (top generals, often also given high noble titles, etc.), emblematically sewn with stars or bees respectively; this was echoed by marshal's batons in other armies.

The Duke of Wellington was awarded marshal's batons by 12 different countries. These can be seen in his home, Apsley House.

The traditional baton of the Aymara Indians featured in an alternative inauguration ceremony for the first Indio president of Bolivia in January 2006

  • Similar looking attributes can however bear the name stick, as the gold stick used for individual, trusted close protection officers of the British sovereign (now only one, become a sinecure, mainly ceremonial during the annual trooping the colours; security shifted to civilians), or even a wand of office.

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