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Consort’s Chair #1999-1440Senate Chamber, North Wing, Main Floor

A blackwood fully upholstered high back chair, upholstered in red leather with padded square arms and a padded seat; the apron with applied rounds, on square section tapering legs with block feet raised on later added metal castors.


The Consort’s Chair was used in the Senate Chamber between 1927 and 1988, and is still located in the Senate. The chair was designed in 1926 by the Architects Department of the Federal Capital Commission, led by principal architect John Smith Murdoch, specifically for Provisional Parliament House. Murdoch’s design for this chair and the other Senate Chamber furniture was inspired by the Westminster system of Parliament. In 1954 Queen Elizabeth II became the first reigning monarch to set foot in Australia, accompanied by her husband the Duke of Edinburgh. One of her official engagements was to open the third session of the twentieth Parliament in the Senate Chamber, for which the Duke of Edinburgh occupied the Consort’s Chair.

The Consort’s Chair was manufactured by Beard Watson & Co Ltd, one of the six firms that were contracted to construct Murdoch’s designs. Beard Watson & Co Ltd were renowned in Sydney as a retailer and manufacturer of high class furnishings, initially manufacturing floor coverings and carpets but diversifying into furniture in 1901. A 1917 article in The Australian Manufacturer stated of Beard Watson that ‘the furniture it sells, and particularly the furniture it produces, is distinguished at once for its good workmanship and for its artistic beauty.’ A smaller version of the Consort’s chair was made for the 1927 Royal Visit, and was used by the Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth).

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Statement of values

The Consort’s Chair is a significant item of furniture through its association with the Senate Chamber. The Senate has outstanding significance as a venue for the debates, petitions and votes associated with sixty-one years of Australian legislature, and recognisable by its red upholstery. The chair was used in the Senate between 1927 and 1988, associating it with significant people in Australian political history, while also reflecting the formal and adversarial nature of debate, and the role of the Senate in the parliamentary process. The chair was occupied by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1954 for the opening of a new session of Parliament by Queen Elizabeth II, associating it with Australia’s role as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The significance of the Consort’s Chair is enhanced through its rarity as the only chair of this design to have been manufactured.

The Consort’s Chair is significant as a component of the Heritage Collection, which comprises those pieces of furniture which were used in the Provisional Parliament House between 1924 and 1988. The collection has associations with the process of government, the ceremonial, administrative, promotional and recreational functions conducted within the House, and with the individuals who governed Australia between 1927 and 1988. The building is a primary example of the Inter War Stripped Classical style of architecture prominent in Canberra’s government architecture of the 1920s to 1940s. The characteristic expression of the building’s style is due to the design work of the Commonwealth’s first government architect, John Smith Murdoch. The Old Parliament House building has a richness of internal fabric and collections, which include the purpose designed furniture and furnishings, that convey the way in which parliamentary functions were conducted, the everyday use of the building, and the hierarchical nature of parliamentary staffing practices. This furniture is significant as it has remained within the building for which it was designed.

  • Consort’s Chair - Image from the Old Parliament House CollectionConsort’s Chair - Image from the Old Parliament House Collection
  • Consort’s Chair (plans) - Old Parliament House CollectionConsort’s Chair (plans) - Old Parliament House Collection


Width 730mm
Height 1330mm
Depth 770mm
Medium Blackwood; leather; timber
Creator’s name John Smith Murdoch
Date created Circa 1927