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Obeisance to the Chair

Obeisance to the Chair

In both Houses the custom of bowing to the Chair when Members enter or leave the Chamber, or move to or from their seats is observed. The custom is said to be of religious origin, when St Stephen's Chapel was used by the House of Commons as its Chamber from 1547 to 1832.

Behind the Speaker's chair was an altar which Members bowed to, as was customary on entering or leaving a church. Members of the House of Commons continued the practice after they ceased to meet in the Chapel and the act of obeisance in Parliaments today is regarded as a mark of respect for the Chair and its authority.