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Gown in United Kingdom

Concept of Gown

The following is an old definition of Gown [1], a term which has several meanings:1. That worn by the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States has always been a long robe of blacle silk. A portrait of the first chief justice, John Jay, represents him in a borrowed robe, with broad scarlet facings and collar and sleeves of the same color. This gave rise to the tradition that the justices wore red gowns in the early days of the court. In the higher tribunals of the States, scarlet gowns were worn, in some instances, as late as 1815

Alternative Meaning

In England, the silk gown is the professional robe worn by those barristers who have been appointed of the number of her IMajesty’s counsel, and is the distinctive badge of Queen’s counsel, as the stuff gown is of the juniors who have not obtained that dignity. Accordingly, when a barrister is raised to the degree of Queen’s counsel, he is said to “get a silk gown.” The right to confer this dignity resides with the Lord Chancellor, who disposes of this branch of his patronage according to the talents, the practice, the seniority, and the general merits of the junior counsel. ” The rules as to the robes worn by British judges have been transmitted orally. Scarlet is the color for, the judges sitting in banc on the first day of the term; also in banc on such days as appear with red lettera in the calendar. On circuit, at the opening of the commission, scarlet robes are worn by both judges, should two be present. After the commission is opened, the judge who sits in the crown court and tries prisoners continues to wear scarlet until all the prisoners are dealt wich. He is hence termed by criminals the red-gown judge. The judge who tries nisi prius cases removes his scarlet, puts on black, and is called the black-gown judge. The scarlet robes worn in winter in town, and on circuit, whether in summer or winter, are trimmed with ermine, but in town in summer these robes are trimmed with gray silk. When on circuit, the senior or ‘ red-gown judge ‘ sits in the crown court at the first town in the circuit, while the junior judge takes nisi prius cases, but at the next place the red gown judge ‘ becomes ‘ the black-gown judge,’ and so they alternate throughout the circuit. On ordinary days the judges sitting in banc wear dark blue or purple robes, which in winter are trimmed with ermine, and in summer with bronze silk.”


Notes and References

  1. Meaning of Gown provided by the Anderson Dictionary of Law (1889) (Dictionary of Law consisting of Judicial Definitions and Explanations of Words, Phrases and Maxims and an Exposition of the Principles of Law: Comprising a Dictionary and Compendium of American and English Jurisprudence; William C. Anderson; T. H. Flood and Company, Law Publishers, Chicago, United States)

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Schema Summary

  • Article Name: Gown
  • Author: David Gordon
  • Description: Concept of Gown The following is an old definition of Gown [1], a term which has several meanings:1. That worn by the [...]

This entry was last updated: April 26, 2017


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