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Memento : Issue 18
september 2001 memento 5 The Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor-General 1900 is one of several 100-year-old documents in our collection bearing the name of Muir Mackenzie. Kenneth Augustus Muir Mackenzie was born in Scotland in 1845 to Sophia (Johnstone) and Sir John William Pitt Muir Mackenzie of Delvine, a baronetcy in the county of Perth. Our researcher followed the trail of Mackenzie's career from barrister in London in 1872 to the civil service where he was appointed Permanent Principal Secretary to the Lord Chancellor in 1880. Five years later he was also made Clerk of the Crown in Chancery -- an ancient office dating back before the 14th century. Muir Mackenzie was made Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1892, and knighted in 1898 in recognition of loyal service to the Crown. When Queen Victoria signed her Assent on 9 July 1900, Sir Kenneth Muir Mackenzie was at the pinnacle of his civil service career. It was he who read out the Assent before the assembled Houses of Parliament at Westminster that day. And it was he who drafted other constitutional documents such as the Letters Patent, and affixed the Great Seal of England to the documents founding the new nation. Muir Mackenzie received further recognition of his distinguished service when he became Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1911. When he retired at 70 he was raised to the peerage, becoming Baron Muir Mackenzie. This was a title which could be inherited only by male heirs. His only son had died in 1900 and so the title could not pass to his remaining children, both daughters. Seventy years after his death on 22 May 1930, Lord Muir Mackenzie's name lives on in the charters of our nation. In reflecting on these documents in our Federation Gallery, Australians are also sharing his moment in history. His name appears on several of the most important documents in Australia's history. Yet to many he remains a shadowy figure. Muir Mackenzie's name appears with Queen Victoria's on the document that officially made Australia a nation, the Assent to the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act. It appears again on the Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor-General. Both documents are on public display in our Federation Gallery in Canberra. Our Australian National University intern Pamela Cohen investigated the question that so many of our visitors ponder: Who was Muir Mackenzie? A great Scot! Who was Muir Mackenzie? NAA:A10873