I have the honour of being the University of London’s Esquire Bedell, an office I have held since 1995 after consultation with the Chancellor, HRH The Princess Royal. Those who have studied degree ceremonies as attentively as I have over the years will have seen in the precessions of graduates making their way to and from the stage, people sometimes not in academic dress but carrying a pole with a university crest at the top. These are the Bedells and what they carry is called a wand. A Bedell’s principal function is to help keep the line of graduates under control.
When arriving at the stage, these Bedells walk across holding their wand, unannounced and with a nod or curtsy to whoever is presiding. They then leave the stage, leading their line of graduates back to their seats. Serving initially as a Bedell of this kind, I had a small part to play in degree ceremonies. However, my role soon evolved more significance, and included shepherding graduates across the stage at the Royal Albert Hall, where Foundation Day used to be held, to be presented to the Chancellor. This early experience as a Bedell, together with an enjoyment of stage work as part of the University’s Drama Society, meant that very little additional preparation was required in order to slip comfortably into the part of Esquire Bedell.