THE time has arrived to once again hitch up the golden carriage, deck the City’s chiefs in their finest garments, and pick your spot for the Lord Mayor’s Show – but how did London’s longest running event come to be? Back in 1215, London was an...
THE time has arrived to once again hitch up the golden carriage, deck the City’s chiefs in their finest garments, and pick your spot for the Lord Mayor’s Show – but how did London’s longest running event come to be?
Back in 1215, London was an influential and fast-growing city, but the focal point for the country as a whole was the crumbling of King John’s disastrous reign on the throne.
So, in an attempt to garner the support of a powerful ally, King John allowed the City to elect it’s own mayor – as long as they agreed to travel to Westminster on an annual basis to swear loyalty to the Crown.
The mayoral title was given it’s Lordly prefix about a century later, and in total Lord Mayors down the ages have pledged their allegiance to some 34 Kings and Queens of England.
The show grew in stature as the population gathered in ever increasing numbers to show their support to the new Lord Mayor as he/she made their way beyond the City’s borders; and the pageantry has not been cancelled since 1852 when celebrations were shelved because of the Duke of Wellington’s funeral.
It is perhaps the show’s longevity that makes it such a spectacle. The event has survived the Plague, the Great Fire of London in 1666, and two World Wars.
It has moved from land to river and back again; all the while London becoming a modern megacity, conquering the space that once existed between the City and the village of Westminster.
References to the spectacle can be found in works from Shakespeare, the pantomime story Dick Whittington (who truly was Lord Mayor three times) and the daring adventures of James Bond.
The route and date of the bash have changed over the years; the journey has been fixed since 1952 but prior to this the parade was designed to pass through the Lord Mayor’s home ward.
Of course, one of the brightest stars of the show is the horse-drawn golden carriage that ferries the Lord Mayor across the Square Mile.
It dates from 1757, when Sir Charles Asgill commissioned Joseph Berry of Leather Lane to create a mode of transport worthy of the City’s leading ambassador.
The cost of production at the time was £850, and the carriage is widely acknowledged as the oldest working ceremonial vehicle in the world.