Leadenhall Market will welcome a Royal family of a different kind to celebrate the Coronation of The King and The Queen Consort, with some of East London’s much-loved royals – The Pearlies.
Decorated in their iridescent mother-of-pearls, a Pearly King and Pearly Prince will be greeting visitors in the splendour of the Victorian market between 11am-4pm on 5 May, offering photo opportunities and traditional Pearly Cockney singalongs for everyone to get involved in.
The Pearlies will be joined by quirky music hall performances, which can be viewed and heard by all under the bunting-clad alleyways, whilst enjoying free cake from the market’s bakery Aux Merveilleux de Fred and free teas and coffees.
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Pearly Kings and Queens have been icons of London, dating back as far as the 17th Century – making them the perfect match with one of London’s oldest marketplaces.
In fact, it was market and street traders – known as ‘costermongers’ – who were said to have sewn mother-of-pearl buttons on to their clothing to stand out to Londoners, so they could sell their fruit, vegetables, fish and other produce.
In addition to this, coster-singers – who entertained crowds with Cockney songs in the music halls – were also known for their decorative suits and it was the costers who were first known to adopt the ideology of Pearly Kings and Queens.
Around the same time, the very first Pearly King was arguably an orphan and street sweeper called Henry Croft. Croft decorated his suit in mother-of-pearl buttons to draw attention to himself when collecting money for orphanages and hospitals – which was the beginning of the pearly mission to support charitable organisations.
Not straying from their original mission, you can now find communities of Pearly Kings and Queens across the capital, decorated in their beautiful buttons, often raising money for London-based charities and organisations.
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