Lord Mayor’s Show 2022: discovering the parade’s vibrant history

Lord Mayor's Show
©Clive Totman

It’s that time of year again; the City’s chiefs are getting ready to don their finest garments and the gold carriage is being polished, ready to hitch up.

Now is the time to plan where you’ll place yourself for the longest running event in London, the Lord Mayor’s Show.

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The Lord Mayor acts as an international spokesperson for the City, leading business delegations overseas to key international markets on behalf of the UK’s financial and professional services industry.

In the role, the Lord Mayor will meet government representatives from around the world, alongside business leaders and policy makers both at home and abroad. He will look to strengthen economic ties with the UK, identify new business opportunities and promote the UK as a top global destination for foreign investment.

But before all that, there is the small matter of their grand introduction to the City of London – and the world – and that come in the ever-so colourful shape of the Lord Mayor’s Show.

And in all the excitement, it’s easy to forget how the annual event came to be.

That’s why we’ve put together a Lord Mayor’s Show history lesson, so you can brush up on your knowledge and impress your friends.

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The very first Lord Mayor’s Show

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 event’s longevity that makes it such a spectacle: the Lord Mayor’s Show has survived the Plague, the Great Fire of London in 1666, and two World Wars.

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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.

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Who is the next Lord of Mayor of London?

Nicholas Lyons has been elected as the 694th Lord Mayor of the City of London, succeeding the current Lord Mayor Vincent Keaveny.

During his Mayoral year, Alderman Lyons – who is taking a sabbatical from being Chairman of Phoenix Group Holdings – will champion his ‘Financing our Future’ theme by promoting a resilient, resourceful and responsible City.

It will focus on fuelling the economy by deploying capital and expertise to supercharge economic growth nationwide and advancing the UK’s global competitiveness.

Lyons said: “It is a great honour to be elected the 694th Lord Mayor of the City of London. I want to put the City back where it belongs at the heart of the economy when the country most needs it to drive growth, create jobs and support investment.

“Financial and professional services firms employ over 2.3 million people across the UK – two-thirds of which are outside of London. The sector is a national asset that underpins every aspect of our lives. During the Covid crisis, it enabled us to operate successfully working from home, ensuring that transactions, payments and access to credit and to savings were unaffected.

“We cannot, however, afford to be complacent and must work with Government and the regulators to ensure the UK is internationally competitive, innovative and open.

“We must also address the twin challenges of financial literacy and financial inclusion. This is particularly important in the face of a challenging economic outlook and I hope to drive this agenda forward during my year in office.”

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When is this year’s show?

This year’s Lord Mayor’s Show will take place on Saturday November 12, 2022. Around 500,000 people descend on the City to watch the pageantry live, while an estimated two million tune in via television coverage.

What to expect from this year’s Lord Mayor’s Show

A three-mile-long, hour-long procession will make its way through the City of London, beginning at Mansion House and finishing at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Past editions of the much-loved show have included not only the Lord Mayor’s glittering carriage, but also military bands, Chinese dragons, African drummers, giant inflatables, 120 horses and more than 100 floats representing London organisations and Livery Companies, and plenty more besides.

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Where are the best places to watch?

It’s free to stand and watch the procession anywhere along the route between 11am-12pm between Bank and St Paul’s. It’s better to get off at Mansion House, Cannon Street or Blackfriars as other stations will be crowded.

For a less crowded version, watch the return procession between 1.15pm-2.30pm in the Embankment area. Just remember to bring sensible shoes and an umbrella, just in case.

Wherever you park up, remember that the procession is much longer than the route, so there will always be something going on.

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Main image by Clive Totman

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