Why the Lord Mayor’s Show history is so important to the City

Lord Mayor's Show 2019. Photo by Clive Totman

It’s that time of year again; the City’s chiefs are donning 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 2021.

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Lord Mayor’s Show 2019. Photo by Clive Totman

But, with all this excitement, it’s easy to forget how the annual event came to be, so we’ve put together a Lord Mayor’s Show history lesson, so you can brush up on your knowledge and impress your friends.

The 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.

Another bit of Lord Mayor’s Show history is that it is perhaps the event’s longevity that makes it such a spectacle. The 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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Lord Mayor’s Show 2019. Photo by Clive Totman

When is this year’s show?

The 2021 Lord Mayor’s Show will take place on Saturday November 13, 2021.

Who is the next Lord of Mayor of London?

The 693rd Lord Mayor of London will be Alderman Vincent Keaveny, who takes over from William Russell.

Alderman Keaveny also represents the ward of Farringdon and is a partner in the international business law firm, DLA Piper.

He served as president of the City of London Law Society in 2014/15 and a governor of the City of London School.

He is also a member of the City’s Policy & Resources Committee and the homelessness and rough sleeping sub-committee.

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.

The last show saw not only the Lord Mayor’s glittering carriage, but also military bands, Chinese dragons, African drummers, giant inflatables, 120 horses and more than 60 floats.

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Lord Mayor’s Show 2019. Photo by Clive Totman

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.

Main image: Lord Mayor’s Show 2019. Photo by Clive Totman

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