THE LORD MAYOR OF LONDON'S SHOW
Wanting to see the Lord Mayor’s Show in London I guessed at something under 5ft tall would not see anything just from pavement level, so with a bit of research found that you could purchase seats in the temporary stands erected each year next to Westminster Abbey. Online booking informed me that there were only two seats left, which was fine, but then went on to say single seats were not available. I wanted to see it, there wasn’t much time to make a decision in case the last two went so that was it, and two tickets were bought and paid for. It happened to be half term, so I checked with my brother from Norfolk and yes he would love to come, and maybe stay a few days with me wherever I could find a spot for Thebus and maybe we could do some Londony things.
I found good place to stay just outside Windsor who told me they were not far from the station so I thought I was set up. I would drive Super Scooter to the station, book him on the train then drive round for the day. Not. The site was some three or miles from the station so that was out, but even if I got him there he was too large to go on the train service, so I had a rethink. So many of the places I can stop are too far from town, and even if I get a taxi then I can’t walk round. What about a lightweight folding scooter, probably not so stable or rufty tufty for fields and gardens as Super Scooter but with definite possibilities. So a bit of googling later I found one in Germany, but of course I couldn’t get it to me in time to use. However they was something similar, not quite so light, but supplied with ample photo of how it was assembled then dismantled to put in an ordinary car boot. This had to be the way forward.
I found one - second hand but looking in excellent order and they could deliver it next day. All my problems were solved or so I thought. Nick arrived and it was lovely to see him and share some chat and a meal. He loves cheese so we had that old standby of the 60’s Cheese Fondue - I often wonder whether I am forty years behind the times or ten years ahead of the fashion coming backing again. Anyway it was delicious and we took the opportunity of playing with the new scooter prior to our London Trip.
It was to go into the back of his car, then we would take the train to Paddington, and I would use it once there. Wrong again. It was such a beast to handle that at soon as we arrived in London we took it to Left Luggage and paid £10 for the privilege of abandoning it.
But back to the Lord Mayor’s Show in which King John is bound up in its early story. It seemed no-one cared much for King John, at least that is what the historians would have us think, but they might be right as his nicknames were Lackland and Softsword, neither of which is very complimentary, especially with a brother called Richard The Lionheart!
There was much unrest in the kingdom during his reign. The barons schemed against him, the people cheered invaders and his allies were very few. London even then was an independent sort of city - rich, mercantile and with its own powers and customs. John wanted it on his side and in 1215 by Royal Charter he gave London the right to elect a Mayor.
The first mayor of London, Henry Fitz Ailwyn had taken office in 1191 but King John's charter turned the Mayor into one of the first elected offices in the modern world. Since then, every year a new Mayor would be chosen, though by a rather small pool of voters, and every year he would leave the City of London, travel upriver to the small town of Westminster and swear loyalty to the Crown, and the Lord Mayor of London has made that journey every year for eight centuries, despite plagues and fires and countless wars, and pledged loyalty to thirty four kings and queens of England.
The Lord Mayor was a power equal to any of John's unruly Barons, and only two months after John’s Charter the first elected Mayor put his signature to the Magna Carta, and was no doubt responsible for the wording of part 13:
13. The city of London shall enjoy all its ancient liberties and free customs, both by land and by water. We also will and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall enjoy all their liberties and free customs.
For the next few hundred years, Lord Mayor of London was by far the grandest position that a commoner could reach, and the Mayor's journey was the celebrity spectacle of its day. Over the centuries it grew so splendid and so popular that by the 16th century it was known everywhere as the Lord Mayor's Show. It features in the plays of Shakespeare, the diaries of Pepys and the adventures of James Bond and of course in the pantomime story of Dick Whittington, who really was the Mayor of London.
The Mayor still comes up rive by barge but I knew we would not have time to see that and get to our seats in the Grandstand, with the whole of the area closed to traffic. But we were there in time to look round St. Paul’s then take our seats.
Everything is conducted with military precision and the 2014 parade started absolutely to the second at eleven o’clock with a jet flypast, and before long the first part of the procession reached St Paul’s. Although the seats were on the side easiest to see the approaching parade the sides of the grandstand railings were in the way, and it took me a little while to work out that the only way to photograph anything was to lift the camera out over the top, so I missed photographing some of the early floats and displays including the giant figures of Gog and Magog, the wickerwork giants which are said to be protectors of the City of London, which I had particularly wanted to see and photo, but I found found a free commons photo for you and a link to their history.
The whole display was terrific with many marching bands, horse drawn carriages, and floats of London Guilds. There was an incredible fishy monster from The Fishmongers Guild who’s flag waving supporters juts in front of us cheered loudly.
At noon the Lord Mayor’s gilded coach appeared to allow the Lord Mayor to alight and take the traditional oath on the steps of St. Pauls, before everyone disappeared off, presumably for a slap up lunch.
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