Category Archives: Ceremonial London

The Mock-Battle of Deptford (Edward VI, 1549)

Bust of Edward VI on site of Bridewell Palace.JPG

On this day in 1549, the boy-King, Edward VI wrote in his journal:

“I went to Deptford, being bidden to supper by the lord Clinton … .   After … was there a fort made upon a great lighter on the Thames …, of which Mr. Winter was captain, with forty or fifty other soldiers … .  To the fort also appertained a galley … , …  for defence … .  Wherefore there came 4 pinnaces … , which … with clods, squibs, canes of fire, darts … and bombards, assaulted the castle; and at length … burst the outer walls of the castle, beating them of the castle into the second ward, who after issued out and drove away the pinnaces, sinking one of them, out of which all the men in it … leaped out, and swam in the Thames.  Then came th’ admiral of the navy and three pinnaces, and won the castle by assault, and burst the top of it down, and took  the captain … ”.

The “Knollys Rose” ceremony

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The procession leaves the church of All Hallows

The annual “Knollys Rose” ceremony will take place a week today, on Wednesday 20th June, at 10:45.  A single red rose  will be  processed, amid much pomp, through the streets from  All Hallows-by-the-Tower to the Mansion House,  there to be presented, on the   altar cushion from the church, to the Lord Mayor of London.

The ceremony dates back to  1381, when Lady Constance Knollys built a footbridge from her house to the opposite side of  Seething Lane without first seeking the Medieval equivalent of planning permission, and was fined a single red rose by the then Lord Mayor, Sir William Walworth.  Walworth just happened to be a friend of Lady Constance’s husband, Sir Robert Knollys (a soldier, who at the time of the incident was fighting alongside John of Gaunt  in the Hundred Years War against the French).

 

Beating the Bounds of the Parish of All Hallows

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“Beating the Bounds” is an ancient but still practised annual custom, dating back to Medieval times, during which parishes re-affirm their boundaries, at Rogationtide, by processing round them and stopping and beating  each boundary mark with wands.

The City church of All Hallows-by-the-Tower beats its bounds today, on   Ascension Day.  The  “Beating Party” is made up of students from St Dunstan’s School in Catford, returning to their roots in the parish of St Dunstan-in-the-East to take part in the proceedings.

The party, accompanied by the Clergy from All Hallows, and the Masters of the Livery Companies associated with the church, first boards a boat   to beat the southern boundary mark, in the middle of the Thames! It then returns to dry land, and processes round the remainder of the boundary of the parish, beating the remaining boundary marks – at Custom House, St Dunstan-in-the-East, Plantation House and Knolly’s House – as it goes, before returning to the church for a service of Festal Evensong in the presence of the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs.

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Every third year, the party also takes  part in a “Boundary Dispute Ceremony” with the Resident Governor and Yeoman Warders of HM Tower of London, in commemoration of an occasion in 1698 when an actual  fight broke out between the people of the parish and those of the Tower over a long-standing boundary dispute.  As one historical account put it:

“On this occasion the warders used their halberds to some purpose, and several parishioners were seriously injured”.

 

Coronacon Day (1661)

Charles II coronation portrait by John Michael Wright.jpg

On this  day in 1661, Charles II was formally crowned king at Westminster Abbey.

Samuel Pepys wrote of the occasion in his diary:

“About 4 I rose and got to the Abbey, … and ..,  with a great deal of patience I sat … till 11 before the King came in. And a great pleasure it was to see the Abbey raised in the middle, all covered with red, and a throne (that is a chair) and footstool on the top of it; and all the officers of all kinds, so much as the very fidlers, in red vests.

At last comes in the Dean and Prebends of Westminster, with the Bishops (many of them in cloth of gold copes), and after them the Nobility, all in their Parliament robes, which was a most magnificent sight. Then the Duke, and the King with a scepter (carried by my Lord Sandwich) and sword and mond  before him, and the crown too.

The King in his robes, bare-headed, which was very fine. And after all had placed themselves, there was a sermon and the service; and then in the Quire at the high altar, the King passed through all the ceremonies of the Coronacon, which to my great grief I and most in the Abbey could not see. The crown being put upon his head, a great shout begun, and he came forth to the throne, and there passed more ceremonies: as taking the oath, and having things read to him by the Bishop; and his lords (who put on their caps as soon as the King put on his crown),  and bishops come, and kneeled before him.

And three times the King at Arms went to the three open places on the scaffold, and proclaimed, that if any one could show any reason why Charles Stewart should not be King of England, that now he should come and speak.

And a Generall Pardon also was read by the Lord Chancellor, and meddalls flung up and down by my Lord Cornwallis, of silver, but I could not come by any.

But so great a noise that I could make but little of the musique; and indeed, it was lost to every body. But I had so great a lust to [piss] that I went out a little while before the King had done all his ceremonies, and went round the Abbey to Westminster Hall, all the way within rayles, and 10,000 people, with the ground covered with blue cloth; and scaffolds all the way. Into the Hall I got, where it was very fine with hangings and scaffolds one upon another full of brave ladies; and my wife in one little one, on the right hand.

Here I staid walking up and down, and at last upon one of the side stalls I stood and saw the King come in with all the persons (but the soldiers) that were yesterday in the cavalcade; and a most pleasant sight it was to see them in their several robes. And the King came in with his crown on, and his sceptre in his hand, under a canopy borne up by six silver staves, carried by Barons of the Cinque Ports, and little bells at every end.

And after a long time, he got up to the farther end, and all set themselves down at their several tables; and that was also a brave sight: and the King’s first course carried up by the Knights of the Bath.  And many fine ceremonies there was of the Heralds leading up people before him, and bowing; and my Lord of Albemarle’s, going to the kitchin and eat a bit of the first dish that was to go to the King’s table.

But, above all, was these three Lords, Northumberland, and Suffolk, and the Duke of Ormond,  coming before the courses on horseback, and staying so all dinner-time, and at last to bring up the King’s Champion, all in armour on horseback, with his spear and targett carried before him. And a Herald proclaims “That if any dare deny Charles Stewart to be lawful King of England, here was a Champion that would fight with him;” and with these words, the Champion flings down his gauntlet, and all this he do three times in his going up towards the King’s table. At last when he is come, the King drinks to him, and then sends him the cup which is of gold, and he drinks it off, and then rides back again with the cup in his hand.

I went from table to table to see the Bishops and all others at their dinner, and was infinitely pleased with it. And at the Lords’ table, I met with William Howe, and he spoke to my Lord for me, and he did give me four rabbits and a pullet, and so I got it and Mr. Creed and I got  Mr. Michell to give us some bread, and so we at a stall eat it, as every body else did what they could get.

I took a great deal of pleasure to go up and down, and look upon the ladies, and to hear the musique of all sorts, but above all, the 24 violins.

About six at night they had dined, and I went …  to Mr. Bowyer’s.

…  At Mr. Bowyer’s, a great deal of company, some I knew, others I did not. Here we staid upon the leads and below till it was late, expecting to see the fire-works,  but they were not performed to-night: only the City had a light like a glory round about it with bonfires.

…  And …  after a little stay more I took my wife …  to Axe-yard, in which at the further end there were three great bonfires, and a great many great gallants, men and women; and they laid hold of us, and would have us drink the King’s health upon our knees, kneeling upon a faggot, which we all did, they drinking to us one after another. Which we thought a strange frolique; but these gallants continued thus a great while, and I wondered to see how the ladies did tipple.

At last I sent my wife … to bed, and Mr. Hunt  and I went in with Mr. Thornbury  (who did give the company all their wine, he being yeoman of the wine-cellar to the King) to his house; and there, with his wife and two of his sisters, and some gallant sparks that were there, we drank the King’s health, and nothing else, till one of the gentlemen fell down stark drunk, and there lay spewing; and I went to my Lord’s pretty well. … Thus did the day end with joy every where; and blessed be God, I have not heard of any mischance to any body through it all … .

… Now, after all this, I can say that, besides the pleasure of the sight of these glorious things, I may now shut my eyes against any other objects, nor for the future trouble myself to see things of state and show, as being sure never to see the like again in this world”.

 

 

Charles II’s Coronation Cavalcade (1661)

Charles II's coronation procession

On this day in 1661, the day before his formal coronation, Charles II ceremonially processed  on horseback through the City of London to Westminster.  The ceremonial route passed  through four specially-constructed allegorically-themed triumphal arches: one on Leadenhall Street; one at the Royal Exchange on Cornhill; one on Cheapside; and one in Whitefriars (*).

The event was captured on canvas by the Dutch artist Dir(c)k Stoop.  The associated lavish entertainments  were described in detail in print by the Scots stage-manager John Ogilby, in a book entitled, in part (!),  “The entertainment of His Most Excellent Majestie Charles II, in his passage through the city of London to his coronation containing an exact accompt of the whole solemnity, the triumphal arches, and cavalcade … ”.

(*) The arches are thought to have been inspired by those designed by  Rubens for the triumphal entry of Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand of Austria into Antwerp in 1635.

St Andrew Undershaft, John Stow and “The Changing of the Quill”

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The church of St Andrew Undershaft was originally  built in the twelfth century, and rebuilt in the fourteenth, and again, in the Perpendicular Gothic style, in around 1520-32.  It was undamaged both in the Great Fire of 1666 and in the Blitz of 1940-41, although the seventeenth-century stained-glass windows were destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1992.  The artist Hans Holbein was a parishioner here.

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Among the many memorials inside is one to the Merchant Taylor and amateur antiquarian John Stow (d. 1605), the author of “A Survay of London”.

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Stow appears with a quill-pen in his hand.  Every third year, on or around the anniversary of his death on April 5th, as part of a special service in the church in his memory, he is ceremonially presented  with a new quill (and his old one is given to the  winner of an essay competition for local children, with London as its subject).

 

The “Oranges and Lemons” Service at St Clement Danes

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A special “Oranges and Lemons” service will take place in the church of St Clement Danes  today, as it has on the third Thursday in March every year since 1919, to commemorate the reference to the church – or possibly that of St Clement Eastcheap – in the well-known nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons (say the bells of St Clements)” (*).

Participating children from the local Primary School will each be presented with an orange and a lemon to take home at the end.

(*) The nursery rhyme is of uncertain antiquity, although  versions of it  date back as least as far as the early eighteenth century.  Besides St Clements, other churches referred to include St Martin’s [?St Martin within Ludgate or St Martin in the Fields], Old Bailey [St Sepulchre without Newgate], Shoreditch [St Leonard], Stepney [St Dunstan and All Saints] and Bow [St Mary-le-Bow].

Oranges and lemons probably began to be  imported into London  at least as long ago as the fifteenth century.

 

 

James I’s Triumphal Entry into London (1604)

On this day in 1604, James I, the newly crowned first Stuart King of England, entered  the City of London, and thence processed to  Westminster to attend his first parliament, amid much pomp and pageant.  A number of contemporary accounts of the event still survive, including those of Thomas Dekker, Gilbert Dugdale, Ben Jonson and Stephen Harrison, and also that of the King himself, who wrote,  with characteristic bombast:

“The people of all sorts rode and ran, nay, rather flew to meet me, their eyes flaming nothing but sparkles of affection, their mouths and tongues uttering nothing but sounds of joy, their hands, feet, and all the rest of their members in their gestures discovering a passionate longing and earnestness to meet and embrace their new sovereign.”

On its way from the City to Westminster, the  procession passed beneath  a series of allegorically-themed triumphal arches, designed by the aforementioned Stephen Harrison, that formed the backdrops for entertainments by some of the finest writers of the day, including Dekker, Jonson, Middleton and Webster.

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The first triumphal arch, on Fenchurch Street, was the Arch of Londinium, representing the City of London.  The entertainment performed here portrayed the personification of British Monarchy, Divine Wisdom, and the  Genius of the City (alongside  Gladness, Veneration, Prompitude, Vigilance, Loving Affection and Unanimity).

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The second, on Gracious [Gracechurch] Street, was the Arch of the Italians (*), also symbolically depicting James receiving the crown of England …

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… and the third, at the [Royal] Exchange, the Arch of the Dutchmen (**).

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The fourth, at the Great Conduit at the eastern end of Cheapside, was the Arch of New Arabia.

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The  fifth, at the Little Conduit at the western end of Cheapside, was the  Arch of the Bower of Plenty, also symbolically depicting Peace, the nine Muses,  and the seven Liberal Arts (Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Music, Arithmetic, Geometry and Astrology).

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The sixth, at the Conduit on Fleet Street, was the Arch of the New World.

The seventh, and the last in the City of London, at Temple Bar, was the Temple of Janus (there was an eighth on the Strand in the City of Westminster).

(*) There had been an Italian community in the immediately surrounding area – centred on Lombard Street – since the late thirteenth century.

(**) There had been a Dutch community in the immediately surrounding area – centred on the Dutch Church on Austin Friars – since the mid-sixteenth century.

 

The Spital Sermon

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The annual “Spital Sermon”, on the theme of “The Spread Of Truth”, will take place today in the church of St Lawrence Jewry, with the Lord Mayor, the Court of Aldermen, the Common Councilmen, the Governors of the Bridewell and Christ’s Hospitals, and pupils from Christ’s Hospital School  in attendance (it takes place today so as to coincide with a meeting of the Court of Common Council in the nearby Guildhall).

The sermon has been preached every year since the late fourteenth century by a bishop invited by the mayor:  formerly at the open-air pulpit at St Mary Spital in Spitalfields; subsequently, after the pulpit was destroyed during the Civil War,  at St Bride Fleet Street and Christ Church Newgate Street; and latterly, after Christ Church was damaged during the  Second World War, at St Lawrence.  Its original purpose was to raise awareness of, and donations and bequests to, the Spital, which was founded in 1197 for the care of the sick.

 

The coronation of Elizabeth I (1559)

Elizabeth I's Coronation Procession

On this day in 1559 (*), Elizabeth was crowned queen in Westminster Abbey in London.  Her coronation procession, which saw her borne amid the throng on a golden litter, paused on its way for the staging of five pageants in her honour.   The first pageant symbolised her Genealogy, and emphasised her “Englishness” and Protestantism (in contrast to her late sister Mary’s “Spanishness” and Catholicism), and her descent from Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York, whose marriage had  unified the country after the Wars of the Roses.  The second, her Government, and its virtues of True Religion, Love of Subjects, Wisdom and Justice.  The third, during which the Lord Mayor presented her with a gift of gold, the Interdependence of the Crown and the City.  The fourth, during which a figure representing Truth presented her  with a copy of the Bible bearing the English inscription “The Word of Truth”, the Thriving – English, Protestant – Commonwealth.   The fifth, Elizabeth as Deborah, the prophetess of the Old Testament who rescued the House of Israel and went on to rule for forty years.

The symbolism and Elizabeth’s  own words  greatly reassured the anxiously watching public, and her dignified demeanour and common touch further warmed her to them.  At one point in the proceedings, she pledged “And whereas your request is that I should continue your good lady and be Queen, be ye ensured that I will be as good unto you as ever Queen was unto her people. No will in me can lack, neither do I trust shall there lack any power. And persuade yourselves that for the safety and quietness of you all I will not spare if need be to spend my blood. God thank you all”.

(*)  The date was chosen as a particularly auspicious one by Elizabeth’s astrologer John Dee.