The Lord Mayor’s Show is one of the oldest and most important traditions of London, its origins go back to 1215 when King John was in trouble with his Barons looked to the City of London for support. In 1215 the King was persuaded to issue a Royal Charter that allowed the City of London to elect its own Mayor, but there was an important condition. Every year the newly elected Mayor must leave the safety of the City, travel upriver to the small town of Westminster and swear loyalty to the Crown. The Lord Mayor has now made that journey for 800 years, despite plagues and fires and countless wars, and pledged his (and her) loyalty to 34 kings and queens of England.
The Mayor was a power equal to any of John’s unruly Barons, and only two months later the first elected Mayor would put his signature to the Magna Carta. He 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 to which a commoner could aspire, 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 was the Mayor of London three times. In the 20th century the Lord Mayor’s Show was the first outside event ever to be broadcast live and it still attracts a TV audience of millions.
The modern Lord Mayor’s procession is a direct descendant of that first journey to Westminster. The state coach is 350 years old and the show features the City’s businesses, Livery Companies, charities, Her Majesty’s Forces, the City Police and Londoners from all walks of life come together to enjoy a celebration of the City’s ancient power and prosperity. The new Lord Mayor is Alderman Jeffrey Mountevans who will be the 688th Lord Mayor of the City of London.
The show itself is in three main parts, the River Pageant, the Lord Mayor’s Procession and the Lord Mayor’s Fireworks. Each have their own attractions and for those who want to find out more about the City of London there will be Guided Walks in the afternoon. The timings are as follows:
09:00: River Pageant
The original Lord Mayor’s journey was always taken by river. The modern Lord Mayor celebrates that history by travelling to the City in a splendid flotilla of traditional Thames barges and small boats, including the famous QRB Gloriana. Tower Bridge opens in salute at 09.25 and the new Lord Mayor alights at HMS President ten minutes later.
11:00: Lord Mayor’s Procession
This is a procession unlike any other in the world: over 7000 participants, 20 bands, 150 horses, hundreds of other carriages, carts, coaches and other vehicles including vintage cars, steam buses, tanks, tractors, ambulances, fire engines, unicycles, steamrollers, giant robots, helicopters, ships, penny farthings, beds and bathtubs.
The procession sets off from Mansion House at 11am. It pauses at the Royal Courts while the Lord Mayor gives his oath and then returns up the Victoria Embankment at about 1pm. The Lord Mayor will get back to Mansion House just after 2.
15:00: Guided Walks
In the lull between procession and fireworks you will find the remarkable City of London Guide Lecturers giving walking tours around the strange old streets of the City of London. The walks are easy and free, but they hope you will make a donation to the Lord Mayor’s Appeal.
17:15: Lord Mayor’s Fireworks
The new Lord Mayor completes his first day in office with a magnificent fireworks display over the Thames. The launchpad floats in the river between Blackfriars and Waterloo and all the roads in that area are still closed, so you can walk freely around either bank of the river and find a good spot to enjoy the end of the Show.
It’s one of London’s most spectacular annual displays but for the best view head down to the riverside between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges, either on Victoria Embankment or on the South Bank. The display will last about 15-20 minutes.
The Lord Mayor’s Procession fills the whole area between Mansion House and the Royal Courts of Justice in Aldwych. It travels out via St Paul’s between 11am and 12.30, and returns by the embankment between 1pm and 2.30.
The busiest parts of the route are around St Paul’s and Mansion House. If you’re at all concerned about the crowds, or might be a bit unsteady on your feet, please avoid those areas. In quieter places like Fleet Street the crowd should be much more manageable and you should be able to use folding chairs. There is also less of a crush during the return leg of the procession.
Two of the most interesting aspects of the show is the magnificent State Coach which is over 250 years old and the wicker giants are Gog and Magog, the traditional guardians of the City of London. They first walked at the head of the Lord Mayor’s procession around five hundred years ago.
If you would further information, visit the Lord Mayor’s Show website here
London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and the latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here