Not many people can trace their job back through 678 previous incumbents. Sir John Stuttard can, after serving as Lord Mayor of London in 2006-7. His new book "Whittington to World Financial Centre: The City of London & its Lord Mayor" neatly captures the endless banquets, ancient ceremonies and high-profile engagements that the role entails.
The first-person tone and frequent anecdotes give certain parts of the book the air of an extended blog post. We hear about the difficulties of holding a tricorne hat, the spatial limitations of the Mayoral coach and how to assuage a Kazakh delegation while the Borat movie is the talk of the town.
The book is lavishly illustrated with almost 100 colour photos of the author going about his lordly duties. This is a role steeped in arcane ceremony and ancient ritual, with oddly titled characters straight out of a Neil Gaiman novel, such as the City Remembrancer, the Deputy Gauger of the Lighting Up Dinner, and the Garter Principal King of Arms.
While several chapters chronicle the history and traditions of the role, the book is largely focused on the modern aspects of the mayoralty, and the financial institutions of the City and the UK as a whole for whom the Lord Mayor acts as champion. Sir John spent about a third of his time overseas promoting the financial sector, and the book goes into this itinerary in some detail. The concluding chapters bring us right up to date with reflections on the causes of the Credit Crunch, and recommendations for riding out the financial storm.
Although the book does a good job of demystifying the role, we were still left with a few questions about the mayoralty. How, for example, does one cope with nearly 500 formal meals in one year? Luckily, Sir John was gracious enough to enlighten us. You can read an interview on Londonist tomorrow.
Whittington To World Financial Centre by John Stuttard is published by Phillimore.