The Lord Mayor's Show takes place this Saturday with a river pageant and procession through the city set to feature more than 7,000 people. It's a sizeable event in London, considering it's effectively just someone getting a new job, but the pomp is a long-established tradition in which the new Lord Mayor gets to show off his or her power and wealth.
And the role still embodies significant influence, for example, the Lord Mayor answers only to the sovereign, not the Prime Minister or Mayor of London. The sovereign however has to request the Lord Mayor's permission to enter the Square Mile.
If you're up early, the river pageant gets underway from Westminster at 9.00am and there'll be good opportunities to catch sight of the flotilla along the banks of the river, especially from the Hungerford and Millennium Bridges or one of the many benches along Victoria Embankment. If the weather's not looking too great, a window table at the Founder's Arms on Bankside could be a good bet.
The parade itself is always busy and packing hundreds of thousands of people into the City's historic (but narrow) streets is a bit of a squeeze. Our tip for the best place to stand is outside the Guildhall, where the processions starts because usually few people think to wait there. Position yourself opposite the entrance of the building, by the Pret.
Who is the Lord Mayor and why are they so special?
- Originally, after being elected, the new Lord Mayor would travel by river to Westminster, to pledge allegiance to the sovereign. According to Mike Paterson of London Historians, the procession ceased to be waterborne in 1856, two years before the Great Stink. Many livery companies had got rid of their barges and the Thames was not in a good state, so the procession transferred to the land. It was only revived last year.
- Outgoing Lord Mayor is Alan Yarrow, a member of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers and a career banker. Incoming Lord Mayor is Alderman Jeffrey Mountevans, a Swedish-born maritime expert.
- Mountevans assumes the position on Friday, when he will be sworn in at the Silent Ceremony at the Guildhall, so-called because the only words uttered are the Lord Mayor's oath.
- The Lord Mayor heads the City of London Corporation, which oversees the Square Mile. It is the only local government authority in Britain whose members are elected predominantly by voters appointed by businesses.
- The position was introduced by King John in 1215 in a bid to win support from the City by giving it the right to elect its own mayor.
What's happening and when
9.00am The River Pageant sets off from Westminster Bridge and will make its way East. Tower Bridge opens in salute at 9.25am and the Lord Mayor disembarks 10 minutes later alongside HMS Belfast. It's believed that this is where the word "float", relating to parades, originally comes from.
11am The parade procession sets off from Mansion House. Over 20 bands, 150 horses and thousands more people and vehicles takes part; this year's procession includes representatives from the Armed Forces, charities, the London Stock Exchange Group and many more. The route can be seen in full on this map. Although the route is 1.7 miles long, the procession itself stretches for more than three miles, so the front of it reaches the end of the route before the Lord Mayor has even left Mansion House. Along the route, the Lord Mayor stops at St Paul's Cathedral to receive a blessing from the Dean on the Cathedral steps and takes a pledge of allegiance at the Royal Courts of Justice. Once back at Mansion House, the Lord Mayor takes review of the Pikemen and Musketeers of the Honorable Artillery Company. The parade ends around 2.00pm.
3pm - City of London Guides offer walks around the City of London in exchange for a donation to the Lord Mayor's Appeal.
5.15pm - A fireworks display takes place on the river between Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges. If you're keen to get a prime position, we reckon booking a table at a restaurant in OXO Tower should be a good bet. Otherwise, take your place along the banks of the Thames — despite often being lauded as the best fireworks display in London, things don't tend to get anywhere near as busy as New Year's Eve, and many of the surrounding streets remain closed to vehicles until after the fireworks, making things a bit easier.
A family affair
When the new Lord Mayor of London sets out for the Lord Mayor’s Show, he’ll be led by three men from the same family — all winners of the historic Doggetts Coat and Badge rowing race.
In 1984 Simon McCarthy won the four miles five furlongs rowing race — claimed to be the oldest annual running sports event in the world; in 1992 his brother Jeremy won it and this year Simon’s son Harry won also.
“It’s so rare to have three living members of the same family win the Doggetts Coat and Badge, and a really special moment for all of us to be there together,” Simon told Londonist.
The new Lord Mayor will start his day with a river pageant. He will be aboard the Gloriana (the boat which led the flotilla during the Queen's Jubilee parade) — rowed by the three McCarthys and other watermen.
Then, when the parade gets underway at 11am, the McCarthys will be once again present, at the head of the procession.
The Doggetts Coat and Badge race has been taking place every year since 1715. It is only open to watermen in the first year of completing their apprenticeship.
Harry McCarthy is a captain with CBPS Capital Pleasure Boats. Simon is a black cab driver — a similar job to the watermen who operated when the race first started: they were the equivalent of today’s taxi drivers, ferrying people from one side of the river to the other.