The City's relationship with the Monarch and the Royal Family

Of all the myth and lore that envelopes the Square Mile perhaps none is more persistent than the idea that the Monarch has to ask permission to enter the City of London and may not do so without the permission of the Lord Mayor. While it is true to say that the City's relationship with the Crown is complex and exceptionally ancient, the myth that the Monarch is in some way subordinate to the Lord Mayor is simply nonsense. The very fact that the Lord Mayor has to make an oath of allegiance to the Monarch at the Royal Courts of Justice during the annual Lord Mayor's Show should put paid to this myth, yet it continues to spread.

The genesis of this myth is likely to be the Ceremony of the Pearl Sword which has, from time to time, been held at the former site of Temple Bar on Fleet Street. During the ceremony the Monarch's carriage procession draws up, the City Police pull a red cord across the street where Temple Bar once stood, the royal procession stops, the Lord Mayor approaches the carriage and presents the hilt of the City's Pearl Sword to the Monarch who touches it and symbolically returns the sword to the Lord Mayor. The essence of the ceremony is captured in the painting by Alexander Talbot Rice which hangs in Ironmongers' Hall and recalls the moment when Lord Mayor Sir Michael Oliver (Citizen & Ironmonger) offered the Pearl Sword during the Queen's Golden Jubilee.

Lord Mayor of London, Sir Michael Oliver, presenting the Pearl Sword to Her Majesty at Temple Bar

The Pearl Sword is believed to be a gift from Queen Elizabeth I to the City of London, and it is one of several ceremonial swords owned and used by the City. With the City's ceremonial mace they are symbols of the authority the Monarch delegates to the Lord Mayor. The Lord Mayor takes position, place and precedence before all persons in the City other than the Monarch and is the Monarch's representative in the City.

The last point is particularly well illustrated by the fact that the City, despite being a ceremonial county, has no Lord Lieutenant, rather the lieutenancy is held in 'commission' (i.e., by a committee rather than an individual) and the Lord Mayor is the head of the Commission of Lieutenancy for the City of London. The Queen issues a new Commission of Lieutenancy each December notice of which is placed in the London Gazette. A uniform has been designed for the head of the commission, and the Deputy Lieutenants of the City of London but has never been created or worn.

The Lord Mayor's Crystal Sceptre, a gift from Henry V

The City's several swords and the mace are not the only symbols of royal authority displayed by the Lord Mayor of London. Following Henry V's successful campaign in France, which was funded and equipped by the City's merchants, the Lord Mayor was presented with a Crystal Sceptre in 1415. The Sceptre features the arms of Henry V and appears during the Silent Ceremony in Guildhall when the Lord Mayor Elect is installed.

The Crystal Sceptre is also held by the Lord Mayor during the coronation ceremony. The Lord Mayor is the only elected government officer who plays a role in the ceremony, and stands with the bishops, peers and heralds on the dais in Westminster Abbey. The Lord Mayor is also afforded the privilege of a unique coronation robe, trimmed with four rows of ermine and gold. He stands out very clearly in this image from the BBC film of the coronation, no mystery about 'Where's Wally?' in this image.

The Lord Mayor is involved long before the coronation ceremony since he, with the other Aldermen of the City of London, is one of the members of the Accession Council that meets to proclaim the Monarch's right to accession on the demise of the Crown (i.e., the immediate passing of the Crown down the line of succession). The Lord Mayor, Aldermen and the Freemen of the City of London are mentioned in the proclamation of accession used in the United Kingdom.

The Lord Mayor stands out during the Coronation on account of his striped scarlet, ermine and gold robe.

The Livery Companies also played a role in the coronation, the Glovers provided the gloves worn by the Monarch, the Girdlers provided a girdle (belt) and stole, and there were various other gifts presented by the other Companies. Some of the artefacts provided by the Livery Companies were perishable such as the Wax Chandlers' provision of beeswax candles, a custom they continue for royal weddings and funerals, as do the Gardeners' Company by providing flowers. A comprehensive list of gifts presented to the Monarch by the Livery Companies and held in the Royal Collection may be viewed online. Recently the author had the opportunity to handle the remains of a beeswax candle used in the Royal Wedding of HRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and provided by the Wax Chandlers' Company.

The Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers provide magnificent beeswax candles for Royal weddings, funerals and other church services.

The relationship between the Crown and the Livery Companies doesn't just take the form of giving gifts or providing vestments for the Coronation, as most Livery Companies have secured one or more Royal Charters from Monarchs over many centuries. The topic of Royal Charters is explored in an earlier article, suffice to say that more than one in ten of all Royal Charters issued since William the Conqueror has been to a City of London Livery Company.

Individual members of the Royal Family are also very active Freemen or Liverymen of one or more of the City's Livery Companies and the connections start at the very top with Her Majesty the Queen who is a 'Citizen & Draper of London' on account of her admission as a Freeman of the Drapers' Company in 1947, and then as a Freeman of the City of London later the same year. In 2017 Her Majesty was elected to the Court of the Company and visited Drapers' Hall to celebrate 70 years of membership. Clearly the Drapers' Company take the business of who may progress to Court very seriously indeed!

The Duke of Edinburgh was admitted into the Freedom of the Ironmongers' Company in 2013

The links with the Livery Companies continue to grow, and will no doubt flourish among the younger generations of the Royal family. Notwithstanding his age HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh added to his Livery Company memberships as recently as November 2013.

The warmth of the relationship between the Livery Companies and the Monarch is captured in the speech given by the Master Mercer during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee luncheon, hosted by the Livery Companies, at Westminster Hall on 5 June 2012.

A deeper exploration of the Crown's connections with the City of London and the individual Royal Family memberships of the Livery Companies may be read in The City of London Freeman's Guide which is available in popular City retailers, online from Apple (as an eBook), Amazon (in hardback or eBook) or Etsy (in hardback or with the addition of a wax seal of the author's crest).

The front cover of The City of London Freeman's Guide LORD MAYOR'S edition


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