British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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NOV. 9.]                     LORD MAYOR'S DAY.                                  417
Nov 9.]                LORD MAYOR'S DAY.
The office of Chief Magistrate of London was held for life till about 1214, nor was it until more than a hundred years afterwards that the title of Lord was given to the Mayor. This arose in the time of Richard II., on occasion of Wal­worth, the Mayor of the day, basely murdering Wat Tyler in Smithfield.
That which in later days has teen called the Lord Mayor's SJwid was but a degenerate copy of the old Pageant or Triumph, which assumed a variety of forms at different times, blending Paganism, Christianity, and chivalry in marvellous confusion. This, however, was not always the case, for at one time it became the fashion for the city to employ drama­tists of note upon these matters; and there are yet extant certain pageants by Decker, Middleton, Webster, and others, though perhaps inferior writers.—Soane's Curiosities of Litera­ture.
With the processions, &c, of late years, most readers are sufficiently well acquainted from the newspapers of the day. Fully to describe those of former ages would require, however, a volume of no mean size; but some idea of their general character may be formed from the following brief sketch :— The fixst account of this annual exhibition known to have been published, was written by George Peele for the inaugu­ration of Sir Wolstone Dixie, Knight, on the 29th of October (Old Style), 1585. On that occasion, as was customary to the times, there were dramatic representations in the procession of an allegorical character. Children were dressed to per­sonify the city, magnanimity, loyalty, science, the country, and the river Thames. They also represented sailors, soldiers, and nymphs, with appropriate speeches. The show opened with a Moor mounted on a lynx. On Sir Thomas Middleton's mayoralty, in 1613, the solemnity is described as unparalleled for the cost, art, and magnificence of the shows, pageants, chariots, morning, noon, and night triumphs. In 1655 the city pageants, after a discontinuance of about fourteen years, were revised. Edmund Gayton, the author of the description for that year, says *hat " our metropolis, for
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