My day as Lord Mayor of London

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Before Roger Gifford becomes the 685th incumbent next month, Matthew Bell tries his luck in the footsteps of Dick Whittington

What's it like to be Lord Mayor of London? A few jolly japes while you wait to topple the Prime Minister? No, not that one. The other one: the ceremonial role which dates back to 1189 and involves wearing a fancy red costume. Or does it?

I've come to the City of London to find out. In fact, I'm here to be Lord Mayor for the day, or at least try to be, as preparations are made for the Lord Mayor's show. This is the annual display of pomp and pageantry that precedes the swearing-in of the new holder of the office, which runs for one year only.

By law, the ceremony must take place on the second Saturday in November. So, come rain or hail, on 10  November, Alderman Roger Gifford will travel through the City and swear his allegiance to the Queen, the 685th person to do so. It's just as well that it will be a Saturday, when London's financial district is deserted. For, as he travels from Mansion House to the Royal Courts of Justice, Alderman Gifford will be followed by 6,500 people, 125 horses, 18 cars, 20 carriages and 22 marching bands. The whole procession is three and a half miles long.

The centrepiece is the State Coach, a magnificent gilded carriage that has been used every year since 1757. It cost £1,065.0s.3d in its day, or £120,000 in modern money, which means it's older and more expensive than the coach used for coronations. Most of the time, it lives in the Museum of London, but for two weeks before the show, it goes on display in a glass box outside the Guildhall. I've come along to ride in the carriage on its journey, all 500 yards of it, to experience the regal splendour and stately bounce of this wedding cake on wheels.

Naturally, I've turned up wearing the usual mayoral garb: scarlet cloak, black stockings, court shoes and a tricorn hat. But I get a frosty reception from Pageantmaster Dominic Reid, who doesn't seem impressed. "I am not letting you ride in the carriage wearing that," he thunders. "It's disrespectful to the high office of Lord Mayor of London." "But this is real ermine!" I wail. This is an authentic Ede & Ravenscroft gown, a replica of what the Lord Mayor would wear, carefully researched by Angels: The Costumiers, Britain's leading fancy dress suppliers!

The fancy dress element is what seems to bother him. But what is the Lord Mayor's Show all about, if not dressing up? In the end, I agree to travel as a commoner: ditch the garb and off we go. Inside, the carriage is upholstered in crimson damask, and very comfortable it is too. We lurch forward, towed by a Range Rover instead of the usual six horses (only the Queen's carriage has more, with eight). The wheels are wooden with steel "tyres", but the chamber where you sit is suspended on Kevlar straps, so the ride is floaty and smooth. Passers-by gasp and point and wave. Did I really see someone doff their cap?

All too soon, our brief ride is over. Mr Reid, 51, tells me about his job. This will be his 21st Lord Mayor's Show, and his father did it before him. He shows me around the outside of the coach, decorated with paintings by the Italian artist Giovanni Battista Cipriani. Who are those pink-bottomed figures? "They're allegories of the four moral virtues of the City," he says. "Truth, Justice, Fortitude and, er, Temperance." He laughs. So he has a sense of humour, after all. Just not when it comes to dressing up in tights and saying, "Hear ye!" Clearly, that is a very serious matter indeed.

Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary