Open Access (free)
A cultural history of the early modern Lord Mayor’s Show, 1585-1639
Author: Tracey Hill

The London Lord Mayors' Shows were high-profile and lavish entertainments that were at the centre of the cultural life of the City of London in the early modern period. The Show was staged annually to celebrate the inauguration of the new Lord Mayor. The London mayoralty was not simply an entity of civic power, but always had its ritual and ceremonial dimensions. Pageantry was a feature of the day's entertainment. This book focuses on the social, cultural and economic contexts, in which the Shows were designed, presented and experienced, and explores the Shows in textual, historical, bibliographical, and archival and other contexts. It highlights the often-overlooked roles of the artificer and those other craftsmen who contributed so valuably to the day's entertainment. The Show was the concern of the Great Twelve livery companies from the ranks of one of which the Lord Mayor was elected. The book discusses, inter alia, the actors' roles, the props, music and costumes used during the Show and looks at how important emblems and imagery were to these productions. Pageant writers and artificers took advantage of the space available to them just as dramatists did on the professional stage. From 1585 onwards the Lord Mayor's Show was with increasing frequency transmitted from event to text in the form of short pamphlets produced in print runs ranging from 200 to 800 copies. The book also demonstrates the ways in which the Shows engaged with the changing socio-economic scene of London and with court and city politics.

Critical and historical contexts of the Lord Mayor’s Show
Tracey Hill

Utilising a diverse methodology that includes textual, historical, bibliographical and archival material, this chapter explores the Shows in all their manifold contexts. The London Lord Mayors' Shows were high-profile and very lavish entertainments that were at the centre of the cultural life of the City of London in the early modern period. A feature of mayoral Shows that may have led to their exclusion from critical attention is the way in which they were undertaken, from the initial commission to the staging on the river and streets of London. Mayoral pageantry was in itself a means by which civic traditions were preserved, which in itself constitutes another reason of why they deserve attention. The chapter then discusses the antecedents of the Shows and of the forces that lead to their rise to prominence in the later sixteenth century.

in Pageantry and power
The writers, the artificers and the livery companies
Tracey Hill

This chapter explores how the Lord Mayor's Show was financed and put together, and highlights the often-overlooked roles of the artificer and those other craftsmen who contributed so valuably to the day's entertainment. The more common form of competition between potential writers and artificers was not inevitable but was probably encouraged by the Companies to ensure they got the best deal. Being the creator of a Lord Mayor's Show was often a contested position, where writers and artificers competed with each other for commissions. Careful scrutiny of the livery company records shows that the responsibility for the Show was often more complex than might appear from the text alone. The City Corporation dealt with pageantry, entertainments and hospitality relating to visits from members of the royal family and other non-civic dignitaries although on those infrequent occasions, the set-up was very similar to the approach taken over mayoral Shows.

in Pageantry and power
Bringing the Shows to life
Tracey Hill

The Lord Mayor's Show was a renowned spectacle that drew a vast audience from home and abroad. This chapter discusses, inter alia, the actors' roles, the props, music and costumes used during the Show and how the pageantry was staged. It looks at how important emblems and imagery were to these productions. Heraldic emblems were an important part of the symbolic lexicon of Lord Mayor's Day. The stages, wagons, chariots, barges and so on were used to convey pageantry composed of elaborate, often highly symbolic content. Henry Machyn is our only source of eyewitness information about the pageantry employed in the 1550s and early 1560s. Anthony Munday dealt with the water show in unusual depth in his mayoral Shows, which taken alongside other texts such as Londons loue suggests that this was an aspect of civic pageantry in which he took an particular interest.

in Pageantry and power
The Show from street to print
Tracey Hill

From 1585 onwards, the Lord Mayor's Show was with increasing frequency transmitted from event to text in the form of short pamphlets produced in print runs ranging from 200 to 800 copies. What is common to all the surviving copies of mayoral Shows is that, where they exist at all, contemporary marginalia only rarely extends past the title page of the text. Even there, handwritten annotation tends to be solely owners' or readers' names. This chapter explores who the printers and publishers of the texts were and what connections they may have had with the writers, artificers and/or the livery companies. Livery company patronage underscores the existence of the events, first on the street and then in print. The chapter addresses the nature of the relationship between the printed text and the event it sought to represent.

in Pageantry and power
Political and contemporary contexts of the Shows
Tracey Hill

This chapter explores the contemporary aspects of the Shows which Leah Marcus calls their 'present occasions'. In the context of a very charged political atmosphere Heywood's 1639 Show, the last Show with any pageantry before the first civil war broke out, is entitled Londini status pacatus; or, Londons peaceable estate. The invocation of past and present civic glories stands as a contrast to the eventful, crisis-ridden reigns of the Stuart kings before the civil wars. More contingent form of goodwill towards the royal family and state policy is in evidence in 1623. In their transition from guild to livery company, the civic bodies had become focused on merchandising than on the production of commodities. The members of the oligarchy from which the Lord Mayors emanated were turning to trade to maximise their income.

in Pageantry and power