Friday, 8 November 2013
The Silent Ceremony Guildhall Friday 8th November
The Silent Ceremony on the day preceding the Lord Mayor’s Show, is one of the most whimsical and anachronistic of the City’s traditions. Dating back for many hundreds of years it takes place in Guildhall watched by Aldermen, the City Officers, Masters of Livery Companies and several hundred liverymen.
With much pomp and pageantry, and, in a carefully choreographed piece of theatre undertaken with a the solemnity befitting the occasion, I processed into the hall carrying a wand in my right hand along with other members of the Lord Mayor's and Sheriff's Committee. Behind us came the Aldermen and various other City dignitiaries with Lord Mayor Roger Gifford bringing up the rear. The Lord Mayor-elect Fiona Woolf swore her oath of office and thereby undertook to safeguard the silver and furniture at Mansion House, signing for the “plate”. The outgoing Lord Mayor then moved to the left and beckoned the incoming Lord Mayor to her seat, the latter donning her tricorne hat at the precise moment Roger removed his – the hat symbolising the official transfer of the mayoralty and the power that accompanies it. It was nice to observe that our Lady Lord Mayor appears to have commissioned a more feminine lighter version of the tricorne.
There then followed a series of presentations to the new Lord Mayor of various symbols of office all made with a series of reverences, three steps, bow, three steps bow etc.. All the symbols are presented first to the outgoing Lord Mayor and then touched by the Lord Mayor to signify receipt and transfer before being put down on the table. The whole procedure is then reversed with another series of approaches, but this time the objects are removed with the officers walking backwards, still reverencing every three steps. It is an ancient process all watched by hundreds in deathly silence. The purpose one reflects is to transfer the responsibility for the treasures as well as to transfer power, each item of value being sighted by the incoming Lord Mayor. The Ceremony concludes with congratulations being made in an orderly manner to the Lord Mayor, those doing so forming an endless chain and each shaking hands with the new Lord Mayor. The whole ceremony lasts no more than twenty minutes but is a piece of carefully correographed theatre, reinacted every year.
The final necessary piece of ceremony reputedly takes place totally out of sight in the Mayoral limousine on the way back to Mansion House. The tradition is that the Swordbearer removes his fur hat and retrieves the key to the seal of Christ’s Hospital. It is handed to the outgoing Lord Mayor, who passes it to the incoming Lord Mayor, who returns it to the Swordbearer, who promises to “keep it under his hat”.
And so after a break of thirty years, we have the second lady Lord Mayor in the long history of the City safely installed.