The Company Year always starts with the installation of a new Master and Andrew Cross became Master Marketor on 30 January 2019, the last official duty of his predecessor Richard Christou who now becomes Immediate Past Master.
Drapers’ Hall was a stunning venue for this important step-up in progression and guests were inevitably bowled over by the stunning interior of the Court Room and sumptuous surroundings of the Livery Hall. It is generally accepted across the Livery that the Drapers’ Company has a most exceptional hall, certainly a favourite with many members of the more peripatetic companies like ours. It is also one of the few halls to have largely escaped the Blitz without extensive damage.
Dating from the 1770's, the hall is of course home to one of London's twelve great historic livery companies, third in the order of precedence. The Worshipful Company of Drapers was founded back in 1361 and was originally a trade association of cloth and wool merchants. It became the first organisation to receive a Coat of Arms, they had previously been awarded only to prominent persons.
While the Court Room at Drapers’ is hung with two large King Louis XV Gobelin tapestries and a very large portrait of Her Majesty the Queen who is a member of the Court of Assistants. The Livery Hall is similarly full of royal portraits, most King William III, George III and George IV. The royal connection at Drapers’ is certainly strong – HRH Prince Charles is also a member of the Company. No wonder the Queen uses Drapers’ Hall for private parties. The venue is also a popular film set and no wonder with such palatial splendour readily available. For those who were distracted long enough to look up whilst dining, they might have seen that the ceiling panels overhead carried scenes from Shakespeare: The Tempest and A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Coincidentally these were painted by one Herbert Draper, a neo-classical artist. Some of the finest pieces from the Drapers’ silver collection were also on display in the Livery Hall behind the piano. The many wonders of Drapers’ Hall can easily sidetrack one from the duty of giving a report of the event.
Following custom, the formal installation of the Master took place at a Ceremonial Court held before the banquet. After giving the oath as Master-elect, the gown and badge of the outgoing Master Richard Christou were removed and placed on Master-Elect Andrew Cross. The Master then installed his successor. The weight of office is thus literally felt as it is transferred to the new Master whose first task is to present a Past Master’s Badge to the Immediate Past Master. The Jos Bellm Jewel was also handed over to Carol Cross. The Master received a customary blessing given by the Honorary Chaplain, the Revd Canon Alison Joyce. Lesley Wilson was invested as Senior Warden, John Farrell as Middle Warden and Trevor Brignall as Junior Warden, completing the Master and Wardens team for the forth coming year. The Ceremonial Court continued with clothing of Liveryman Jonathan Dunham and admission of five freemen: Desiree Clarke-Noble, Donald Lancaster, Sunila Lobo, Debbie Pearson and Kristan Tetens.
This year’s Installation on Wednesday 30 January had been upgraded to the status of a banquet in its promotion. Whilst not exactly clear when a dinner deserves the sobriquet of being termed a banquet, all felt that this was totally befitting of the exceptional venue chosen and the meal that was served, sitting as we were in antique rail back chairs, some dating back to William IV. Arguably the Marketors is one of the few companies that can fully justify offering its members and guests a banquet, setting the dress as we do “White Tie”, keeping Black Tie optional. The additional formality does serve to make our events very special occasions.
The banquet commenced by welcoming the new wardens and Company guests to a very spirited rendition of Scipio, noticeably faster than usual but timed to perfect length. This was then repeated for the Master and his Lady, accompanied by his Principal Guest. At the start of the banquet, as has become customary, our Honorary Chaplain delivered a delightfully crafted humorous grace, well deserving its rousing “Amen”. Humorous Graces are not common right across the livery – many companies still prefer a fairly dry prayer hoping for ‘root and branch to flourish forever’ while yet other companies require a traditional Latin grace. And yes, there are companies who do not say grace at all.
We sat down for an excellent meal during which the Master took wine with his team of wardens.
Marketors are certainly getting better at singing the Sung Grace, with noticeably fewer members still needing to read the words from their menu. Rather like the Loving Cup and Rose Bowl Ceremonies, and the correct protocol for toasts, the Sung Grace is one of the things you are really expected to learn in the Livery, hopefully helping both newer members and guests to follow the music.
The Senior Warden introduced the guests. The Entrepreneurs’, World Traders’, Chartered Accountants’, Air Pilots’, Solicitors’, Distillers’, Musicians’ and Scriveners’ companies were all represented by their Masters and Clerks. The Chairman of the City branch of the Royal Society of St George was also a Company guest, along with his Secretary. Past Master Tom Corrigan had also invited the Master Maker of Playing Cards as his personal guest. The Principal Guest finally introduced before Lesley proposed a toast to the guests was the Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae GNZM, QSO, KStJ, the New Zealand High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Prior to his appointment in the UK, Sir Jerry had served as the 20th Governor General of New Zealand. He has also worked at senior levels in the New Zealand public service and military. Sir Jerry is an Honorary Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Butchers. His address was on the Master’s theme for 2019: “Optimism Offers Opportunities”. With Brexit still stalled in Parliament at the time of the banquet, Sir Jerry expressed the desire of New Zealand for a Free Trade Agreement with the UK, one of its main trading partners with a long history of commerce between the countries. Sir jerry emphasised that the UK should remain optimistic in leaving the EU – it would present new opportunities for global trade. He expressed his belief that regardless of future scenarios, there are opportunities to enhance our long-standing ties with benefits to come for entrepreneurs and global brands alike. He advocated innovative marketing supported by international law, notarial and accounting services. This all needed to be facilitated by a global transport infrastructure and the continued shared enjoyment of arts and cultural exchange. Sir Jerry ended his speech with a toast to the Company.
In his response, the Master stated that he had spent his formative years in New Zealand and thanked the High Commissioner for his excellent and thought-provoking speech. He then set out some of his plans for the year, already covered in the Master’s Column. The banquet was followed by a stirrup cup. Altogether a splendid occasion which ran smoothly despite the necessity of including this year a General Meeting, comfortably squeezed between the Ceremonial Court and Reception.