Election of the Lord Mayor

This week I exercised my right as a Liveryman to participate in the Election of the Lord Mayor of the City of London, as I have for several years. This is a right that was granted to the Liverymen of the City of London by King John in the Magna Carta of 1215. The Lord Mayor was first appointed by King Richard I in 1189 but the City of London won the right to elect him themselves and it is one of only three clauses of Magna Carta that are still extant.

With all the other Masters, Prime Wardens and Upper Bailiff of the several Livery Companies we first processed across Guildhall Yard to the Guild Church of St Lawrence Jewry for a service prior to the election. We then stayed in formation; getting all the Masters lined up in the correct order of precedence takes considerable time and the officials were reluctant to let us disperse and then regroup. We then processed a second time into Guildhall to take our places at the front of the hall below the Hustings.

A second, grander procession then followed us consisting of the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, Sheriffs and Officers to take their seats on the Hustings. The Common Crier and Sergeant-at-Arms then proclaimed silence with a voice that would waken the dead, and then directed “all gentlemen to be covered in the Hall” and “all those who are not Liverymen to depart the Hall on pain of imprisonment.” The proceedings of the last Common Hall were then read by the Assistant Town Clerk. We then came to the main business of the meeting, that is for the Liverymen to choose two persons from the three Aldermen who have served as Sheriff but not yet been past the Chair. To allow us to do that without undue influence the Lord Mayor then left the Hall with the Aldermen who have passed the chair, the Recorder and the Town Clerk.

The Sheriffs and the Common Sergeant then put the names of the three, Dr Andrew Parmley, Alderman and Musician; Charles Bowman, Alderman and Grocer; and Sir Paul Judge, Alderman and Marketor. The election is by outcry but any Liveryman can demand a poll in which case a date would be set for such an election by ballot. While this is rare my research shows it happened in 1840 and so cannot be ruled out.

But on this occasion Andrew Parmley and Charles Bowman were adjudged as the two on which the election had fallen. The Lord Mayor and the Aldermen then voted in a separate room and then the procession returned, this time with Andrew Parmley, the Lord Mayor Elect, walking at the side of the Lord Mayor. Various speeches were made and we all went our different ways to have lunch, in our case at the beautiful Stationers’ Hall where I was installed as Master in January.

So what does this all mean? The Lord Mayor of London is the City of London’s mayor and leader of the City of London Corporation. Within the City, the Lord Mayor is accorded precedence over all individuals except the sovereign and retains various traditional powers, rights and privileges, including the title and style The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of London.

The Lord Mayor is elected at Common Hall each year on Michaelmas, and takes office on the Friday before the second Saturday in November, at The Silent Ceremony. One of the world’s oldest continuously elected civic offices, the Lord Mayor’s main role nowadays is as the UK’s principal Ambassador for its Financial Services Industry. This is regardless of location and in preparation for his year he and his staff will work closely with the Foreign and Colonial Office and from this year the newly formed Department of International Trade, as well as UK Trade and Industry (UKTI). As leader of the City of London Corporation, the Lord Mayor serves as the key spokesman for the local authority and also has important ceremonial and social responsibilities. All Lord Mayors are apolitical.

The Lord Mayor of London typically delivers hundreds of speeches and addresses per year, and attends numerous receptions and other events in London and beyond. They make many overseas visits banging the drum for UK plc. This year the Lord Mayor will have been to at least 25 countries by the time his term comes to an end.

The qualification to stand for election is that one must have served as a City Sheriff and be a current Alderman. Since 1385, prior service as Sheriff has been mandatory for election to the Lord Mayoralty. By an ordinance of 1435, the Lord Mayor must be chosen from amongst the Aldermen of the City of London. Those on the electoral role of each of the City’s 25 Wards select one Alderman, who formerly held office for life or until resignation. Now each Alderman must submit for re-election at least once every six years.

The Lord Mayor performs numerous other functions, including serving as the Chief Magistrate of the City of London, Admiral of the Port of London, President of Gresham College, President of City of London Reserve Forces and Cadets Association, and Trustee of St Paul’s Cathedral. Until this year they were also Rector of City, University of London but that university has now been fully incorporated into the University of London and so now comes under its Chancellor. The Lord Mayor also heads the City’s Commission of Lieutenancy, which represents the Sovereign in the City of London (other counties usually have Lord Lieutenants, as opposed to Commissions.)

The importance of the office is reflected by the composition of the Accession Council, a body which proclaims the accession of each new Sovereign. The Council includes the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London as well as Privy Councillors, holders of other great offices of State and members of the House of Lords.

Andrew Parmley is perhaps an unusual choice as Lord Mayor for his main career has been in music as performer, teacher and producer. But he is a most experienced Alderman having been first elected in 2001 and has served on most of the Corporation’s Committees. His experience of Education and the Arts should be seen as a strength not a weakness as these are both very important activities of the City. The risks and opportunities of Brexit, or what some are now calling Brenaissance, will need the energy, enthusiasm and sheer force of personality that the Lord Mayor Elect has as he travels the world to convince those overseas that the City of London will remain the foremost financial centre in the world because of its long history of the Rule of Law, the strength of its institutions, the high level of trust , the well-developed systems of governance, the creativity of its people and the English language.

The office of Lord Mayor has always been of interest to me ever since as a young boy my grandmother would tell me of her second cousin, my fourth cousin, Sir John Bell who was Lord Mayor in 1907.  He revived interest in the Lord Mayor’s Show making it a spectacular pageant. I later learned of another ancestor, also on my mother’s side, Sir James Esdaile, who was Lord Mayor in 1777. Sir James was descended from a French noble family, his grandfather, Baron d’Esdaile having fled France to avoid persecution by Louis XIV. Sir James founded a bank that through subsequent mergers and acquisitions had links to the Lloyds of today.

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