This page covers specifically the Lord Mayor’s Show up to 1642 – there will be a more general page for Civic Pageantry later.
Unbelievably useful links (so useful you might want to go to these first; don’t worry, we’ll still be here when you get back!) Map of Early Modern London – which has the surviving texts and, of course, maps of London. And the ongoing Civic London project for REED (Records of Early English Drama) will have much that will interest. Much of our work has been inspired by Professor Tracey Hill of Bath Spa University who has written variously on civic pageantry in Pageantry and Power: A cultural history of the early modern Lord Mayor’s Show, 1585-1639 and in relation to the writing of Anthony Munday in Anthony Munday and Civic Culture.
The Lord Mayor’s Show – 1585 to 1639
To date, we’ve produced initial readings of every extant Lord Mayor’s Show, though there are other materials yet to look at. The Lord Mayor’s Show began in the early hours of (usually) the 29th October (the 30th if the 29th was a Sunday) – starting at the Guildhall, a procession would head south to the river, get on barges and head to Westminster for the swearing in, returning to alight near St Paul’s. The Lord Mayor would then process along Cheapside where the primary Triumphs, or pageants, or devices (choose your favourite term) would be presented to him. These devices were made by master craftsmen, and the text written by (mostly) established playwrights of the day. See our handy route map below.
Every year a new series of pageants were commissioned, based on pitches that various creative teams presented to the incoming Livery Company. This would happen around September, so the production would only have a couple of months to be created. Though certain stock materials were available, especially if the companies chose an established team, new devices were important to give each show some fizz.
Whilst most of the devices generally appeared along Cheapside at various points, different teams threw in different stations. Sometimes the procession would pause after leaving the Guildhall to hear something at the Great Conduit, there might be speeches or water shows at Three Cranes as the Lord Mayor got onto the barges, and there was music and cannon fire throughout the procession, so it got noisy!
Sometimes the new Lord Mayor was greeted at Paul’s Stairs, having returned from his swearing in, following figures up to St Paul’s churchyard, where other events might occur. And devices from the water, or other points, might return to join the Triumphs along Cheapside. There were three primary points along Cheapside where pageants might be based, the Little Conduit, the Cross and the Standard – though it varies from year to year.
Having done a complete circuit, the Lord Mayor would dine at the Guildhall in the afternoon. Towards the evening he would return to St Paul’s (via Cheapside) for a service, and again, devices might be arranged along the way, sometimes with new speeches and business.
The Lord Mayor couldn’t escape the entertainment, as the devices followed him home – with additional speeches and pageants aligned outside his front door. Once you pop, the Lord Mayor’s show don’t stop.
As each year was different, there’s a wealth of difference to discover. The printed pageants don’t appear until 1585, and then the quality and the number of surviving texts varies enormously.
It all kicks off in 1585 with a familiar name, George Peele. Full playlist below, hours of Triumphant fun.
1585 – The Device of the Pageant borne before Wolstone Dixie – Full Cast Audio Adaptation (First Look Exploring video)
1590 – Device of the Pageant by Thomas Nelson – Full Cast Audio Adaptation (First Look Exploring video)
1591 – Descensus Astraeae – The Device of a Pageant, borne before Master William Web – Full Cast Audio Adaptation (First Look Exploring video)
There is a gap of over a decade between the last show of 1591 and the next shows for which we have actual texts. We rejoin the shows in 1605, when the new king James I is on the throne.
1605 – The Triumphs of Reunited Britannia by Anthony Munday – First Look Exploring Session
1609 – Camp Bell or The Ironmonger’s Fair Field by Anthony Munday – First Look Exploring Session
1611 – Chruso-Thriambos, the Triumphs of Gold by Anthony Munday – First Look Exploring Session
1612 – Troia-Nova Triumphas by Thomas Dekker – First Look Exploring Session
1613 – The Triumphs of Truth by Middleton with Anthony Munday – First Look Exploring Session
1614 – Himatia-Poleos: The Triumphs of Old Drapery – First Look Exploring Session
1615 – Metropolis coronata: The Triumphs of Ancient Drapery by Anthony Munday – First Look Exploring Session
1616 – Chrysanaleia: The Golden Fishing – First Look Exploring Session
1617 – The Triumphs of Honour and Industry – First Look Exploring Session
1618 – Sidero-Thriambos – First Look Exploring Session
1619 – The Triumphs of Love and Antiquity – First Look Exploring Session
1620 – Tes Irenes Trophaea – First Look Exploring Session here
1621 – The Sun in Aries by Thomas Middleton – we’ve done a host of things on this show, including a live ‘reconstruction’ – go to separate webpage for full details.
1622 – The Triumphs of Honour and Virtue by Thomas Middleton – First Look Exploring Session, Second Look on the podcast.
1623 – The Triumphs of Integrity by Thomas Middleton / Triumphs of the Golden Fleece by Munday – First Look Exploring Session, Second Look below.
1624 – Monuments of Honour by John Webster – First Look Exploring Session, Second Look below.
1625 – Plague Year, no show
New king, Charles I is now on the throne.
1626 – The Triumphs of Health and Properity by Thomas Middleton – First Look Exploring Session
1627 – Text Lost, possibly by Thomas Dekker – First Look Exploring Session
1628 – Britannia’s Honour by Thomas Dekker – First Look Exploring Session
1629 – London’s Tempe by Thomas Dekker – First Look Exploring Session
1630 – Unknown
1631 – Londonis ius honorarium by Thomas Heywood – First Look Exploring Session
1632 – Londoni artium & scientiarum scaturigo by Thomas Heywood – First Look Exploring Session
1633 – Londoni emporia, or Londons mercatura by Thomas Heywood – First Look Exploring Session
1634 – The Triumphs of Fame and Honour by John Taylor – First Look Exploring Session
1635 – Londoni sinus salutis by Thomas Heywood – First Look Exploring Session
1636 – Unknown
1637 – Londoni speculum by Thomas Heywood – First Look Exploring Session
1638 – Porta pietatis by Thomas Heywood – First Look Exploring Session
1639 – Londoni status pacatus by Thomas Heywood – First Look Exploring Session
And that’s it for the Lord Mayor’s show until the civil wars. Other pageantry was occurring throughout the period, which will be covered on our general pageantry page, and there will be a page specifically for Royal Entries, and other Royal entertainments too. We do all the things.