This article describes the 2021 show. Details of the 2022 show will appear here.
The Lord Mayor’s Show has been a focal point of life in London for over 800 years. The event, which takes place on the 2nd Saturday in November every year, is a riot of colour, costume, spectacle and traditional pageantry and a visit to the show will be the highlight of any trip to London. Part street parade and part carnival the event features a river pageant, a procession and a finale featuring fireworks.
The office of Lord Mayor dates back over 800 years and is a symbol of the independence granted to the medieval city by the monarch. In 1215, London was the biggest city north of the Alps and home to over 15,000 people. The cities influence was growing rapidly yet the town’s aldermen were engaged in a long running battle to secure commune status.
Fortunately, at this point King John entered the picture. The King, facing a crisis at home and abroad, decided to curry favour with the aldermen of the city by issuing a Royal Charter allowing London to choose its own Mayor. The city gratefully accepted and the position of Lord Mayor was born.
King John had not completely lost his mind however and the Royal Charter stipulated that each Mayor would be required to visit Westminster, the centre of royal power, to swear allegiance to the Crown. Thus began the tradition which we now know as the Lord Mayor’s Show.
The Lord Mayor has been making the same journey for the past 800 years – in rain, snow, hail and sleet, in times of war as well as peace, through the plague-ridden city and through the fire ravished city, the Lord Mayor has seldom failed to meet his pledge.
As befitting his medieval status as one of the most powerful men in the kingdom, the Lord Mayor’s journey became one of the most celebrated and spectacular events in the ancient calendar. The procession grew so popular that in the 17th century it featured in the works of Shakespeare and Samuel Pepys.
The modern day show is a direct descendent of those early processions. Hence the Lord Mayor uses a coach which is over 250 years of age, the costumes have been worn in the procession for hundreds of years and the ancient guilds and livery companies play the same role in the procession today that they did in the medieval period.
The event is split into three distinct parts with a river pageant in the morning, a procession in the afternoon and a firework display in the evening to round the day off.
09:00 The River Pageant
Originally the journey to Westminster was made by barge and this trip is commemorated by the Lord Mayor making the first part of his journey in a flotilla of barges. Tower Bridge will open to salute the new Mayor at 9.25am and the flotilla will include QRB Gloriana. The procession will reach the city at 9.35am.
11:00: LORD MAYOR’S PROCESSION
This is the highlight of the Lord Mayor’s Show. With over 7000 participants, 20 bands, 150 horses, hundreds of carriages, buses, vintage cars, ambulances, fire engines, tanks, tractors, steamrollers, helicopters this is without doubt the event to see.
However of all the vehicles on view, the most stunning of all is undoubtedly the Lord Mayor’s State Coach. Commissioned in 1757 for what was even then a bargain £860, the Lord Mayor’s Coach is a studied statement in magnificence. The coach is decorated by gilded work and painted panels by Cipriani which depict the magnificence, piety and power of London. A feature of every show since 1757, the coach is now the oldest working ceremonial vehicle in the world. The coach is on permanent display at the Museum of London in London’s Barbican.
The procession will leave Mansion House at 11.03 (there is a silence for Armistice Day) and then will wind through the streets, stopping at the Royal Courts while the Lord Mayor takes the oath and then returning to Mansion House around 2.30pm.
15:00: GUIDED WALKS
After the procession and before the fireworks finale, you will have a few hours to kill in London and the Lord Mayor’s office have very kindly arranged a number of walking tours to give you a better understanding of the historic city. The tours are free but the guides do accept donations to the Lord Mayor’s Appeal.
17:15: LORD MAYOR’S FIREWORKS
What better way to finish a magnificent day out but with a firework display over the Thames. The fireworks display is free and there are many good spots along the river where you can see the event.
The Lord Mayor’s Show will take place on the 12th of November 2022. More information about the event can be found here.
For information on other great outdoor activities in London, please click here.