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Lord Mayor’s Shows

The Lord Mayor’s Show came into being in 1215 when King John granted a charter allowing the citizens to elect their own mayor on the condition that the mayor journeyed to Westminster to be presented or shown to the King and to swear allegiance to the Crown (Reid 1). As Lawrence Manley observes in Literature and Culture in Early Modern England, throughout the eight-hundred-year history of the London mayoralty, some form of ceremony has accompanied the annual inauguration (Manley 212). This ceremony, however, did not become a show in the form of a civic pageant until the mid-sixteenth century (Bergeron 123). These new pageants gradually replaced the Midsummer Shows originally presented by the trade guilds. In turn, the guilds began to compete with one another to see which company could produce the most elaborate pageant (Bergeron 123). Although earlier pageants were largely religious in content (Hutton 188), subsequent pageants incorporated mythology, history, and moral allegory. As Bergeron emphasizes, these pageants frequently suggest the basic morality tension: the conflict between virtue and vice (Bergeron 138).
Comparable to the royal entry, the Lord Mayor’s show was a procession through London. In contrast to the royal entry, however, which moved east to west from one destination to another, the Lord Mayor’s show was circular, beginning at the Guildhall and returning there to conclude the festivities. The guilds would commission playwrights to create various tableaux that were presented to the mayoral party along the route. The show in the simplest form Gap in transcription. Reason: (DJ)[…] would Gap in transcription. Reason: (DJ)[…] [contain] only one device Gap in transcription. Reason: (DJ)[…] but elaboration set in, and thus the number of devices increased, and entertainment on the Thames was added (Bergeron 123). In 1613, The Triumphs of Truth complicated the traditional actor/audience division by having a character speak directly to the Mayor thus drawing him into the remaining tableaux (Middleton 970).
With these developments, the most common route became a course from Guildhall along Soper Lane to the Thames. The Mayor proceeded by boat to Westminster, returned to the city along the river, landed at Paul’s Wharf and advanced to St. Paul’s Churchyard. Then, the entourage moved along Cheapside to the Little Conduit, passed the Standard, and returned to Guildhall via Laurence Lane. Before retiring to his home, the Mayor revisited St. Paul’s Cathedral to bring the evening to a close (Marshall and Campbell; Manley 226-227).


Cite this page

MLA citation

Joslin, Dalyce. Lord Mayor’s Shows. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 05 May 2022,

Chicago citation

Joslin, Dalyce. Lord Mayor’s Shows. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed May 05, 2022.

APA citation

Joslin, D. 2022. Lord Mayor’s Shows. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London (Edition 7.0). Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from

RIS file (for RefMan, RefWorks, EndNote etc.)

Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
Content: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

A1  - Joslin, Dalyce
ED  - Jenstad, Janelle
T1  - Lord Mayor’s Shows
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
ET  - 7.0
PY  - 2022
DA  - 2022/05/05
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  -
UR  -
ER  - 

TEI citation

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