Lord Mayor's Day in the 1590s

Today it is London's show for the tourists, but in the 1590s the Lord Mayor's show was an opportunity for pomp with circumstance that reveal much of the political and social stresses and strains in Elizabeth's capital, argues Jennifer Harrison.

Each year the City of London celebrates the inauguration of the Lord Mayor of London, and the 1989 festivity marked 900 years since the installation of the first incumbent. The performances recall the pomp associated with similar ceremonies during the final decade of the first Elizabeth. For the citizens of London, the most important day in the corporation's year, that of the installation of the new lord mayor, involved a reaffirmation to the queen of the allegiance of the city.

The implications of rituals such as Lord Mayor's Day, Accession Day and masques and spectacles entwined ceremony with recreation but, more importantly, expressed the relationship between the queen, court, country and world. They were public-relations exercises which presented adventure with splendour, opportunity with criticism, and loyalty with religion. Using classical allusions, elaborate costuming and entertaining motifs, sensitive topics and grievances could be presented with overt patriotism and elaborate glorification of the queen.

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