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   Chapter 25 PART II. No.25

The History of London By Walter Besant Characters: 5106

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


After the religious dramas, the Pageants gratified the desire for spectacle and show. Pageants were held on every grand occasion: to welcome the sovereign: to honour the new Lord Mayor: to celebrate a victory. Then they erected triumphal arches adorned with pasteboard castles, ships, houses, caves-all kinds of things. They either carried with them, as part of the procession, or they stationed at some point, the City Giants. London was not alone in having giants. York, Norwich, Chester, possessed city giants. In Belgium the city giant is still carried in procession in Antwerp, Douai, and other towns. The figure of the giant symbolised the strength and power of the city. After Agincourt Henry V. was welcomed at the south gate of London Bridge by two giants: his son, Henry VI., was also received by a giant seventeen years later. Two giants stood on London Bridge to welcome Philip and Mary: the same two, at Temple Bar, afterwards welcomed Elizabeth. The pair of giants now in Guildhall were carved in 1707. The names Gog and Magog are wrong. The original names were Gogmagog and Corineus.

The following account of the Pageant to celebrate the return of the victor Henry V. after Agincourt is preserved in Stow's 'London.'

The Mayor and Aldermen, dressed in scarlet, with collars and chains, with 400 citizens in 'murrey,' all well mounted, rode out to meet the King at Blackheath. Then, after formal greetings, they all rode to London. In Southwark the King was met by all the London clergy in their most sumptuous robes, with crosses and censers. At the entrance of London Bridge, on the top of the tower, stood a pair of giants, male and female, the former bearing in his right hand an axe, and in his left hand the keys of the City. Around them stood a band of trumpeters.

On the drawbridge were two lofty columns, on one of which stood an antelope and on the other a lion-both the King's crests.

At the other end of the Bridge was another tower, and within it an image of St. George, with a great number of boys representing angels. These sang an anthem, 'Give thanks, O England, to God for victory.' This is supposed to be preserved in the song 'Our King went forth to Normandy.'

On Cornhill there was erected a tent of crimson cloth ornamented with the King's arms. Within it was a company of 'prophets' in golden coats. As the King approached they set loose a great number of small birds, which fluttered about while the 'prophets' sung 'Cantate Domino canticum novum'-'Sing unto the Lord a new song.'

In Cheapside the

conduit was hung with green. Here sat the twelve Apostles and the twelve Kings, Martyrs and Confessors of England. They also sung a chant and made the conduit run with wine. This represented the reception of Abraham by Melchisedek.

The Cross of Chepe was built over by a high tower of wood covered all over with splendid coats of arms. There was a stage in front, on which a crowd of girls came with timbrels dancing and singing. Thus the maidens welcomed David when he returned from the slaughter of Goliath. And all about the building were crowds of boys, representing the Heavenly Host, who showered down coins resembling gold, and boughs of laurel, and sang 'Te Deum Laudamus.'

Lastly, there was another tower at the west end of Chepe. In each corner of this stood a girl, who out of a cup strewed golden leaves before the feet of the King. And there was a high canopy painted with blue and stars, and beneath a figure all gold, to represent the sun surrounded by angels singing and playing all kinds of musical instruments.

This witnessed, the King went on to St. Paul's to pay his devotions.

When you read this bald account of one of the greatest Pageants ever celebrated in the City, you must fill it up by imagining the long procession, every one in his place. Trumpeters, bowmen in leather jerkins, men-at-arms in shining helmet and cuirass, horsemen in full armour, knights, nobles, heralds all in full panoply, banners and bannerets, the Bishop and all the clergy, the King and his retinue, the Lord Mayor and his four hundred followers. Imagine the blare of the trumpets, the singing of the chants, the roaring of the people, the crimson hangings all along the line of march at every window. There were no police to keep the line: you might see the burgesses running out of the taverns on their way with blackjacks of Malmsey to regale the gallant soldiers who had fought and won the victory. You would see the King bareheaded. Why was he bareheaded? Because he was so modest-this brave King. Because he would not let the people see his helmet dinted and misshapen with the signs and scars of hard battle in which he had played his part as well as any humble leather-jerkined bowman in his array. Your ancestors, these soldiers and these citizens: your forefathers. They knew, far better than you will ever know, how to marshal a gallant show. We have lost the art of making a Pageant. It remains with us-once a year-in the Lord Mayor's Show. But think of Henry's Riding into London compared with the Lord Mayor's Show!

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