Every November the new Lord Mayor of London holds his Show – a colourful procession of the City Guilds and dignitaries through the streets of the City. At the head of the procession are two enormous effigies of giants. These are Gog and Magog, the traditional guardians of the City of London and they have been carried in the Lord Mayor’s Show since the reign of Henry V. Their origins lie in the distant past and are quite unknown to us. Over the centuries, many people have produced various “explanations” of their origins. Perhaps the most entertaining was that of John Galt who published his History in 1819. In this series we will present his full text, Chapter by chapter. Here is Chapter 13.
CHAPTER XIII.HOW THE PRINCESS LANDONA RECEIVED THE ALDERMEN, AND BESTOWED THE TITLE OF “MY LORD MAYOR;” WITH SOME CURIOUS FACTS RESPECTING THE ORIGIN OF NEWSPAPERS AND CLUB-ROOMS.THE Princess, on being informed of the object of the address, the first from her new city, determined to receive the deputation seated upon her throne. Thus was a precedent established, by which, in time, the citizens of London became possessed of this enviable privilege, which they have ever since claimed, of addressing the sovereign on the throne; and here, it should be remarked, that there was nothing, in the first instance, to justify the modern pretensions of the Common Council to the enjoyment of the same privilege : it being clear, from all the learned authorities which we have consulted, in drawing up this authentic history, that it was the aldermen, and not the Common Council, who obtained this distinguished honour.On the day appointed, the deputation , with sheriffs Gog, and Magog, set out, in grand procession, for the royal palace at Tottenham Court. On their arrival, they were received with great state, and conducted, by the usher of the black rod, into the presence-chamber, where the Recorder of the city read the address with appropriate solemnity. At this period the office of recorder was a very important one; for, as neither the Bell nor Lancasterian schools had then been established, none of the corporation could write, or even read. The title of the office expresses the duty which then attached to it, that of recording the transactions of the corporation.The Princess was deeply affected with this expression of the great interest which the citizens of her good city of London took in her happiness, and the stability of her throne; and replied, with all that delicacy, grace, and dignity, which ever adorns persons of her high station.We should have been happy to have been able to favour our readers with a copy of the speech; but, unfortunately, the folio of the record in which it was preserved, was destroyed in the fire of London; a circumstance greatly to be regretted, as it has thrown a cloud of obscurity over this interesting part of the history of the metropolis of the British empire. We have, however, had the good fortune to obtain a very curious document, which was lately discovered on removing that part of the ancient wall of the city which formed the scite [sic] of Old Bedlam; and which, on being, examined by a special committee of that learned body, the Antiquarian Society, appears to have been a manuscript newspaper of the time, entitled The Trumpeter, containing a programme of the whole ceremony. It is not legible throughout; but enough remains, to enable us to ascertain, that it was on this occasion that the title and dignity of “MY LORD MAYOR,” was given to the senior alderman : at least it is stated, in the leading paragraph of The Trumpeter, that the Princess honoured him with the title of My Lord Major, from the very circumstance of his being the senior; and few will dispute that mayor is not a corruption of that term.Every classical reader knows that Julius Caesar introduced into Rome the practice of circulating bulletins or commentaries, the newspapers of that day; but, until the discovery of the Antiquarian Society, it was never even suspected, that he took the hint from the customs of this country, when he, as the Napoleon of his day, came hither, and overturned the ancient institutions of the country. Newspapers are evidently indigenous to London; for in no part of the world have they grown to such perfection, or contributed in any similar degree, to the enlightening of mankind. This valuable relict, now in our possession, contains a notification that The Trumpeter would in future be regularly read at the sign of The Club, by a “learned clerk;” and we are of opinion, that this little circumstance explains how associations and meetings for hearing and canvassing the news of the day came to be called clubs; the principal place of resort for this purpose, in the time of the Princess Londona, having been the Club Tavern. We conjecture, that this was on the same site where the Gun Tavern now stands, at Billingsgate, which is in the vicinity of the great military station of Gog and Magog, as described in our fourth chapter. The house having been rebuilt about the time of the invention of fire-arms, the sign was probably changed from the Club to the Gun. We are the more inclined to this opinion, from finding from the state papers that we have consulted, that at this era Cannon Street obtained its name, from the circumstance of the first piece of ordnance sent to the Tower having gone by that road.