Story Of London


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 15.

CHAPTER XV.HOW THE PRINCESS LONDONA WAS DELIVERED OF A FINE BOY WITHIN THE SOUND OF BOW BELL, WHEN IT WAS FIRST RUNG.The Title Page of John Galt's History of Gog and Magog.IN due course of time and Nature, the Princess Londona, to the inexpressible joy of her beloved husband, the renowned Tooly, hereditary prince of Southwark, and of their united and loyal people, was safely delivered of a son and heir. In order to give the greater eclat to this happy event, it had been previously determined that she should lie-in at the Guild-hall of the city ; and it so happened that, at the very hour when the little prince first saw the light, a fine bell had been hung on the bough of a stately tree, which then grew in Cheapside. This bell was called the Bell-of-the-bough, or Bough-bell ; but when, in afterages, a church was built near the spot, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the church was called St. Mary-le-Bough, and the orthography was, at the same time, altered ; such are the deplorable effects of the corruptions of time, and of Popish superstition. Indeed, but for our fortunate researches, undertaken with so much zeal, pursued with such ardour, and crowned with so much success, this interesting incident respecting the bell, would have silently perished in oblivion.Bough-bell, or as we must now spell it, in compliance with vulgar prejudices, Bow-bell, being rung for the first time when the prince was born, the royal infant was obliged to exert its little lungs to an inordinate degree before he could make himself heard by the midwife. But the mother, whose courage the pangs of birth could only struggle with, not subdue, was so delighted at the birth of a man-child, that she looked from behind the curtains of the bed, and declared, with an audible voice, to all the assembled gossips that from and after that day, every male born within the sound of the bell, should be pre-eminently distinguished over all her other subjects. The midwife, surprised at this supernatural exertion of strength, requested her royal highness to lie quiet, by which she was cut short in the declaration of her will and pleasure ; so that it was not known in what manner she intended to determine that such children should be so distinguished. But naturalists may suppose that it was owing to some metaphysical influence of this decree, that the youth of the city of London uniformly maintain extensive pretensions to distinction, without ever verifying the same, it being certain and unquestionable, that, if the Princess had been allowed to mention in what their superiority was to consist they would have proved themselves well able to assert it. For, of all the British youth, those of London are the most distinguished for their talkative capacity ; and it cannot be doubted that, with such powers to amuse, they are well calculated to play a distinguished part in every conversation.