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 16.
CHAPTER XVI.HOW THE SON AND HEIR OF THE PRINCESS LONDONA WAS CALLED COCKNEY, AND WHY GOG AND MAGOG WERE NOT SPONSERS WHEN HE RECEIVED HIS NAME.IT is unnecessary to inform the young and courteous reader, that the Princess Londona was delivered of her son and heir long before the Christian era ; and that this alone was the cause why the royal infant was not baptized. Had he been baptized, Gog and Magog would no doubt have been the sponsers, considering the great esteem in which this sovereign lady ever held those two illustrious statesmen. But, although the son of Londona, by her spouse Tooly, the hereditary prince of Southwark, was not christened, yet he received a name with much solemnity and sumptuous banquetting ; which name, however, has been lost in his more characteristic surname.The reader, whom we must suppose well acquainted with history, cannot but, in the course of his reading, have remarked how many illustrious heroes derived their surnames from some personal peculiarity. There, was in England King, Edmund Ironside, so called on account of his great strength ; and Edward Long-shanks, who is more frequently mentioned in the chronicles by his surname than any other ; not to speak of Richard Coeur de Lion, or that fell and bloody other Richard, so well known by the nickname of Crook-back. In like manner, when the son of Londona grew towards manhood, it was observed that he was somewhat loosely jointed at the knees ; from which circumstance he came, in process of time, to be called KNOCK-KNEE ; and with that commendable loyalty which induces faithful and loving subjects to name their children after the reigning king or queen, the citizens of London, called so many of their sons after KNOCK-KNEE, that the term at last became the peculiar title of all native youth of London.On the honourable epithet of KNOCK-KNEE, time has not been more sparing than on that of BOUGH-BELL ; for, in the lapse of years, the N has been gradually omitted in the knock, and the K in the knee. Hence the vulgar term of Kocknee ; or, as it is usually written, Cockney, has been substituted. In what manner this happened is not easy, at this distance of time, to ascertain ; but we presume that it took place in consequence of the too-frequent negligence of transcribers. Every antiquary, however, must feel extremely delighted at the complete and clear manner in which we have thus traced the origin and history of a name so dear and venerated by all the youths born within the sound of Bow-bell.