The Fleet, Floats and Throwing Up!

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‘The Lord Mayor’s Winter-Procession on the Thames’, Anglo-Dutch School, 1683.

At last Sunday’s visit to the Queen’s Gallery, there was a painting on display called ‘The Lord Mayor’s Winter-Procession on the Thames‘.

It depicts a parade of boats going down the River Thames in 1683 celebrating the new Lord Mayor of London. The procession goes past King Charles II watching from a balcony of the Palace of Westminster.

The best thing about the painting is the detail of the people in the boats celebrating the new Lord Mayor. On one boat there is one man smoking a clay pipe, one man drinking and another looking like he is about to throw up over the side!

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Detail from the painting.

The Lord Mayor’s Show today takes place in November each year, with the procession starting at the Mansion House (which is the Lord Mayor’s home), then it goes down Cheapside, onto Ludgate Hill and up Fleet Street to the Royal Court of Justice, where the new mayor is sworn in. It then comes back up Queen Victoria Street.

The companies that are part of the procession are normally livery companies and those based in the City of London and their vehicles (normally converted lorries) are called floats.

Back in the 17th Century the procession would have been entirely on water, with boats going down the River Fleet, into the Thames and onto the Tower of London. As it was originally water based, the vehicles in the procession today are called floats. The River Fleet still exists, although it is now underground and part of the London sewer system.

 

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The Lord Mayor’s Show today.

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