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Silent Change, London


The Lord Mayor in 2006
Image: Diliff

The Dangerous Book for Boys Yearbook tells us –

On the second Friday in November, the ‘Silent Change’ takes place. After being elected at Michaelmas Day (29 September), the new Lord Mayor of London is sworn in, accepting the symbols of the office: a sword, a mace a scepter, an official seal and the City Purse. The change from old to new takes place in silence, hence the name.

Confronted with the Lord Mayor's duties, a stunned silence would be my response -

The Lord Mayor is head of the Corporation of London, Admiral of the Port of London, Chief Magistrate of the City, and Chancellor of City University. To be elected, he must be a city Alderman and have served as a Sheriff.

It is one of the oldest, continuous positions of representative government anywhere. In the 1190s Londoners pressed Hubert Walter, Richard the Lionheart’s justiciar, to recognize that they had a right to organize and govern themselves under their own laws for commerce, citizenship, taxes, and the city's self-defence. Walter was looking for help in ransoming the king from captivity. In exchange for their cash he gave Londoners a charter that recognized their rights to self-government.

By then Londoners had organized themselves into parishes, wards, and a great council, with representatives at each level. Their first Lord Mayor began serving in 1189. They elected their first Lord Mayor in 1215. Subsequently London grew far beyond its historic core in the City of London, in part because Londoners have had local, effective, representative self-government for nine hundred years.

Diffusing power, and checking any unfortunate excursions into corruption, the term of the Lord Mayor is just one year. David Lewis, a lawyer and businessman, was elected the 680th Lord Mayor.

During the Lord Mayor’s Show - a 3-mile-long parade - he will travel to the Royal Courts of Justice to swear loyalty to the Crown. (Parade and firework dates in calendar.) It's a dazzling combination - the representative of accountable local government in a gold coach accompanied by Bollywood dancers and military bands.