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City of London proclaims the new King

Updated: Sep 19

I took my camera to an occasion resplendent with ceremony, pageantry and symbolism.

Pikemen of the Honourable Artillery Company, the Lord Mayor's body guard at the Royal Exchange in the City of London at the Royal Accession Proclamation, 10 September 2022
Pikemen of the Honourable Artillery Company

The Royal Accession Proclamation took place on the steps of the Royal Exchange in the City of London at midday on 10 September 2022.

 

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For a full schedule of forthcoming London On The Ground guided walks, including three brand-new walks in Upper Street, Clerkenwell and the City, please click here.

 

This was the second occasion that day on which news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the accession of King Charles III was formally proclaimed to the public. The tradition of these Proclamations, which took place all across the UK, predates modern communications. For centuries, there simply was no other way to spread the news of the death of the old sovereign and the accession of the new one.


The Accession Council had proclaimed Charles as King at a meeting in St James' Palace in Westminster at 10am on 10 September. The Accession Council includes members of the Privy Council (a body with origins in Saxon times), the Great Officers of State, members of the House of Lords, Commonwealth High Commissioners and the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London.


This meeting was followed by a Proclamation to the public, read out at 11am by the Garter King of Arms, the senior herald of the College of Arms, from the balcony of St James' Palace. The Accession Council Meeting and the public Proclamation were televised, for the first time in history.

City of London Police in position, Mansion House in the background. Outsude the Royal Exchange in the City of London at the Royal Accession Proclamation, 10 September 2022
City of London Police in position, Mansion House in the background

The College of Arms, located in Queen Victoria Street in the City of London, is the body that controls heraldry - the granting of coats of arms - in England. The ultimate head of the College is the Earl Marshal, a hereditary position occupied by the Duke of Norfolk, but the Garter King of Arms acts as its executive head. Officers of the College, known as heralds, also assist the Earl Marshal in organising state ceremonies including state funerals and coronations.


Ranking after the Garter King of Arms are the Clarenceux King of Arms, responsible for the south of England, and his north of England counterpart to Norroy King of Arms.


The duty of reading out the Accession Proclamation in the City fell to the Clarenceux King of Arms, who was accompanied and hosted by the Lord Mayor of the City of London. The City is traditionally the second place for the Proclamation to be read out, after Westminster, reflecting its historic importance.


The Proclamation took place on the steps of the Royal Exchange, the symbolic and (almost) geographic centre of the City of London. The Royal Exchange, once the mercantile hub of the City is overlooked by both the Bank of England and the Lord Mayor's home at Mansion House.


Read more about this central part of the City here: London's livery lampposts: The Great Twelve at the Royal Exchange

Clarenceux King of Arms reads the Proclamation. A Pikeman of the HAC and a City Policeman in the foreground. At the Royal Exchange in the City of London at the Royal Accession Proclamation, 10 September 2022
Clarenceux King of Arms reads the Proclamation

The Lord Mayor's ceremonial guard, the Pikemen and Musketeers of the Honourable Artillery Company, stood sentinel around the forecourt of the Royal Exchange. A lone bearskin representing the Welsh Guards positioned two unarmed guards in blue tunics on either side.


The Honourable Artillery Company Regimental Band and Corps of Drums played in the centre of the forecourt, just behind the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington. The City of London Police, wearing their unique coxcomb helmets, kept a friendly watchful eye.


On the steps of the Royal Exchange

Representatives of the City of London's two elected bodies were the first to arrive on the steps of the Royal Exchange, before the Mayoral party and heralds. Common Councilmen, in their mazarine blue robes, were followed by Aldermen in their fur-lined scarlet robes.


The Lord Mayor was led to the Royal Exchange by the three ceremonial officers of the City.


First was the City Marshal, who then stood facing the Lord Mayor during the ceremony. Next came the Swordbearer, wearing his furry 'Muscovy' Hat, and the Common Cryer and Serjeant-at-Arms, who carried the Great Mace. A legal official known as the City Remembrancer, complete with long wig and black gown, stood with these two behind the Lord Mayor on the steps.


The position of Swordbearer of London dates back to the 14th Century, while the Common Cryer and Serjeant-at-Arms is possibly the oldest ceremonial office in the City, having been established well before 1338.


The Clarenceux King of Arms, accompanied by a group of other colourfully dressed heralds, arrived with the Lord Mayor.


After the Proclamation had been read out, Lord Mayor Vincent Keaveny (the first Irishman to occupy the post) led three cheers for King Charles. The Grenadier Guards then struck up a familiar tune. This was the cue for everyone to join in singing the National Anthem, with one or two less familiar words after 70 years!


The Pikemen and Musketeers of the Honourable Artillery Company

The Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) is the oldest regiment in the British Army, tracing its origins to a Royal Charter from King Henry VIII in 1537.


In the past it has been involved in infantry, artillery and light cavalry operations. Today, it is an army reserve unit active in intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and gunnery. Its HQ is a Victorian castle-like building on City Road, just next to Bunhill Fields.


The HAC has long-standing connections with the City of London. It also has strong links with the Royal Family. Queen Elizabeth II was its longest serving Captain-General, a position previously occupied by her four immediate predecessors as sovereign and five other kings before that.


The Company of Pikemen and Musketeers is a ceremonial unit of the HAC, formed in 1925 and tasked by Queen Elizabeth II in 1955 to provide a ceremonial bodyguard for the Lord Mayor of the City of London. They appear at the annual Lord Mayor's Show in November, but it is otherwise relatively rare to see them parade in public outdoors.


Only veterans of the HAC can join the Pikemen and Musketeers, whose uniform is identical to that worn by the HAC in the reign of King Charles I. They may be veterans, but they need to be fit enough to complete the march of the Lord Mayor's Show and to carry their equipment. They are unpaid.


Pikemen wear armour and a helmet weighing around 18lbs (8kg) and are armed with swords and 12ft (3.7m) pikes. Musketeers wear a buff sur-coat and wide-brimmed felt hat and are armed with match-lock muskets.


The HAC Band and Corps of Drums

The Honourable Artillery Company Regimental Band and Corps of Drums played before and after the ceremony. In Full Dress of red tunics and bearskin hats, they closely resemble the Grenadier Guards (the button arrangement is the same, but, unlike the Grenadiers, the HAC bearskins have no plume).


The City of London Police

The City of London has its own police force, founded in 1839, 10 years after the Metropolitan Police. The uniform of the City police includes brass buttons, while male officers wear distinctive helmets with a coxcomb and the City coat of arms.


The Commissioner of the City of London Police, Angela McLaren, in formal uniform, was spotted crossing the road with other officers in front of Mansion House.


The crowd and backdrop


Accession Proclamations were also subsequently made by local authorities across the country. For pictures of the Proclamation in the London Borough of Islington, please click here.


With modern communications, such Proclamation ceremonies now serve no practical purpose, other than connecting us with our history and heritage. That's still a worthwhile purpose.

 

Walks available for booking

For a full schedule of forthcoming London On The Ground guided walks, including three brand-new walks in Upper Street, Clerkenwell and the City, please click here.


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