Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Pearly Kings and Queens of London

Do you know that each London Borough has a King and Queen?

It's a colourful London tradition and one that has been kept alive by a few dedicated people, who remain figureheads for the capital's working class communities.
Today, around 30 Pearly Families continue the tradition to raise money for various charities.

A little bit of history
The London tradition of the Pearly Kings and Queens began in 1875, by a small lad named Henry Croft.
Henry was born and raised in an orphanage in Charlton Street, Somers Town, London, NW1. At the age of 13 he had to leave the orphanage and make his own way in life. He decided he would like to help those who were more unfortunate than himself, including the children back at the orphanage where he had spent his early life. He knew that in order to collect a lot of money he needed to draw attention to himself. So as Henry swept the market streets he started to collect all the pearl buttons he found that had fallen off of the clothes of people visiting the market, and when he had enough he started to sew them on his cap and then continued until his entire suit was filled, the very first smother suit. 
Pearly Kings and Queens Harvest Festival 2012
Marching bands and the Pearly Kings and Queens in their spangly 'Smother Suits' covered in hundreds of pearl buttons are the main draw at this annual event. The festival starts at 1pm at Guildhall Yard with traditional entertainment before a parade to St Mary-le-Bow church for a harvest festival service at 3pm. All harvest festival offerings are donated to the Whitechapel Mission.

Or you can see them in Covent Garden this weekend (18th-19th August) collecting money for London charities. Check the Events page of the Pearly Society's website for details of more events.

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