The Royal Exchange was given its regal status in 1571, when it was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth I. As such – and due to its prestigious and historic location in the heart of the City – the grand entrance has been used to announce royal proclamations for centuries.
With the sad passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II last month, after serving for a record-breaking 70 years on the throne and having celebrated her Platinum Jubilee just this summer, the City proclamation that took place two days after her death was the first ceremony of its kind at The Royal Exchange since 1952.
The majority of the crowd lining the City streets on Saturday 10 September – along with thousands more watching at home via a live broadcast – had never before seen such a spectacle. The proclamation, which took place at midday, after the new King was announced at St James’s Palace, saw the ancient societies of Mansion House and the City come together for a day of solemn remembrance, tradition and splendour.
Indeed, the City may be known as the financial hub of London today, but it is one of the most intriguing and historic places in the capital. The perimeters of the Square Mile make up the original city of London when it was founded as “Londinium” by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago. Remnants from this time, including the City Wall, still remain to this day. Having said that, one-third of the City was devastated in the Great Fire in 1666 (which destroyed the original iteration of The Royal Exchange) and, later, the Blitz. Today it bears this tumultuous history in the form of an intriguing mix of historic buildings alongside glittering modern skyscrapers. The City is also a ceremonial county (being surrounded by Greater London and not an official borough) and is unusual in that it has its own government, mayor and police force.
Many of these unique bodies and societies played a role in the City proclamation last month. The Proclamation of Accession was read by Clarenceux King of Arms, Timothy Duke, on the steps of The Royal Exchange, following an earlier confirmation by the Accession Council at St James’s Palace. The official speech confirmed the name and identity of the new monarch and was delivered in the presence of the Lord Mayor, Court of Aldermen, High Officers and Members of the Common Council. Many of these institutions have existed since ancient times, with the position of the Lord Mayor of London dating back to 1189.
The proclamation was just one of many historic moments and milestones that followed the passing of Her Majesty The Queen. It was a chance for Londoners and people around the world to witness the splendour of the City and experience some of its oldest traditions. The Royal Exchange has always been proud of its regal heritage, and was especially honoured to fulfil a small role in what has been a momentous time in recent history.