LondonLife – Knollys Rose Ceremony

June 14, 2011

A London tradition which has its origins in the fourteenth century, the Knollys Rose Ceremony surrounds the presentation of a single red rose to the Lord Mayor of London at Mansion House.

The ceremony, which was held in the City yesterday, relates to a judgement of 1381 in which the fine was the annual payment of a single red rose.

The fine was levied after Lady Constance Knollys, the wife of prominent citizen Sir Robert Knollys, bought a property opposite her own in Seething Lane and then added a footbridge linking the two without first gaining planning permission (it’s suggested that she bought the property which had previously been used as a threshing ground because she was annoyed with the constant chaff in the air).

Following discovery of her breach, it was agreed that she would pay the annual ‘peppercorn rent’ of a single red rose from the new property’s garden to the Lord Mayor.

Lady Constance’s footbridge is long gone but the tradition of paying the annual rent was revived last century and is now presided over by the Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames.

The ceremony starts at the church of All Hallows by the Tower and then involves a procession to Seething Lane Gardens (a modern garden close to where the original may have been; the gardens were once the site of the Navy Office) where the Master of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen snips off a rose before heading on to Mansion House where it is presented to the Lord Mayor on a velvet altar cushion from All Hallows.

The ceremony usually takes place on the second Monday in June.

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