A busy day at the Drapers' Hall.
It started with a Court of Wardens at 11.00am. This is a unique meeting in the Company's year where the Wardens of the current and next year meet together. Of the Master and four Wardens three were standing down and the three new Wardens are Christian Williams, who has been Master, as Renter Warden, Lady Victoria Leatham, becoming Second Master Warden and William Charnley, newly elected to the Court as Junior Warden. Tony Walker and myself stay on moving up one notch.
Normally this is a pretty straightforward meeting tidying up a few loose ends. However the continuing soap opera of the Department of Education's review of the Drapers' Academy new-buld and some interesting ideas for new items for Company gifts took a little time. The meeting concluded with Peter Bottomley MP, the outgoing Renter Warden, making a warm tribute to the Mastership of Professor Graham Zellick.
We then assembled in the Court Room to swear in for the next year. It is a simple ceremony where after making some big commitments in seventeenth century English we exchanged ceremonial keys of office.
Then it was off to rehearse the transfer of offices as they are carried out at the Election Dinner that evening. Part of the ceremony involves placing what seems to be Tudor style headgear, flat and completely unyielding in its construction, on the head of your successor. However as Master Elect I was able to claim a hat that aproximately fitted. This took some of the imminent danger out of the inevitable bowing as responsibilties are transferred.
The Livery Hall set out for the Election Dinner. The top table is at the far end of the room under the portrait of Queen Victoria.
Election Dinner starts early at 6.30pm is one of the two really grand and large scale evening events of the Company's year. As always it was very well organised and drilled by John Freestone, who is called the Beadle but in addition to some ceremomial duties is our catering manager.
At around ten o'clock a further part of the process that sees me elected Master took place in that I read out the Master's Oath before the members of the Company and guests and made the following statement.
'I am very conscious having just taken the Master’s Oath that some five hundred and twenty individuals since 1438, when the present structure of the Company with a Master and four Wardens came into being, have made it in more or less this form.
It is beyond doubt looking around this Hall tonight that they were remarkably successful in meeting its requirements. But they went well beyond their promise to merely safeguard and protect our ancient heritage. The collective dynamism, vision and self-confidence of my predecessors has, with the support of the Court, Livery and Freedom, continuously sustained, enriched and energised our Company over the centuries.
It is a very great honour indeed to be elected Master and I am aware that I have exceptionally high standards to meet and sustain over the next year. I am standing on the shoulders of giants and with the support of the Court and the wider Company I am sure I shall not lose my balance.'
On the subject of balance, my hat stayed on.
The day finally ended in the Company Garden at midnight when Graham Zellick passed on the Master's badge to me and Jennifer Zellick passed over her badge to Rosemary.
The year begins.