From as early as 1189 there are references to the title of Mayor as chief officer of the City of London. The courtesy title “Lord Mayor” is evolutionary and has never been conferred by charter or otherwise. The Latin “dominus maior” is found in the 13th century and “Lord Mair” in an English enrolment of 1414. The Lord Mayor is also entitled to the prefix “Right Honourable”, a mode of address which came into use in the 15th century.
In the City of London, the Lord Mayor has precedence of every subject, and takes place immediately after the Sovereign. Outside the City of London, he takes precedence with, but after, members of the cabinet.
The Lord Mayor summons and presides over the several Courts and meetings of the Corporation – the Court of Aldermen, the Court of Common Council and the Court of Husting – and assemblies of the Livery in Common Hall. They cannot be held except by his direction and the business to be placed upon the summons is entirely under his control. His presence cannot be dispensed with except by the appointment in writing under his hand and seal of a locum tenens who must be an Alderman who has passed the Chair. The Lord Mayor has full authority over the above assemblies and regulates discussion and procedure. He is one of the custodians of the City Seal and the Hospital Seal.
The Lord Mayor’s main role nowadays is to represent, support and promote the businesses and residents in the City of London. Today these businesses are mostly in the financial sector, and the Lord Mayor is regarded as the champion of the entire UK-based financial sector regardless of ownership or location throughout the country. As leader of the Corporation of the City of London, the Lord Mayor serves as the key spokesman for the local authority and also has important ceremonial and social responsibilities. The Lord Mayor is non-affiliated politically, typically delivering many hundreds of speeches and addresses per year and attending many receptions and other events in London and beyond. They are also, crucially, the head of the Livery and attend a large number of Livery events and ceremonies over the course of their Mayoral year.
The election of the Lord Mayor takes place on Michaelmas Day (29 September) every year (excepting when this falls on a weekend). Prior to Common Hall, at around 10.30am, the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, Aldermen, High Officers, Masters, Prime Wardens, Upper Bailiff, and the Livery Committee process to the Guild Church of St. Lawrence Jewry for a church service, which is normally open to the public.
At the conclusion of the service, the Lord Mayor and procession return to the Aldermen’s Court Room whilst the Masters, Prime Wardens and Upper Bailiff, followed by the Livery Committee, return to Guildhall. At around 11.30am, the latter group process into the Great Hall, with the Livery Committee and the Masters and Prime Wardens of the twelve senior Livery companies taking their seats on the Hustings, whilst the Masters, Prime Wardens and Upper Bailiff of the remaining Companies take seats in the front rows below the Hustings.
At 11.40am the Lord Mayor and procession enter the Great Hall and Common Hall is opened by the Common Cryer and Serjeant-at-Arms. The Proceedings of the last Common Hall are then read by the Assistant Town Clerk. Following this, the Recorder of London rises and informs the Livery of the occasion of their meeting, and the Lord Mayor, Senior Aldermen, the Recorder and Town Clerk, as well as the City Marshall and Swordbearer, then leave the Great Hall to go to the Print Room.
The Sheriffs, with the Common Serjeant (or, if absent, the Recorder) between them, advance to the front of the Hustings, where the Common Serjeant reads to the Livery a list of the names of those Aldermen below the Chair who have served the Office of Sheriff. Liverymen are informed that out of the Aldermen named they are to return two to the Lord Mayor and Aldermen who will then choose which of the two shall be Lord Mayor for the year ensuing. They then proceed to the election.
If no poll is demanded, the junior Aldermen (seniors first) and the Officers, as well as the two Sheriffs, the Common Serjeant, the Common Cryer and the Serjeant-at-Arms proceed to the Print Room. The Assistant Town Clerk then addresses the Livery. Meanwhile, a ballot is held amongst the Aldermen in the Print Room to select the two names to be returned to the Livery. The votes are counted by the Recorder and the Common Serjeant and are recorded by the Town Clerk. The result of the election is then declared by the Recorder and the Lord Mayor as well as all those in the Print Room return to the Great Hall, where the result is announced and the Lord Mayor-Elect addresses Common Hall. After a Resolution of Thanks to the Lord Mayor and the late Sheriffs, Common Hall is then dissolved by the Common Cryer and Serjeant-at-Arms and concludes by saying “God save the King”. All Liverymen are invited to respond, “God Save The King”. The Lord Mayor and procession then leave the Great Hall, followed by the Livery Committee and the Masters, Prime Wardens and Upper Bailiff of the Livery Companies, who return to the Crypts to remove their gowns. All other attendees are then free to depart.