Buttons, Skydiving & Charities …oh my!!!

Early this year I published my first book “A-Z Pearls of Wisdom for Executive PAs”. I’m really proud of my publication and the reviews so far have been amazing.
Lindsay Taylor's book cover 'A-Z Pearls of Wisdom for Executive PAs' featuring a picture of the pearly queens and kings.

I’d like to say a heartfelt thank you to all the readers who have taken the time to share their great feedback. Also a heartfelt thank you for to all those who contributed to the publication which leads me very nicely into this blog post.

At a recent PA networking event I was asked by a PA client why I had picked the cover image. I shared the beautiful story of my reasons and it got me to thinking that this would be a wonderful, fascinating story to also share with you.

The image was provided to me by the infamous Vanessa Vallely, CEO of WeAreTheCity.com and fellow author. I was introduced to Vanessa by Vic Darragh and have a copy of Vanessa’s book “Heels of Steel” on my office coffee table.

I admire Vanessa for the work she does in raising the profile of female workers to ensure they can “survive and thrive in the corporate world”. We have a shared love for all things “Wizard of Oz” as evidenced by regular matching social media posts featuring ruby slippers! Fellow Dorothy-lovers will already be smiling at the title of this blog post adapted from “Lions, Tigers & Bears…oh my”, of course!

I’m delighted to write the “Wise Words Indeed” blogpost that features on Vanessa’s site and to feature this blog.

For those who’ve “clicked through” to this site for the first time, WeAreTheCity.com is famed as the “little black book for London’s female workforce” and I can highly recommend the site as an amazing resource. For my EA/PA followers reading this, also check out The Rising Stars initiative with the EA/PA category.

Vanessa and I took some time out of our busy schedules to meet over coffee and here’s a “transcript” of my chat with her:

As well as being CEO at WeAreTheCity.com you are also a Pearly Queen. Tell me more about this. It’s fascinating and not something I know much about…

The Pearly tradition has been in my family for over 100 years and I have been a Pearly since I was three!

I was originally Pearly Princess City of London, then my dad inherited City of London from my Grandfather and I become Pearly Queen of Hoxton. My dad then handed the title of City of London over to me in 2010. Today, my eldest daughter is Pearly Queen of Hoxton and my littlest one, Pearly Princess City of London, which was my original title when I was her age.

There are lots of original Pearly families across London who work tirelessly to raise money for charities within their boroughs.

So, what’s the history of the Pearly phenomena?

It was all started by Henry Croft (1862-1930).

Henry was raised in a Victorian workhouse orphanage in Charles Street, Somerstown, St, Pancras. At the age of 13 he left the orphanage and became a road sweeper and rat catcher. Henry soon felt at home in his new position and became akin to the Costermongers (apple sellers) in their “flash boy outfits,” on the stalls in the markets.

The clothes the Costers wore were decorated with a row of pearl buttons each the size of a penny, down the outside leg seam of their trousers from the ankle to the knee. The pocket flaps on their waistcoats and the front of their caps would be decorated in a similar fashion.

The Costermongers were a tough, resilient and colourful breed and had a language of their own, hence the cockney rhyming slang. They were also a caring bunch and if a fellow Coster was down on his luck they would organise a ‘whip round’ to help him get back on his feet.

Henry was fascinated by the Coster suits and deciding to go one step further; he decorated a whole suit comprising of a top hat and tails in pearl buttons. Of course, he became quite an attraction wherever he went and used this notoriety to his advantage by collecting pennies and halfpennies to help the children in the orphanage where he was raised. Henry became so popular that hospitals and other organised bodies asked him to collect for them too and Henry’s lifetime of charity work began.

Henry was unable to manage all of this work on his own and needed help. That help came from his friends, the Costermongers of the street markets of London, and so the Pearly Monarchy began and still continues to this present day. Many of the Costers became Pearly families. There were 28 families, one for each Borough of London, one for the City of London, and one for The City of Westminster.
The succession of a Pearly is by inheritance. As London grew so did the Pearly Monarchy and the work spread to many different charities that needed help.

I believe the photograph on my book cover is from one of the main events on the Pearly calendar…

Yes – it is. It’s from The Harvest Festival Service, which is held on the first Sunday in October. The other main event is the Pearly Memorial Service held on the third Sunday in May.

Both events are held at St Martins in the Fields, Trafalgar Square in London. Pearly Kings and Queens, Princes and Princesses, young and old in their wonderfully decorated suits come together to declare their dedication to voluntary charity work and to preserve one of London’s most colourful traditions.

What other fascinating Pearly knowledge can you share?

There are some traditions you might not know about.

They say, touch a Pearly for luck.

Pearly outfits are often sewn by their owners, a challenge as you get older (and wider) and need new suits! Pearly suits generally have over 3,000 buttons that need to be hand sewn.

You can tell the boroughs of most Pearlies by the patterns on their suits (eg. mine has St Paul’s and the Tower of London).

The suits are extremely heavy.

Our Pearly hats are adorned with ostrich feathers.

It is also a tradition that Pearly skirts for ladies are worn below the knee.

When I asked you whether you could provide an image to feature on my book cover – one that fitted with the “Pearls” connection – you immediately thought of this image. Tell me more – what’s the beautiful story behind it?

As I said, the picture was taken from one of the main events in the Pearly calendar – this is the Harvest Festival in 2015. All of the Pearlies were gathered on the steps of St Martins in the Fields, which is tradition prior to the church service.

That day we were also in the company of a very special guest, Rosa Kingston. Rosa, a wonderful lady in her 80s, had come to my attention, as she was the mother of a good friend. Rosa has ovarian cancer and when she was told she had a few months left to live, she drew up a bucket list of things she wanted to do to celebrate her life. Aside from jumping out of an aeroplane to raise money for the Royal Marsden later that week, she also wanted to be a Pearly for the day. So we made it happen.

Rosa’s story generated quite a lot of press after that and she has since gone on to raise over £8,000 for the Royal Marsen charity. You can just see Rosa in the top right hand corner of the book cover with her daughter, Maryon.

She is an amazing lady, who I might add is still with us and no doubt ticking things off her bucket list as we speak – you can find out more about her here.

So there we have it. A beautiful and absolutely fascinating story to accompany the Pearly image that graces my book!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Vanessa and The Original Pearly Kings & Queens Association and hope you’ve found this blog post as fascinating as me!

About the author

Louisa Day is a professional freelance make up artist, with previous experience working within fashion, advertising, bridal, TV and events, Louisa started her career in beauty on counter, quickly progressing from consultant to make up artist and trainer within London. From here she decided to leave retail and focus her creativity and passion on a variety of projects.

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