The Court Leet

After some cajoling, town elder G. came through with the promised ticket to the Court Leet for husband. It was held on Thursday night and, being female, I was banished to dinner at the Inn across the street with several wives/partners of the attendees. Joining me was one half of the doppelgänger couple who considered the proceedings next door rather sexist. I, on the other hand, have been married long enough to be grateful for a little time off. I suspect other wives feeling just like me have played a vital role in keeping this tradition going for the last 700-odd years.

When the menfolk arrived at the Inn just after midnight, they were weary from the speeches which by all accounts were a bit average this year in everything except duration. I was pleased to hear our neighbor, D., had been elected the new High Bailiff. I like him because he is nice and often wears a coral coloured Benetton sweatshirt with a cravat and without irony. M., the sometimes barman who is known for his lack of self-censorship, is less readily charmed by a cravat. He thinks D. the most boring man in town, which doesn’t bode well for next year’s speeches.

Earlier in the week in London, husband and I had dinner with B. and R. who were down from Boylestone as guests of the Lord Mayor of the City of London at his annual show. B. regaled me with tales of sausages flung from swords, a Roman army, and a cat still resident in the Mayor’s office, an unbroken tradition from the time of Dick Whittington. Normally I would have chalked up this account to the potent combination of B.’s creativity and my gullibility, but after a look at some of the pictures of the show online I was convinced he was telling the truth, mostly. He didn’t even mention the various livery companies who marched in the procession, including The Worshipful Company of Paviors (professionals involved with roads and pavements) who presumably rode on a float where they stood around drinking cups of tea while traffic backed up.

The thirteenth century was a busy time for charter granting in England. London got one in 1215 that allowed it to elect a mayor, with a caveat that he had to travel to Westminster each year to pledge allegiance to the Sovereign. It is this procession which begat the annual show that B. and R. attended. Twelve years later our Cotswold town got its charter for a market, thus necessitating the tradition of the Court Leet to elect a High Bailiff to oversee it. As much as I enjoy the opportunity to tout the Cotswolds and disparage London, it seems the Lord Mayor’s show came up trumps over the Court Leet this year. Tradition, I begrudgingly admit, is not the sole provenance of the countryside.

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