Public authority in Hanoverian England consisted in a careful play on the symbolic and the substantial. Where formal powers were relatively weak or ill-defined, symbols that impressed, or simply dignified officials were instrumental in the social construction of power. Thus, civic rituals in provincial towns, notably mayoral processions or meetings of municipal sessions, ordered the urban community while simultaneously dignifying the exercise of authority. Typical was the inauguration of the Mayor of York on St Blaise’s day (3 February) in a ceremony which moved impressively between the council chamber, the Guildhall, and the new mayor’s residence. Elaborate oath-taking rituals were hors-d’œuvres to drinking three gallons of wine at Pavement’s Cross and then proceeding to a lavish dinner.1 In early-nineteenth-century Boston, the Mayor’s Procession began with bells which summoned townsfolk to observe the robed corporation, led by a silver oar and maces, accompanied by a band, and treading over cowslips carefully strewn by children of the Blue Coat School.2 Without such rituals, corporate authority would have appeared less definitive and more remote. Indeed, even the routine exercise of personal power was enacted in ways which dramatized social authority.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Public Policy in Provincial England
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number