Mayors and Lord Mayors

The Mayoralty was introduced to Britain by William of Normandy, in an attempt to introduce some formality to legislature. Before the introduction of Mayors the rule of law was was enforced locally by the Lord of the Manor.

These days the role is largeley ceremonial, but Mayors chair meetings of their Councils.

London,  is one of twenty three cities in England to have a Lord Mayor but, to my knowledge is the only city to be ‘blessed’ with two mayors; the City of London has a Lord Mayor – a role created in 1189 and elected each year by the Aldermen of the City, while the role of Mayor of London was introduced in the year 2000.

In 2019, I was honoured to be asked to serve as Mayor of Chelmsford.

Lord Mayor

By far the most famous of the Lord Mayors of London is Dick Whittington who was Lord Mayor on four separate occasions between 1398 and 1420, hence the rhyme in the famous pantomime of Dick Whittington and his Cat:

Turn again, Whittington,
Once Mayor of London!
Turn again, Whittington,
Twice Mayor of London!
Turn again, Whittington,
Thrice Mayor of London!


The cat, incidentally was not of the feline variety, but rather a small sailing vessel, as Whittington was a prosperous trader before entering politics. But we Brits never let the facts interfere with a good pantomime.

The Lord Mayor is elected each November, and his (or her – there have been over seven hundred Lord Mayors, and thus far only one woman has served – Dame Mary Donaldson, elected in 1983) election is followed by the ‘Lord Mayor’s Show’ which is a ceremonial parade through the City of London. The great Livery Companies are represented along with various privileged military regiments. On occasions in 18th and 19th centuries the parade took place on barges on the River Thames, giving rise to the term ‘float’ beaing used for canival vehicles.

Mayor of London

In contrast the Mayor of London is head of the London Assembly and is elected by the population of Greater London.

The first Mayor of London was Ken Livingstone (Socialist) a former leader of the Greater London Council and long time thorn in the side of both Labour and Conservative governments.


Ken Livingstone was elected in both 2000 and 2004, but unexpectedly beaten in 2008 by the eccentric Conservative Boris Johnson, who was re-elected in May 2012 for a further 4 year term.


In 2016, Boris Johnson – who had by then been elected to Parliament and would go on to become Prime Minister – was replaced byLabour’s Sadiq Khan, although the planned election in 2020 was postponed due to the Covid pandemic.

Like London, a number of other Metropolitan districts, including Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester have directly elected Mayors.