Muscovy Hat

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The Moscovy Hat as a crest on the coat of arms at the Guildhall of London
City of London sword and mace carried by the swordtail (left) and the Sergeant-at-Arms (2011)
The swordtail in a cartoon (1864)

The Muscovy Hat , German " Muscovite hat", the traditional, worn on festive occasions fur hat of London's Sword Bearers, the sword carrier. He is a companion to the Lord Mayors of London , the ceremonial mayor of the City of London . London City is a historic, independent district in the center of the British capital. The occasions for the appearance of the Sword Bearer include official dinners and state banquets in Guildhall , the home of the City of London Corporation , or in the Mansion House , the official residence of the Lord Mayor.

The Muscovy Hat was part of the coat of arms of the City of London until it was replaced in the 19th century by the current emblem of a dragon wing, depicted together with the cross of St. George.


The shape of the sable hat or cap apparently varied depending on the preference of the wearer. It is always worked a little or considerably wider at the top. Most recently, it was worn in a simple, about 20 centimeter high version. It has no ornament and no brim of a hat. A particularly impressive specimen, which was far more expansive towards the top, was worn by the swordtail William Thomas Boston in the 1950s.

In a pocket on the inside is the key for a safe, which contains, among other things, the Great Seal of London.


The office of swordsman is a great honor bestowed by the monarch. London is known to have a ceremonial sword back to 1373 . The Sword Bearer wears his sable fur cap, officially called the Muscovy Hat in London, on all ceremonial occasions. The name is reminiscent of the Baltic Sea trade, which was once so important for London, whose important part was the import and worldwide export of Russian fur skins ( tobacco products ). The fur trading center was in the London borough of Garlick Hill . The cap carried along with the sword (and the mace ) during civil processions as an insignia of dignity symbolizes that the mayor is the representative of the sovereign.

The “Cap of Maintenance” with an ermine edge fulfills a similar function and has been carried on a staff for centuries when Parliament opens before the regent. It would be considered extremely inappropriate if the dignitaries wore the hat in the civilian sector as well. The custom of the cap of maintenance is also cultivated in other important English cities, the design of this headgear is mostly based on that of the London sword-bearer. At least in the 1980s it was, in addition to London, the cities of Bristol , Coventry , Gloucester , Lincoln , Newcastle upon Tyne , Norwich and York . There are two Caps of Maintenance in Gloucester. Here, too, like the mayor of the City of London, the swordtail wears a sable hat, seven and a half inches high (19 cm), but with a rolled-up brim and a pressed-in lid made of red velvet. The sable hat is an impressive sight during processions, which corresponds to the richly decorated robe and the mayor's fortune. Gloucester's second hat is made of ermine and feud. The Bristol version is similar to the London version, but rimless and made of faux fur , but is only shown in exhibitions with the sword and the staff on special occasions. The origin of these customs is uncertain.

The first occasion to wear the Muscovy Hat is the Lord Mayor's Banquet , the debut banquet with several hundred participants of the newly sworn Lord Mayors of London in honor of his predecessor. When all the guests are welcomed and have found their place, they line up for a solemn polonaise to slow marching music from the first scene by Publio Cornelio Scipione . Trumpeters in medieval costumes take the lead, followed by the City Marshall and the mayor's chaplain , who wears a hat and robe with a long train; then come the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom with the swordtail on his right, followed by the Prime Minister's wife and wife of the Lord Mayor of London. The procession leads through the picture gallery of the Guildhall, turns a round in the banquet room until the participants are back at their seats at the dinner table.

The Sergeant-at-Arms goes together with the swordtail on regional occasions . He wears the ceremonial mace or marshal's baton as a symbol of the authority conferred by the crown on the City of London Corporation . Both wear black robes with a white lace jabot . "While the heavy mace is an impressive device, it is the swordtail that makes the more imposing figure."

The English proverb "I shall keep it under my hat" means to keep something hidden or secret. This saying follows a custom that is still practiced after the "Silent Ceremony" on the Friday before the second Saturday in November. The outgoing Lord Mayor asks the sword-bearer to give him the keys to the safe that keeps the seals of the city and Christ's Hospital. The swordtail takes off the Muscovy Hat and pulls the key out of a pocket on the underside of the hat. The swordtail gives the outgoing mayor the key, who in turn hands it over to the new mayor, who returns it to the swordtail and asks him to keep it safe. The swordtail receives the key back and says: "I will keep it under my hat". Then he puts the key back in the pocket on the underside of his Muscovy hat and puts the hat back on.

Web links

Commons : Muscovy stock  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Swordbearing Role of Honor. LSA High School, June 1, 2013 (English). Retrieved April 25, 2021.
  2. ^ The New Lord Mayor Of London Alderman Cuthbert Ackroyd With The Sword And Mace Bearers William Boston (left) And John Poland. Leslie Shaw / ANL / Shutterstock, undated. Retrieved April 25, 2021.
  3. a b c d David Long: The Hats that Made Britain: A History of the Nation Through its Headwear. The History Press , 2020 (English). Retrieved April 24, 2021.
  4. Parliament Roll 1512 Henry VIII Procession.
  5. The queen isn't meant to get involved in UK politics. Boris Johnson just dragged her in. (Photo) . June 21, 2017 (English). Retrieved April 24, 2021.
  6. Elizabeth Ewing: Fur in Dress . BT Batsford Ltd, London 1981, p. 47 (English).
  7. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica. Edition 1911, p. 442, keyword Maintenance . Retrieved April 24, 2021.
  8. Christopher Hibbert, Ben Weinreb, John Keay, Julia Keay: The London Encyclopaedia (3rd edition) , Pan Macmillan, London 2011, p. 512 (English). Retrieved April 23, 2021.
  9. ^ Paul David Jagger: Sayings associated with the City and Livery Companies. 2016. Accessed April 26, 2021.