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London's cockney Pearly kings and queens set for a May 6 'coronation'

PUBLISHED: 07:00 13 April 2012

Descendants of one of the original London Pearly families, the Hitchens, are being 'crowned' as the next generation of Pearly kings and queens in the East End's favourite cockney tradition.

The ‘coronation’ takes place on May 6 in ‘the Pearly church’ of St Martin’s-in-the-Fields, the largest event of its kind in 100 years.

The blessing is followed by a good old cockney knees-up with music from The Barrow Boys staged at Bethnal Green’s Carpenter’s Arms, a classic East End boozer, to welcome family and friends of the new ‘royalty’.

Their chosen manor stretches from the City of London at Aldgate, out to Mile End and the Bow Bridge.

London has 28 families who constituted the original Pearly kings and queens, one in each of the former Metropolitan boroughs that now make up today’s Inner London—the titles are inherited.

Pearly kings and queens wear their iconic suits hand-sewn with hundreds of pearl buttons which are worn to raise money for charity, following the footsteps of their founder Henry Croft, an East End costermonger born 150 years ago who spent a lifetime helping the poor.

Croft was raised in a Victorian workhouse orphanage in St Pancras who began work at 13 in the street markets among costermongers, or apple sellers, and became fascinated by their ‘flash boy’ suits decorated with penny-sized pearl buttons.

It led to the famous tradition of London’s Pearly kings and queens who are out in force on May 6 for the ‘cockney coronation.’

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