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Pearly kings and queens pay homage to Chelsea Pensioners with cockney knees-up in East End rub-a-dub

PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 January 2018 | UPDATED: 08:57 17 January 2018

Chelsea Pensioners set for a Pearly king and queen cockney knees-up. Picture sources: Royal Hospital Chelsea and Google

Chelsea Pensioners set for a Pearly king and queen cockney knees-up. Picture sources: Royal Hospital Chelsea and Google

Royal Hospital & Google

Pearly kings and queens are laying on a right old cockney knees-up for London’s Chelsea pensioners at their favourite East End boozer.

Pearly kings and queens at Bethnal Green's 'Stairway to Heaven' wartime air-raid disaster annual remembrace. Picture: Mike BrookePearly kings and queens at Bethnal Green's 'Stairway to Heaven' wartime air-raid disaster annual remembrace. Picture: Mike Brooke

The Sunday-night bash at Whitechapel’s Carpenters’ Arms rub-a-dub (cockney for pub) is being laid on as a tribute to the red-coated old soldiers of the Royal Hospital retirement home.

“They are our heroes,” Tower Hamlets Pearly Queen Lorraine Sadler told the East London Advertiser.

“This is going to be the Pearlies’ tribute to the men and women who’ve served their country in time of need and we’re showing our appreciation with a right old cockney knees-up.”

It’s likely to be a right old cockney menu of pie’n’mash, cockles, mussels and jellied eels—though Lorraine admits she won’t touch the fishy stuff as she’s allergic to it.

The Pearlies go back to the 1870s when costermongers sewed thousands of pearl buttons on their whistle-and-flutes (suits) to draw attention to their fundraising for the poor of Victorian London.

They still do charity functions and are regularly rolled out for events like the annual remembrance for Bethnal Green’s wartime air-raid disaster and were also part of Danny Bolyle’s opening procession at the 2012 London Olympics.

Most districts and boroughs have their own Pearly titles handed down through the family, a tradition started in 1875 by costermonger Henry Croft, the self-styled ‘Pearly King of London’.

Lorraine inherited her ‘Tower Hamlets’ title from her mum Tricia. Her great-great grandfather George Hutchins was the first ‘Pearly King of Dalston’ in 1880. Her daughter Nikki has the ‘Pearly Queen of Stratford’ title which one day goes to her five-year-old granddaughter D’Anna-Mae Bruton.

But the Chelsea Pensioners’ tradition goes back much further. The Royal Hospital Chelsea was founded by King Charles II in 1682 with army pensions for soldiers injured in service or had served more than 20 years. There were 36,757 registered Chelsea Pensioners by 1815, following the victorious Battle of Waterloo.

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