While you’re off enjoying private tours of London, you might well spot a few people dressed up to the nines in very interesting outfits, covered with lots of beautiful pearl buttons. These are the Pearly Kings and Queens, an organisation that first started way back in 1875.
It was started by Henry Croft, who was raised in a Victorian workhouse orphanage. He left the orphanage at the tender age of 13, finding work as a road sweeper and rat catcher. The apple sellers working on stalls in local markets soon caught his eye, in particular the outfits they wore which were decorated with a row of pearl buttons down the outside legs of their trousers, as well as on their waistcoats and the fronts of their caps.
Croft was absolutely fascinated with this attire and soon took it to the next level, decorating an entire suit (including top hat and tails!) in pearl buttons. He soon became something of a tourist attraction, raising money for the orphanage where he had been brought up. Soon enough, hospitals and other organisations were asking him to help him raise money for them.
But because there were so many deserving causes, Croft decided he needed a bit of help – and turned to the apple sellers to lend a hand. This was the start of the Pearly Monarchy – which is still very much in evidence today.
There are two events each year that are put on in London – the Pearly Memorial service which takes place on the third Sunday in May, and the harvest Festival service which is on the first Sunday in October… so keep a look out for these if you’re in the city at this time.