On 4 August 1919, on the fifth anniversary of Britain’s declaration of war on Germany, a Peace Pageant was held consisting of a vast River Procession. The Thames Peace Pageant celebrated the efforts of English mariners and merchant seamen in the First World War. The pageant set off from London Bridge at 4pm on Bank Holiday Monday 4 August 1919 with QUEEN MARY’S SHALLOP at its head and a huge variety of water craft following.
QUEEN MARY’S SHALLOP carried the King, the Queen, Queen Alexandra, the Prince of Wales, Prince Albert, Princess Mary and Princess Victoria, who took their seats to the accompaniment of the National Anthem played by the Royal Marine Band and the guns at the Tower of London. The royal barge was rowed by eight watermen in scarlet coats, black velvet jockey caps, and white gloves.
The procession stretched along five miles of the river, from London Bridge to Chelsea. It attracted enormous crowds to the river banks, bridges and the Thames itself, which was lined with spectators, moored boats and decorated with flags and banners. The Royal Barge, QUEEN MARY’S SHALLOP, made her last ever voyage as part of this pageant. She was the last of the old state barges. At the Peace Pageant she took centre stage, closely followed by the Lords of the Admiralty in separate ten-oared cutters, each accompanied by a steamboat.
A green steam barge carried the Lord Mayor, following which were a dozen twelve-oared Navy cutters, four Navy picket boats with guns, an armed motor launch, and a barge displaying guns used in the First World War. The procession featured boats of all types, from coastal motor boats to cutters and ships’ boats.
The main body of the procession featured flagged and decorated craft from maritime institutions and the British Merchant Service. Décor consisted of bunting and 50 streamers, decking the bridges, ships, wharves, cranes and scaffolding. Choirs sang sea songs on the Embankment and bands played along the bank and at those piers where King George V entered and disembarked the royal barge. At Cadogan Pier the King disembarked to survey the pageant and receive the salutes of various assembled units. Above the saluting point the procession turned and returned eastward.
The river pageant attracted a big audience, including members of the House of Commons who adjourned to the Terrace to watch the procession go by. During the planning stage concern had been expressed about the accommodation available for wounded soldiers to view the procession. On the day, special provision was made, with the whole of Lambeth Bridge allotted by the London County Council as a viewing platform for the wounded.
QUEEN MARY’S SHALLOP was commissioned by William III for Queen Mary II in 1689. Her hull is similar in proportion to a wherry, although she was not built in the true wherry tradition. Her original canopy was green and gold; the present one was made in 1912.
After 1849, when Prince Frederick's Barge was taken out of service, QUEEN MARY’S SHALLOP became the only remaining State Barge of the English Crown. She was used in 1912 when King George V and Queen Mary attended the Royal Regatta at Henley. The next and final use of the white-hulled barge was in the Peace Pageant in August 1919.
Where is she now?
QUEEN MARY’S SHALLOP is part of the collection of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich but is not currently on display.