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The Inauguration Dinner at Guildhall.

Source: The Illustrated London News, Nov 17, 1855, p.580

IN accordance with ancient custom, the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs entertained the citizens of London, her Majesty's Ministers, and a large circle of the nobility and notabilities of the metropolis, at the Guildhall, on Friday week. The cards were issued as usual for four o'clock, and from that hour until half-past six the company kept pouring in in a continuous stream, and as they passed across the Guildhall to the Council Chamber, where the Lord Mayor received his guests, were cheered more or lees according to their standing and importance, or the position in which they stood in the estimation of the good citizens of London. The Turkish Ambassador was loudly cheered, and the Minister of Sardinia had quite an ovation. Lord Palmerston also had a hearty reception; but Lord J. Russell was allowed to pass with comparatively slight notice. The only other personage whose reception had anything of a political significance was Lord Hardinge, and his Lordship had such a welcome as showed that the citizens fully approved of his recent promotion.

The Guildhall was most artistically decorated for the occasion, under the superintendent taste of Mr. Bunning, the City architect; and as these embellishments have a national significance, and are especially characteristic of the great topic of the day—the war—we have engraved the emblematic groups with which the great east and west windows of the Hall were occupied.

Immediately facing the entrance into the Hall from the Law Courts is a life-like figure of a knight on horseback in full armour. The lobbies between this corridor and banqueting-hall were hung with suits of armour and weapons, arranged in groups, and decorated with flowering plants and shrubs.

Decoration of Guildhall on Lord Mayor's Day - East End. (320K)

Guildhall on Lord Mayor's Day - West End. (340K)

The eastern window of the Hall is filled with an allegorical design, painted by Messrs. Fenton and Absolon. The central figure personifies the Corporation of London standing boldly forward as the advocate of civil and religious liberty, and pointing to the printing-press, the emblem of Civilisation, with supporting figures of Education and Justice, " dispelling, by their superior light, Superstition, Prejudice, and the Evil Passions."

In the upper part of the western window is the usual fixture of Messrs. Copeland's beautiful crystal star; but, beneath this, and on the Gothic screens, are allegorical figures of France and England, having between them portraits of her Majesty and the Emperor of the French. The general idea of ornamentation carried throughout the Hall is that of representing the Allied Sovereigns, with the Marshals and Generals of their armies, and the Admirals of their navies, engaged in the present war. Thus, on the gallery screens southward, are portraits of Prince Napoleon, Marshals St. Arnaud and Pelissier, Generals Canrobert and Bosquet, with Admirals Sir Edmund Lyons, Bruat, and Hamelin. On the north side, portraits of the Duke of Cambridge, Lord Raglan, the Earl of Cardigan, and Generals Evans, Simpson, and Cathcart, In the centre of the screen, at the eastern end of the Hall, is a figure of Victory, to the right of which are portraits of the Sultan and Omer Pacha,and on the left the King of Sardinia and General Marmora. The portraits (painted by Mr. Coke Smythe) are encircled by laurel gilt frames; about these are displayed the French, English, Turkish, and Sardinian flags, intermixed with trophies of ancient and modern arms.

We pass by Mr. Weigall jun.'s full-length portrait of the Duke of Wellington, Mr. Durham's bust of her Majesty (presented to the Corporation by the late Lord Mayor as his parting gift), and the finely fancied design for a memorial monument to the Alliance, by Mr. Calder Marshall, which adorn the lobby of the Exchequer Court, to linger for a few moments in admiration at the " Timon," a marble statue by Mr. Frederick Thrupp, executed by him to order for the Corporation of London, and intended to be placed in the Egyptian-hall at the Mansion House.

Of the speeches after dinner, that of M. De Persigny on behalf of the Emperor of the French, which we have given elsewhere, and that of Lord Palmerston for himself and colleagues, were the most remarkable. The Premier's speech, after acknowledging the toast and its flattering reception, proceeded as follows:—

It must always be most gratifying to those who are honoured with the confidence of the Crown to be entertained at the hospitable board of the Chief Magistrate of this great city. Those persons who are charged with conduct of public affairs must indeed be inadequate to the performance of the duties which devolve upon them if they are insensible to the value of that great principle of commercial enterprise which, I may say, is consecrated by those who sit within these walls. That commercial enterprise is one of the main foundations of the greatness and the power of nations. In peace the enterprise of commerce diffuses civilisation; it promotes the intercourse of nations ; it throws down the barriers which separate people from people; and tends to unite mankind in the bonds of common brotherhood. When war, unfortunately, happens—as in the course of human events we must expect that it sometimes will—commerce furnishes those means by which war can be successfully carried on in such a manner as to ensure a safe and honourable and lasting peace. It must, my Lord Mayor and gentlemen, be deemed at all times by high-minded men one of the noblest positions to which an individual can aspire to be charged with the conduct of the affairs of a great nation like this. But if ever there was a moment when those who are charged with such a duty may feel peculiarly proud of the honour conferred upon them, and also peculiarly sensitive as to the deep responsibility which that honourable charge imposes, the present moment is beyond question the greatest that ever, perhaps, was in the memory of man; or never did a nation present a nobler spectacle to the world than does the British nation at this time. We have entered into a great contest, not rashly, not hastily, not with levity, but upon full and mature deliberation. We have entered into that contest because we felt that the war was necessary as well as just; and this nation evinces, from one end of the country to the other, a steady, a calm, but a deliberate determination to submit to every sacrifice which the conduct of the war may entail, to show itself equal to every exertion which the prosecution of that war may require, to exhibit the utmost constancy in carrying on the struggle, and to continue its sacrifices and its exertions until peace shall be obtained on conditions such as we may be entitled to demand (Loud cheers). We have present upon this occasion, gentlemen, the representatives of those three allies with whom we are bound in the enterprise which we have undertaken. We have at this board the Ambassador of the Emperor of the French—that great ally, who, I must do him the honour and justice to say, has, by the magnanimity of his mind, by his far-seeing perception, and by the honesty and single-mindedness of his policy, cemented a union between two nations which have too long been divided by jealousies and mistrust, but which, I hope, will from this period, in the words of my noble friend the French Ambassador, for ever continue to be intimate and confiding friends. We have also at this board the representative of the Sultan, in whose cause we have thrown ourselves into this war, and whose subjects have nobly shown that they were worthy of the assistance which we have afforded them. We have, too, the representative of the King of Sardinia—a Sovereign whose character and the conduct of whose people excite the warmest sympathies throughout this country, and whose good faith inspires our most implicit confidence. I trust that these representatives of our allies, let them go where they will through the length and breadth of the land, will see nothing and will hear nothing but what will enable them to report to their respective Sovereigns, that, while we place the utmost confidence and reliance upon the constancy with which they will support us in the war in which we are engaged, they may rely with equally implicit confidence upon the determination of the people of this great country; and no man can doubt that when these Four Powers are earnest in a cause—when they have drawn the sword with a full determined not to sheathe it until they have accomplished their purpose—(Loud cheers)—no human efforts opposed to their will can be successful in marring their exertions (Renewed cheers).

His Lordship next gave " The House of Lords," the Marquis of Salisbury returning thanks ; and subsequently "The House of Commons," coupling with it the name of Lord John Russell. The announcement of the noble Lord's name excited general disapprobation, which rose to a complete storm of groans and hisses when he rose to respond to the toast. After one or two vain attempts to gain a hearing, his Lordship was obliged to resume his seat.

Sir G. Grey proposed the health of the Lady Mayoress, to which the Lord Mayor responded, excusing her Ladyship's absence on the ground of indisposition ; and after one or two more toasts the company broke up.