The City of London – the square mile, the original city founded by the Romans as Londinium Augusta and re-established a few centuries later by Alfred the Great’s Saxons, the separate city governed by the Lord Mayor and the Corporation of London with its own police force, local laws and customs, and pubs which never open at weekends – is a realm guarded by magical beings. Of course it is. The silver heraldic dragons (often erroneously called – as I did above – ‘griffins’, because as you know silver hybrids save you money on the congestion charge) which stand at the major entrances to the City serve to remind us of this ancient boundary. The Queen for example cannot cross this boundary without invitation from the Lord Mayor. Pretty annoying for her when she has to take the tube from Westminster to Tower Hill. “Oh bugger, one has forgawten to bring one’s invitation with one, one will have to get orf the tube at Temple and walk along the South Bank instead.” Sorry guv, it’s the rules, yer majesty.
The dragon holds the shield of the City, which is the cross of St. George (which I’m sure would offend dragons these days) and a little red dagger, which is widely believed to represent the dagger that was used to stab Wat Tyler at Smithfield, ending the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, but may just as well represent the sword of St.Paul, patron saint of London. Or it could represent the London media’s obsession with knife crime.
I sketched this after a nice afternoon with the family in London, when I was on my way to see the house of Dr. Johnson. A nice festive dusting of snow had just fallen, and everything looked pleasant. Next day a massive blizzard came.