Pearly Kings and Queens in Brief
Pearly Kings and Queens or ‘pearlies’, evolved in the 19th century from the ‘Coster Kings & Queens’, who originated in the 18th century from the ‘Costermongers’.
Street traders, or ‘Costermongers’ as they were known, have been an important part of London life since the 11th century, mainly selling their wares in small quantities around the streets & alleyways, from baskets, progressing to barrows, then to permanent static pitches from stalls, until they finally evolved into today’s familiar Markets such as Billingsgate, Covent Garden and Smithfield to name a few. They had their own language similar to but pre-dating the Cockney Rhyming slang.
The mother of pearl buttoned outfits seen today originated from an orphan street sweeper Henry Croft, who decorated his suit to attract attention for his charitable money raising activities. Prior to Henry, London Costermonger traders would sew pearl buttons found in the street markets to the seams of their trousers. The Pearly Kings and Queens attitude to life is one of pride, raising money and dispensing it to those in need in true cockney spirit with a good heart.
We were honoured with a visit to Arments on 30th August 2014 by the Pearly Princess of St.Pancras Diane Gould, who is daughter of the late Pearly King of St.Pancras Alf Dole, who was the grandson of the first Pearly King, Henry Croft. Diane was at Arments for a book signing of her father’s book ‘The Pearly Prince of St.Pancras’.