Throgmorton Street: The Drapers' Company

Old and New London: Volume 1. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.

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Walter Thornbury, 'Throgmorton Street: The Drapers' Company', Old and New London: Volume 1, (London, 1878), pp. 515-522. British History Online [accessed 25 June 2024].

Walter Thornbury. "Throgmorton Street: The Drapers' Company", in Old and New London: Volume 1, (London, 1878) 515-522. British History Online, accessed June 25, 2024,

Thornbury, Walter. "Throgmorton Street: The Drapers' Company", Old and New London: Volume 1, (London, 1878). 515-522. British History Online. Web. 25 June 2024,

In this section



Halls of the Drapers' Company—Throgmorton Street and its many Fair Houses—Drapers and Wool Merchants—The Drapers in Olden Times—Milborne's Charity—Dress and Livery—Election Dinner of the Drapers' Company—A Draper's Funeral—Ordinances and Pensions—Fifty—three Draper Mayors—Pageants and Processions of the Drapers—Charters—Details of the present Drapers' Hall—Arms of the Drapers' Company.

Throgmorton Street is at the north-east corner of the Bank of England, and was so called after Sir Nicholas Throgmorton, who is said to have been poisoned by Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Queen Elizabeth's favourite. There is a monument to his memory in the Church of St. Catherine Cree.

The Drapers' first Hall, according to Herbert, was in Cornhill; the second was in Throgmorton Street, to which they came in 1541 (Henry VIII.), on the beheading of Cromwell, Earl of Essex, its previous owner; and the present structure was reerected on its site, after the Great Fire of London.

Stow, describing the Augustine Friars' Church, says there have been built at its west end "many feyre houses, namely, in Throgmorton Street;" and among the rest, "one very large and spacious," builded, he says, "in place of olde and small tenements, by Thomas Cromwell, minister of the King's jewell-house, after that Maister of the Rolls, then Lord Cromwell, Knight, Lord Privie Seale, VickerGenerall, Earle of Essex, High Chamberlain of England, &c.;" and he then tells the following story respecting it:—

"This house being finished, and having some reasonable plot of ground left for a garden, hee caused the pales of the gardens adjoining to the north parte thereof, on a sodaine, to bee taken down, twenty-two foote to be measured forth right into the north of every man's ground, a line there to be drawne, a trench to be cast, a foundation laid, and a high bricke wall to be builded. My father had a garden there, and an house standing close to his south pale; this house they loosed from the ground, and bore upon rollers into my father's garden, twenty-two foot, ere my father heard thereof. No warning was given him, nor other answere, when hee spoke to the surveyors of that worke, but that their mayster, Sir Thomas, commanded them so to doe; no man durst go to argue the matter, but each man lost his land, and my father payde his whole rent, whiche was vjs. viijd the yeare, for that halfe which was left. Thus much of mine owne knowledge have I thought goode to note, that the sodaine rising of some men causeth them to forget themselves." ("Survaie of London," 1598.)


The Company was incorporated in 1439 (Henry VI.), but it also possesses a charter granted them by Edward III., that they might regulate the sale of cloths according to the statute. Drapers were originally makers, not merely, as now, dealers in cloth. (Herbert.) The country drapers were called clothiers; the wool-merchants, staplers. The Britons and Saxons were both, according to the best authorities, familiar with the art of cloth-making; but the greater part of English wool, from the earliest times, seems to have been sent to the Netherlands, and from thence returned in the shape of fine cloth, since we find King Ethelred, as early as 967, exacting from the Easterling merchants of the Steel Yard, in Thames Street, tolls of cloth, which were paid at Billingsgate.

The width of woollen cloth is prescribed in Magna Charta. There was a weavers' guild in the reign of Henry I., and the drapers are mentioned soon after as flourishing in all the large provincial cities. It is supposed that the cloths sold by such drapers were red, green, and scarlet cloths, made in Flanders. In the next reign English cloths, made of Spanish wool, are spoken of. Drapers are recorded in the reign of Henry II. as paying fines to the king for permission to sell dyed cloths. In the same reign, English cloths made of Spanish wool are mentioned. In the reign of Edward I., the cloth of Candlewick Street (Cannon Street) was famous. The guild paid the king two marks of gold every year at the feast of Michaelmas.


But Edward III., jealous of the Netherlands, set to work to establish the English cloth manufacture. He forbade the exportation of English wool, and invited over seventy Walloon weaver families, who settled in Cannon Street. The Flemings had their meeting-place in St. Lawrence Poultney churchyard, and the Brabanters in the churchyard of St. Mary Somerset. In 1361 the king removed the wool staple from Calais to Westminster and nine English towns. In 1378 Richard II. again changed the wool staple from Westminster to Staples' Inn, Holborn; and in 1397 a weekly cloth-market was established at Blackwell Hall, Basinghall Street; the London drapers at first opposing the right of the country clothiers to sell in gross.

The drapers for a long time lingered about Cornhill, where they had first settled, living in Birchin Lane, and spreading as far as the Stocks' Market; but in the reign of Henry VI. the drapers had all removed to Cannon Street, where we find them tempting Lydgate's "London Lickpenny" with their wares. In this reign arms were granted to the Company, and the grant is still preserved in the British Museum.

The books of the Company commence in the reign of Edward IV., and are full of curious details relating to dress, observances, government, and trade. Edward IV., it must be remembered, in 1479, when he had invited the mayor and aldermen to a great hunt at Waltham Forest, not to forget the City ladies, sent them two harts, six bucks, and a tun of wine, with which noble present the lady mayoress (wife of Sir Bartholomew James, Draper) entertained the aldermen's wives at Drapers' Hall, St. Swithin's Lane, Cannon Street. The chief extracts from the Drapers' records made by Herbert are the following:—

In 1476 forty of the Company rode to meet Edward IV. on his return from France, at a cost of £20. In 1483 they sent six persons to welcome the unhappy Edward V., whom the Dukes of Gloucester and Buckingham, preparatory to his murder, had brought to London; and in the following November, the Company dispatched twenty-two of the livery, in many-coloured coats, to attend the coronation procession of Edward's wicked hunchback uncle, Richard III. Presently they mustered 200 men, on the rising of the Kentish rebels; and again, in Finsbury Fields, at "the coming of the Northern men." They paid 9s. for boat hire to Westminster, to attend the funeral of Queen Anne (Richard's queen).

In Henry VII.'s reign, we find the Drapers again boating to Westminster, to present their bill for the reformation of cloth-making. The barge seems to have been well supplied with ribs of beef, wine, and pippins. We find the ubiquitous Company at many other ceremonies of this reign, such as the coronation of the queen, &c.

In 1491 the Merchant Taylors came to a conference at Drapers' Hall, about some disputes in the cloth trade, and were hospitably entertained with bread and wine. In the great riots at the Steel Yard, when the London 'prentices tried to sack the Flemish warehouses, the Drapers helped to guard the depôt, with weapons, cressets, and banners. They probably also mustered for the king at Blackheath against the Cornish insurgents. We meet them again at the procession that welcomed Princess Katherine of Spain, who married Prince Arthur; then, in the Lady Chapel at St. Paul's, listening to Prince Arthur's requiem; and, again, bearing twelve enormous torches of wax at the burial of Henry VII., the prince's father.

In 1514 (Henry VIII.) Sir William Capell left the Drapers' Company houses in various parts of London, on condition of certain prayers being read for his soul, and certain doles being given. In 1521 the Company, sorely against its will, was compelled by the arbitrary king to help fit out five ships of discovery for Sebastian Cabot, whose father had discovered Newfoundland. They called it "a sore adventure to jeopard ships with men and goods unto the said island, upon the singular trust of one man, called, as they understood, Sebastian." But Wolsey and the King would have no nay, and the Company had to comply. The same year, Sir John Brugge, Mayor and Draper, being invited to the Serjeants' Feast at Ely House, Holborn, the masters of the Drapers and seven other crafts attended in their best livery gowns and hoods; the Mayor presiding at the high board, the Master of the Rolls at the second, the Master of the Drapers at the third. Another entry in the same year records a sum of £22 15s. spent on thirty-two yards of crimson satin, given as a present to win the good graces of "my Lord Cardinal," the proud Wolsey, and also twenty marks given him, "as a pleasure," to obtain for the Company more power in the management of the Blackwell Hall trade.

In 1527 great disputes arose between the Drapers and the Crutched Friars. Sir John Milborne, who was several times master of the Company, and mayor in 1521, had built thirteen almshouses, near the friars' church, for thirteen old men, who were daily at his tomb to say prayers for his soul. There was also to be an anniversary obit. The Drapers' complaint was that the religious services were neglected, and that the friars had encroached on the ground of Milborne's charity. Henry VIII. afterwards gave Crutched Friars to Sir Thomas Wyat, the poetical friend of the Earl of Surrey, who built a mansion there, which was afterwards Lumley House. At the dissolution of monasteries, the Company paid £1,402 6s. for their chantries and obits.

The dress or livery of the Company seems to have varied more than that of any other—from violet, crimson, murrey, blue, blue and crimson, to brown, puce. In the reign of James I. a uniform garb was finally adopted. The observances of the Company at elections, funerals, obits, and pageants were quaint, friendly, and clubable enough. Every year, at Lady Day, the whole body of the fellowship in new livery went to Bow Church (afterwards to St. Michael's, Cornhill), there heard the Lady Mass, and offered each a silver penny on the altar. At evensong they again attended, and heard dirges chanted for deceased members. On the following day they came and heard the Mass of Requiem, and offered another silver penny. On the day of the feast they walked two and two in livery to the dining-place, each member paying three shillings the year that no clothes were supplied, and two shillings only when they were. The year's quarterage was sevenpence. In 1522 the election dinner consisted of fowls, swans, geese, pike, half a buck, pasties, conies, pigeons, tarts, pears, and filberts. The guests all washed after dinner, standing. At the side-tables ale and claret were served in wooden cups; but at the high table they gave pots and wooden cups for ale and wine, but for red wine and hippocras gilt cups. After being served with wafers and spiced wine, the masters went among the guests and gathered the quarterage. The old master then rose and went into the parlour, with a garland on his head and his cupbearer before him, and, going straight to the upper end of the high board, without minstrels, chose the new master, and then sat down. Then the masters went into the parlour, and took their garlands and four cupbearers, and crossed the great parlour till they came to the upper end of the high board; and there the chief warden delivered his garland to the warden he chose, and the three other wardens did likewise, proffering the garlands to divers persons, and at last delivering them to the real persons selected. After this all the company rose and greeted the new master and wardens, and the dessert began. At some of these great feasts some 230 people sat down. The lady members and guests sometimes dined with the brothers, and sometimes in separate rooms. At the Midsummer dinner, or dinners, of 1515, six bucks seem to have been eaten, besides three boars, a barrelled sturgeon, twenty-four dozen quails; three hogsheads of wine, twenty-one gallons of muscadel, and thirteen and a half barrels of ale. It was usual at these generous banquets to have players and minstrels.

The funerals of the Company generally ended with a dinner, at which the chaplains and a chosen few of the Company feasted. The Company's pall was always used; and on one occasion, in 1518, we find a silver spoon given to each of the six bearers. Spiced bread, bread and cheese, fruit, and ale were also partaken of at these obits, sometimes at the church, sometimes at a neighbouring tavern. At the funeral of Sir Roger Achilley, Lord Mayor in 1513, there seem to have been twenty-four torch-bearers. The pews were apparently hung with black, and children holding torches stood by the hearse. The Company maintained two priests at St. Michael's, Cornhill. The funeral of Sir William Roche, Mayor in 1523, was singularly splendid. First came two branches of white wax, borne before the priests and clerks, who paced in surplices, singing as they paced. Then followed a standard, blazoned with the dead man's crest—a red deer's head, with gilt horns, and gold and green wings. Next followed mourners, and after them the herald, with the dead man's coat armour, checkered silver and azure. Then followed the corpse, attended by clerks and the livery. After the corpse came the son, the chief mourner, and two other couples of mourners. The sword-bearer and Lord Mayor, in state, walked next; then the aldermen, sheriffs, and the Drapery livery, followed by all the ladies, gentlewomen, and aldermen's wives. After the dirge, they all went to the dead man's house, and partook of spiced bread and comfits, with ale and beer. The next day the mourners had a collection at the church. Then the chief mourners presented the target, sword, helmet, and banners to the priests, and a collection was made for the poor. Directly after the sacrament, the mourners went to Mrs. Roche's house, and dined, the livery dining at the Drapers' Hall, the deceased having left £6 15s. 4d. for that purpose. The record concludes thus: "And my Lady Roche, of her gentylness, sent them moreover four gallons of French wine, and also a box of wafers, and a pottell of ipocras. For whose soul let us pray, and all Christian souls. Amen." The Company maintained priests, altars, and lights at St. Mary Woolnoth's, St. Michael's, Cornhill, St. Thomas of Acon, Austin Friars, and the Priory of St. Bartholomew.

The Drapers' ordinances are of great interest. Every apprentice, on being enrolled, paid fees, which went to a fund called "spoon silver." The mode of correcting these wayward lads was sometimes singular. Thus we find one Needswell in the parlour, on court day, flogged by two tall men, disguised in canvas frocks, hoods, and vizors, twopennyworth of birchen rods being expended on his moral improvement. The Drapers had a special ordinance, in the reign of Henry IV., to visit the fairs of Westminster, St. Bartholomew, Spitalfields, and Southwark, to make a trade search, and to measure doubtful goods by the "Drapers' ell," a standard said to have been granted them by King Edward III. Bread, wine, and pears seem to have been the frugal entertainment of the searchers.

Decayed brothers were always pensioned; thus we find, in 1526, Sir Laurence Aylmer, who had actually been mayor in 1507, applying for alms, and relieved, we regret to state, somewhat grudgingly. In 1834 Mr. Lawford, clerk of the Company, stated to the Commissioners of Municipal Inquiry that there were then sixty poor freemen on the charity roll, who received £10 a year each. The master and wardens also gave from the Company's bounty quarterly sums of money to about fifty or sixty other poor persons. In cases where members of the court fell into decay, they received pensions during the court's pleasure. One person of high repute, then recently deceased, had received the sum of £200 per annum, and on this occasion the City had given him back his sheriff's fine. The attendance fee given to members of the court was two guineas.

From 1531 to 1714, Strype reckons fifty-three Draper mayors. Eight of these were the heads of noble families, forty-three were knights or baronets, fifteen represented the City in Parliament, seven were founders of churches and public institutions. The Earls of Bath and Essex, the Barons Wotton, and the Dukes of Chandos are among the noble families which derive their descent from members of this illustrions Company. That great citizen, Henry Fitz-Alwin, the son of Leofstan, Goldsmith, and provost of London, was a Draper, and held the office of mayor for twenty-four successive years.

In the Drapers' Lord Mayors' shows the barges seem to have been covered with blue or red cloth. The trumpeters wore crimson hats; and the banners, pennons, and streamers were fringed with silk, and "beaten with gold." The favourite pageants were those of the Assumption and St. Ursula. The Drapers' procession on the mayoralty of one of their members, Sir Robert Clayton, is thus described by Jordan in his "London Industre:"—
"In proper habits, orderly arrayed,
The movements of the morning are displayed.
Selected citizens i' th' morning all,
At seven a clock, do meet at Drapers' Hall.
The master, wardens, and assistants joyn
For the first rank, in their gowns fac'd with Foyn.
The second order do, in merry moods,
March in gowns fac'd with Budge and livery hoods.
In gowns and scarlet hoods thirdly appears
A youthful number of Foyn's Batchellors;
Forty Budge Batchellors the triumph crowns,
Gravely attir'd in scarlet hoods and gowns.
Gentlemen Ushers which white staves do hold
Sixty, in velvet coats and chains of gold.
Next, thirty more in plush and buff there are,
That several colours wear, and banners bear.
The Serjeant Trumpet thirty-six more brings
(Twenty the Duke of York's, sixteen the King's).
The Serjeant wears two scarfs, whose colours be
One the Lord Mayor's, t'other's the Company.
The King's Drum Major, follow'd by four more
Of the King's drums and fifes, make London roar."

"What gives the festivities of this Company an unique zest," says Herbert, "however, is the visitors at them, and which included a now extinct race. We here suddenly find ourselves in company with abbots, priors, and other heads of monastic establishment, and become so familiarised with the abbot of Tower Hill, the prior of St. Mary Ovary, Christ Church, St. Bartholomew's, the provincial and the prior of 'Freres Austyn's,' the master of St. Thomas Acon's and St. Laurence Pulteney, and others of the metropolitan conventual clergy, most of whom we find amongst their constant yearly visitors, that we almost fancy ourselves living in their times, and of their acquaintance."

The last public procession of the Drapers' Company was in 1761, when the master wardens and court of assistants walked in rank to hear a sermon at St. Peter's, Cornhill; a number of them each carried a pair of shoes, stockings, and a suit of clothes, the annual legacy to the poor of this Company.

The Drapers possess seven original charters, all of them with the Great Seal attached, finely written, and in excellent preservation. These charters comprise those of Edward I., Henry VI., Edward IV., Philip and Mary, Elizabeth, and two of James I. The latter is the acting charter of the company. In 4 James I., the company is entitled "The Master and Wardens and Brothers and Sisters of the Guild or Fraternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of the Mystery of Drapers of the City of London." In Maitland's time (1756), the Company devoted £4,000 a year to charitable uses.

CROMWELL'S HOUSE, FROM AGGAS'S MAP. (Taken from Herbert's "City Companies.")

Aggas's drawing represents Cromwell House almost windowless, on the street side, and with three small embattled turrets; and there was a footway through the garden of Winchester House, which forms the present passage (says Herbert) from the east end of Throgmorton Street, through Austin Friars to Great Winchester Street. The Great Fire stopped northwards at Drapers' Hall. The renter warden lost £446 of the Company's money, but the Company's plate was buried safely in a sewer in the garden. Till the hall could be rebuilt, Sir Robert Clayton lent the Drapers a large room in Austin Friars. The hall was rebuilt by Jarman, who built the second Exchange and Fishmongers' Hall. The hall had a very narrow escape (says Herbert) in 1774 from a fire, which broke out in the vaults beneath the hall (let out as a store-cellar), and destroyed a considerable part of the building, together with a number of houses on the west side of Austin Friars.

The present Drapers' Hall is Mr. Jarman's structure, but altered, and partly rebuilt after the fire in 1774, and partly rebuilt again in 1870. It principally consists of a spacious quadrangle, surrounded by a fine piazza or ambulatory of arches, supported by columns. The quiet old garden greatly improves the hall, which, from this appendage, and its own elegance, might be readily supposed the mansion of a person of high rank.

The present Throgmorton Street front of the building is of stone and marble, and was built by Mr. Herbert Williams, who also erected the splendid new hall, removing the old gallery, adding a marble staircase fit for an emperor's palace, and new facing the court-room, the ceiling of which was at the same time raised. Marble pillars, stained glass windows, carved marble mantelpieces, gilt panelled ceilings—everything that is rich and tasteful—the architect has used with lavish profusion.

The buildings of the former interior were of fine red brick, but the front and entrance, in Throgmorton Street, was of a yellow brick; both interior and exterior were highly enriched with stone ornaments. Over the gateway was a large sculpture of the Drapers' arms, a cornice and frieze, the latter displaying lions' heads, rams' heads, &c., in small circles, and various other architectural decorations.

The old hall, properly so called, occupied the eastern side of the quadrangle, the ascent to it being by a noble stone staircase, covered, and highly embellished by stucco-work, gilding, &c. The stately screen of this magnificent apartment was curiously decorated with carved pillars, pilasters, arches, &c. The ceiling was divided into numerous compartments, chiefly circular, displaying, in the centre, Phaeton in his car, and round him the signs of the zodiac, and various other enrichments. In the wainscoting was a neat recess, with shelves, whereon the Company's plate, which, both for quality and workmanship, is of great value, was displayed at their feasts. Above the screen, at the end opposite the master's chair, hung a portrait of Lord Nelson, by Sir William Beechey, for which the Company paid four hundred guineas, together with the portrait of Fitz-Alwin, the great Draper, already mentioned. "In denominating this portrait curious," says Herbert, "we give as high praise as can be afforded it. Oil-painting was totally unknown to England in Fitz-Alwin's time; the style of dress, and its execution as a work of art, are also too modern."

In the gallery, between the old hall and the livery-room, were full-length portraits of the English sovereigns, from William III. to George III., together with a full-length portrait of George IV., by Lawrence, and the celebrated picture of Mary Queen of Scots, and her son, James I., by Zucchero. The portrait of the latter king is a fine specimen of the master, and is said to have cost the Company between £600 and £700. "It has a fault, however," says Herbert, "observable in other portraits of this monarch, that of the likeness being flattered. If it was not uncourteous so to say, we should call it George IV. with the face of the Prince of Wales. Respecting the portrait of Mary and her son, there has been much discussion. Its genuineness has been doubted, from the circumstance of James having been only a twelvemonth old when this picture is thought to have been painted, and his being here represented of the age of four or five; but the anachronism might have arisen from the whole being a composition of the artist, executed, not from the life, but from other authorities furnished to him." It was cleaned and copied by Spiridione Roma, for Boydell's print, who took off a mask of dirt from it, and is certainly a very interesting picture. There is another tradition of this picture: that Sir Anthony Babington, confidential secretary to Queen Mary, had her portrait, which he deposited, for safety, either at Merchant Taylors' Hall or Drapers' Hall, and that it had never come back to Sir Anthony or his family. It has been insinuated that Sir William Boreman, clerk to the Board of Green Cloth in the reign of Charles II., purloined this picture from one of the royal palaces. Some absurdly suggest that it is the portrait of Lady Dulcibella Boreman, the wife of Sir William. There is a tradition that this valuable picture was thrown over the wall into Drapers' Garden during the Great Fire, and never reclaimed.

The old court-room adjoined the hall, and formed the north side of the quadrangle. It was wainscoted, and elegantly fitted up, like the last. The fire-place was very handsome, and had over the centre a small oblong compartment in white marble, with a representation of the Company receiving their charter. The ceiling was stuccoed, somewhat similarly to the hall, with various subjects allusive to the Drapers' trade and to the heraldic bearings of the Company. Both the (dining) hall and this apartment were rebuilt after the fire in 1774.

The old gallery led to the ladies' chamber and livery-room. In the former, balls, &c., were occasionally held. This was also a very elegant room. The livery-room was a fine lofty apartment, and next in size to the hall. Here were portraits of Sir Joseph Sheldon, Lord Mayor, 1677, by Gerard Soest, and a three-quarter length of Sir Robert Clayton, by Kneller, 1680, seated in a chair—a great benefactor to Christ's Hospital, and to that of St. Thomas, in Southwark; and two benefactors—Sir William Boreman, an officer of the Board of Green Cloth in the reigns of Charles I. and Charles II., who endowed a free school at Greenwich; and Henry Dixon, of Enfield, who left land in that parish for apprenticing boys of the same parish, and giving a sum to such as were bound to freemen of London at the end of their apprenticeship. Here was also a fine portrait of Mr. Smith, late clerk of the Company (threequarters); a smaller portrait of Thomas Bagshaw, who died in 1794, having been beadle to the Company forty years, and who for his long and faithful services has been thus honoured. The windows of the livery-room overlook the private garden, in the midst of which is a small basin of water, with a fountain and statue. The large garden, which adjoins this, is constantly open to the public, from morning till night, excepting Saturdays, Sundays, and the Company's festival days. This is a pleasant and extensive plot of ground, neatly laid out with gravelled walks, a grass-plot, flowering shrubs, lime-trees, pavilions, &c. Beneath what was formerly the ladies' chamber is the record-room, which is constructed of stone and iron, and made fire-proof, for the more effectually securing of the Company's archives, books, plate, and other valuable and important documents.

Howell, in his "Letters," has the following anecdote about Drapers' Hall. "When I went," he says, "to bind my brother Ned apprentice, in Drapers' Hall, casting my eyes upon the chimneypiece of the great room, I spyed a picture of an ancient gentleman, and underneath, 'Thomas Howell;' I asked the clerk about him, and he told me that he had been a Spanish merchant in Henry VIII.'s time, and coming home rich, and dying a bachelor, he gave that hall to the Company of Drapers, with other things, so that he is accounted one of the chiefest benefactors. I told the clerk that one of the sons of Thomas Howell came now thither to be bound; he answered that, if he be a right Howell, he may have, when he is free, three hundred pounds to help to set him up, and pay no interest for five years. It may be, hereafter, we will make use of this."

The Drapers' list of livery states their modern arms to be thus emblazoned, viz.—Azure, three clouds radiated proper, each adorned with a triple crown or. Supporters—two lions or, pelletted. Crest—on a wreath, a ram couchant or, armed sables, on a mount vert. Motto—"Unto God only be honour and glory."