'The Importance of Friends in High Places'

In his diary entry for Tuesday 28th February 1660 Samuel Pepys noted that, after a breakfast of herrings, he rode into London to find that it ‘was a thanksgiving day throughout the City for the return of the Parliament’. At St Paul’s Cathedral he saw ‘General Monck there, who was to have a great entertainment at Grocers’ Hall’. The timing of the Grocer entertainment was astute. After the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658 public opinion, worn out by nearly twenty years of civil war and its aftermath, had shifted in favour of the Restoration of the monarchy, and its chief architect was General Monck (1608-70).

The 28th February was a landmark day for Company and Country, as the Parliament that had been returned was overwhelmingly Royalist, and the Grocers were aligning themselves with the movement and the man.The sumptuous banquet which they staged in Monck’s honour that day, and to which his wife, in customary Grocer fashion was invited, was also the occasion of his acceptance of the Honorary Freedom of the Company ‘in particular respect and gratification … for his professions of tenderness and care for the honour and safety of the City’. Monck had marched his regiment from Coldstream on the Scottish borders to London on 1st January 1660, to restore law and order. When King Charles II delivered the Declaration of Breda on 4th April, which was largely based on Monck’s recommendations, offering reconciliation and forgiveness, the route to the Restoration was secured. When the King landed at Dover, General Monck was the first to greet him. On 29th May the new King entered London. The day was made a public holiday from henceforth, and the Grocers’ Company had a special reason to honour it with an annual dinner, (on the day nearest possible) which was later known was the Commemoration or Restoration Feast, combining the older dinner in honour of the Company’s patron saint, St Antonin with a celebration of the Restoration. It may have been through the Company’s association with the trusted General that Charles II accepted the unique position of the Sovereign Mastership of the Company in 1660, when Monck returned to Grocers’ Hall with the King to enjoy an even more lavish banquet in celebration of the event. The close association of General Monck with the Grocers’ Company was reaffirmed in 2008, when the regiment that Monck formed in 1650, at Coldstream in Scotland, part of Cromwell’s New Model Army, became affiliated to the Company. The affiliation was marked by the generous loan of a portrait of General Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle from Monck’s regiment, known from 1670 as the Coldstream Guards, to the Company. It now hangs in the Court Dining Room. The portrait, attributed to Peter Lely, was given to the Coldstream Guards by Lieutenant Colonel Hon. Lewis Payn Dawnay (1846-1910)

The importance of friends in high places