The Pearlies Using Pearls for the Greater Good

King and queen dressed in their garb adorned with pearls.

Pearls are often correlated with royalty, but it is not just the royal who wear pearls when they are out in public.

Anytime Queen Elizabeth steps out in public she is seen wearing pearls in some fashion. She typically wears a three-strand pearl necklace, but is also commonly seen wearing pearls on her clothing, pearl bracelets and everything in between.

But, pearls are also worn in the United Kingdom to distinguish oneself for a good cause.

In the 1870s, an orphan street sweeper named Henry Croft spent his days collecting money for charitable missions such as orphanages and hospitals.

In an effort to raise the most amount of money possible, Croft decided to wear a suit covered in pearls. Croft thought if he wore flashy or unique clothes he could draw attention, and people who would come talk to him would be likely to donate their money

The pearls lined the suit and were sewn in patterns, symbols and words. The pearly costumes were always made up of bright colors.

His plan worked and he soon collected more money wearing that pearly outfit.

He was soon coined as the Pearly King.

Many people in London soon followed his lead and began wearing pearly outfits for a greater cause. These people are known as Pearlies and have committed themselves to raise money for charity. Every person or family who follows the Pearlies lifestyle receives a title, such as Henry Croft, the Pearly King. These titles are passed down through the family for generations.

It is also said that many, but not all, pearly families were from the costermonger community, those who sold goods such as fruits out of carts.

Pearly kings and queens are still in existence today and are celebrated every September in London at the annual Pearly Kings and Queens Harvest Festival. The Harvest Festival has taken place since pearlies have been in existence.

When the event was first started it was a time to celebrate the end of harvest season and celebrate and give thanks for the crops. The festival is typically held on Sunday closest to the harvest moon, or the full moon that is closest to the alumni equinox.

Today, the event features traditional English entertainment including maypole dancing, morris dancers and a marching band. The event also includes a parade. Typically attendees donate nonperishable goods and toiletries that are then given to a local charity.

So, the next time you are looking to raise money, consider wearing a pearly costume. Not only will you attract people with your unique outfit, but you can share the history of the pearlies with the community.

wriiten by: Alyssa Groh, 22CM Boost


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