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There was a flying pig. A giant, inflatable flying pig was consuming most of central London’s attention, just before an enormous purple robot made out of wheelie bins crawled up behind. Then some dogs arrived, and we became a little terrified. Mostly of the robot.

Then a touch more terror crept in, because was taking part in something rather spectacular: heading up a six-car line of Aston Martins at the Lord Mayor’s Show, which is the largest unrehearsed parade…in the world.

As you may have read elsewhere, it’s Aston Martin’s 100th anniversary this year, and the brand has been having one massive party to celebrate its centenary. We saw the CC100 earlier this year, witnessed the marquee event in Kensington in the summer, and drove the new V12 Vantage S and Vanquish Volante models. We even commiserated with them after a tragic Le Mans race (that should have been a watermark).

So when we were invited to drive the lead Vanquish coupe in a small line-up of AMs in this, the 686th Lord Mayor’s Show, who were we to say no? After Top Gear magazine’s Best of British shoot and the telly boys’ epic Series 20 finale on the Mall, this was right up our street.

And no matter how objective you can become about a near-£200,000 V12-engined supercar (yes, there are finer, more poised, more athletic and better supercars for the money), there’s no denying that an Aston Martin is hardwired into the British psyche like no other supercar. As we’ve mentioned before, Bond has cast an enveloping haze of goodwill over this brand, and this Vanquish is both a) a flag-bearer, and b) utterly gorgeous. Grannies, kids, men, women - hell, even the dogs and probably the robot - couldn’t help but cheer our little parade on. All this in the pouring rain, too, and we were only doing 3mph (and trying not to crash into some horses).

Ah yes, the unrehearsed bit. You see, there were around 7,000 participants, 150 horses, 21 bands, aforementioned robot, dancers and a variety of associations all snaking and marching their way through London’s ancient parade route, with more than half a million people lining the streets to watch.

Why? It’s a tradition that dates back 800 years. In 1215, King John allowed the Mayor of London to become one of the first elected offices in the modern world; a desire to keep the ‘City’ close to him and in his favour. As a condition of this new Charter, every year the Mayor had to present themself at court and swear loyalty to the Crown. Thus, beginning a new tradition where the newly-elected Mayor would travel through London to give his oath to the King.

The great fire of London couldn’t stop it, nor two bouts of the plague. Not even the bombs of the blitz could halt this flourishing procession that quickly turned into the celebrity spectacle of its time. By the 16th century, it became known as the Lord Mayor’s ‘Show’, and was later referenced by Shakespeare and even James Bond. And though the dismal London rain threatened to wash out the event, all in attendance were in exceedingly high spirits. Plus, admit it: a Vanquish wrapped in a Union Jack flanked by ‘The Coachmakers’ behind some horses is a pretty cool sight, no?

Have a click through the pics to relive the day.

Words: Vijay Pattni
Pictures: Aston Martin

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