The Loving Cup

The ceremony of the Loving Cup is an ancient and interesting feature of City Livery Company feasts.  The cup is of silver or silver gilt and filled with spiced wine, called ‘sack’.  The Fletchers own four loving cups for use in the ceremony; the oldest is engraved with an arrow and was presented to the Fletchers to mark the Coronation Year of H.M King George VI, and was first used at the Installation Dinner on 9th April 1947.  The loving cup shown in the picture is the Victory Cup.

Immediately after dinner, the Master and Wardens drink a hearty welcome to their visitors; the cup is then passed round the table going to the left where possible.  The procedure is for the person who pledges with the loving cup (holding it in both hands) to stand and bow to his or her neighbour who, also standing, removes the cover with his or her right hand and holds it while the other drinks.  At the same time, the neighbour on the right of the person pledging stands behind the person drinking, facing away from them.

The custom giving rise to these actions is said to have originated in the need to keep busy the right or ‘dagger’ hand of the person removing the cover, while the person standing behind the one who is pledging guards his or her back against any treachery, such as that practised by Elfrida on the unsuspecting King Edward the Martyr at Corfe Castle, who was murdered while drinking.