About the Company
Ceremony & Feasting
The Company attends a service in St James Garlickhythe after the Installation of the Master in July each year. The Court walks in procession to and from the church. The Master and Wardens wear furred gowns and Tudor caps, and carry posies. The procession’s path is swept clean by a Wine Porter using a birch broom. The posies and the brooms are inherited from the Middle Ages. The posies sweetened the foul-smelling air of medieval London and the brooms were necessary to clear the filth that covered the medieval streets.
The Swan Feast takes place every year. Cooked like a turkey or a chicken, swans were a medieval delicacy -‘stuffed with herbs and pork fat, sealed in a paste of flour and water and roasted for 2-3 hours until tender’. The annual Swan Feast held on the last Thursday of November maintains this tradition. However, swan as a culinary delight has not lived up to its medieval reputation – the muscly legs and wings are very tough meat, and the birds are no longer eaten.
One of the earliest and most famous accounts of the Vintners’ Company is in the Liber Niger of Westminster Abbey. The report describes the feasting of five kings at a banquet held by the wine trader Henry Picard, Citizen and Vintner, in 1363. The identity of the five kings is disputed, but the tradition has persisted in the toast of the Company: “The Vintners’ Company, may it flourish root and branch for ever with Five and the Master”.
The Company has entertained many other great persons, among them the four sons of King Henry IV, General Monck, Queen Anne, the four sons of Queen Victoria, and the four sons of King George V. In 1964 when Air Chief Marshal Sir Christopher Courtney was Master, the Company held a Swan Feast to celebrate the six hundredth anniversary of the granting of the first charter, thought to have been dated at 1364, at which the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, the Princess Royal and Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, were present.