The Loving Cup

The Loving Cup is an ancient and interesting feature of the banquets of the City Guilds. It derives from the assassination at Corfe Castle on 18 March 978 of King Edward the Martyr by his stepmother, Elfrida, to enable her son, Ethelred (the Unready), to take the throne. The 17-year-old King returned thirsty from a hunt; Elfrida invited him to drink from a two-handled cup, and one of her men stabbed him while he was defenceless. Thereafter, anyone who stood up to drink required a companion to guard him against such treachery. (Please see the Commemoration Plaque photo from Corfe Castle in the Galleries section under "2014 Selection of Events").

The City tradition is that immediately after dinner and Grace, the Master and Wardens bid their guests a hearty welcome and drink to them in a Loving Cup. There are slight variations between different companies. What follows is the custom of the Tax Advisers.

When your neighbour turns to you with the Cup you rise, bow to each other, lift the cover with your right hand (the dagger hand) and hold it aloft with a flourish. Your neighbour dinks and wipes the rim with the napkin; you replace the cover, bow again and take the Cup.

You turn to your second neighbour who rises, bows and lifts the cover. You bow, drink and wipe the rim: the second neighbour replaces the cover, you again bow and pass the Cup to the second neighbour. You then turn back to back to protect the drinker, allowing your first neighbour, who has been protecting your back, to sit. You sit when your second neighbour has finished.

The Company's Loving Cups