11-year old Pearly Queen of Hoxton crowned

An 11-year old was crowned Pearly Queen of Hoxton on Sunday, in the largest crowning of Pearly Kings and Queens in more than a century.

Mia Vallely became the fifth generation in her family to “wear buttons,” when she took on the title from her successful city businesswoman mother Vanessa, 39.

She in turn has become the Pearly Queen of the City of London, taking over from her father Victor Nutley.

The family which lives in Rayleigh, Essex are related to George Hitchens, one of the original Pearlies.

Before the ceremony in in Tower Hamlets’ pub, The Carpenters Arms, swarms of press photographers and well-wishers gathered around.

In all nine Pearlies wearing hand-sewn suits and royal robes took on the inherited titles during the coronation ceremony, and Father Rob Wickham from St John in Hackney Church came along to bless them.

“The crowning is to introduce young Pearlies into the tradition,” said Pearly Queen of Hackney, 71-year old Jackie Murphy.

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“It’s not only a London tradition but a family tradition, they are born into it and are used to it from a very early age, it’s in their blood and something we are all proud of, and apart from that we do a lot of charity work.

“It’s something we’ve kept going for 150 years, it’s nice to see the youngsters carrying it on.

“When they get in their teenage years sometimes they think, “I don’t want to do that,” but they come back into it.

“The day was wonderful, we had such a lot of good write ups from the press and television, it gives us recognition in what we do, it was a lovely day and something the children will remember for years.”

Orphan Henry Croft, the original Pearly King founded the movement in 1875, as a way to raise money.

He got the idea for the decoration of Pearly outfits after working alongside fruit sellers who festooned their suits with buttons down the sides of the legs and on the waistcoat and cap.

He became an attraction and used his popularity to collect money for his old orphanage.

Other charities called on him to help raise funds for them, and so he asked the market traders to help him - and the Pearly Kings and Queens were born, with a Pearly family created in each of the London boroughs.