As the UK gets ready to crown King Charles III, there's another group of royalty worth checking out: the Pearly Kings and Queens of London. In this video, hear from Diane Gould, a Pearly Queen herself, who can trace her family back to the Pearly Royals of the 1800s. The Pearlies, a fun tradition that came from London's working-class culture, started with Henry Croft, an orphan street sweeper who made a flashy sequin suit with mother-of-pearl buttons to help raise money for charity. These days, the Pearlies are known for their cool outfits, fancy feathered hats, and talking in Cockney rhyming slang. There are different Pearly groups, each connected to a central London church, and they all focus on one main goal: raising funds for charity.
While London lore holds that to be a true Cockney, a person must be born within earshot of Bow Bells, which ring from St. Mary-le-Bow church in east London, pearly titles are now held by people from communities across all of London's boroughs.
While some pearly traditions have shifted, the rules on the buttons themselves have stayed consistent: They must be true mother-of-pearl, not imitation. Generally, they are passed down through families.