Last updated at 16:06 BST, Monday, 26 April 2010

Costumes and celebrations: April

The photo

Pearly King and Queen in London

The tradition of London’s Pearly Kings and Queens started over 130 years ago. Every London Borough has a King and Queen and they raise money for all sorts of charities. Each King and Queen has a costume decorated with thousands of pearl buttons. The Kings do all the designs and sewing. Each design has a special meaning and on this costume you can see:

  • a horseshoe symbolising luck
  • hearts symbolising charity
  • an anchor symbolising hope
  • a wheel symbolising the circle of life

and on the King’s hat, the English flag.

Carrie, London

About Pearly Kings and Queens

Pearly King

The London tradition of the Pearly Kings and Queens was started by a boy called Henry Croft. When he was 13 years old, Henry had to leave the orphanage where he had lived all his life. His first job was as a road sweeper in one of the London markets and he quickly made friends with the costermongers who were market traders. He got to know more about their way of life, their generosity and their fashion of pearl buttons sewn on the piped seams of their trousers, jackets, waistcoats and caps. This showed their status, as they worked the market stalls from day to day. The costermongers were caring and looked after each other if they were sick or in need. Henry was so fascinated by this way of life and decided he would like to help those who were more unfortunate than himself, including the children back at the orphanage where he had spent his early life. He started to collect buttons that had fallen off people’s clothes in the market. He taught himself to sew and sewed the buttons on his cap: when that was full he sewed them all over his clothes and this is how the tradition started. People liked his costume and gave him money when they saw him wearing it. Soon, some of the costmongers also made pearly suits to raise money. Henry died in 1930, and by that time he had raised over £5,000 for charity (today that would be the equivalent of about £200,00). Today, the Pearly Kings and Queens raise money for many different charities, including children's hospitals, hospices for sick people and the air ambulance service.

Your comments

Tell us what you think about this photo. Have you ever seen a Pearly King or Queen? What festivals or celebrations are held in your area in April?

You can also email us your photos of traditional April festivals and celebrations.

We'll put our favourite comments and photos on this page.

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This topic has now closed. Thanks for all your comments.

Carrie, UK
Thank you for all your comments. I've added a little bit more information above.It was really interesting to hear about the celebrations that take place around the world. If you have taken some photos of these celebrations (or costumes), why don't you send them to: learningenglish@bbc.co.uk and mark the email "Costumes"?

Valentina, Italy
I have never seen a Pearly King or Queen, but I would like to see them! It seems very nice! In Italy doesn't exist a similar tradition; however there are a lot of manifestations of charity every day for poor people, sick people or in difficulty.

Sophia, China
I have never seen a Pearly King or Queen. Henry Croft is so charity.In our cournty we have Tomb-sweeping Day.

Nallesand, Mexico
Its so interisting this costumes

Keiko, Japan
Charity activities of England, or UK is always surprising! Have never heard of this before. It is a great idea to raise funds for people, at the same time have fun.

Natalia, Russia
I have heard about it before, but I have never seen the Pearly Kings and Queens in London. Probably that is because I have been to London only once and not for long. I think it is a beautiful tradition which helps us to remember Henry Croft.

Cyril, America
Hi:I was born in croydon surrey, but moved with my mum&dad to America when i was 12my uncle Bert lived in southwark,& was a pearly king with my Auntie,who was apearly Queen,now 75years later i stil have fond memories of them

Cristiano, Brazil
Very interesting! It's an example of how far somebody's initiative can get.Congratulations to those who keep it up!

Yeong, South Korea
Wow this festival is so nice and I didn't know the meanings of those symbols. so far I haven't seen this kind of clothes though I'm living in the UK! Before the end of April, I should go to London to see people wearing this custum. :)

Ealia, India
great!!

Vichita, Argentina
This is a wonderful celebration and also It's a very interesting story and the clothes are really great, the work they've done on them is fantastic!. This shows the caring for others. In my country we don't have a special day for charity but when there is people in need because of terrible events such as floods, argentine people,is generous and caring.

Mohammad, Bahrain
iam so intrested to know more about this celebration it so meaningful story

Manel, Algeria
It so interesting story.I have never heard about it before.I really like it

Bernardo, Brazil
Story like this bring some hope for a best world in the future.

Kiran, India (Punjab)
its sooo..intersing

C, Taiwan
very special clothes,I'm interested about how many time was he sewing those buttons.

Angels, Catalonia (Spain)
A special tradition in my country is on April 23rd. It's St. George's Day, our patron saint, and it is also "The Day of the Rose and the Book". Traditionally men gave a rose to their special woman, and women gave them a book as a present. Nowadays more books are given than roses. The streets in towns and cities are full with book and rose stalls, people go out to choose their book and walk around. It's a very special day for us.

Edson Reis, Brazil
I've saw a Pearly Queen on the TV some months ago but I couldn't imagine the beautifull story involved to that funny people an actions. Thanks.

Marcelo, Brazil
It´s very important the traditions rescue. As my coutry friends sad, here we celebrate easter, like in Spain. But people are loosing the meanning of it.

HienPham, Vietnam
This celebration is so meaningful.I have never known about it before.The symbols and their meaninga are so amazing that I love it!I want to see all peole in London wearing them one day.It's interesting.

Begoña, Spain
In Spain there are different festivals in april, but the most important are the ones that are celebrate at Easter. Living procesions take part in the streets, people take the roles of Mary, Jesus, and so on.

Kawsar, Bangladesh
Neva seen a Pearly King or Queen Before. They are looking great. I like the symbolizations what were made of pearl buttons.In 14th April we celebrate our new Bengali Year. It was Pohela (1st) Boishakh, 1417 in 14th April, 2010 in Bangladesh.

Julio, Spain
As Maria has said, in my country April Fair is the most important event. If you visit Seville, you can enjoy that.

Luiz Augusto Da Cruz, Portugal
The flexibility is the way for we survive. Croft would be a bad man because your hard life but your thirst of life and love was the energy that transformed him a example for humanity

Giulia, Casale Monferrato
Hi, This photo is very beautiful and representative of the City of London.these insights are very interesting.

Sue, China
we learned about the tradition last week in the British Culture class. it's great and interesting.

Enzo, Italy
The start story is bad, but the end is moving.

Kausar, Afghanistan.
This is traditional style an everyone have to know about the tradition. I think this is very good tradition and very interesting and sad of story behind it.The very interesting thing is that in very small age he thought like a mature and thats why everyone have to know about their tradition and that is a good thing.this is for our knowledge because if you dont starty from the first step and ffrom the small job than its not possible for you to become a rich and a good man. for every good job we have to start from the small job. Thats why i really like the story and the British costumes. I am from Afghanistan and i really love my country and i have alot of respect for my tradition.

Maria, Spain
It is a fascinating story. In my city we do not celebrate Pearly Kings and Queens, but we have the April Fair, that began a long time ago as a livestock tradeshow and remains as a festivity where people, dance , drink wine and have funny together.

Riasat, Pakistan
I salute to Henry Croft who started the tradition. Of course the world know that Londoners are very open harted

Quynh Anh, Viet Nam
This tradition is very interesting.I like the King's hat, it looks very unique.If there are many people like to do charity like Henry Croft, the world will live in peace.

CJ, South Korea
It seem like very expensive thing.

Yuriy Safarov, Azerbaijan
Britain is full of customs and traditions. A lot of them have very long histories. Some are funny and some are strange. But they are all interesting and are all part of the British way of life

Chuy, Mexico
I think it´s a very good tradition,I´ve never heard about it but in my personal opinion it´s interesting and cool.xD

Marcela, Colombia
Oh, I can't believe it!! British people are so serious that one can't think they have funny times, too. We have a lot of amusing celebrations, despite our problems.We enjoy them a lot!!

Virginia, Argentina
In my country in April we celebrate just Easter day. We don't have any other celebration, but this story was very intersting. I liked to know it.

Benjamin, France
your costume is very funny

Nadine, Germany
No I have never seen a Pearly King or Queen, but I like the tradition and the story behind it.This working or middle class looks mixed with some punk is very British in my point of view.Best wishesfrom sunny GermanyNadine

Tienhoa, Vietnam
The tradition of Pearly Kings and Queens is meaningful in terms of humanity and hope. The moral of this custom is greatly significant about love and responsibility of us for people in need. The society will be better if we do know to be caring and help each other.

Draga, Bulgaria
i have never seen a pearly king or queenso far. we don't have any special celebra-tion in april.i am very interested in allbritish-language,traditions and especiallyliterature.wish fine weather like it is in our country nowadays.

Helen, Romania
It is great to find out new things about British tradition.

Dave, Hong Kong
This is a moved story. Nowadays, many people merely care what they need or desire. However, the meaningful tradition keep over 100 yrs to alert us that someoen need our help.

Seva, Azerbaijan
i have never seen the photo like that it iz very interesting picture we celebrate april fool's day

Amol, India/ Singapore
Henry Croft is such a selfless guy! May god bless him.

M Thailand
OMG !! It's a really good story and the best dresss ever !!

Sidra ,Pakistan
I've never seen before this kind of clothes with amazing history.it's fascinate me a lot.It showes his creativety. I am very impressed.In my country ,We celeberate spring festival .

Juanma, Catalonia
In my opinion is ridiculous, this tradition is something unusual. In my city, Barcelona, we have the tadition of Saint Jordi in April on the 23th. Men's give a rose to women and women give a book.

Emanuela, Italy
interesting story, it deserves to be known

Amalia, Italy
I would like to see something similar to this tradition here in Italy, but unfortunately in April the only occasion to feel an enjoyable atmosphere around you is on Easter Day when your house is full of chocolate eggs with their funny decorations. It would be better to raise money and chocolate eggs for charitiy, rather than for getting fat,don't you think so?

Tarami, Japan
I wonder how he earned money by sewing buttons on his clothes. Did he sell them or something? I suppose the article should be more specific on the oint. It is unclear how he helped the poor in this article.

Marcela,Argentina
Those jackets are amazing!I like their designs,they also carry their history on them

Daniel, México
Very interesting. The Charities, for who?

Mi, South Korea
Nice Story! I think We should hand off such a nice tradition all over the world.

Teresa,Mexico
it`s so intersting that tradition but i've heard something like that in Mexico, I'd see one of them....

Barbara, Germany
This is a wonderful story! I would like to know Britain with all it's culture and customs. Thanks for helping me to improve my english by this way!

Hana, Japan
I can't imagine that such a kindful action whchi was done more than 100 years ago is still being alive! It's amazing.

Sergey, Russia
I like this story. British culture is rich of traditions and all of them so interesting. Every time I read something new or join to some event I'm really enjoying with everything I see.

Eun, South Korea
this is a beautiful tradition. i would like to join in!! buttons! brilliant!!

Clarita, Colombia
wonderful I had a opportunity of take a picture with them in Covent Garden Wuauuu is really funny. A long story close me and is true so many bottons... I LOVE LONDON

Nathalie, Spain
This story is really curious.He was a street sweeper and hadn't got too much..and in spite of wasting it himself,he raised money for charity. A modest hero.

Elaine, Brazil
Fantastic, story.

Marina Kenfack, Cameroon
Waouh this's a very amazing!! I wish I could see a photograph of that young man,Henry Croft.Well, the costumes look very original and the fineness which is used on the design is really impressive, this shows how much seriousness is given to this ceremony.Unfortunately I've never seen Pearly King or Queen but looking at theses pictures reminds me of a man in my area that I used to meet along the road.He design his dresses himself, and you know with what material? nylon paper.His costumes are really well-sewed, I wonder how he does that! If only you could see him!It's also unfortunate that there's no specific or seasonal celebration in my area in April but there's at least one traditional ceremony during week-ends in villages of my area; what we call traditional funeral which is also particular, depending on the customs of each village; since my country has a lot of tribes and villages.

Irina, Russia
This outfit is really one of a kind!Asfor me I have read about this tradition but I didn`t expected these people to work for charity.A great idea of how to attract other people and to involve them in charity.In Russia we haven`t got anything similar but there`re some others taken place in April:cleaning up in the streets "subbotniks", for instance, etc.

Amita Sengupta, India
The story of Pearly Kings and Queens is a very meaningful story.I had visited London quite a number of times but have never seen a Pearly King or Queen. In INDIA in the month of April we celebrate the Indian New Year on 14th or 15th April.Since it's a land of multi-cultures and multi languages,so the New Year is known with different names like 'Baisakhi',Nava Barso(New Year),Bihu,Vishu etc.People go to the temple & offer prayer for the wellbeing & prosperity of the family.Also exchange greetings with others, wear new clothes and have traditinal and popular festive food at home.

Dora,Italy
it is a very important tradition .Even if I have been many times in Englad and I know something about English culture this is the first time I heard a story like this.

Elisa, Italy
It's very nice story everybody should learn from that guy :)

Andres Felipe - Colombia
Woww!! It was a wonderful story, I think that each country is magic..according with their traditions.

Rose Araújo - Brazil
The original idea, thought by Henry, is really amazing. How great is to know that there are people that think simple things to help the others.Here in Brazil, at least in Bahia, where I live in, we don't have anything like this. Charity is always offered through embroidery, patchwork, or any other artcraft, and we can hae it during churches festivals.

Fernanda, Brazil
It is so funny, coz I saw Pearly King or Queen in April/2008 when I lived in London to study, but I had no ideia what they mean! Now I know that have a lovely story about this tradicional costume! I miss London so muchkisses to everyone

Danah Pinah, Tchad
I'm so glad because this story is very importent. About this photo,I think that i will be glag if i got one

Kitty Leung, Hong Kong
nice tradition for charityit can include both fashion generosityin April, Chinese people have a tradition to visit graves, yearning for the dead relativeswe call this "grave sweeping" as people usually clear the fallen leaves and weeds around the grave.

Juan, Mexico
Wow! I have not seen anything like this, I think England is a great country. Full of history and culture. It is good that persons help each other.

Yosef, Morocco
This is an important element in the british society.....Really it is so cool

Martine
great !!

Bom, South Korea
It is not only a piece of art as regarding to costumes, but also meaningful. The story behide of The tradition is moving.

Tu, Vietnam
oh, it's incredible. I haven't ever seen (or heard about) Pearly King or Queen before. However, these creative clothes are so interesting!

Gadir, Azerbaijan
This story is good.In genrally tradition and customs of every country are interesting for me.

Sisi, Egypt
this is a wonderful story. I do love such stories. i want to know more concerning the traditions in the U.K and it could be more interresting if we watch a video.

Radouane, France
I find it very beautiful: I like it. I would like to see them for myself.

Pablo and Roman, Argentina
This is amazing. I've never heard something like that. I´d like to read about traditions and customs.

Andrés, Chile
Wow!that's cool.. people helping each other, and making art in their clothes, underground fashion... I really liked it a lot !

Qingyun Luo, China
It surprised me so much.Nowadays,people like Henry is not too many

Buchholz, Germany
The story is great, it's very exiting to read the story. Wonderful, Great!!!! I think, it's the best story on this page.So, let's start wirting the second story of this kind. Best!

My, Vietnam
I used to present a lot of topics in past, especially themes about festival or celebration in other country. however, I'd never known about this before. Thanks to your up date and sharing.

Irakli, Georgia
This is very interesting story . I love London and british people.They have a historical rich the past. I want go to LONDON one more. this is my deem !

Fernando Ferdinando, Cabo Verde
beautiful celebrates, interesting stories,very cool.

Tanya, Russia
It is very nice tradition. It was very interesting to read all comments about celebrations in diffrent countries. In Russia The First of April is Day Of "Fools". Ussualy in this day make diffrent practical joke. It is very popular at childrens and students.

Ful, Spain
I'm from a region of Spain called Murcia, we have a traditional party called: "the burial of the sardine" we celebrate the start of the spring and the end of the Rel Lent. The countrymen defile on trow agricultural produce to the people.

Mariam, Armenia
THANK YOU.IT'S REALLY COOL!!!!!!!!

Diana, Colombia
Peculiar tradition, I really like it!!

Cherrye
what a batch of generous citizens they are.As a person with sympathy, I'm extremely moved by their stories.

Duc, Viet Nam
It's so cool, there are many celebrate in england i havent know in school. thank for your infomation

Cristina, Buenos Aire-Argentina
This is amazing. I've never heard something like that.I like to read about traditions and customs because it's not very common to know them all. I think that the people who know about it are only the locals.Thank you for sharing it with us.

Marcos , Brazil
I liked the story there isn`t a tradition like that here in brazil but I have ever been to England and I could see that people in England are very caring and generous. Thanks .

Enzo Andrade, Brazil
very nice.beautiful storyIn april here in the Brazil is celebrate Tiradentes' day, (name true is Joaquim José da Silva Xavier,tiradentes is nickname because he was dentist),he do piece of a group called ""inconfidentes ""in Minas Gerais who struggled against the Portuguese colonization,he died hanged unlike of friends who were prisoners,He is national Hero.

Hang, Viet Nam
I really admire Henry Croft. He is the great symbol of charity and justtice. The most important is his cultural heritage for England anh all the wourld.

Manoj, Pakistan
no, i have never seen pearly queen or king. in our country, there is the festival of Basant: festival of flying kites.

Walter, Germany
This photos are great.I thing it's a good things so days with clothes.I'msorry i haven't photos from myselfbest wishes Walter

Carol, Brazil
I think this celebrations started very nice, because Henry helped many children that were in the orphanage. Currently this party is beautiful by shine and details how is made, beyond help peolples. I like. In my country, in April, we celebratethe easter. We eat very chocolate and codfish.

Younes, Libya
I thing that this photos express the fanstic tradional costumes in UK, Name London which I think will admired every tourist going to London

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