|Doggett's Coat and Badge|
by Thomas Rowlandson
Doggett lived in Chelsea, and since the river was a principal way to get about London in those days, he was a frequent patron of the Thames watermen. There is a story, apparently apocryphal, that one day Doggett fell into the water and that a waterman rescued him from drowning.
|The winner in 1876|
Doggett was “a great Whig in politics” and an ardent Hanoverian, and the race was held on August 1 to commemorate the date of George I’s accession to the English throne the previous year. The badge given to the winner featured the word “Liberty” and the horse representing the House of Hanover.
Incidentally, George I was the son of Sophie of Hanover, the daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia and granddaughter of James I. He succeeded because Charles II had no legitimate heirs, and was succeeded by his Catholic brother James II, who was ousted in favor of his Protestant daughter Mary and her husband and cousin William of Orange. When they had both died, Mary's sister Anne came to the throne. Sophie would have succeeded her, but died only months before Anne did. Charles II had at one point wanted to marry his cousin Sophie. It's too bad he didn't, as it would likely have averted the succession crisis, the Jacobite uprisings, and the destruction of Scotland. But I digress....
Doggett organized the race each year until 1721, the year that he died, and his will provided “for procuring yearly on the first day of August forever … Five Pounds for a Badge of Silver weighing about Twelve Ounces and representing Liberty to be given to be rowed for by Six Young Watermen according to my Custom, Eighteen Shillings for Cloath for a Livery whereon the said Badge is to be put . . . all which I would have to be continued yearly forever in Commemoration of His Majesty King Georges happy Accession to the Brittish Throne.”
|The start of the race, 1906|
Originally only professional watermen could compete, but since 1950 amateurs have been allowed to take part, though they do not accept monetary prizes. Claire Burran was the first woman to compete, in 1992. Modern contestants all receive a miniature of the silver badge, and the Fishmongers’ Company still hands out the prize money to the winners and the competing rowing clubs.
|2011 race - Alloway approaching Vauxhall Bridge|
|The 2011 winner - Chris Anness|
Sources and Further Reading:
Ackroyd, Peter. Thames: The Biography (2009) Doubleday
Weinreb, Ben, et al. The London Encyclopedia (1983) MacMillan.Online: