Loving Cup

There is a degree of uncertainty about the origin of the ceremony surrounding the Loving or Grace Cup, but it is possible that it dates from the time of King Alfred.

The Cups are of silver or silver-gilt with a cover and are filled with spiced wine immemorially termed "Sack". Immediately after dinner and Grace, the Master and Wardens drink to their guests a hearty welcome. The cups are then passed round the tables and each person after he has drunk, applies the napkin to the lip of the cup before he passes it to his neighbour. While the drinker is occupied his neighbour on one side stands holding the cover of the cup in his right or dagger hand and his neighbour on the other side remains standing to protect him.
Master's Day was always the great social occasion of the year and the election of the new Master was attended with much ceremony.

This custom is to ensure that the drinker is protected from treachery like that practised by Elfrida on the unsuspecting King Edward the Martyr at Corfe Castle who was slain while drinking. In Saxon days an enemy was sometimes stabbed when both hands were engaged holding the heavy drinking horns then used and whilst the arms were raised leaving exposed the vulnerable frontal sides of the body. Curiously enough it is anatomically not so effective to "stab in the back" because of the tough wall of muscle which has to be penetrated.

It is a constant source of argument which way the protector should face. At the banquets of some livery companies the protector turns his back on the drinker, at others he faces his back. The Armourers and Brasiers face the back of the drinker.
The ceremony of the Loving Cup survives at the dinners of all the old Livery Companies of London.