Legends of aristocracy on the Thames

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A pleasant legend of heroic devotion has invested them with a halo of romance. The tale, which has been often told, is this:

A nurse with an infant child was leaning out of one of these overhanging windows, and the child, making a sudden spring, fell from her arms into the swift current below.

This infant was the only child and daughter of a rich citizen, whose apprentice witnessing the catastrophe leapt into the stream and succeeded in saving the child's life.

When she had grown up, her father, out of gratitude, gave her in marriage to the man who in his youth had risked his life to save her. And he grew to be very wealthy and the ancestor of a famous ducal family.

Though the legend an enchanting one, but we cannot be sure if there is any truth in it. But although the old arches and swift stream may have been the making of one ducal family, they nearly caused the death of another Duke.

On the 8th of November, 1429, the Duke of Norfolk, with a number of others, took his barge at St. Mary Overie's at about 4pm and decided to pass through London Bridge. Poor steering made the barge collide with the piles at the base of the bridge and tipped many of the passengers overboard.

Luckily for him the Duke and two or three people seeing the danger jumped onto the piles and were saved, and passers by above threw them a rope and brought them up to safefy.

Another anecdote tells of a duchess, this time as the heroine, at least according to Boswell (Croker's ed. 1848, vol. 4, p. 156). Boswell says that he once had the honour of being on a party of pleasure with the Duke and Duchess of York down the river, and continues:

"We were about to land to rejoin the barge on the other side of the Bridge. The Duchess wanted to know why, and was told of the danger, and she refused to get out of the barge, and insisted upon shooting the Bridge, but we shipped a good deal of water and all got very wet, but the Duchess showed neither alarm or regret."

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