Earlier this month I had the honour to receive the Freedom of the City. This is one of the oldest surviving traditional ceremonies still in existence today. The first Freedom is believed to have been presented in 1237.
From the Middle Ages and the Victorian era, the Freedom was the right to trade, enabling members of a Guild or Livery to carry out their trade or craft in the Square Mile. Most of the practical reasons for obtaining the Freedom of the City have since disappeared, but it remains as a unique part of London’s history. As a historian by background I am fascinated by these traditions.
Livery companies flourished all over Europe for centuries, but the City of London companies are unique in their survival, diversity, and relevance today. They play a crucial role in the workings of the City, in promoting their (modern day equivalent) trades and, through charitable giving, in reaching out beyond the Square Mile.
Receiving Freedom of the City
When Murray Craig, Clerk of the Chamberlain’s Court, presented me with the Freedom he gave me a Copy of the Freedom and a book called the ‘Rules for the Conduct of Life’. He also showed me a copy of one of the many documents in the Corporation’s archives, a declaration celebrating an English victory over the Dutch navy… Luckily he added that times have changed since and the Dutch are now more than welcome in the City. As proof he showed me an entry of a speech by the former Dutch Queen Juliana to the Corporation!
See Murray explain the secrets of the Freedom of the City here.