Heritage » Freedom of the City

The Freedom

The Freedom of the City of London was, in the earliest times, an essential requirement for all who wished to carry on business and prosper in trade with in the Square Mile. As a result, the privileges attaching to the Freedom were eagerly sought, while the duties and obligations of freemen were faithfully observed.

The close connection between freemen and London's government can be traced back to the Saxon folkmoot and to the 'Great Concourse' of the early Norman kings. As London grew, its population, trade and craft industries expanded to such an extent that it became impossible for all freemen to be directly involved in determining the evolving structure of local government. As a result, the relationship between freemen and the government of London changed to representation through the Masters and Wardens of the Guilds and Livery companies.

The Freedom of the City has never been the prerogative of men alone. Ancient reports from Livery companies bear reference to 'Sisters', a fact which indicates that men and women were equally eligible for membership.

It remains necessary to this day for all liverymen to be freemen of the City, and it is the liverymen who elect the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs of the Corporation of London. Although it is no longer necessary to be a freeman to work in the City, the proud history of the City of London is such that large numbers of men and women have rightly regarded it a privilege to be admitted to the Freedom of the City.

Freedom of the City of London is only granted by the City of London, which also holds an extensive archive and library of historical records.