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The Freedom of the City

No merchant might trade in London unless he had the freedom of the City, and only those approved by the relevant guild were granted that freedom. Since none but freemen could be elected aldermen, they controlled the city council which regulated all municipal affairs. Since the capital was also the centre of commerce, they dominated trade and industry throughout England.

Although few of the privileges remain, all Liverymen are still granted the Freedom of the City of London, which is obtained in one of three ways: by right of servitude (apprenticeship to a freemen), by right of patrimony (son or daughter of a freemen), or by redemption (purchase with the approval of the corporation).

In the earliest times a freemen was one who was "freeborn" -- i.e. no bondsman's son or foreigner. Traditionally, freemen of London were exempt from tolls at markets and fairs, had immunity from impressment into the armed services, and had the right to vote at ward and parliamentary elections.

Without exaggeration it could be said that being a Freemen of the City of London represents a standard of excellence. As such, it implicitly requires its members to strive to live up to its ideals, just as once the Livery Companies used to control the quality of work produced by its members.


 
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