Freedom of the City

History and Tradition of Freedom of the City
– The Freedom of the City originated from the medieval practice of granting respected citizens freedom from serfdom.
– It is an honor bestowed by a municipality upon a valued member of the community or a visiting celebrity or dignitary.
– The tradition is still observed in countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand.
– Military units can also be granted the Freedom of the City, known as the Freedom of Entry, as a symbol of the bond between the regiment and the citizenry.

Military Privilege and Symbolism
– Freedom of the City is an ancient honor granted to martial organizations.
– It allows them the privilege to march into the city with drums beating, colors flying, and bayonets fixed.
– The honor dates back to ancient Rome, where the pomerium, the boundary of the city, was regarded as sacred.
– Today, martial freedom of the city is a ceremonial honor bestowed upon units with historic ties to the area.

Entitlement to Civil Privileges
– Freedom of the City is connected to the medieval concept of free status.
– It distinguished freemen from vassals of a feudal lord and granted privileges such as the right to trade and own property.
– The award of honorary freedom of the city or borough is now purely ceremonial.
– It is given by local governments to individuals who have served in exceptional capacities or those whom the city wishes to honor.
– The award affirms the recipient’s contributions and protection within the town.

Freedom of the City in the United Kingdom
– Before parliamentary reform in 1832, freedom of the city or town conferred the right to vote in parliamentary boroughs.
– The Municipal Corporations Act 1835 extended the franchise to all householders and curtailed the power of the freemen.
– Freemen in York, Oxford, and Newcastle upon Tyne still own considerable areas within their towns.
– The Local Government Act 1972 preserves freemen’s rights.
– The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 removed gender restrictions for the grant of honorary freedom.
– The Freedom of the City of London is the most established borough freedom, recorded since 1237.
– Notable recipients include Lord Nelson, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and Ari Norman.

Symbolic Acts and Key to the City
– Traditional privileges associated with freemen, such as driving sheep over London Bridge, carrying a naked sword in public, or receiving special treatment from the City of London Police, are now mostly symbolic.
– The right to drive sheep and cattle across London’s bridges is no longer economically relevant.
– The key to the city is an ornamental key presented to esteemed visitors, residents, or others honored by the city.
– It symbolizes the freedom of the recipient to enter and leave the city at will.
– The tradition of the key to the city is similar to the freedom of the city tradition.Sources: