Freedom of the City

Freedom of the City

Freedom of the City is an honour bestowed by some municipalities in Australia, Canada, Ireland, France, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and Zimbabwe to esteemed members of its community or to organisations that have given the community heroic service; the term applies to two separate honours, one civilian and one military. Key to the City is a similar award made in several other countries, and is more prevalent in the United States.

Forms of Freedom of the City

As a Military Privilege

Freedom of the City is an ancient honour granted to martial organisations, allowing them the privilege to march into the city "with drums beating, colours flying, and bayonets fixed".

This honour dates back to the laws of ancient Rome that made it a capital offence for Roman legions to enter the city in formation or with weapons without permission. This was meant to ensure that ambitious generals did not mount a military coup against the Senate. Similar laws were passed by cities throughout the Medieval era, also to protect civic security and rights, even against their own king's troops.

However, legions, regiments, or other martial groups that had given heroic service or whose honour was beyond question, might be granted Freedom of the City: the group would not have to disarm or break ranks before the city gates were opened to them. Given the serious risk the city would be running, this was a rare honour.

Today, martial Freedom of the City is an entirely ceremonial honour, but remains the oldest and one of the highest civic honours in the Commonwealth of Nations. [ The Burma Campaign UK: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to Receive Freedom of the City of Sheffield ] ]

As Freedom from Serfdom

A slightly more common Freedom of the City is connected to the medieval concept of "Free status", when city and town charters drew a distinction between freemen and vassals of a feudal Lord. As such, freemen actually pre-date 'Boroughs'. Early Freedom of the Boroughs ceremonies had great importance in affirming that the recipient enjoyed privileges such as the right to trade and own property, and protection within the town. Before parliamentary reform in 1832, freedom of the city or town conferred the right to vote in the 'parliamentary boroughs' for the MPs. Until the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 the Freemen were the exclusive electorate for the boroughs. These two Acts together curtailed the power of the Freemen and extended the Franchise to all 'householders' (i.e., local rate payers). The private property belonging to the freemen collectively was retained. York, Oxford and Newcastle-upon-Tyne still own considerable areas within their towns, although the income is effectively given to support charitable objects. The Local Government Act 1972 specifically preserved Freemen's rights.

In contemporary society, the award of Honorary Freedom of a City or Borough tends to be entirely ceremonial, given by the local government in many Towns and Cities on those who have served in some exceptional capacity, or upon any whom the City wishes to bestow an honour (See Local Government Act 1972) it requires a special meeting of the Council which passes the resolution by a two thirds majority.

The Key to the City award is used in many places, in a manner similar to Freedom of the City (see below).

In Practice

Borough Freedom of the City of London

In England, the most extensive Borough Freedom is that conferred by the Freedom of the City of London, first recorded in 1237. This is closely tied to the role and status of the Livery Companies. From 1835 the Freedom "without the intervention of a Livery Company" has been bestowed by a general resolution of Common Council, by 'Redemption' (purchase), at one time an onerous sum but now a donation to the Freemen's School.

New Freemen receive a guide to conducting their lives in an honourable fashion. Freemen's children get admission preference at the City of London School, the City of London School for Girls, and the City of London Freemen's School. There are a number of rights traditionally but apocryphally associated with Freemen - the right to drive sheep and cattle over London Bridge, or to carry a naked sword in public; or if officers of the City of London Police find a freeman drunk and incapable, they will bundle him into a taxi and send him home rather than throw him in a cell and later charge him. The benefit of immunity from prosecution for being drunk and incapable has long since disappeared, if indeed it ever existed.

The tradition belief that freemen have droving rights over the bridges appears to be a misinterpretation of freemen's historic freedom from bridge tolls when bringing animals into the City for sale [ [ CLRO note on City Freedom Archives] ] Nevertheless, this "invented" right has been exercised periodically in modern times:

* On June 17, 2006 a flock of about 30 sheep was driven across the Millennium Bridge to mark the start of London Architecture Week [ [ BBC NEWS | England | London | Sheep flock driven through city ] ] .
*On August 31, 2008 Amanda Cottrell, a former High Sheriff of the City, marched six rams across London Bridge to promote fundraising for the restoration of Canterbury Cathedral and "a scheme backing local food production" [ [ BBC NEWS | England | London | Sheep marched over London Bridge] ]
*On September 17, 2008 the Lord Mayor and some 500 Freemen drove a herd of romney ewes in relay across the bridge to raise funds for the Lord Mayor's charities (Orbis and Wellbeing of Women). [ [ BBC NEWS | England | London | Sheep march over bridge for money ] ]

Today the Freedom of the City of London is still taken up by some 1,800 people every year. Prior to 1996, the Freedom was only open to British or Commonwealth Citizens over 21 years of age and of good character. Now, however, it has been extended globally, and persons of any nationality may apply either by nomination, by patrimony or by being presented by a Livery Company. There is a long-standing tradition of admitting women, who used to be called 'free sisters'.

Although the Freedom is not an honour or award except in the case of Honorary Freedom, many people who have lived or worked in the City are proud to become part of the City's history by becoming Freemen. The Freedom is open to all who are genuinely interested and meet the criteria set down.

Borough Freedom of the City in other cities

In other British cities, towns and boroughs, the qualifications for Borough Freedom differ, yet fall into two categories, 'patrimony' (inheritance) and 'servitude' (apprenticeship). For example, in Chester and York, only the children or grandchildren (male or female) of Freemen may apply for Admission. In Great Grimsby, the Widow of a Freeman passes his rights to her second husband who retains the privilege after either Divorce from or death of the Widow. The Borough Freedom is strongest in York, Chester, Newcastle upon Tyne and Coventry, in the last named Freedom is qualified by having served an Apprenticeship. Durham and Northampton have extended their admission criteria to those who have served an apprenticeship without being 'bound' (trained by) by a Freeman directly. The Honorary Freedom of Boroughs Act 1885 is a law passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

In the Republic of Ireland Borough Freedom of the City is generally given to noted foreign and national dignitaries and the list rarely exceeds a few dozen. The cities of the Republic of Ireland generally give various privileges, for instance Dublin allows the right to vote in certain elections, bring goods for sale in the city without customs and the right to pasture sheep on common ground such as College Green and St. Stephen's Green.

Key to the City

The "key to the city" is a similar award that is descended from Freedom of the City. [ [ Commission for the United Nations, Consular Corps and Protocol ] ] It is used in several countries, but is especially popular in the United States.

An ornamental key is presented to esteemed visitors, residents, or others the city wishes to honor. Evoking medieval walled cities whose gates were guarded during the day and locked at night, the key symbolizes the freedom of the recipient to enter and leave the city at will, as a trusted friend of city residents.

Military Freedom of the City


;Maitland, New South Wales
* HMAS Maitland: 2006 [ [ Maitland website] ]


;Airdrie, Alberta
*Calgary Highlanders

;Calgary, Alberta
*14 (Calgary) Service Battalion
*Calgary Highlanders: 1956
*King's Own Calgary Regiment
*Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians)
*HMCS Calgary

;Courtenay, British Colombia
*HMCS Quadra: 2008

;Edmonton, Alberta
*The Loyal Edmonton Regiment

;Kingston, Ontario
*Royal Military College of Canada: 1976 [ [ RMC website] ]

;Ottawa, Ontario
*Cameron Highlanders: 1969 [ [ The Official site of the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa ] ]

;Toronto, Ontario
*48th Highlanders of Canada
*The Queen's Own Rifles: 1948
*The Toronto Scottish Regiment
*HMCS Toronto

;Uxbridge, Ontario
*UNICEF Team Canada: 2008 [ [] ]

;Vegreville, Alberta
*41 Combat Engineer Regiment (From predecessor unit)

United Kingdom

;London, England
*London Scottish: 1922

;Derby, England
*Royal Navy Submarine Service: 2002

Notable non-military awards of 'Freedom of the City' and 'Key to the City'


;Toronto, Ontario, Canada
*The city bestows the "Key to the City" upon individuals that it wishes to honour in such a manner, usually at the discretion of the Mayor. Recipients include:
** 2000: Barenaked Ladies, a Canadian pop band.
** October 23 2000: J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series of books.
** 2001: Blue Rodeo, a Canadian alt-country band.
** November 18 2001: Jackie Chan, an action movie star, was awarded the Key to the City in recognition of filming a movie there.

Republic of Ireland

;Dublin, IrelandSee also Freedom of Dublin City
* Nelson Mandela
* Bill Clinton

United Kingdom

; Aberdeen, ScotlandAberdeen has a long history of bestowing the honour. See Freedom of the City of Aberdeen for details.

; Bradford, England
*J. B. Priestley was awarded the Freedom of Bradford.

;Derby, England
* 2003: former Derby County and Nottingham Forest football manager Brian Clough.

;Ipswich, England
*May 05 2008: Sir Bobby Robson received the Freedom of the Borough of Ipswich. Robson won the FA Cup in 1978 with Ipswich Town. Robson also went on to manage England.

;Kingston upon Hull, England
*Recipients of Freedom of the City of Hull include:
** 1999: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, when he was invited to give the annual Wilberforce Lecture in Kingston upon Hull, commemorating the life and achievements of the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce. Tutu used the occasion to praise the people of the city for their traditional support of freedom and for standing with the people of South Africa in their fight against apartheid.
**March 21 2002: Alderman Laurie Johnson, a Hull-born, long-standing Labour Politician.

;Liverpool, England
*Recipients of Freedom of the City of Liverpool include:

** April 30 1970: Elizabeth Margaret Braddock, better known as Bessie Braddock, Liverpool-born British Labour politician.
** November 23 1983: Bob Paisley, best known for being one of the most successful managers in English football history whilst managing his only team Liverpool Football Club in the 1970s and 1980s.
** March 7 1984: George Harrison, Liverpool-born rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, author and sitarist best known as the lead guitarist of The Beatles.
** March 7 1984: John Lennon, Liverpool-born songwriter, singer, musician, graphic artist, author and political activist, one of the founders of The Beatles.
** March 7 1984: Paul McCartney, Liverpool-born songwriter, singer, musician, graphic artist, author and political activist, one of the founders of The Beatles.
** March 7 1984: Ringo Starr, real name Richard Starkey Jr, Liverpool-born musician, singer, songwriter and actor, best known as the drummer of The Beatles.
** July 6 1994: Nelson Mandela, 11th President of South Africa.
** September 14 2008: The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment Soldiers returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan were awarded freedom of the city in recognition of their bravery and sacrifce.
** September 30 2008: Sir Simon Rattle Conductor awarded Freedom of Liverpool. He was presented with the honour by the Lord Mayor, Councillor Steve Rotheram.

;London, England
* Freedom of the City of London awarded to Charles Lindbergh.
* 2005: Freedom of the City of London granted to Luciano Pavarotti. [ [ Pavarotti receives freedom of the City of London ] ]

;Manchester, England
* June 15
* 1907: James W. Southern, another director of the Manchester Ship Canal, was presented with the Freedom of the City in the form of a silver casket and scroll.
* October 31 1977: Astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell was presented with the Freedom of the City in the form of a simple salver.;Preston, England
* 2005: Andrew Flintoff was awarded the Freedom of Preston for his contribution in the Ashes Series.

;Sheffield, England
* 2005: Winning Captain Michael Vaughan was awarded Freedom of the City for his contribution in the Ashes Series.
* March 8 2006: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize was granted martial Freedom of the City, ironically, in recognition of her non-violent work against the military dictatorship in Burma.


;Kingston, Jamaica
*This award is given by the Kingston and St. Andrew Cooperation (KSAC) in collaboration with the Mayor of Kingston and St. Andrew. It is given to outstanding individuals, who did or continue to make a mark in the city of Kingston. This person or group must meet certain criteria, and display outstanding ability and commitment to building the city and nation. This award is the highest award given by a city/parish.
** April 23, 2006: Bishop, Hon. Dr. Carmen L. Stewart, OD, JP, Custos Rotorulum of St. Andrew, Jamaica.


*Recipients of the Key to the Metropolis of Tokyo include:
** Helen Keller [ [ Helen Keller's Key to the City of Tokyo - American Foundation for the Blind ] ]
** Dr. Leon Picon, one of the founding members of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations and a former Secretary-General.
** Paul E. Ruestow, U.S. Major General [ [ Biographies : MAJOR GENERAL PAUL E. RUESTOW ] ]
** Bill Effinger, former Mayor of Buena Park, California, 1959. [ [ People to People Memories Bill Effinger ] ]
** John Glenn, presented by Tokyo Gov. Rotaro Azuma on May 30, 1963. []
** Francis Sumner Carruth, Lieutenant Colonel in the Untied States Air Force. His management skills played an important role in heading off a labor strike in Tokyo. [ [] ]
** Dr. Albert M. Schwartz, a vascular surgeon and a Colonel in the US Army.

United States

;Franklin Springs, Georgia, United States
* 2007: Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue received the key to the city of Franklin Springs, Georgia, after visiting the city and cutting the ribbon to the city's new Public Safety and City Hall buildings; the original ones were destroyed in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan.

;Milton, Georgia, United States
* 2007: The original Governor's Commission for the City of Milton (Ron Wallace, Brandon Beach, Gregory Mishkin, Dan Phalan and Cecil Pruitt) was awarded the key to the city of Milton in recognition of their work in the creation of the city. They were also presented a proclamation that officially declares December 1st as "Commissioning Day" in honor of their achievements.

;Chicago, Illinois, United States
* December 30, 1871 Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia received the "Freedom of the City of Chicago" [ Chicago – The Grand Duke and New Year’s Day – The New York Times 4 ianuarie 1872 [] ]

;New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
* November 21, 2006: Kentucky-New Orleans Architecture Studio, for its work on restoration and re-design efforts of Mickey Markey Park in Bywater. [ [ UK News PrintView: Architecture Studio Receives Key to City of New Orleans ] ]
* April 26, 2007: The Harris County Hospital District, in recognition of its efforts to provide health care to Hurricane Katrina evacuees at its Astrodome Clinic in September 2005. [ [ HCHD Receives Key to the City of New Orleans ] ]

;Albion, Michigan, United States
*Recipients include:
** January 25, 1964: Aunt Jemima, a frequent visitor, present at the time to raise money for the March of Dimes. [ The Key To The City ] ]
** 1960s: Ann Landers, upon her visit to Starr Commonwealth for Boys.

;Detroit, Michigan, United States
*Recipients include:
** 1980: Then–Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was awarded by Mayor Coleman Young for having donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to a local church. [ [ Guess Who Got The Key To Detroit?] , "CBS News"] [ [ Saddam Reportedly Given Key To Detroit - Detroit News Story - WDIV Detroit ] ]
** January 31, 2006: Detroit native Jerome "The Bus" Bettis was awarded by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick days before his Super Bowl win.
** On January 2, 2007 Steve Yzerman after his retirement and having his jersey retired.
** Geri Allen an internationally known award-winning composer and pianist. []

;Flint, Michigan, United States
* 1989: Lois M. Craig [ [ Nina Mills Awards, Flint, MI, Lois M. Craig ] ]
* June 10, 2007: "American Idol" finalist LaKisha Jones received a proclamation and key to the city from Mayor Don Williamson. []

;New York, New York, United States

*The City of New York bestows the "Key to the City" upon individuals that it wishes to honour in such a manner. Recipients include:
** 1702: Viscount Cornbury on June 27th was presented the "Freedom of the City". []
** Charles Lindbergh [ [ Charles ] ]
** February 5, 2008: The New York Giants players, coaches and owners received keys to the city in recognition of their victory at Super Bowl XLII. Presentation took place at City Hall after a ticker-tape parade up the Canyon of Heroes in lower Manhattan.

;Washington, District of Columbia, United States
* 2008: Alexander Ovechkin [ [] ] , received the key of the city in honor of being the first player in NHL history to receive the most valuable player, outstanding player, top scorer, and goal scoring leader awards in the same season.

;Portland, Maine, United States
* July 13,2008: moe., a band from upstate New York, was presented the key to the city in recognition of a two day fundraising concert they organized for the Prebble Street Resource Center [] .


External links

* [ Guild of Freemen of the City of London]
* [ City of London's Freedom of the City]
* [ Military Context of "Freedom of the City"]
* [ Royal Engineers Museum] Freedoms granted to the Royal Engineers
* [ Freemen of the City of Liverpool]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Freedom of the City — Freedom of the City, auch als Key to the City bezeichnet, ist ein Status und eine der ältesten noch existierenden, ursprünglich britischen Ehrenauszeichnungen, die ein Bürger einer Stadt im englischsprachigen Raum erhalten konnte und heute noch… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Freedom of the city — Freedom Free dom (fr[=e] d[u^]m), n. [AS. fre[ o]d[=o]m; fre[ o]free + dom. See {Free}, and { dom}.] 1. The state of being free; exemption from the power and control of another; liberty; independence. [1913 Webster] Made captive, yet deserving… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • freedom of the city — In English law, this phrase signifies immunity from county jurisdiction, and the privilege of corporate taxation and self government held under a charter from the crown. This freedom is enjoyed of right, subject to the provision of the charter,… …   Black's law dictionary

  • freedom of the city — In English law, this phrase signifies immunity from county jurisdiction, and the privilege of corporate taxation and self government held under a charter from the crown. This freedom is enjoyed of right, subject to the provision of the charter,… …   Black's law dictionary

  • freedom of the city — 1. nominal citizenship in a city, conferred as an honor upon important visitors. 2. (formerly) official citizenship in a city, conferred upon distinguished nonresidents. [1765 75] * * * …   Universalium

  • freedom of the city — 1. nominal citizenship in a city, conferred as an honor upon important visitors. 2. (formerly) official citizenship in a city, conferred upon distinguished nonresidents. [1765 75] …   Useful english dictionary

  • freedom of the city — UK / US noun [uncountable] an honour that gives someone special rights in a particular city …   English dictionary

  • Freedom of the City of Dublin — The Freedom of the City of Dublin is an award bestowed by the people of Dublin on a person nominated by the the Lord Mayor. It is usually awarded for contributions made to the life of the city, as an honour given to certain visiting dignitaries.… …   Wikipedia

  • Freedom of the City of Aberdeen — Aberdeen s Freedom ceremony has its origins in the 12th Century. There have been 38 Freedom ceremonies in Aberdeen since the start of the 20th Century. At one time recipients were required to own arms and be prepared to use them in defence of the …   Wikipedia

  • the freedom of the city — …   Useful english dictionary

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