Archbp. Nichols of Westminster is now a free man!

This is rather cool.

The Diocese of Westminster has on its site the news that the Archbishop of Westminster received the Freedom of the City of London.

The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster has received the Freedom of the City of London in a ceremony at the historic Guildhall, London EC2 on Wednesday 7  September 2011.

The ceremony was at 12.00 noon and conducted by the Chamberlain of London, Christopher Bilsland. The Archbishop was nominated for the Freedom by the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor and by Miss Catherine McGuinness, a Common Councilman (elected member) of the City of London. Afterwards the Archbishop attended a celebratory lunch in his honour hosted by the Chamberlain.

The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols said: “I am honoured to receive the Freedom of the City of London and would like to thank all those involved with in granting me this privilege.’

The Freedom of the City of London began in 1237

One of the oldest surviving traditional ceremonies still in existence today, the Freedom of the City of London is believed to have begun in 1237.

Traditionally, it gave the recipients the freedom to earn money and own land – usually only bestowed to feudal lords. Today it is not an award but links recipients to London’s City as they pledge to “keep this city harmless”.

However, many of the so-called traditional privileges associated with the Freedom, such as driving sheep over London Bridge, being hanged with a silken rope, or being drunk and disorderly in the City of London without fear of arrest, no longer exist.


His Grace is going to have to behave himself now that some of those priviledges have been withdrawn.

If he gets into any trouble, however, perhaps he could avail himself of the a room at The Grapes in Liberties of the Savoy.

In any event, WDTPRS kudos to Archbp. Nichols, whom I now envy.

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  1. jdskyles says:

    Does this mean that his Grace is allowed to march through the center of the city with a fixed bayonet?

    [I don’t know! Was that one of the privileges? I hope so.]

  2. mike cliffson says:

    Fr : Could you be being everso slightly condescending and/or American-tongue-in-cheek? Perish the thought! [Quod Deus avertat! I think this is … how to put it… spiffing.]
    Anyhow, not a free man, but a freeman of, as when given keys to a city, like recent Popes….
    In time past, some of the necessary conservation measures for overhunted game (ie wild eatable animals, duck, here comes PETA) meant freemen privileges could be WELLworth having. Winter protein was mostly short, (although unlike most Brits, poorer Londoners could surfeit on salmon and the poorest fossick for seafood in the mud.Pollution did away with that by about 150yrs ago.)Look up swanupping on google etc, although no one eats swans any more.
    Imagine the outcry if an RC Archbish did! ´bout 40 yrs ago a good holy RC Bish of Arundel and Brighton got a media doing over for saying he liked hunting.

  3. Ezra says:

    driving sheep over London Bridge

    Who can tell where Archbishop Nichols will drive his sheep?

  4. Legisperitus says:

    One of the oldest surviving traditional ceremonies still in existence today, the Freedom of the City of London is believed to have begun in 1237.

    Got nothing on the Mass, has it?

    But it’s too bad about the “drunk and disorderly” privilege. Paltry “freedom” without that. :)

  5. RichardT says:

    jdskyles, marching with fixed bayonets (and with colours and drums) is only when the freedom is bestowed on a military unit.

  6. RichardT says:

    The conferral of the Freedom is definitely an ‘old rite’ kind of ceremony. It starts with you being ushered into the court by a beadle wearing a top hat and tails. You have to swear an oath, and there are ritual questions and reponses. It’s very well done, and rather impressive.

    It is usually done before the clerk of the court, but for notable Freemen (hopefully including the Archbishop) it is done before the Chamberlain himself. That’s a big thing, because the Chamberlain is the chief financial officer of the City Corporation, and so one of the most important local government officials in London. The clerk wears a normal legal gown, but if the Chamberlain does it himself he wears a fur-trimmed gown for the occasion.

  7. UncleBlobb says:

    I’m sure Mrs. Broad and girls won’t mind havin ’em as a reglar guest!

  8. UncleBlobb: She seems to have been happy with Dr. Maturin, also a papist.

  9. UncleBlobb says:

    UncleBlobb: She even liked Mrs. Maturin! And their special living arrangement. Although, I doubt that Archbishop Nichols will be leaving a pancreas in a drawer.

  10. RichardT says:

    A more suitable place for an Archbishop to become drunk and disorderly might be the Mitre tavern (round by St Etheldreda’s).

    Like the Liberties of the Savoy, it was legally in a different county to the one it was geographically in (legally the Mitre was in Cambridge, and the Savoy in Lancashire), so the London police had no jurisdiction there – and the Cambridge police weren’t likely to bother coming down just to deal with a tipsy prelate.

    Sadly no more; boringly Parliament tidied up all of these anomalies.

  11. Organorum says:

    I wonder if the Archbishop has been given an Honorary Freedom? I suspect it may have been as he has been proposed by the Lord Mayor. Most of us mere mortals are granted the Freedom of the City of London through our Livery Companies. For example, when I became a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians I had to be granted the Freedom of the City before I could become a full Liveryman. However, I maintain that we Liverymen are the true Freemen of the City of London!

    Aren’t we Brits quaint!!!

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