For someone who loves and spends as much time in London as I do, the nicest possible thing happened yesterday when I was granted Freedom of the City. It’s an ancient custom, going back centuries, and was originally intended to allow people to do business in the city. Rather than putting up a video of my own clumsy reading of the brief oath I took, I think I will leave it to someone with more dramatic gifts who also recently received the Freedom:
I am now entitled to drive sheep across London Bridge and carry a naked broadsword within the square mile. If capital punishment is restored in the UK and I am naughty enough to deserve it, I may only be hanged with a silk rope. And if I am found to be drunk and riotous, the police will return me to my rooms rather than tossing me into the clink.
Obviously, these are not privileges I am likely to exercise, but that isn’t the point. To me this is a true kindness by the The City of London and its Common Council and I am very grateful for their welcoming this American as one of their own. The event was made only sweeter when I learnt that my public lecture on drug policy afterwards was scheduled to be held at the hall of the Fishmonger’s Livery Company, to which a direct ancestor of mine had belonged 400 years ago!
p.s. Upon being granted the Freedom, Stephen Fry made an intriguing television program about the City and its secrets that you can watch here.