Receiving the Freedom of the City of London

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.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

5 thoughts on “Receiving the Freedom of the City of London”

  1. Congratulations, Keith. I imagine the Fishmongers have a stately guild cat, descended from Dick Whittington's fabled companion, wearing a feline-sized chain of office. It will stilt be waiting hopefully for the restoration of its mediaeval predecessors' diet of Thames salmon.

    Sir Michael Caine made a fine acting career in spite, or perhaps in part because of, his refusal to drop his Cockney accent for RSP. I think it's the real thing: London's main airport is Heafrow only to true Cockneys, the second is Ga'wick in the much wider Estuary accent.

  2. Congratulations!!!

    I wish we had something like that here in LA. I think we just give out proclamations and a piece of paper. Big whoopdee. Now if we backed it up with free lifetime parking, that might be getting somewhere. Unfortunately I doubt I would approve of the people the local pols would pick.

    1. Thank you. Lifetime free parking is the traditional gift for professors at Stanford who become emeritus, which on a university campus may be more cherished than a Nobel.

  3. Obviously, these are not privileges I am likely to exercise,

    Not even the "drunk and riotous" business? Seems a waste.

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