Professor Hawking becomes our youngest Freeman of London

Today I was honoured to be one of the voices affirming the Honorary Freedom of London on Prof. Stephen Hawking CH CBE.

The Honorary Freedom of the City of London is the highest honour that the City can bestow.  It was awarded for his outstanding contribution to theoretical physics Professor Hawking, and he proved himself a great wit too!

The Professor giving us a fine speech that touched on his early childhood in London and his father's own history as a Freeman of London.

He also took questions from students from various London schools who attended to see him presented with this unique honour. 

It is one of the oldest surviving traditional ceremonies still in existence today, believed to have been first presented in 1237.

The medieval term 'freeman' meant someone who was not the property of a feudal lord but enjoyed privileges such as the right to earn money and own land. Town dwellers who were protected by the charter of their town or city were often free – hence the term 'freedom' of the City.

From the Middle Ages and the Victorian era, the Freedom was the right to trade, enabling members of a Guild or Livery to carry out their trade or craft in the Square Mile.

A fee or fine would be charged and in return the Livery Companies would ensure that the goods and services provided would be of the highest possible standards. In 1835, the Freedom was widened to incorporate not just members of Livery Companies but also people living or working in the City or those with a strong London connection.  Today those fined make a charitable donation to support the schools of London.