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Freedom Parades and Freedom of the City


Freedom Parades are a free civic event for the public to enjoy and usually held in Victoria Square, when military regiments exercise their right to march through the City.

Some of the Previous Freedom Parades in Birmingham were:

22nd July 2009 - 26th Royal Artillery

10th September 2009 - HMS Daring

2nd October 2010 - Royal British Legion

21 March 2012 - Guards Division


Freedom of the City is one of the oldest surviving traditional ceremonies still in existence today. It is an honour bestowed by cities in countries all over the word and applies to two separate honours, one civilian and one military.

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'.

The Freedom of the City is the highest honour that can be bestowed upon an organisation.


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.

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, given to support charitable objects. The Local Government Act specifically preserved Freemen's rights.

Freedom of the City and Freedom Parades in Today’s Society

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 Cities to 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 attached document details the people and organisations awarded this honour in Birmingham.

Postal Address Lord Mayor's Office
Council House
Victoria Square
West Midlands
B1 1BB
Email Address
Telephone (0121) 303 2040