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Freedom of the City

Freedom of the City is an honour given by a local council, for example, to either a person (civilian) or military unit, in recognition of their exceptional service to the city. It’s one of our oldest surviving traditional ceremonies.

There is a protocol on conferring Freedom of the City. To be given Freedom of the City there needs to be a special meeting of the council. At the meeting, at least two-thirds of councillors must agree to give the honour.

The Freedom of the City List contains details of all the civilian and military Freedom of the City honours in Birmingham.

Freedom for civilians

The medieval term ‘freeman’ meant someone who was not the property of a feudal lord, but who had the right to earn money and own their own land. People who were protected by the charter (rules) of their town or city were often ‘free’, hence the term ‘Freedom of the City”. It’s an honorary award in recognition of what they have done for the city of Birmingham. Someone with the award is known as an Honorary Freeman.

Freedom for the military

Traditionally, a military unit or regiment with Freedom of the City was allowed to march into the city “with drums beating, colours flying and bayonets fixed”. Today, this freedom is carried out through Freedom Parades.

Birmingham’s Freedom Parades are free events for the public, where military regiments with Freedom of the City can march through the city. These usually take place in Victoria Square.

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