The Aldermen of the City of London Temp. Henry III - 1912. Originally published by Corporation of the City of London, London, 1908.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
ALDERMEN, KNIGHTS AND BARONETS.
We commonly find in lists of Mayors of the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries the word "Sir" prefixed to the holder of that office, whence it has been inferred that the knighting of the Mayor (when not already a Knight) was the general custom of that period. This very natural inference is entirely contrary to fact. Very few indeed of the Mayors and Aldermen before the reign of Edward IV. received knighthood, and it is beyond doubt that, to cite the best known instance, the popular designation "Sir Richard Whittington" is altogether erroneous.
In the official records (Husting Rolls, Letter Books, Journals, etc.) at Guildhall, those who were knighted are described as Milites (or individually as Miles), and the presence or absence of this affix in these documents and in the descriptions of testators in their wills proved in the Court of Husting, or in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, is a test which can be generally relied upon in all such cases for determining whether the personage referred to was or was not a knight.
Probably the popular error has arisen from the fact that the word dominus (a mere term of courtesy used in reference to an official) has been commonly translated "Sir," in the same way as that prefix is frequently found assigned to the parochial clergy of the period, who certainly were not knights: e.g., the first victim of the law De Hœretico Comburendo is described as Sir William Sawtre. (cf. the parson, Sir Hugh Evans, in The Merry Wives of Windsor). Indeed, "Sir" has become the recognised translation of dominus in these cases, and accordingly so careful and exact a scholar as Dr. Sharpe, in his Calendar of Letter Book B (page 64), prints "Sirs" John de Banquell, John le Blund, Nicholas de Farndone, Richard de Gloucester, and William de Betoyne, the word in the original being dominorum, although the three last named never received knighthood and the first two were knighted at a later date then the entry here calendared. Similarly, in the Calendar of Letter Book C (pages 121, 175), we have "Sirs" prefixed to lists of Aldermen (twelve and thirteen names respectively), followed by "Sir John de Banquelle, Kt." who had then ceased to be an Alderman. Both these entries in Letter Book C refer to transactions in the year 1304, the earliest date, so far as I can find, in which Banquelle, who was not an Alderman after 1299, is definitely styled "knight": it is, therefore, improbable that he held that rank while he was an Alderman. The earliest certain instance I have found in the period treated of in this book (i.e. from about 1275), of an Alderman being knighted is that of John le Blund, who received the honour during his Mayoralty in May, 1306. At an earlier period Robert de Basyng was knighted, but it is not quite clear whether the knighthood was conferred on him before or after he ceased to be an Alderman; his latest recorded certain appearance as an Alderman is in October, 1296, and the earliest notice of him as a knight is on November 30, 1297 [Letter Book B, fo. 103 b (xxxv.)] where his name, described as "citizen and knight," precedes a list of fourteen Aldermen (introduced by the prefix "Sirs") which includes the name of his successor in the ward of Candlewick, Geoffrey de Northoue. The unusual designation "citizen and knight" seems to show that he was not, like the rest, an Alderman at this date.
So far as I can ascertain there is no instance of an Alderman being knighted between 1314 and 1381, except that of John de Pulteney, on whom knighthood was conferred in February, 1337, and possibly of Richard de la Pole, who received that honour, either shortly before or shortly after retirement from his Aldermanry. I have assigned knighthood to John Wroth at p. 22, but I have now little doubt that he was not a knight, at any rate while he was an Alderman.
In 1381, Richard II. knighted Walworth (the Mayor), and four ex-Aldermen, Brembre, Philipot, Twyford and Launde, the first two of whom were re-elected Aldermen in the following year and Twyford in 1383. In his Calendar of Husting Wills (vol. ii., p. 352), Dr. Sharpe states that N. Exton also was knighted on that occasion, but I think this is an error, possibly from confusion with N. Twyford, who boro the same Christian name. He was certainly not a knight as late as 1385, and he is not so described in his will: I think, therefore, that my statement on p. 23 of this work, to the effect that he was "afterwards knighted" is not correct and should be erased.
The next Aldermanic knight was probably William Estfeld. (On pp. 2, 34 I have described Drew Barantyn as a knight, but that, I am now convinced, is an error.) There is no doubt that Estfeld was knighted, probably in 1439, but the commonly received account that he was made a Knight of the Bath during his Mayoralty in 1438–9 seems to me to be more than doubtful. I can find no evidence elsewhere that any Knights of the Bath were made in that year, the dignity in those times being usually conferred on several persons at once, and only on particular occasions, as the coronation or marriage of the King. From Gregory's Chronicle it would appear that Estfeld received a simple knighthood on Whitsunday 1440, but this date cannot be correct, as he is described as Miles under date October 13, 1439, in Letter Book K (fo. 179 b).
At the Coronation of Edward IV., in June 1461, a William Cantelowe was made a Knight of the Bath, who was probably identical with the Alderman of Cripplegate. (fn. 1) On the occasion of the coronation of Elizabeth Woodville (Edward's consort), May 26, 1465, the Mayor (R. Josselyn), and three other Aldermen (T. Cook, H. Wiche, and J. Plomer), together with H. Waver, who afterwards became an Alderman, were made Knights of the Bath, and on May 20, 1471, on his return from the victory at Tewkesbury, Edward knighted all the Aldermen who had passed the Chair, except those already knights, viz: the Mayor (J. Stokton), M. Phillip, R. Lee, R. Verney, J. Yonge, W. Taillour, and six Aldermen below the chair, making twelve in all: the latter were G. Irlonde, W. Hampton, B. James, T. Stalbrook, J. Crosby, W. Stokker.
During the half-century following this date (1472–1522), the following appear to have been knighted, either during or shortly after their respective Mayoralties: J. Brown, W. Haryott, E. Shaa, R. Billesdon, T. Hill, H. Bryce, H. Colet, W. Horn, W. Martyn, R. Astry, J. Tate the younger, B. Rede, S. Jenyns, W. Butler, T. Exmewe, J. Yarford, J. Brugge, J. Milbourn, J. Mundy, and possibly R. Acheley (fn. 2), In addition to these, J. Pereyvale, J. Shaa (Aldermen), and R. Haddon, who soon after became an Alderman, were knighted while Sheriffs, J. Fenkyll and W. Capel while Aldermen, but before attaining to the Shrievalty; Sir L. Aylmer was a knight before he was either Alderman or Sheriff. (fn. 3)
From Yarford's Mayoralty to that of Gurney, a period of 122 years (1519–1641), every Lord Mayor (who was not already a knight) was knighted during his year of office or immediately after it, except T. Skinner and R. Freeman, who died within a few months of entering into office. From the beginning of this period till the accession of James I., the Aldermen who were knighted but did not pass the chair were very few indeed: I have not noticed any except J. Skevynton, W. Denham, W. Lok and J. Ayliffe (both knighted during their Shrievalties), and Sir T. Kytson, who was already a knight before becoming either Alderman or Sheriff. In July, 1603, James I. who had conferred the dignity of knighthood on the Lord Mayor (R. Lee) and on ex-Alderman T. Smith in the preceding May, knighted no less than 17 Aldermen, and ex-Alderman H. Brawne, there being already seven ex-Lord Mayors who had been previously thus honoured. The 17 were T. Bennett, T. Lowe, L. Holliday, J. Watts, R. Goddard, H. Rowe, E. Holmedon, R. Hampson, H. Weld, T. Cambell, W. Craven, H. Anderson, W. Glover, J. Pemberton, J. Swynnerton, W. Romeney, T. Middleton. Only one Member of the Court of Aldermen was left without a prefix to his name (Roger Clarke); for what reason is not apparent. (I have erroneously assigned knighthood to him at p. 58 and to R. Freeman at p. 124.) Aldermen R. Jones, J. Deane and C. Scudamore, who were afterwards knighted by James I., did not attain to the Mayoralty.
In 1629, Charles I. conferred Baronetcies on one of the Sheriffs, W. Acton, and (a few months later), on R. Ducye, and in 1641 a similar honour was given to H. Pratt and to the Lord Mayor (R. Gurney). Sir B. Hicks and T. Lawley were made Baronets after ceasing to be Aldermen in 1620 and 1641 respectively, and Sirs H. Windham and W. Cooper were already Baronets when elected Aldermen.
The first Lord Mayor in whose case the custom of knighthood, which had been now established for 120 years, was broken, was the Republican, Isaac Penington, who was elected on the removal of Gurney in August, 1642. In the preceding December, seven Aldermen were knighted (J. Cordell, T. Soame, J. Gayre, Jacob Garrard, J. Wollaston, G. Garret and G. Clarke), one of whom (Wollaston), acted with the Parliamentary party, the others being Royalists.
In June, 1649, a proposal was made to authorise the Speaker to confer knighthood on the then Lord Mayor (Andrewes), and on Aldermen Penington and Atkyn, but nothing appears to have come of it, although the proposal has been by some writers, (including Mr. W. C. Metcalfe in his Book of Knights), erroneously accepted as if it were a fait accompli (fn. 4). Penington certainly never received knighthood at all, and Andrewes and Atkyn had to wait till 1657, when the Protector Cromwell conferred the title upon them, having previously bestowed a similar honour on four successive Lord Mayors (T. Vyner, C. Pack, J. Dethicke and R. Tichborne), and on an ex-Lord Mayor (T. Foot). In 1658, the Lord Mayor of that year (R. Chiverton) and J. Ireton were also knighted. Sir J. Barkstead, the regicide, another of Cromwell's knights, became an Alderman in 1658. Of course, these titular distinctions were not recognised after the Restoration, but Vyner, Dethicke and Chiverton were again knighted by Charles II. That monarch conferred knighthood at the Hague, in May, 1660, a few days before his return, on Aldermen J. Robinson, W. Wale and A. Bateman, and ex-Aldermen T. Bludworth, T. Biddulph, J. Lewis, W. Bateman and W. Vincent, as well as on T. Adams, J. Bunce and J. Langham, who had been deprived of their Aldermanries by Parliament, and were shortly after restored to them. The three last-named were almost immediately promoted to Baronetcies, as also were Sir J. Robinson, the Lord Mayor (T. Alleyne) and R. Browne (who had been knighted on the day of the king's entry into London), and T. Foot, a little later, after vacating his Aldermanry. Other Royalist Aldermen were knighted, viz.: W. Thompson, J. Lawrence, J. Frederick, A. Reynardson (the lastnamed a few days before his restoration to his seat).
Between 1600 and the Restoration the following were Knights before being elected Aldermen: Sirs G. Howland, W. Bond, T. Hayes, W. Herrick, W. Stone, B. Hicks (afterwards Baronet), H. Lee, H. Handford, S. Leeche, H. Rowe, Gervase Elwes, S. Soame, R. Prince, and S. Scott. Ex-Aldermen W. Tirrey and J. Hanbury were knighted in 1624 and 1627 respectively.
From the Restoration to 1730, a period of 70 years, there is no instance of a Lord Mayor who was not a knight or baronet. As the sheriffs were generally knighted in the reigus of Charles II., and James II., many of these Lord Mayors had received the prefix before reaching the chair. The Lord Mayor for 1730–1 was Humphrey Parsons, a strong Tory and opponent of Walpole's Government, whose political principles, no doubt, were the cause of the old custom being again broken. Probably the same reason operated in the cases of J. Barber, G. Heathcote, W. Benn, J. Blachford and R. Alsop, who were opponents of the dominant Whig party and were similarly passed over during the ensuing twenty years, and it seems likely that M. Perry (Lord Mayor, 1738–9), who was a somewhat erratic politician, opposing Walpole on the Excise Bill, but afterwards a ministerial candidate for the city at the election of 1741, owed the absence of any titular honour to his parliamentary action.
From 1750 till the middle of Queen Victoria's reign, the practice of conferring such distinctions on the Lord Mayor or Sheriffs became much less general. This is partly to be accounted for by the fact that during a considerable portion of George IIIrd's reign the Court of Aldermen and the Common Council were in strong opposition to the Court: several, however, of the Lord Mayors in the latter portion of his reign received baroneteies, and Sheriffs presenting loyal addresses were knighted. Between 1809 and 1851 no Alderman received knighthood, though eight baronetcies were bestowed. Since 1868, eighteen baronetcies have been conferred on Lord Mayors, and two on Aldermen who had already passed the chair. and twenty ordinary knighthoods on Aldermen, four of them being granted to Lord Mayors during or on the expiration of their terms of office, and one to the senior unknighted ex-Lord Mayor. Besides these the dignity of K.C.M.G. has been conferred to five present or past Lord Mayors and those of G.C.I.E. and K.C.V.O. on Sir G. F. Faudel-Phillips and Sir J. C. Dimsdale respectively. The lastnamed distinction was also given to ex-Alderman Sir S. H. Waterlow.
The following (since the Restoration) were knighted before becoming Aldermen, those marked † whilst acting as Sheriffs: Sirs R. Ford, W. Warren, R. Vyner, R. Piggott, F. Clarke, R. Ratcliffe, †James Smyth, †N. Herne, †J. Lethuillier, †R. Geffery, †J. Shorter, †T. Gold, †W. Rawsterne, †J. Peake, †T. Beckford, †J. Chapman, †S. Lewis, †J. Raymond, B. Bathurst, J. Buckworth, B. Newland, †W. Gostlyn, †P. Vandeput, †T. Kinsey, W. Russell, J. Sambroke, M. Vincent, T. Griffiths, G. Roberts, †B. Firebrace, R. Hawkins, John Eyles, sen., †T. Stampe, T. Lane, T. Cooke, W. Hedges, †O. Buckingham, †J. Jefferies, † R. Beachcroft, R. Hoare, sen., †J. Woolfe, †W. Humfreys. †C. Peers, J. Bateman, G. Thorold, †B. Green, H. Furnese, †A. Crowley, †C. Cooke, H. Master, R. Knipe, J. Williams, R. Hopkins, †J. Tash, †T. Lombe, †Joseph Eyles, †W. Rous, W. Smith, †J. Esdaile, M. Bloxam, †P. Laurie, †C. Marshall, †G. Carroll, †J. Duke. Of these only the six last named were elected during the last 150 years, the latest (Sir J. Duke) dating as far back as 1840.
Also knighthoods were conferred, as above stated, on T. Adams, J. Langham, J. Bunce, T. Bludworth and A. Reynardson in 1660, and on †R. How in 1678, all of whom had previously been Aldermen and were subsequently re-elected; in 1699 †C. Duncombe similarly received knighthood in the interval between his tenure of the Aldermanries of different wards.
In addition to those named on page 257 as knighted at the Hague, the following received knighthood after ceasing to be Aldermen: J. Cutler, J. Clayton, A. Riccard, S. White, R. Smyth, W. Nutt (1660), J. Dethicke (1661), M. Noel (1662), A. Ingram (1664), S. Micoe (1665), W. Bucknell, J. James (1670), H. Barnard (1677), P. Paravicini (1687), J. Herne (1690), and W. J. R. Cotton (1892), and Baronetcies were conferred on the following Ex-Aldermen: T. Cullum, W. Humble, R. Austen, W. Dudley, H. Smithson, J. Trott, Sir J. Lewis, Sir J. Cutler, G. Winn (1660), H. Pickering, R. Newton, R. Dycer, T. Rich, Sir T. Vyner, F. Bickley (1661), Sir Jacob Garrard (1662), T. Bateman, Sir T. Biddulph, W. Greene (1664), W. Leman, Sir R. Smyth (1665), H. Parker, J. Roberts (1681), Sir B. Firebrace (1698), and G. Page (1714).
Appended is a complete List of Knighthoods and Baronetcies conferred upon existing Members of the Court of Aldermen since the Restoration. Those marked * received the distinction when serving as, or shortly after ceasing to be, Lord Mayor, those marked † during or shortly after their term of office as Sheriff.
|1896—Nov.||*Sir W. H. Wilkin.|
|1898—Nov.||*Sir H. D. Davies.|
Sirs R. Vyner, H. Ashhurst, S. Garrard, II. Furnese, John Eyles, were already Baronets at the dates of their respective elections, and Sir J. Knill succeeded his father in the title after becoming an Alderman. Sir S. T. Jannsen inherited a Baronetcy after he had exchanged the position of Alderman for that of Chamberlain.
[The statement made in the foregoing article as to the comparative rarity of knighthood amongst Mayors and Aldermen before the 16th century, though resting on my own independent research, is in entire accord with the conclusion which had been derived by that painstaking and accurate antiquarian, Mr. W. Duncombe Pink, from an examination of authorities which did not include the Letter Books, Repertories and Journals to which I have had access. The results of Mr. Pink's researches, which are so fully confirmed by the additional authorities that I have been able to consult, were embodied by him in an article on "Civic Knighthoods" contributed to Notes and Queries of May 26, 1900 (9th Series, vol. V., p. 409.]