What does Freedom of the City mean? Footballer Leah Williamson’s honour explained and what it allows you to do

The Freedom of the City honour was once an important role, but now is mainly ceremonial

The Lionesses have been given Freedom of the City of London after defeating Germany to win the Women’s Euros.

The team and their head coach Sarina Wiegman will be invited to attend a Freedom ceremony later this year.

They were nominated for the honour by Lord Mayor of the City of London, Vincent Keaveny, and chair of the City of London Corporation’s civic affairs sub-committee, Edward Lord OBE.

Additionally skipper Leah Williamson, is to get the freedom of the city for Milton Keynes after leading the Lionesses to Euro 2022 victory.

This is the first Freedom of the City award for Milton Keynes since it was made a city in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

But what does a ‘Freedom of the City’ title mean? Here’s everything you need to know.

The England Women’s football team celebrate in front of their trophy at Trafalgar Square (Pic: Getty Images)

What does Freedom of the City mean?

Freedom of the City is the highest honour a city can give to someone of value in its community.

The award goes as far back as 1272, with previous holders being granted special status in the city allowing them privileges including rights of pasture and control of trade.

Nowadays the role is mainly ceremonial, with those holding the title not holding power in the city’s council.

In America, the Freedom of the City award is called the Key of the City, with those who receive it sometimes getting a symbolic key.

What does Freedom of the City allow you to do?

Freedom of the City previously gave anyone with the honour special privileges.

According to York council’s website, the ‘Freemen of the City of York,’ once had an important role, but now the honour holds no privileges and is entirely ceremonial.

In the past anyone with the honour held the rights of pasture, control of trade and of city strays, they were also involved in running the city up until 1835.

HMS Westminster crew members march in London as part of their “Freedom of the City” honour

A military unit or regiment that is granted Freedom of the City used to be able to march throughout the city with “drums beating, colours flying and bayonets fixed” according to Birmingham council.

However, now any military units that hold the honour celebrate by marching on designated days often called Freedom Parades.

What does Freedom of the City of London mean?

The Freedom of the City of London award goes back as far as 1237, but today is more a ceremonal honour.

Recent recipients include singer Ed Sheeran and former England cricketer Sajid Mahmood.

Speaking about nominating the Lionesses for the award, Lord Mayor Keaveny said: “The rise and rise of the Lionesses has been an incredible success story and it gives me great pleasure to nominate the team for the Freedom of the City of London.

“Last night’s triumphant win against Germany has cemented the team’s place in sporting history and as a nation, we couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Whilst Lord added: “Watching last night’s match was a thrilling experience, and it was a stunning victory for the Lionesses, showing their quality, determination, teamwork, and sheer love of the game.

“On behalf of the whole Square Mile, I offer them our warmest congratulations on such an incredible performance in a tournament that made the whole country proud.”

England's Lionesses triumphed over Germany in the the Women’s Euro 2022 Final

What has Milton Keynes said?

The new city of Milton Keynes will be awarding its first Freedom of the City to England skipper Leah Williamson.

The former town was made a city in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Speaking about the award, Council leader Pete Marland said: “Obviously, we are immensely proud that Leah is from Milton Keynes and I think it would be totally appropriate that the very first person to be given the Freedom of the new city of Milton Keynes is the first woman to lead a national side to international honours and is from MK.”

“I have asked that the council start the process of bestowing the honour on her.”

Adding: “The Lionesses are an inspiration to everyone and have shown that through teamwork, ability and hard work, anything is possible.”