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Surrender of Charter 1684

In 1683, King Charles II decided to exert his authority over the City by court action. The Crown initiated proceedings of quo warranto (note 1) not only against the Corporation of London but also against the livery companies. The action against the Corporation was successful and from 1683 until 1692 the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs were royal nominees (note 2).

The minutes of the Bowyers Company (note 3) record that, on receiving the writ, a special meeting of all freemen was called on 14th June 1684. A response was drafted in which just two points were made. First, that the company's privileges and immunities derived from the charter of James I (in 1621) and the re-grant by Charles II himself in 1666. Second, that having fallen under the King's displeasure, they petitioned to be pardoned and asked for the charter to be continued under such limitations as the King should think fit. The Court of Assistants met a few weeks later on 3rd July 1684. The minutes record a discussion of how the money could be raised to defray the charges of surrender and re-grant (although the exact cost was not recorded) and that the surrender document was agreed and sealed. A framed copy of this document on parchment is held in the Bowyers' strongroom at Five Kings House.

To all people to whom those presents shall come. The Master, Wardens and Society of the Freemen of the Mistery of Bowyers of the City of London send greetings.

Know ye that considering how much it imports the Government of this City and the Companies thereof to have persons of known loyalty and approved integrity to be offices of trust therein We the Master, Wardens and Society of Freemen of the Mistery of Bowyers of the City of London have granted, surrendered and yielded up and by these presents Do grant surrender and yield up unto our most gracious Sovereign Lord Charles the Second by the grace of God of England, Scotland, France and Ireland King Defender of the Faith etc All and singular the powers, franchises, liberties privileges and authorities whatsoever and howsoever granted or to be used or exercised by the said Master Wardens and Society of Freemen of the Mistery of Bowyers by virtue of right, title or interest vested in us by letters patents custom or prescription in for or concerning the electing nominating constituting being or appointing of any person or persons into or for the several and respective officers of Master Wardens Assistants and Clerk of the said Company And we the said Master Wardens and Society Do hereby most humbly beseech his Majesty to accept this our surrender And we do with all submission to his Majesty's pleasure implore his grace and favour to regrant unto us the said Master Wardens and Society and our successors the naming and choosing of such officers who shall manage the governing part of the said Company under such restrictions qualifications and reservations as your Majesty in your great wisdom shall think fit. In witness whereof we the said Master Wardens and Society have hereunto affixed our common seal this third day of July Anno Domini 1684 and in the six and thirtieth year of his said Majesty's reign.

The Minutes Books do not mention any subsequent re-grant. However, the Report of the Royal Commission on the Livery Companies 1884 (note 4) states in the Summary that the company received a charter from James I in 1621, and a subsequent charter in 1685. The date of 1685 would fit with the above petition.

Simon Leach
February 2011


1 Quo warranto - meaning "by what authority" was a writ issued by the Crown against anyone who claimed or usurped any office, franchise or liberty to enquire by what authority he supported his claim.

2 My Lord Mayor, Valerie Hope 1989 (Weidenfield and Nicolson) p96

3 Minute Book of 1679 to 1727 (MS 5349 Vol 1 - folio12) held at Guildhall Library.

4 Reports from Commissioners, Inspectors, and Others: Thirty Volumes (23.III) London, City of (Livery Companies), Session 5 February - 14 August 1884, Vol XXXIX Part III 1884

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