The City of London lies at the centre of the modern metropolis of Greater London. It is colloquially known as ‘The Square Mile’ although it is neither square or one square mile in size. The term derives from the fact that the City was bounded by a Roman Wall, parts of which still exist, the interior area being approximately one square mile in size. Nowadays the City covers a slightly larger area of 1.16 square miles and forms a ceremonial county distinct from the rest of London.
The City has its own government with unique powers not found in other borough or City governments, including the power to raise and govern its own Police Force. The City’s government is headed by The Right Honourable The Lord Mayor (of the City) of London, an annually elected officer who is the first citizen of the City and, within the City, only outranked by the Sovereign.
The City’s government is the model upon which Parliament is based, with a two-tier chamber formed of 100 Common Councilmen and 25 Aldermen, one of which is elected each year to the office of Lord Mayor. Nobody may stand for election in the City of London without first becoming a Freeman of the City of London, a rite of passage also linked to the City’s Livery Companies. As a practical matter all Aldermen, Sheriffs and the Lord Mayor are members of one or more Livery Companies.
The Livery Companies are the descendents of the guilds that existing in almost every City and town in Europe. Many towns in England have as their seat of local government a building named The Guildhall, evidence that the trade, craft of profession guilds had a role in the civic of the town as well as the commercial life. In London the guilds grew in stature and become intimately involved not just with trade, but also education, regulation and enforcement of early trading and consumer standards, church, civic life and governance of the City.
The Livery Companies are ranked in order of precedence with the Mercers’ Company being first among them. The Mercers’ are also one of The Great Twelve Livery Companies, being those ranked no. 1 to 12, and historically having a special role in the City governance in that no Alderman could progress to become Lord Mayor without being a member of one of those companies.
The relationship between the Livery Companies, The Freemen of the City of London and the elected and appointed officers of the City of London Corporation is multifaceted and complex. The following diagram summarises the process of nomination, election and appointment for most of the offices in the City’s apparatus.
Click the diagram to open a high resolution version.