Freedom of the city, but why no plaque?

WINSTON CHURCHILL, Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin, Sir Sean Connery and the Queen have all received it.

But while the freedom of Edinburgh is the highest honour that can be bestowed by the city, there is nowhere in the Capital where the recipients are recognised.

That could be about to change, as council chiefs consider a call for a memorial at the City Chambers displaying their names.

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Freedom of the city was once needed by merchants in Edinburgh, but it became a symbolic honour in the early 19th century.

The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Sir Sean, Nelson Mandela and Burmese pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi are the only living recipients.

The walls of the City Chambers are decorated with the names of the deans of guilds and other prestigious titles, yet only a "dusty old book" somewhere in the building names the freemen.

Lib Dem councillor Paul Edie has submitted a motion to the council calling for a "report on options for the prominent display in the City Chambers of the names of those granted freedom of the City of Edinburgh".

"In the quadrangle, we now have the handprint of (author) Ian Rankin, but the freedom of the city is the ultimate civic award," he said. "We have nothing to tell us who have been made freemen of the city, so I'm calling for suggestions on how to do this."

It is thought about 10,000 people have received the freedom of the city. The first was Sir Edward de Boncle, provost of the city's Trinity College, in 1459.

Recipients could go anywhere in the city without paying tolls, but the title now carries no specific privileges. Claims that a freeman can drive sheep down The Mound are – sadly – untrue.

Historian Patricia Player said: "We could find out about their occupations, how they lived."


Famous recipients of the freedom of the city of Edinburgh.

• Benjamin Franklin 1759

• Walter Scott 1813

• Charles Dickens 1841

• Robert Peel 1842

• William Gladstone 1853

• David Livingstone 1857

• Viscount Palmerston 1863

• Benjamin Disraeli 1867

• President Ulysses S Grant 1877

• David Lloyd George 1918

• Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig 1919

• Alexander Graham Bell 1920

• Stanley Baldwin 1926

• Harry Lauder 1927

• J M Barrie 1929

• The Queen Mother 1936

• Winston Churchill 1942

• Dwight Eisenhower 1946

• Queen Elizabeth II 1947

• Prince Philip 1949

• Earl Mountbatten 1954

• Yehudi Menuhin 1965

• Alexander Douglas-Home 1969

• Sean Connery 1991

• Nelson Mandela 1997

• Aung San Suu Kyi 2005