The bestowing of an Honorary Freedom was first mentioned in the Court Minutes in 1904 when it was awarded to Andrew Carnegie and Ernest Palmer.
However, prior to that, in 1876 the then Master, William Chappell proposed that the Court honour two gentlemen by awarding them the Freedom and Livery of the Company "By Presentation", rather than by the more usual methods of Servitude, Patrimony, or Redemption. It would appear that (while not identified as such in the Minutes) it was indeed an Honorary Award.
The two men so 'Presented' were: Charles James Freake who was admitted to the Company and clothed in the Livery on 19th July 1876; and Sir Henry Cole who received his admission and clothing on 21st July 1876.
These two 1876 awards 'By Presentation', specifically also included the bestowing of the Freedom of the City of London - uniquely, however, these Freedoms do not appear to have been established at Guildhall until 3rd October 1876 - well after their 'Clothing' ceremonies at the Musicians' Company.
* An honour similar to bestowing the Freedom and Livery was also made in 1510 to John Chambre (Master of the King's Minstrels). However, there remains some doubt over the actual reason behind this award - see further discussion by Richard Crewdson in Apollo's Swan & Lyre ch.3
The Honorary Freedom is the Company's most prestigious award and each recipient since 1904 has signed the Honorary Freemen Declaration Book - which can be seen by Clicking Here.
Recipients of the Honorary Freedom (including those by Presentation) are presented below.
Click on names highlighted in blue for a link to that person's Wikipedia entry.
Click on any image to enlarge.
1876 - Charles James Freake (By Presentation); an architect, builder (principally in Chelsea and Belgravia) and philanthropist. Built and funded the building which when it first opened in 1876, housed the newly formed National Training School for Music, which in 1882 was replaced by the newly formed Royal College of Music. That building is now home to the Royal College of Organists.
1876 - Sir Henry Cole (By Presentation); organised the 1851 Great Exhibition, involved in the establishment of the V&A Museum and the Royal College of Music.
1904 - Andrew Carnegie; US industrialist, philanthropist.
1905 - The Rev. F.W.Galpin; antiquarian and collector of early music instruments.
1905 - Arthur H.D.Prendergast; expert on the 17th century masque.
1908 - Sir Alexander Mackenzie; Principal, Royal Academy of Music.
1908 - Sir Hubert Parry Bt; Director, Royal College of Music.
1908 - Sir Walter Parratt; Master of the King's Music.
1909 - Brig. Gen. Sir Alfred Granville Balfour; Commandant, Royal Military School of Music.
1911 - The Rt Hon Lord Alverstone; Lord Chief Justice (in recognition of his interest in music).
1911 - Sir (Thomas) Vezey Strong; (for services rendered at the International Music Congress), Lord Mayor in 1910.
Shown far left is Vezey Strong (centre) as Lord Mayor with City dignitaries outside Guildhall. Near left is a cutting from Musical News in 1911, giving a review of the dinner at Stationers' Hall on the day of Sir Thomas having received the Honorary Freedom. Click on the images to expand.
© London Metropolitan Archives, City of London
1912 - Sir Charles Villiers Stanford; composer, Prof. Music, Cambridge University.
1913 - Sir Landon Ronald; Principal, Guildhall School of Music.
Shown left is a cutting from Musical News in 1913, giving a review of the dinner at Stationers' Hall on the day of Sir Landon Ronald having received the Honorary Freedom. Click on the image to expand.
1918 - Lt Col John M. Rogan; Director of Music, Coldstream Guards.
1919 - Col. T. C. F. Somerville; Commandant, Royal Military School of Music.
1920 - Charlotte Leonora, Lady Cooper; for services to the Red Cross (amateur musician and wife of Sir Ernest Cooper, Master and Lord Mayor 1919/1920).
Shown right is a letter received from Buckingham Palace confirming that the Honorary Freedom which was conferred upon the Prince of Wales is also accepted by him as King Edward VIII
1921 - The Very Revd W. R. Inge; Dean of St Paul's.
1925 - Col. J. A. C. Somerville; Commandant, Royal Military School of Music.
1925 - Sir Frederic H. Cowen; composer and conductor.
Sir Frederic Cowen (born: Hymen Frederick Cohen 1852-1935) was a child prodigy composer and pianist. He produced a wide range of work, but saw most success with his light orchestral pieces.
The Company holds two such manuscripts (Click the title to see them):
1931 - Sir George Henschel; singer and conductor.
1933 - Harry Cope Colles; music historian and critic (The Times); editor of Grove's Dictionary of Music (3rd and 4th editions).
1934 - Sir Donald Francis Tovey; music analyst and essayist.
The Duke of Kent was presented with the Honorary Freedom of the Company on 9th July 1935 at Stationers' Hall. Viscount Astor was The Master.
1936 - Sir Milsom Rees; royal laryngologist; consultant to the Royal Opera House, Guildhall School of Music and Musicians' Benevolent Fund.
1937 - The Revd Edmund Horace Fellowes; scholar, librarian and editor of madrigals and lute-songs.
1938 - William Charles Smith; Assistant Keeper, British Museum Music Room, Handel specialist.
1938 - Sir Henry Wood; conductor.
1939 - The Rt Hon Neville Chamberlain; Prime Minister, amateur musician.
1944 - Sir George Dyson; Director, Royal College of Music.
1946 - Dr Ralph Vaughan Williams OM; composer.
A picture taken in July 1954 shows Dr Vaughan Williams being greeted by the then Master, Captain Evelyn Broadwood, flanked by Junior Warden, Cecil Maudslay (right) and Senior Warden, HFB Iles on his left. It is likely the figure behind the Master was The Clerk, Brigadier Crewdson.
1946 - Sir Arnold Bax; composer, Master of the King's Music.
1949 - Sir George Franckenstein; former Austrian diplomat.
1950 - Sir Reginald Thatcher; Principal, Royal Academy of Music.
1952 - John Christie; founder, Glyndebourne Opera.
1954 - Sir Arthur Bliss; composer, Master of the Queen's Music.
Sir Arthur Bliss accepts the Honorary Freedom from the Master, Captain Evelyn Broadwood.
At the Ceremony: left to right:
H.F.B.Iles (Senior Warden)
George Godwin (Beadle)
Sir Arthur Bliss (Honorary Freeman)
Brig Crewdson (Clerk)
Capt Evelyn Broadwood (Master)
Cecil Maudsley (Junior Warden)
1957 - Dr Harold Darke; organist.
1962 - Frank Stewart Howes; music critic (The Times) and historian.
1965 - Benjamin Britten; composer.
Britten accepts the Hon Freedom at Cliveden on 17th July 1965
Her Majesty accepts the Honorary Freedom from the Master, Derek Lockett at Fishmongers' Hall.
1966 - Sir John Barbirolli; conductor.
Barbirolli receives the Honorary Freedom and is seen here signing the Hon Freeman's Book. To his left is the Clerk, Brigadier Crewdson, to his right is Assistant Clerk, Richard Crewdson
1972 - Sir William Walton; composer.
Here is Sir William Walton's Certificate, presented to him by the Master, Sir Jack Westrup, at the Ceremony in Stationers' Hall in 1972.
1973 - The Rt Hon Sir Edward Heath; Prime Minister, amateur musician.
Sir Edward is escorted into the Court Room of Merchant Taylors' Hall to receive the Honorary Freedom flanked by the Senior Warden, William Lloyd Webber (left) and the Junior Warden, Past Lord Mayor, Sir Gilbert Inglefield (right).
Picture Left: Heath meets Sir Arthur Bliss (left) and has the Master, Major Benjamin Angwin on the right.
1982 - Sir Michael Tippett; composer.
1986 - Sir Reginald Goodall; conductor.
1987 - Sir Yehudi Menuhin OM KBE; violinist and conductor.
Lord Menuhin is seen here with the Master, Francis Carnwath at the Masters' & Clerks' Dinner in October 1996. A performance on the harp was given at this event by the 16 year old Catrin Finch who in 2000 became the Official Harpist to HRH The Prince of Wales.
Here is a cutting from the 'City Press' of January 1965, showing Mr Yehudi Menuhin and Mr Cyril Davis (President of the Livery Club) with their wives.
HRH The Duke of Edinburgh receives the Honorary Freedom from the Master, Sir Vivian Dunn.
The Duke in conversation with the Treasurer, Walter Ficker (in the middle is the Master, Sir Vivian Dunn).
Immediate Pastmaster and Clerk, Richard Crewdson with HRH The Duke of Edinburgh on the occasion of his Honorary Freedom
The Duke gives a speech at the Dinner following his presentation. He is flanked by The Master and Clerk Richard Crewdson.
A special dinner was held to celebrate the 90th Birthday of the Duke on 28th June 2011. It was held at Fishmongers' Hall, attended by a number of Livery Companies and in the presence of the Duke. Click Here to see the Programme which detailed that evening's events.
HRH The Duchess of Kent is shown here investigating the score of Arthur Sullivan's The Lost Chord with Richard Crewdson (left) and The Master, John Iles (middle). Also on the table is the Crews' Gavel and the Halle Miniature Violin - Click Here for more information.
Her Royal Highness being sworn in as an Honorary Freeman of the Company by the Master, Mr John Clive Iles with Anthony Pool (Senior Warden) and Adrian Davis (Junior Warden). The photograph, held by the Company, has been signed "Katharine" by the Duchess.
1997 - Sir Harrison Birtwistle; clarinetist and composer.
At the presentation ceremony, Sir Harrison is introduced to the Court by Senior Warden Frank Fowler (left in picture), with Junior Warden Malcolm Troup to the right.
(Left) HRH The Prince of Wales greets the Court at Drapers' Hall on the occasion of his receiving the Honorary Freedom of the Company in 2003.
(Right) A letter from Clarence House, thanking the Company for this Honour.
Shown left is the Programme of the Court held for the Admittance of HRH The Prince of Wales as an Honorary Freeman, held on Friday 21 November 2003.
Below is the Programme relating to the Concert of music presented at Drapers' Hall following the Admittance of the Prince.
Shown left are pictures of HRH Prince of Wales taken at his Honorary Freedom Ceremony and published in Preserve Harmony - Issue 28 (Spring 2004).
2005 - Sir Colin Davis CH CBE; conductor
Sir Peter collecting his Hon Freedom from the Master, Leslie East at Vintners' Hall.
Also awarded the Cobbett Medal in 1987, Sir Peter is shown left collecting the Collard Life Fellowship from the Master, Kathleen Duncan OBE in 2015 and far left is shown giving the keynote speech at the Company's Conference in October 2008.
2011 - Dame Janet Baker CH DBE
The Master (Mr Paul Campion) congratulates Dame Janet Baker CH, DBE on receiving the Honorary Freedom in 2011.
The Master administers the Honorary Freedom for Dame Janet.
The Honorary Freedom certificate for Dame Janet Baker CH, DBE. Together with a copy of her 1982 partial biography, Full Circle.
On Installation Day, 11th November 2015, Dame Gillian Weir was admitted to the Honorary Freedom of the Company, and is pictured receiving her scroll from the 2015/16 Master, Mr Andrew Morris.
On Wednesday 8th November 2017, Sir Antonio Pappano accepted the Honorary Freedom of the Company. The ceremony was conducted by the newly installed master for 2017/18 Lady Brewer OBE.
On Wednesday 12th November 2019, Sir Mark Elder accepted the Honorary Freedom of the Company. The ceremony was conducted by the newly installed master for 2019/20 Mr John Nichols and Pastmaster Maurice Summerfield.