LONDON (Reuters) – British World War Two veteran Tom Moore, who has become a national hero after raising more than $40 million for the health service, was awarded the ancient honour of the Freedom of the City of London on Tuesday.
Moore, 100, struck a chord with locked-down Britain by walking around his garden with the help of a walking frame to raise almost 33 million pounds for the National Health Service. His endeavor spread joy amid the grim news of the coronavirus outbreak.
In a bizarre online ceremony, Moore, wearing his war medals, was awarded the freedom of the City of London by the chamberlain, wearing a ermine-trimmed gown, and the Lord Mayor, who wore a tricorne hat trimmed with black ostrich feathers.
“Today we are paying tribute to a very special man,” said Peter Kane, who occupies the ancient office of Chamberlain of the City of London. “Just an incredible achievement – we could run out of adjectives trying to describe this.”
The freedom of the City of London dates back to 1237 and signified that the holder was not owned by a feudal lord and had to right to trade in the heart of London’s ancient core.
Moore, who was raised in Yorkshire, northern England, swore an oath to be “good and true to our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second” and to keep “the Queen’s Peace”.
He signed the Freedom declaration with a wave of the pen and thanked the chamberlain for being given the “Rules for the Conduct of Life” which date from the mid-18th century. He was given a detailed history of his privileges as London’s “youngest freeman”.
Moore, with what appeared to be a glass of champagne, was toasted. He smiled when told that the ancient privileges include being hanged with silk – rather than hemp – and the right to wander the city with his sword drawn.
“Captain Tom – you raised the spirits of people across the country, you showed us all the importance of community spirit and brought people together during this difficult time,” Lord Mayor William Russell said.
The City of London traces its ancient rights to beyond the Norman Conquest of 1066, when the crucible of trade and commerce was formally granted freedoms and privileges which had developed during the dawn of English history.
The honour is the latest bestowed on Moore. For his 100th birthday last month, Queen Elizabeth agreed that he should be made an honorary colonel, and he was also made an honorary member of the England cricket team.
($1 = 0.8108 pounds)
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Michael Holden