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Freedom of the City

  • About Freedom of the City

    Receiving the Freedom of the City is the highest civic honour that can be awarded to an individual or organisation.

    It is awarded on behalf of the city in recognition of immense pride or of expressing gratitude for exemplary service.

    The first person to be awarded the Freedom of the City of Belfast was William Pirrie in 1898. To date, 57 men, 17 women and 10 organisations have received the Freedom of the City.

    Many well-known figures have been made a Freeman of the City including HM Queen Elizabeth II, President Bill Clinton, Kenneth Branagh, Van Morrison and Dame Mary Peters.

    It is thought the tradition dates back to the early thirteenth century and while in earlier times there were many privileges and benefits connected to the title, today it is purely honorary.

    Despite popular myth, being a Freeman of the City of Belfast does not allow the recipient to graze sheep on the lawns of City Hall or expect complimentary drinks at any of the city’s pubs or hotels.

    The last recipients of the award were US President Bill Clinton and Senator George J Mitchell. They were made Freemen of the City of Belfast in a joint ceremony at the Ulster Hall in April 2018, in recognition of their services to peace building in Northern Ireland.

  • Freedom of the City recipients

    Freedom of the City recipients

    Date awarded

    President William Jefferson Clinton 9 April 2018
    Senator George J Mitchel

    9 April 2018

    Sir Kenneth Branagh

    2 October 2017

    The Nurses of Belfast

    1 December 2015

    Michael Longley

    23 March 2015

    Van Morrison

    15 November 2013

    Dame Mary Peters

    8 May 2013

    The Merchant Navy

    30 April 2002

    The Ambulance Service of the Eastern Health and Social Services Board

    11 September 1992

    The Northern Ireland Fire Brigade

    21 August 1992

    John Hewitt

    26 May 1983

    The Royal Ulster Constabulary and The Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve

    30 May 1980

    The Ulster Defence Regiment

    2 May 1980

    The Ulster Division of the Royal Naval Reserve

    9 April 1974

    Lord Grey of Naunton

    7 November 1972

    The Lady Grey of Naunton

    7 November 1972

    Alderman Sir Peter Studd

    14 May 1971

    The Lady Mayoress of London Lady Studd

    14 May 1971

    Alderman Thomas Gibson Henderson

    21 February 1964

    Royal Sussex Regiment

    6 October 1961

    Royal Air Force, Aldergrove

    5 October 1957

    The Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Sir Cuthbert Ackroyd, Baronet

    14 September 1956

    The Lady Mayoress of London, Lady Ackroyd

    14 September 1956

    Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill

    16 December 1955

    Councillor Sir James Norritt

    11 November 1955

    Margaret Lawson

    11 November 1955

    Royal Ulster Rifles

    6 February 1954

    Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Gloucester

    1 April 1952

    Vice-Admiral The Earl of Granville, Governor of Northern Ireland

    1 January 1952

    The Countess Granville

    1 January 1952

    Captain The Right Honourable Sir Basil Stanlake Brooke

    1 May 1950

    Lady Cynthia Mary Brooke

    1 May 1950

    Alderman Sir William Frederick Neill

    3 October 1949

    Lady Neill

    3 October 1949

    Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh

    2 March 1949

    His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh

    2 March 1949

    Field Marshall Sir Alan Francis Brook

    3 September 1945

    General Dwight D. Eisenhower

    1 June 1945

    Field Marshal The Honourable Sir Harold Rupert Leofric George Alexander

    5 April 1945

    Field Marshal The Honourable Sir Bernard Law Montgomery

    1 November 1944

    Alderman James Dunlop Williamson

    1 September 1942

    The Duchess of Abercorn

    17 May 1935

    His Royal Highness Prince Henry William Frederick Albert, Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Ulster

    3 April 1935

    Alderman William MacCartney

    1 January 1935

    His Royal Highness Edward Albert, Prince of Wales

    27 October 1932

    Councillor Sir William Frederick Coates

    23 January 1931

    Lady Coates

    23 January 1931

    Sir John Lavery, Knight

    23 January 1930

    James Albert Edward, Third Duke of Abercorn

    18 July 1927

    Alderman Sir William George Turner

    1 January 1926

    Lady Agnes Turner

    1 January 1926

    Sir Frederick William Moneypenny

    1 January 1926

    Sir Robert Meyer Knight

    8 September 1924

    Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George Duke of York

    16 June 1924

    Sir James Johnston

    1 December 1922

    Hariot Dowager Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava

    1 March 1920

    Field Marshal Sir Henry Hughes Wilson

    1 August 1919

    Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, seventh Marquess of Londonderry

    1 August 1919

    Field Marshal John Denton Pinkstone

    2 September 1918

    Henry Musgrave

    1 March 1917

    Sir William Quartus Ewart

    1 March 1917

    Sir Crawford McCullagh

    23 January 1917

    Lady Margaret Craig McCullagh

    23 January 1917

    Sir Edward Carson

    4 August 1914

    Robert James McMordie

    23 January 1914

    Julia McMordie

    23 January 1914

    Sir James Henderson

    1 May 1912

    J Whitelaw Reid

    1 May 1912

    Sir Joseph Larmor

    1 April 1912

    Sir Almroth Wright

    1 April 1912

    Gustave Wilhelm Wolff

    1 February 1911

    Sir John Newell Jordan

    2 August 1910

    Andrew Carnegie

    1 June 1910

    Sir Robert Hart

    1 July 1908

    Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper

    1 January 1908

    Sir Donald Currie

    1 May 1906

    Margaret Montgomery Pirrie

    5 April 1904

    Sir Daniel Dixon

    1 February 1904

    Lord Roberts of Kandahar

    9 October 1900

    Lieutenant-General Sir George Stuart White

    11 May 1900

    The Marquis of Dufferin and Ava

    1 March 1900

    The Marquis of Londonderry

    1 March 1900

    Thomas Henry Ismay 1 February 1899
    Alderman William James Pirrie 1 January 1898
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