Folkright and Freedom

Folkright and Freedom

The Traditional Lore

Merchant Adventurer's Hall (York, 2016)
Merchant Adventurers Hall (York, 2016)

Folkright simply describes the common law and right of the people. Anglo-Danish and Saxon in origin, it is the foundation of our freedom and the right of all freeborn, law abiding and responsible citizens of England and Wales. It relates to the English culture and conscience with natural justice, where there is a ‘duty to act fairly’.

The ‘peoples right’ provided a counter balance to the powers of lordship. It was the right of the people as opposed to that of the privileged classes. It also considers folkland as landownership by folkright (the common law). Codes of this right apply today in the laws of common land, copyright and with the succession of borough freedom. Within the folkright are the communal rules over towns, commons, woodland-chase and forest. They operate today in ancient rulings such as heybote, pannage, piscary and turbary. All of which could be exercised without any damage to the king’s deer.

Localised (customary) law in essence. The Synod of Whitby in AD 664 encompassed the concept of a more unified law under the Church. However, Roman civil law was not otherwise influential until the period of feudal law following the Norman Conquest. Anglo-Saxon law applied the principles of the romantic code and administration was essentially by custom. All laws were administered by local assemblies (folk moots) and enforced where necessary by the shire-reeve (sheriff). It was the sheriff’s responsibility for ‘keeping the peace’.

The principle of primogenitor was almost universal under customary rules of inheritance and succession was of great importance under the folkright. Common law developed after the Norman Conquest employing some aspects of the Anglo-Saxon law where crimes were treated as wrongs for which compensation was made to the victim.

Folkright is the aggregate of rules that can be applied as an expression of the juridical consciousness of the community. The folkright could be broken or modified by special enactment through royal grants and wills. It is the old law of real property, of succession of contracts and tariffs regulated by folkright.

Folkright forms the basis of much that this website sets out to represent. Every freeman enjoys their right: as a freeman, the public right and the law of commons. They have the right to participate and a ‘right to exercise a right’. He or she also has the right of lawful remedy through compensation (bote). The folkright is a cultural concept and was considered as the single unifier of ancient and modern pan-Germanic legal thought. It is the Constitutional Freedom that provides protection of common property and protection of the individual. The right to freedom is inalienable, as is the right to inheritance through succession is implicit in the rules of folkright. It is the basis of civic descent.

The Anglo-Sphere of people in the world has a sublime understanding of the shared values in the common law that is inherited. Laws did not emanate from legislature – government came from folkright and not folkright as law from government! It is ‘the sublime tradition’. Folkright is a development of ‘localism’, the aggregate of rules of the realm. Codes (regulations) developed from customary practices of a community and were rules mainly for peace. A Freeman when seen in ceremonial robe representing their company, guild or city livery, is emblematic of this law. Their regalia symbolises how the ancient tradition of folkright still proudly remains with us today.

The Burgher mercantile class began to emerge in the latter days of Feudalism. A Charter of Liberties and the Magna Carta eventually led to the Bill of Rights in 1669. Freemen in England and Wales gained global respect for their honest trade, reliability and the skilled workmanship of their products. The borough freeman today will proudly maintain their historical reputation. It is important that they do not arrogantly flaunt a position of elitism nor assume some air of minor aristocracy. This is not their role, as the freemen represent the town of their ancestors with its established crafts and administrative (trading class) history.

It would be true to say that freemen will proudly belong to an elite and unique company when they became a freeman be that freedom of a borough, court leet, livery company or craft guild. This is of course something to be proud in continuing the historic traditions generated by the Folkright. Freemen recognise their right and that freedom is a privilege that it is their own prerogative.

Freedom Today

Freemen and their guilds are more than a ‘living-museum’ link to the past, they provide a positive and beneficial input into modern society. As charitable institutions they contribute a valuable support to the funds of local councils and communities.

Guild members can be seen in action at civic functions where for example, they may be macebearers attending the Mayor or directing events. They can be found at various memorial or festival activities assisting the entertainment of a visiting public. Freemen are prepared to enter civic duties and responsibilities whenever they are called upon to do so.

The gathered wealth accumulated over centuries, including built properties and land, are held in trust and for the most part enjoyed by the local inhabitants and the community at large.  If it were not for the retention and safeguard of many historical properties such as halls, churches and market places much could have been lost to undesirable development.

It is the genuine interest taken by the Freemen in their town or city that may ensure lasting damage is not done to the environment. Freemen’s land and property provide subsidised facilities to meet many local community demands.  A shortfall in Council funds is often met by the Freemen whose lands provide recreation facilities for the public, and the funding of various facilities for elderly or disabled members of the community.

A Freemen’s Trust may target certain areas of support, for example, the flood-lighting of major buildings and the repair of significant monuments.  At Sudbury the Trust aims to assist safety measures, particularly for fire prevention.  Of course, a small amount may provide aid in cases of hardship to freemen and or their families.  The objects typically include assistance in the training of young people and the support for any activity that may benefit the Town or its community.

The Freemen proudly recognise their historical privilege and exclusive rights however, they are non-political and intend to be as democratic as far as they are able. Gilds today generally have equal numbers, if not more women members and are inclusive of all classes.

Freemen take an oath of allegiance to their Mayor and Town administration and understand that this comes with responsibilities.  ‘Freedom today’ can undoubtedly be regarded as a ‘force for the good’ within our modern society.

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