Temporal Government.


Of the Temporal Government of this City. PORTGRAVES, MAIORS, SHERIFFS, ALDERMEN: Divers Remarks concerning them and their Privileges: Their Election in former Times: Controversies of late about Election of Sheriffs, settled by an Act of Common Council, Anno 1703. Their Customs: and the Exercise of their Offices.

NOW from the SPIRITUAL we proceed to the TEMPORAL Government of our City: Wherein many Things are to be shewn. And first, such as are more General, and then more Special and Particular.

A Scheme of the Relation of the Temporal Government.

J. S.

Under this first Part something is to be spoken of the Temporal Government by the Chief Governours. Then shall be given a continued Catalogue of the Chief Annual Magistrates, Maiors and Sheriffs, fetch'd from the earliest Memory, to the present Time. Descending next to the Aldermen, and the rest of the City Officers. Then, to the Customs to be observed by these Magistrates of the City upon Festival Days, and other solemn Times throughout the Year. Then shall be declared the several Corporations and Societies, which we commonly call The Companies of the City: Which subordinate Government contributes much to the peaceable, flourishing and good Order of the Whole. From these more general Matters, the Discourse shall proceed to the Laws, Usages, and Customs, and divers other more particular Relations of things remarkable pertaining to this City.

This Government of the City is by a Maior, two Sheriffs, six and twenty Aldermen of as many Wards, into which the City is divided or parted out: Each having subordinate Officers under them. The Recorder also is a great Officer, and of great Use.

To those who are inquisitive into the ancient Government of the City, it will be acceptable, to shew them, who and what these Magistrates were in former Times; their Election; their Power; their Business, with remarkable Events happening to them. These we shall set down as we have found them in some authentic Writings, in the Records of the City, or the Tower, or the Exchequer. The more modern State of these chief Rulers will follow in due place.

The Government by Maior, Sheriffs, Aldermen.



AND first we begin with the Maior. He is chief and principal Magistrate, and the King's immediate Locum tenens, i.e. Lieutenant or Deputy in the City of London; so constituted from and before the time of William the Conqueror; yet going under various Denominations. That King called this his Lieutenant in the same City by the ancient Name PORTGRAVE, as appears by his Charter, the Tenor whereof is in the Book of Customs.

Fol. 187.

PORTGRAVE, or Portgreve,


A SAXON Word, as appears from the said Book of Customs: Port signifying a City: Grave in the same Saxon or Teutonic or Almain Tongue, Comes, a Count or Earl; sounding, the Earl of the City. Whence the Honour due to a Count, as well in the King's Presence as elsewhere in London, was due to this chief Officer, while he was in his Office. And thence is the reason of the Sword being carried before him. The Names of several of these Portgraves will be mentioned in due place.


Lib. Albus Lib. Customar. fo. clxxxvij.

Afterwards the People called him Portreve, but corruptly, for Portgreve, for the word Reve debaseth this great Officer, signifying no more in Saxon than Villicus, i.e. Bailiff.

I find the chief Magistrate was called Portgrave, Anno 1184. For 31 Hen. II. there was a Patent granted the Weavers, wherein the Portgrave or principal Magistrate was ordered to burn certain Cloth, weaved with English and Spanish Wool mixed.

This Officer was intitled by Henry the Son of King William, JUSTITIARIUS in his Charter. Wherein he granted the Citizens the County of Middlesex to Farm, granting them therein a Licence to choose Justitiarium de seipsis ad custodienda placita Coronæ suæ: i.e. A Justicer of themselves, to keep the Pleas of his Crown. And hence this Officer is so stiled in the Book of Customs.


In the Charter of King Henry, Son of King John, the Governour of London begun to be called MAIOR. For so it ran, Sciatis nos concessisse, &c. "Know ye that We have granted, and by Our present Charter have confirmed to Our Barons of Our City of London, Quod eligant sibi MAJOREM: i.e. That they may choose to themselves a MAIOR out of themselves each Year, who may be faithful to Us, discreet and fit for the Government of the City."


Lib. Custom. fol. lxxxix.

Maior and Chamberlain of the City formerly were the same. For Sir Gregory de Rokeslee, Maior, was called CHAMBERLAIN, as appears in the Book B. And when Henry le Galleys, Maior, took a Journey towards Lincoln, about earnest Business of his own, and he put in his place William de Bethonia and Geffry de Norton, they were called in the King's Letter Camerarii Civitat'; i.e. Chamberlains of the City. And it appears in the same Book, that the Maior supplied the Office of Coroner under the name of Chamberlain of the City.


Lib. B. f. 3, 9 & mult. seq.

Lib. B. fol. xxxviij.

There were once four Custodes or Keepers of the City, chosen by the Aldermen and other Citizens, by vertue of a Letter from King Edward, Son of King * Edward, the 34th Year of his Reign,


Lib. C. fol. lxxxiiij.

*Mistaken for K Henry.