Ancient charters on display at Guildhall to mark historic links between monarchy and City of London

On the eve of King Charles III’s coronation, three of the City of London’s oldest charters have gone on public display together for the first time, reflecting the City’s links with reigning monarchs throughout the ages.

Completing the display is one of the finest ancient books in the City of London Corporation’s extensive archives and vintage prints depicting three coronations. 

The new display in the City Corporation’s Heritage Gallery at its Guildhall Art Gallery will run until 5 October. Admission is free, but advance booking via is recommended.

The William Charter (1067): The oldest document in the City Corporation’s archives (pictured) - was drawn up as William I was crowned. It is the earliest known royal document in Europe to guarantee the collective rights of all the inhabitants of a town (i.e. not just a specific group) and bears the earliest surviving impression of the seal of the new king of England. 

The Shrievalty Charter (1199) and the Mayoralty Charter (1215):  King John confirmed that the City of London had the rare and important rights to elect its own Sheriffs, rather than be appointments of the Crown.  In 1215, as the political situation in the country became tense, King John sought to appease Londoners by confirming that the Mayor of London (with the term ‘Lord Mayor of the City of London’ coming much later) could also be chosen by Londoners, with the proviso that the Mayor be publicly presented or ‘shown’, which led to the Lord Mayor’s Show that we know today.

As well as the charters, visitors can see prints of three coronations from the nineteenth century – William IV (1831), Victoria (1838), and George V (1911), and the Cartae Antiquae.

Dating from the 1400s, this beautifully illustrated book records charters and statutes covering laws enacted from the reign of Edward III, which started in 1327, to the accession of Henry VII in 1485. City officials used the book as an essential reference tool, as they scrutinised statute and safeguarded the rights of the medieval City. 

Open in the Heritage Gallery’s display at the page showing the portrait of Richard III, arguably, one of the best-known medieval monarchs, the book features a portrait of each king on the first page of the statutes for his reign.

Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage, and Libraries Committee, Wendy Hyde, said:

“Gallery visitors will be able to view these carefully preserved charters and the Cartae Antiquae – for free and up close - and be reminded of the City’s long-standing connection with monarchs from many centuries ago.

“The City Corporation’s Heritage Gallery is the perfect place in which to display historic and hugely significant items from our collections.

“The exhibition forms part of our flagship Destination City programme, which is creating a seven-day-a-week leisure destination for UK and international visitors, workers, and residents to enjoy.”

The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages the City of London Heritage Gallery and Guildhall Art Gallery, is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £130m every year.


Notes to editors:

For further information, images, and interviews, please contact Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer (Arts, Culture, Heritage, Licensing), City of London Corporation / 07795 333060 /

About the City of London Corporation:

The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages the City of London Heritage Gallery and Guildhall Art Gallery, is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK –