Oath and Affirmation of Loyalty

Before the annual elections, all freemen of the incorporations had to qualify themselves in order to be allowed to vote in the election of their deacons. This qualification took the form of an oath, which was printed out with enough space for the signatures of all the freemen to be inserted.

The oath was necessary because until 1846, the deacons sat as members of the town council, either as full council members or as extraordinary deacons. The form of the oath (in this document of 1832) reads as follows:

“I Do sincerely promise and swear that I will be faithful and bear allegiance to His Majesty King William: SO HELP ME GOD”

The Oath is followed by an affirmation in the following terms:

“I, Do, in the sincerity of my heart, acknowledge, and declare, that his Majesty King William is the only lawful and undoubted Sovereign of this realm as well de jure, that is, of right, King, as de facto, that is,  in the possession and exercise of the Government; and, therefore, I do promise and swear, that I will, with heart and hand, life and goods, maintain and defend his right, title, and government, against the descendants of the person who pretended to be Prince of Wales during the life of the late King James, and since his decree pretended to be, and took upon himself the style and title of King of England, by the name of James the Third, or of Scotland by the name of James the Eighth, or the style and the title King of Great Britain, and their adherents, and all other enemies, who, either by open or secret attempts, shall disturb or disquiet his Majesty in the possession and exercise thereof.”

The oath and affirmation had to be repeated annually.

The document shown here in fact belongs to the Incorporation of Skinners of Edinburgh. This particular document was signed in two places by eight freemen masters of the Skinners and then witnessed and attested.  

The Bonnetmakers and Dyers of Edinburgh would have had to prepare a similar document for its freemen each year.