Twelve became known as the “great livery guilds,” with the Mercers occupying the top slot, followed in order of prestige by the Grocers, the Drapers, the Fishmongers, the Goldsmiths, the Skinners, the Merchant Tailors, the Haberdashers, the Salters, the Ironmongers, the Vintonners, and the Clothworkers.Scores of other guilds were known as the “lesser livery guilds.” Membership in one of the great livery guilds required a membership fee of £1000; to belong to one of the lesser livery guilds, the fee was £500. At one feast in 1516, the Drapers entertained the Mayor and the Sheriffs with “brawn and mustard, capon boiled, swan roasted, pike, venison baked and roast; jellies, pastry, quails, sturgeon, salmon, wafers and hippocras... swan’s puddings, a neck of mutton in pike broth, two shoulders of mutton roast, four conies, eight chickens, six pigeons, and cold meat plenty.” Indeed, centuries after guilds such as the Skinners, Salters, and Long-bow Stringmakers had outlived their economic functionality, many of them lived on as vehicles for networking and socializing.Another revenue source, employed both by Elizabeth I and James I, was to call in all the guilds’ charters for renewal, not because the charters needed renewal, but merely to create an opportunity for collecting fees.
Despite the objections of the guilds, sales of monopolies became a major source of royal revenues in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.In 1623, Parliament passed the Statute of Monopolies, intended to halt the practice, but Charles I exploited loopholes in the act and managed to raise £100,000 per year from selling monopolies.The Skinners, Fishmongers, and Haaberdashers of the late Middle Ages did not yet display the particular features that would allow us to call them corporations.They were not unified businesses, but rather umbrella groups for the members of particular crafts.Since London had no police force, guilds also played a role in maintaining public order.
As early as the thirteenth century, the guilds controlled the city government of London.In 1580, when Queen Elizabeth attempted to grant a monopoly on the gauging of beer to one of her court favourites, the Brewers’ Guild mounted a fierce campaign to dissuade her.Similarly, when one Edward Darcy obtained a right to approve and stamp all skins, his monopoly sparked a rebellion by the Leathersellers.* At all times we are available to our members to guide them through the Perfect Partners process.The Story of Britain's rise to Glory through Slavery and pillaging its Empires and Colonies.They elected the Mayor, who was known as the “master of all the companies.” But despite their power, the guilds could not always rest secure, because their relationship with the British monarchy was complex and at times tense.