What are Quit Rents?

History Revealed - - Q&A -

One of the City of Lon­don’s more ar­cane rituals, the Quit Rents Cer­e­mony dates back to 1211. It sees a to­ken – or ‘quit’ – rental paid by the City to the Crown for two parcels of land (‘quit’ rents orig­i­nally mean­ing a pay­ment in lieu of other feu­dal obli­ga­tions). There’s just one prob­lem: no one knows ex­actly where ei­ther of the two plots ac­tu­ally are. One is near Bridgenorth in Shrop­shire; the other was a forge in the Strand area. The Shrop­shire rent is two knives, one sharp and one blunt, their cut­ting ca­pa­bil­i­ties tested against a hazel rod in full view of the court. The City plot’s an­nual ‘fee’ is six horse­shoes and 61 nails.

Two knives are forged new each year by the Wor­ship­ful Com­pany of Cut­lers, but the horse­shoes and nails are an­tiques, dat­ing back to 1361 – gi­gan­tic iron cres­cents lent to the City by the Crown so they can use them in ‘pay­ment’. Pre­sid­ing over this scene at the Royal Courts of Jus­tice ev­ery Oc­to­ber sits the Queen’s Re­mem­brancer, re­splen­dent in black robes, lace cra­vat, shiny shoes and an 18th-cen­tury wig with a tri­corn hat perched on top.

RIT­UAL DUES The Quit Rents Cer­e­mony in ac­tion

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