An old archival video showing India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru arriving in London, is being shared with the claim that he is seen being enrolled as a 'Citizen of London', and that he swore an oath to late Queen Elizabeth II. Several posts sharing the video took a jibe at Nehru, and questioned the status of his Indian citizenship. Some users even claimed that Nehru had become a British citizen after this 'enrollment'.
BOOM found this claim to be misleading and taken out of context; while Nehru was given the honour of 'Freedom of the City of London', and enrolled as a 'Citizen of London', it is an honourary title that does not grant him citizenship privileges in the United Kingdom, and does not require him to relinquish his Indian citizenship. It is to be noted here that cities cannot provide nationalities, which can only be given by recognised sovereign nations.
Furthermore, Nehru did sign a written declaration to be 'true to the Queen of England', but the declaration is symbolic and part of the tradition, and does not come with obligations.
BOOM found the same footage, of varying length, being shared on both Facebook and Twitter with different claims.
Most of the captions sharing this claim simply wrote, "Do you know that Jawaharlal Nehru was enrolled as a citizen of London in 1956 and he took oath to be true to Queen Elizabeth..?"
Click here to view the above post.
Some other users also questioned Nehru's Indian citizenship, while sharing the same video.
Click here to view an archive of the above tweet.
Some other users took it even further and shared the video claiming that this made Nehru a citizen of England.
Click here to see an archive of the above post.
BOOM watched the viral video and observed the logo of British Pathé - a repository of old archival footage of historical moments.
Taking cue from this, we started looking for archival footage of Nehru in British Pathé's official YouTube channel, and came across a longer version of the viral footage, shared with the title, "London Honours Two Great Premiers (1956)".
The video talks about the conferring the honor of "Freedom of the City of London" to Nehru, along with former Prime Minister of New Zealand Sidney Holland, and thus enrolling them as "citizens of London".
The ceremony was overseen by former Chamberlain of London, Sir Irving Blanchard Gane, and neither Nehru nor Holland is seen swearing an oath.
Freedom of the City - and old tradition
According to the website of the City of London, the Freedom of the City is one of the oldest surviving traditions in the city, believed to have started in 1237.
The website states that during Medieval Ages, under the feudal system, the 'freedom of the city' or the title of 'freeman' was a privilege granted to working people in London who were not 'property of a feudal Lord'. Since 1835, this freedom was widened to provide the right to carry out trade and craft, or the right to earn money, to working people who were not members of a Guild or Livery.
The same is reiterated by the narrator in an archival footage by Associated Press of that event. In the footage, the narrator is heard saying the following, "In ancient times this freedom was essential to any man who desired to exercise a trade within the city boundaries. Nowadays, it's an oustanding gesture of friendship and respect for very distinguished men."
While the reasons behind providing this title or privilege have become obsolete, it is still continued as a heritage tradition. This suggests that Nehru's title of 'freeman' or 'citizen of London', is an honourary title, which does not make him a British national, nor does it impose upon him the duties of a British citizen.
Furthermore, nationalities can only be granted by recognised sovereign nations, and not by cities or municipalities.
Oath To The Queen?
We also examined the claim that Nehru swore an oath to the Queen Elizabeth II, while being bestowed upon with this title.
According to the website of the City of London, the ceremony of conferring this title also constitutes a declaration, which says the following:
"I do solemnly swear that I will be good and true to our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second; that I will be obedient to the Mayor of this City; that I will maintain the Franchises and Customs thereof, and will keep this City harmless, in that which in me is; that I will also keep the Queen's Peace in my own person; that I will know no Gatherings nor Conspiracies made against the Queen's Peace, but I will warn the Mayor thereof, or hinder it to my power; and that all these points and articles I will well and truly keep, according to the Laws and Customs of this City, to my power."
Non British and British Commonwealth Citizens have the option to substitute "our Sovereign Lady" with "Her Majesty".
Looking through the AP archival footage, Nehru was seen giving a speech after signing a document. In the speech, he talks about his time in London as a youth, and about his role in India's freedom struggle, and also as India's first prime minister. He was not seen swearing a verbal oath to the Queen, which suggests that the above declaration is a written document that he signed.
Furthermore, we also found a video published by the City of London Corporation, throwing light to the nature of the "Freedom of the City" title, and the procedure by which it is conferrred.
In the video, Murray Craig, the Clerk of the Chamberlain's Court states that today the ceremony is largely symbolic. In the video, we also get to see other written declarations being sign, which confirms that the 'oath to the Queen' is written, and not verbal.
Furthermore, given that the title itself is symbolic, and does not come with any obligations, the written declaration would thus be similarly symbolic in nature.
We have reached out to the City of London for further clarification, and the article will be updated upon receiving a response.
Do you always want to share the authentic news with your friends?