Ex-soldier from Wrexham granted Freedom of London

Published date: 03 February 2014 |
Published by: Staff reporter
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A FORMER soldier from Wrexham will today receive the Freedom of the City of London.

James Wharton, 27, is being awarded the honour to recognise his campaigning work for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) community.

Mr Wharton, a former pupil of Ysgol Bryn Alyn, Gwersyllt, was one the first openly gay soldiers in the British Army. His many achievements include becoming the first gay cover star on a British Army magazine in 2009.

The following year Mr Wharton made military history, becoming  the first serving member of the Household Cavalry to enter a civil partnership with another man.

He entered the union with Thom McCaffrey, also from Wrexham, at Westminster Register Office.

At the time Mr Wharton was a lance corporal serving in the Blues and Royals.

Mr Wharton now lives in London and has an equality consultancy business.

Speaking about receiving the Freedom of the City of London, Mr Wharton said: “I am honoured to be awarded such an historic accolade and I accept it with humility.

“I find it incredible that in the space of 45 years we have gone from criminalising gay people to awarding and recognising the contribution we make to British society.

“However there are still too many Governments and societies across the world actively moving in the opposite direction with regards to gay equality, which should motivate us all as a modern society to continue to fight for equality.”

The Freedom of the City of London is believed to have begun in 1237 and originally enabled recipients to carry out their trade.

Traditionally it was a title that carried privileges, many of them having been overtaken by time. The list included the right to be hanged by a silken rope instead of a traditional one.

A spokesman for the City of London said technically a freeman is able to be drunk in the Square Mile without fear of arrest, but he stressed such behaviour is not recommended. The right to herd sheep and cattle across the City of London's four bridges technically no longer applies.

The spokesman said in modern times the honour is a recognition of important contributions made by people to public life.

Mr Wharton’s ceremony at Guildhall today will begin with him reading aloud the declaration of a Freeman.

It will end with him being greeted by Chris Bilsland, Chamberlain of London, as a Citizen of London, and the presentation of his framed parchment certificate.

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