Similarly, royal revenue was generated by sales of monopolies, a term that had a somewhat different meaning than it does today.
Rather than giving the owner exclusive control over producing a product, a monopoly also called a “searching and sealing patent”signified authority over verifying the quality of a certain product.
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.
(Lately, the guilds have been rediscovered by London’s young professionals, who have been forming new ones at a record pace, with names such as the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists and the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants, and the Worshipful Company of World Traders.
Medieval craft guilds had originally been “commonalities” in which all members were equal, but over time a stratification occurred, with the elite members of each guild assuming uniforms known as liveries.
In time, non-liveried members were shut out entirely, and eligibility for membership was determined not by competency at a craft but by ability to pay a fee of capital.
During peace times, sales of land were a primary avenue of royal revenue, but as that source was exhausted by 1685.
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.
A glance at the online social calendar for the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners showed that its members were busily engaged in preparations for the annual Inter-Livery Clay Pigeon Shoot, the Inter-Livery Bridge Competition, the Installation of Masters, and the Lord Mayor’s Show, in addition to the regular practice sessions of the guild’s own Golfing Society.)The nature of life in medieval times was such that the social, the religious, the economic, and the political spheres were fully mixed. For example, the Fraternity of Pepperers, which begat the Company of Grocers in 1373, which in turn begat the Turkey Company in 1581 and the East India Company in 1600, maintained an altar in the Church of Saint Antonin and paid a priest to pray for the souls of past members.
Since London had no police force, guilds also played a role in maintaining public order.
One such seed was a tendency toward exclusion and hierarchy as organizing principles.
Even by the fourteenth century, the craft guild had moved a considerable distance from its communal roots in a Saxon tribal institution known as the frith gild, an association that included both men and women and served a variety of protective, religious, and mutual-aid functions.
They were not unified businesses, but rather umbrella groups for the members of particular crafts.