Earlier this October, at a ceremony at the Royal Courts of Justice, London paid its rent to the Queen. The ceremony proceeded much as it had for the past eight centuries. The city handed over a knife, an axe, six oversized horseshoes, and 61 nails to Barbara Janet Fontaine, the Queenâ€™s Remembrancer, the oldest judicial position in England. The job was created in the 12th century to keep track of all that was owed to the crown.
In this case, the Remembrancer has presided over the rent owed on two pieces of property for a very long timeâ€”since 1235 in one case, and at least 1211 in the other. Every year, in this Ceremony of Quit Rents, the crown extracts its price from the city for a forge and a piece of moorland.
No one knows exactly where these two pieces of land are located anymore, but for hundreds of years the city has been paying rent on them. The rate, however, has not changedâ€”the same objects have been presented for hundreds of years. …
These two â€œquit rentsâ€ are not the only ones owed to the crown. London also owes a yearly token rent of 11 pounds on the â€œtown of Southwark,â€ now a high-end area where Shakespeareâ€™s Globe and the Tate Modern are located. Outside of London, landowners are on the hook for a variety of quit rents: a bucket of snow on demand, three red roses, a small French flag, a salmon spear. Some rents only kick in only if the king or queen visits: the renter must provide the crown with a bed of straw, in one agreement, and in another, the renter must offer a single white rose.
One landholder keeps his place only on the condition that, if the monarch shows up, he must â€œride his horse into the sea, until the water reached the saddle girths, to meet his sovereign,â€ the Southam News Service reported. Another has to fight anyone the king wants him to. Possibly the best quit-rent ever conceived is this one: â€œthree glasses of port on New Yearâ€™s Eve for the ghost of the Kingâ€™s grandmother.â€
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