A black-and-white video showing the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, being honoured in what appears to be an official ceremony, is going viral on social media platforms. Addressing Jawaharlal Nehru, a man wearing a ceremonial gown can be heard saying, “…as Chamberlain of this City to offer you both the right hand of fellowship and greet you Mr Nehru as a citizen of London and you Mr Holland…” The video has prompted social media users to believe that India’s first PM had taken London’s citizenship. Newschecker found that claim to be misleading.
Several Twitter and Facebook users shared the video with the caption “How many people know that Nehru took citizenship of London in 1956 and took oath to be true to the Queen of England?”
On carefully analysing the video, we can hear the narrator saying, “The conferring of the freedom of the city on Mr Jawaharlal Nehru, primer of India….” Taking a clue, we looked up keywords “freedom of the city” & “Nehru” on Google which led us to a video uploaded on AP Archives, titled “FREEDOM OF THE CITY FOR PANDI NEHRU – SOUND (sic).” We compared the keyframes of the viral clip with those of the AP Archive footage and found them to be from the same event.
The narrator can be heard saying, “….the occasion during which New Zealand’s Primer, Mr Holland was also to be honoured, was the presentation of the Freedom of the City to Nehru.” Adding that Nehru was in Britain to attend the Commonwealth’s Prime Minister’s conference, “…now London took the opportunity of conferring upon him the highest honour it can bestow. In ancient times, this Freedom was essential to any man who desired to exercise trade within the city’s boundaries. Nowadays, it is an outstanding gesture of friendship and respect for very distinguished men, men of good name and fame…”
Nehru also can be seen addressing the gathering, ahead of which the narrator can be heard saying “In offering his thanks for the honour..”
Following this, we conducted a Google search for “Nehru,” Holland,” & “Freedom Of City” and found a YouTube video uploaded on the verified channel of British Pathé on April 13, 2014, titled ‘London Honours Two Great Premiers (1956).’ Around 17 seconds in the video, we spotted the viral clip claiming to show Nehru taking London citizenship.
The description of the video reads, “Two great Prime Ministers, Mr Nehru of India and Mr Holland of New Zealand, receive the freedom of the City of London at the Guildhall… The City Chamberlain speaking to Holland and Nehru (natural sound): “It is my privilege as Chamberlain of this City to offer you both the right hand of fellowship and greet you Mr Nehru as a citizen of London and you Mr Holland…” – his voice now drowned by applause…”
Further indicating that the viral clip actually shows visuals of Nehru and Holland being honoured with ‘freedom of the City of London.’
We continued our investigation to know more about the Freedom of the City of London title and looked up the same on Google. As per the official website of the city of London, “From the Middle Ages and the Victorian era, the Freedom was the right to trade, enabling members of a Guild or Livery to carry out their trade or craft in the Square Mile. A fee or fine would be charged and in return the Livery Companies would ensure that the goods and services provided would be of the highest possible standards. In 1835, the Freedom was widened to incorporate not just members of Livery Companies but also people living or working in the City or those with a strong London connection.”
Elaborating on the ‘Honorary Freedom,’ the website stated, “Honorary Freedom is the highest honour the City of London can bestow. Honorary Freemen do not apply for but are invited by the Court of Common Council to take the Freedom. The presentation ceremony usually takes place in Guildhall or the Mansion House before the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, Common Councillors and invited guests. The presentation on these occasions is made by the Chamberlain of London who makes a speech as does the recipient.” – as can be seen in Nehru’s case.
Notably, a likely cause of confusion among social media users might have been a man greeting Nehru as ‘citizen of London.’ According to the website, it is part of the ceremony.
The website adds, “Freedom ceremonies take place in the Chamberlain’s Court at Guildhall and are usually conducted by the Clerk of the Court or his Assistant….The Clerk or Chamberlain extends the right hand of fellowship to the recipient and greets them as a Citizen of London” – the same can be seen in the viral video.
A further keyword search for “Nehru,” “Sydney Holland, “honoured freedom of city, “ guildhall” & “1956” led us to a BBC Archive report titled ‘1956: Commonwealth heads honoured.’ The report stated, “The prime ministers of India and New Zealand have been made Freemen of the City of London. Jawaharlal Nehru of India and Sir Sidney Holland of New Zealand were honoured in a ceremony at the Guildhall in the British capital…”
Alamy also had several pictures from the same event Nehru
Further, several users had pointed out that “Nehru took oath to be true to the Queen.” Notably, as part of the ceremony (as mentioned above), the honanary is invited to read ‘Declaration of a Freeman’ which states, “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”.
We can thus conclude that the viral video actually shows visuals of Pt Nehru receiving honorary Freedom of the City of London in 1956, and not him taking London’s citizenship.
Result: Missing Context
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