The Great Twelve
In 1515, the Lord Mayor laid down an order of precedence for the forty-eight Livery Companies then in existence, based on their economic or political power.
The first twelve companies are known as the Great Twelve City Livery Companies and the order of precedence is largely the same as established five hundred years ago (with new Companies joining the bottom of the list).
There are however a few anomalies: the Merchant Taylors and Skinners have always disputed their precedence and so each year switch between sixth and seventh place (said to be the origin of the phrase ‘at sixes and sevens’).
The Clothworkers’ Company was formed in 1528 when the Fullers and Shearmen Companies decided to amalgamate in order to increase their influence. The new Company later assumed the precedence of the Shearmen at number 12, much to the displeasure of the Dyers who felt they should have succeeded to twelfth place.
The Great Twelve in order of precedence are:
* These two Companies alternate each year.