Our Company grew out of the ancient guild which regulated
the wool trade. The first record of its existence was when it was lined by
King Henry II for operating without his license. This was in 1180 so it is
safe to say that we are well over eight hundred years old — somewhat older
than the office of Lord Mayor itself!
Although Henry II is remembered for his deadly friendship with Thomas Beckett his Archbishop of Canterbury, nevertheless he was responsible for organising England (then still more an occupied country than a kingdom) and he established much that we take as part of our life today. It was natural that the king would wish to regulate the ancient guilds some of which pre-dated the conquest of England by his Norman great-grandfather. William, in 1066.
For hundreds of years when wool prospered so did England. Consider for a moment the great Wool Churches. The reverse was also true. When wool suffered so did the nation.
So concerned was Queen Elizabeth I about the wool trade that she had Parliament make everyone over the age of six (except the wealthiest) wear on Sundays "a cap of wool knit and dressed in England". Under Charles II Parliament passed a law requiring coffins to be lined in fleece and shrouds to be made of wool. Later. carriages had to be lined with it.
Perhaps much of the interest of successive kings lay in the substantial taxes they raised on the sale of wool. Wool was weighed on a Great Beam one of which stood close to where Mansion House now stands in the centre of the City. The measure - or staple - was a uniform weight which governed exports to Europe - an early example of European standardisation! Some of the taxes went to build Old London Bridge which was said to have been built on sacks of wool.
So the life of our Company runs like a long woollen thread woven into the history of England.