The conferment of the Honorary Freedom of a borough or city has been established since 1885 as the highest honour which the local authority can bestow. Historically, it had not always been treated with such reverence. Until the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 put an end to the practice, it had been possible to apoint honorary freemen for less noble reasons, not least of which might have been the future disposition of their vote at elections.
One can but hope that it was for no such reason that the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of Leicester was conferred on its Town Clerkin 1765. Certainly, in December 1822, the Honorary Freedom was offered to 336 people after the Common Hall of the Corporation of Leicester had deemed it 'highly expedient to increase the number of Freemen of the Borough' for reasons not explained.
On the other hand, the Freedom of the Borough had been conferred on people of eminence in those times. In 1759 it was conferred on the Right Honourable William Pitt (the Elder):
"...in acknowledgement of the many Signal Benefits which His Majesty and the Kingdom have reaped under his Wise, Vigorous and well concerted Administration."
The conferment of the Honorary Freedom of a city is currently empowered by Section 249 of the Local Government Act of 1972. In the case of the City of Leicester, the Honorary Freedom is now conferred sparingly.