Fraternity – from the Latin frater for brother – refers to a group of people with common interests as well as the sense of friendship and mutual support within a group. This ancient term was given to the type of organisations which grew into liveries. At their core, they championed revolutionary ideas of the collective good being of greater value than the sum of their parts. Merchant Taylors' Company began in the collective of artisanal tailors, and while they grew to include linen-armourers and merchants, gaining power and prestige through the 15th-century, the bonds established between tradespeople were core to the longevity of the Company and remain so this day.
As the Company has evolved through the ages – its name changing to reflect this – the Company has striven to support its members and grow to extend friendship more. Two hearse cloths, dating from 1480-1500, and a later one from 1520-40, demonstrate the ongoing commitment to friendship and mutual support. These cloths were placed over the coffins of all members of the Company, physically showing the continuing bond of brotherhood from life into death.
The cloths also show the importance of Faith to Livery Companies and their members. In particular, they tell of how important Christian duty was to members, compelling them to carry out philanthropic work. As the Company funded or contributed towards members' funerals, and alms given to the poor or ailing members, Faith played a key role in not only cementing fraternal spirit, but in ensuring the continuation of the core values still important today. Prominent Merchant Taylors' establishment of charitable and educational foundations across the UK furthered this cause and while historic periods such as the Reformation meant that specific moves to include secularism were encouraged, they seem not to have diminished the role of Faith within the Company's events calendar, nor the close relationship the Company maintains with its patronage of two churches: St Helen Bishopsgate and St Paul's Swanley.
Today Merchant Taylors' Company is comprised of around 1700 members across a wide scope of professions and backgrounds. From new members, still called apprentices to those members elected to govern the Company – the Court, members' experience and expertise are put to use working for the future of the Company, and its philanthropic work in transforming people's lives. The Company recruits nearly sixty per cent of its membership through apprenticeships, demonstrating their fundamental belief in the potential of young people and embracing the future.
As the Company continues into the 21st-century, it is committed to introducing fresh ideas and embracing changes that will ensure the Company's future for centuries to come. One way in which the Company ensures it works to support its members is through the committee system. Committees are run by Court, Livery and Freemen members to ensure good governance of the Company, all under the watchful eye of the Master of that year. From the Hall's maintenance to the grant-making for grassroots charities, the committees are designed to operate to the strengths and expertise of the members with always careful attention paid to the long-term future of the Company overall.
Merchant Taylors’ Company is committed to supporting and engaging its members so they, with the Company, continue to flourish. The Company's strategy commits itself, and calls upon its members, to consider the impact they want to have; together we can be a strong force for good.