- Little or nothing is known about the Cnihtegild, though Mr. Coote (Trans. Lond. and Midd. Arch. Soc. V. pp. 477-93), Dr. Sharpe (Cal. Letter Book C. Introduction, pp. xvi.-xxvi.) and others have indulged in a good deal of speculation upon its constitution and objects, Mr. Loftie even assuming without any apparent authority that it was at one time the governing body of the City (London, p. 30).It must be pointed out, however, that although the first members of the Gild are styled" Milites regi et regno multum amabiles," and although their successors of the 12th century presently to be mentioned are called "burgenses Londonie ex illa antiqua nobilium Militum Anglorum progenie," the term "cniht" was not used in the Anglo-Saxon period as the equivalent of the knight of the age of chivalry. It meant, first, "a lad," secondly, "an attendant or servant." The first instance given in the N.E.D. of its use as a military servant or follower is in A.D. 1100.It is possible therefore that the Gild as originally constituted may have been either an association of young noblemen not yet of full estate, or of the personal attendants of various lords, who, although in those days regarded as of an inferior rank even to the thegns, nevertheless occupied positions of trust in their lords' households, and were not incapable of holding grants of lands from them (Kemble Cod. Dip. III. 49, 50 ; and Thorpe, Dip. Angi. 559, 560, 545). That such associations were in existence in other towns of importance in early days appears from various sources ; for instance, in a Canterbury charter granted by King Ealhere (860-66) the following signatures are appended amongst others as witnesses : "Ego Aethelstan et ingan (sic) burgware." "Ego Aethelhelm et cniahta gealdan" (Thorpe, Dip. Ang. p. 128) ; and in the Winchester Domesday mention is made of "chenictehalla ubi chenictes potabunt gildam suam et eam libere tenebunt de rege Edwardo" (Gross, Gild Merchant, I. p. 188).The story as told in the Liber Trinitatis with its romantic conditions suggests a period long subsequent to the times of King Edgar, or even of King Cnut, and suggests that the grant of the land and soke may well have been made at a later date when the members of the Gild had attained to higher rank and influence.For whatever the status of the original members of the Gild may have been, sufficient evidence is forthcoming to show that at the date of the grant by the Cnihtengild to the Priory of Holy Trinity the members of the Gild were men of influence and importance in the City, who had attained to the full rights of citizenship.Three of them, viz.: Radulphus, filius Algody ; Osbertus Drinchepyn ; Hugo, filius Wulgari are mentioned in the MS. of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's (Liber L. ff. 47-50), printed in Price's Guildhall, p. 16 et seq., as in charge of three of the wards of the City in the early part of the 12th century. These wards have been identified as Bread Street, Vintry, and Queenhithe respectively (Beaven, I. p. 363).Another member of the guild, Robertus filius Leostani accounts for the Weaver's Guild in 1130 (Pipe Roll, 31 H. I.).Wyzo filius Leostanus is described as a goldsmith in a MS. D. and C. of St. Paul's, Liber L. ff. 27-31, in which he is a party to an agreement relating to the grant of part of the church of St. Anthony to his son John (12th century).Edwardus Upcornhill was father-in-law of Gervase of Corahill, Justiciar and Sheriff of London.What became of the Gild after the date of this grant does not appear, but as no records of its subsequent existence have been brought to light, it is reasonable to assume that the surrender of the property was coincident with the dissolution of the Gild, and that the necessity for its existence being regarded as at an end, it was formally dissolved, and thenceforth ceased to have any corporate existence.
A Dictionary of London. Henry A Harben. 1918.