City status in the United Kingdom

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City status in the United Kingdom is granted by the British monarch to a select group of communities. The holding of city status gives a settlement no special rights other than that of calling itself a "city". Nonetheless, this appellation carries its own prestige and, consequently, competitions for the status are hard fought. The status does not apply automatically on the basis of any particular criteria, although in England and Wales it was traditionally given to towns with diocesan cathedrals. This association between having a cathedral and being called a city was established in the early 1540s when King Henry VIII founded dioceses (each having a cathedral in the see city) in six English towns and also granted them city status by issuing letters patent.

City status in Ireland was granted to far fewer communities than in England and Wales, and there are only two pre nineteenth century cities in present-day Northern Ireland. In Scotland, city status did not explicitly receive any recognition by the state until the nineteenth century. At that time, a revival of grants of city status took place, first in England, where the grants were accompanied by the establishment of new cathedrals, and later in Scotland and Ireland.

In the twentieth century, it was explicitly recognised that the status of city in England and Wales would no longer be bound to the presence of a cathedral, and grants made since have been awarded to communities on a variety of criteria, including population size.

The abolition of some corporate bodies as part of successive local government reforms, beginning with the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840, has deprived some ancient cities of their status. However, letters patent have been issued for most of the affected cities to ensure the continuation or restoration of their status. At present, Rochester, Perth and Elgin are the only former cities in the United Kingdom.

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