Spotlight On: Rules for the Conduct of Life

21 September 2022


This article first appeared in Queenwood Weekly News on Wednesday 21 September, 2022

The first guilds can be traced back to the 12th Century. Groups of like-minded individuals came together to maintain high standards in their area of interest, and to refine the skills of their craft through apprenticeships. Over time, London guilds became more established: many purchased Headquarters; some introduced distinctive clothing and regalia. Guilds developed uniforms, meeting places, and subject-specific curricular and in this way, they were like schools where master craftsmen taught their apprentices the skills they needed to flourish.

The primary purpose at inception, however, was enterprise bargaining. Sound familiar? The recent government Jobs Summit brought industry groups and government together to discuss ‘employment opportunities’ and ‘getting our skills mix right over the long term’. It is similar rhetoric to discussion held in Guild Headquarters during the Industrial Revolution – how does a Guild prepare an apprentice to enter a rapidly changing workforce whilst still maintaining the high level of skill and knowledge developed in industry over centuries?

Perhaps participants at the jobs summit can take a lesson from the London Guilds who, rather than render themselves obsolete by focussing on technical skills alone, worked with the City of London to evolve in two crucial ways: ensuring an apprentice’s education balanced skills with ethics; and strengthening a commitment to contribute to social good. The commitment to balance the needs of industry with civic responsibility solidified their influence and ensured they maintained relevance over time.

Even now, when craftsmen are admitted into a guild at the end of their apprenticeship, they are presented a small book containing Rules for the Conduct of Life to which they commit when inducted. So, at the conclusion of their schooling, I thought it worthwhile to share some of these rules with Year 12 so that they too, might choose to commit to similar ideals and thus live a good and fulfilling life when they venture beyond our walls.

  • Rule XII: Be in reality what you are wiling to be thought to be. Every (person) desires to be thought honest, just, and virtuous, that thereby (they) may gain love and good-will from all that know (them). Now the only sure way to be thought so is really to be so.
  • Rule XVI: Be well content with your own condition whatsoever it may be. Endeavour by honest labour and industry to make your circumstances better than they are, for the good of both yourself and others…
  • Rule XXV: Be always a good manager of your time, and lay hold of each opportunity that offers for the doing of whatever is necessary to be done. If you neglect a proper opportunity, you may not perhaps meet with it again… if you accustom yourself to rise early, you will find that you have time enough to do all the business that you have to do, and much more than person who rise late think it possible to be done.
  • Rule XXVI: Where you are not able to finish business without the help of others, call in speedily such persons to your assistance as are fit to be employed in it.
  • Rule XXVII: Always consider the consequences of what you intend to do, that you may guard against those that are evil or inconvenient.
  • Rule XXVIII: Consult with yourself, and with others who are known and honest, about everything of the moment which you are to undertake.
  • Rule XXX: Take some proper times to relax your thoughts from business, that you may better be able to return to it.
  • Rule XXXI: Take care of your health, as well for the sake of your relations and dependents as for your own sake.
  • Rule XXXIII: …take sanctuary in good thoughts, good books, or good and virtuous company. 

Within these rules, there is a commitment to community: to care for one another as you care for yourself; to share in purposeful work and share in its rewards; to experience the world together and take joy in the company of others. Year 12, at the conclusion of your time at Queenwood, know that you do not walk from these gates alone, but together with the bonds of friendship forged in this place. You take with you a collective responsibility to become a force for good in the communities you forge, and the communities you inhabit. 

In the words of our founder, Miss Grace Lawrance (Principal 1925 – 1932):
The path of a good woman is strewn with flowers, but they spring up behind her, not before.