Insanity, the law and asylums

bedlam hogarthThe word Bedlam comes from the Priory of St Mary at Bethlehem which was founded in London during the thirteenth century.  By 1377 it had become home to people suffering from mental illness or as the inhabitants were described at the time – “distracted persons.”  The law meanwhile was concerned that landowners were of sound mind and indeed the law continued to be concerned about property throughout the centuries.  By 1735 Hogarth was using Bedlam to end his social moral fable of the Rake’s Progress and the conditions in which patients found themselves were horrendous.

Fans of Poldark will no doubt have noted that the care of George Warleggan in the eighteenth century has to date not been kind following the death of his wife Elizabeth – he’s been half drowned, starved, restrained and leeched within an inch of his life.  However, this is not a post about the eighteenth century or earlier.  I want to look in this post  at the development of the law during the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century with a view to understanding the process by which women could become confined to a county mental hospital during the Great War.  This post is not a definitive guide – its research for my own nefarious reasons.  It would have to be said that the terminology by which mental health was described throughout history gives very little thought to the patients or their families.

By the end of the nineteenth century more than 70,000 patients had passed through the doors of an insane asylum of some kind or other.  Nationally there were 120 asylums.   The 1800 Criminal Lunatic Act was particularly interested in securing those people who wanted to assassinate the monarch and the criminally insane.  The 1808 County Asylum Act dealt with fund raising methods that combined taxation with public subscription.  The idea was that the poor insane should be removed from workhouses and prisons. The wealthy insane were being paid for by their families and resided in private sanitariums or were locked up in various secluded attic rooms (see Jane Eyre and The Woman in White for literary examples.)  Almost inevitably lunacy became a condition in many counties as a method of differentiating between the deserving and undeserving poor.  There was also the fact that men and women who behaved in a socially unacceptable way could be deemed to be mad and shut away, often for the rest of their lives.  Records reveal that many people spent their lives locked in asylums having been sent there for reasons other than madness, including in one instance for excessive shopping in her husband’s opinion.

Sneinton in Nottingham was the first asylum founded by a mixture of subscription and taxation. The county had not offered care of any kind for poor people suffering from mental health difficulties before that date.  The West Riding’s asylum opened in Wakefield in 1818 though its minutes date from 1814.  Further parliamentary acts defined lunacy, attempted to regulate private asylums and sought to monitor the health care provided – good practice and well meaning concern was mixed with what modern eyes would define as barbaric practice.

In 1828 an act required all pauper lunatics to be documented and certificated.  This in turn would mean that commissioners would be able to inspect institutions and people incorrectly placed in asylums would be released (in theory) and care could be monitored – gradually more humane treatment became more the norm although restraint remained common practice for a very long time as did incarcerating people not for mental health problems but for their socially unacceptable behaviour or for having the misfortune to be born with learning difficulties.

In 1845 county asylums became a legal obligation and the Lunacy Commissioners were appointed to oversee the running of asylums. It was only in 1890 with the passage of another act that county asylums began to move away from their pauper associations to begin their evolution to hospitals caring for all walks of life.

Interestingly Wakefield was one of the first asylums to employ therapeutic employment, though this was thanks to the enlightened attitude of Dr William Ellis who moved from Wakefield to Hanwell in 1832. Ellis was a believer in the benefits of outdoor work rather than the brutality espoused by earlier “mad doctors.”  It is perhaps for this reason that many of the Victorian asylums were set in beautiful grounds.  Hanwell is also an example of changing attitudes in terms of names.  It opened as an asylum in 1832 but became a hospital  in 1926 and was then completely renamed in a bid to dissociate itself from past stigma. Not that this has ever been successful as group memory lasts longer than a name change – The Garlands in Carlisle was guaranteed to make my mother-in-law concerned for the mental well being of anyone sent there irrelevant of the fact that it had long since been renamed and re-purposed.  Many hospitals were not only renamed but shut and then demolished during the later half of the twentieth century and early twenty-first century.  For example,  Derby’s mental hospital remains a building site although the twin brick entrances remain – architecturally it is helpfully described by Kelly’s Directory.

The Lunacy Act of 1890 covered admission to private asylums but did not change the 1845 Lunacy Act and 1853 Act for pauper lunatics – by which it meant anyone unable to earn the money to pay for their care – on the grounds they were confined or without sufficient wealth to fund their care as averse to the destitute. The Lunacy Act of 1845, required  two medical certificates signed by qualified medical doctors for admission to lunatic asylums. The qualified medical doctor could incidentally be a pharmacist.  In theory a JP or official should have organised the doctor to examine the person to be admitted but it seems as though this happened prior to the jp being involved. In practice it would appear that one doctor and a vicar would be enough to certify a poor person in some locations.   The 1890 Act required an additional “summary reception order” particularly in the case of private admissions. This was also known as  “legal certification.” The 1890 law stated, as an additional safeguard against wrongful committal, that a justice of the peace specially appointed, a county court judge, or a magistrate could issue legal certification for privately admitted patients.  There was a £50 fine for any institution that was found not to have followed the correct procedure. The 1890 act also applied a time limit to the the duration of a stay in a private asylum.  The 1890 act also ensured that a policy of licensing developed that would help to bring about the demise of private asylums.

The act of 1890 reflects the increasing opposition to private asylums following examples of wrongful confinement relating to inheritance and unhappy marriage etc but as is the way of these things people still wanted to get rid of difficult, embarrassing or inconvenient relations so there was a flurry of illegal nursing homes prosecutions during the period that followed. The problem still existed after the passage of the 1927 act pertaining to the care of people with mental health disorders.

In 1910 there were slightly more than a thousand criminal lunatics, approximately 10,500 private patients and a staggering 118,901 pauper lunatics.  The numbers would steadily rise until the 1950s.  The State was concerned about the growth of insanity in the poorer classes.  Amongst this number were people suffering from senility and dementia, epilepsy, melancholia, learning difficulties, moral insanity and congenital insanity.  The causes were variously listed as heredity, excessive drinking, syphilis, influenza apparently caused madness in 2.8% of cases, starvation and mental stress.  It was also recognised that the onset of puberty could trigger some mental illness. 53% of female private cases were because of childbirth.  Essentially the first six weeks of motherhood left rich women at risk of insanity but only 7.5 % of pauper women.

The Mental Deficiency Act of 1913 identified four categories of young person who might need to be managed and cared for – these included the feeble-minded and the moral imbecile. This rather effectively ruled out the requirement for medical certification as a parent or guardian just needed to petition for the person to be placed in an institution.

Feeble minded:  that is to say, persons in whose case there exists from birth or from an early age’ mental defectiveness not amounting to imbecility, yet  so pronounced that they require care, supervision, and control for their own protection or for the protection, of others, or, in the case of children,’ that they by reason of such defectiveness appear to be permanently incapable of receiving proper benefit from the instruction in ordinary schools.

Moral imbeciles: that is to say, persons who from an early age display some permanent mental defect coupled with strong viciously criminal propensities on which punishment has had little or no deterrent effect.
One of the identifiers for moral imbecility was to be in receipt of poor relief, unmarried and pregnant. In addition to two medical certificates testifying to lunacy the master of the asylum was also required to determine the sanity of the person being admitted.The chances of you being committed were much higher if you were a woman – hysteria covered a multitude of criteria as did “female disease.”
Have I got what I wanted? Yes – a woman without private means during the early years of the twentieth century could be detained as a pauper lunatic.  All that would be required would be a medical certificate signed by a doctor or a pharmacist stating that she had been examined at some point during the previous week and was deemed by them to be insane.  An order from a JP, vicar or poor law relief officer was also needed.  Once admitted there was no appeal.  Following the passage of the 1913 act even this became much easier to implement if a young woman was deemed to be a moral imbecile. She did not have to be under twenty-one.  If her behaviour was deemed morally imbecilic in that she demonstrated an inability to exercise self control she could be given a guardian who could arrange for her to be admitted to an institution based not on the word of a doctor but on the person appointed her guardian (I think I’ve understood it right but am more than happy to be corrected.)  Of course this was not to punish the woman but to provide a safeguard for society!  As mental hospitals closed down during the 1970s there were newspaper articles about women who had spent most of their adult lives in mental hospitals based on the fact that they had a child out of wedlock. 

Not immediately related but of a similar vein it is interesting to note that following World War One there is evidence of the State regulating women’s behaviour in terms of widows’ pensions which was a natural follow on from the separation allowances granted to military wives during the war. In theory the wife of an agricultural labourer could be financially more secure with the separation allowance than she had been before her husband became a soldier.  However, if she misbehaved herself this was removed.  Taken together with the concept of moral imbecility it is apparent that women were required to tow the line or that the State would step in to regulate their behaviour.  This would, of course, have depended on the people managing the system in a given area.
As I said at the start of this post – I’m looking for evidence to use elsewhere so it is one sided rather than balanced – and having found it I shall now go away and plot!

 

 

http://studymore.org.uk/mhhtim.htm#1920

Victorian Era Lunatic Asylums

“Lunacy In England And Wales.” The British Medical Journal, vol. 2, no. 2605, 1910, pp. 429–431. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25284642.
“Moral Imbecility And The Mental Deficiency Act.” The British Medical Journal, vol. 1, no. 2789, 1914, pp. 1316–1317. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25310285.

Showalter,  Elaine. (1987) The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture, 1830-1980 London: Virago.

Takabyashi, Akinobu.  “Surviving the Lunacy Act of 1890: English Psychiatrists and Professional Development during the Early Twentieth Century” . 2017 Apr; 61(2): 246–269 accessed from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5426304/

 

The Butler did it!

Paxton House.jpgPaxton House in Berwickshire, pictured here from the gardens to the rear of the property, is a Regency delight stuffed with Chippendale furniture.  It was built by Patrick Home who had to pay for the design of the house by John Adam (younger brother of Robert), the quarrying, dressing and building of his delightfully symmetrical home a few miles from Berwick.  Ironically having built it he never actually lived in it.

The Homes are an ancient – and somewhat unlucky- border family. This is perhaps testified by the fact that between 1413 and 1576 every eldest son of the Home family died either in battle or as a prisoner in English hands.  The house even boasts a section of the so-called Flodden Banner that covered the bodies of Lord Home and his oldest son.   Though of course Paxton House hadn’t been built at that point.  In fact it wouldn’t be started until 1755.

The Home family managed to get itself into even deeper trouble in 1715 when it supported the Jacobite cause. Sir George Home of Wedderburn, his brother and his son managed to get caught at the Battle of Preston. Although George’s life was spared he was still guilty of treason so lost the family estate.  However, a cousin called Ninian was able to demonstrate that George owed him so much money that the estate was effectively mortgaged to him – resulting in its return to the family.  As these things tend to be, inheritance proved complicated.  Ninian had returned the property to George but none of George’s sons had legitimate heirs.  There were daughters.  Ninian intended that his son should marry George’s daughter Margaret but the son preferred Margaret’s younger sister.  Ninian having been widowed married Margaret himself…with me so far?  He was approximately thirty years older than his bride but that didn’t stop him fathering a second rather large family of whom the builder of Paxton House – Patrick- was the eldest surviving son.

Ninian died.  Margaret became responsible for her family’s upbringing.  Patrick was to be a lawyer. She sent him to be educated in Leipzig.  From there he went to Frederick the Great’s court, fell in love and was ordered to take the grand tour by his mother principally because the only way for Patrick to marry the girl he loved was to settle in Germany and Margaret did not want the family money to leave the country.

Whilst Patrick was touring Europe the family butler decided to relieve the family of the rent which was kept in a locked cabinet beneath Lady Home’s bed in her home at Linthill near Eyemouth.  The cabinet is now at Paxton House. Patrick’s mother was in the habit of carefully locking her chamber door before retiring to bed.  She also kept the keys to the cabinet under her pillow.

The butler, a man by the name of Norman Ross, knew how the tumbler mechanism for the lock to her bedroom worked.  He let himself in having stopped the lock by choking it with cherry stones, hid until Lady Home retired for the night and waited until she was asleep.  There was then the small matter of retrieving the keys from beneath her pillow.

Martin, David, 1737-1797; Margaret Home (d.1751), Lady BillieUnfortunately Margaret pictured above (image accessed from https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/margaret-home-d-1751-lady-billie-210935)  awoke.  The butler panicked and stabbed his employer with a knife – that he either had about him or which was upon the night stand depending on the source.  Margaret managed to summon help and survived long enough to name her murderer who had escaped through a window as the servants arrived on the scene.  She died on August 16 1751- the attack having happened on the night of the 12th.  Other accounts suggest that Margaret survived only two days.  In either event the murder is deemed to have occurred on the 12th.

Ross was arrested the following day and conveyed to Edinburgh where he was tried.  Prior to his execution he had his right hand chopped off.  He was also hanged in chains – one of the last men to suffer this fate.  Essentially his body was tarred and hanged in a cage where it was left to decompose. The severed hand was placed on top of the gallows.  Scottish law and English law differed in the treatment of Ross.  Under English law he would have been found guilty of petty treason but under Scottish law it was murder plain and simple.  The additional punishment reflected the fact that bond between servant and employer had been broken.  Ross was a trusted member of the household and is described in texts of the time as Margaret Home’s “confidential servant.”

It was probably as a consequence his dramatic return home that Patrick forgot to empty his travelling chest – a large and ornate piece of furniture.  It eventually languished in Paxton House for the next two hundred  and fifty years – consequentially the house has some very fine mid eighteenth century gentlemen’s costumes on display.

In 1755 Patrick began to build the house with a view to marrying the young woman he’d fallen in love with when he was twenty-two.  Unfortunately Sophie de Brandt, his sweetheart, died before the house was finished.  Patrick never furnished the house – that task fell to his cousin, another Ninian Home, when Patrick sold him the house in 1773 having inherited Wedderburn Castle from his uncle.

I loved Paxton House – a hidden gem. It’s part of the Historic Houses Association and entry to the house is by tour.  I’d have to say as much as I enjoyed the history I also enjoyed spotting the appropriately regency clad teddy bears that are part of the children’s trail! There’s no image of the Flodden Banner as photography is not permitted in the house.

 

The Scots Magazine   – Volume 13 – Page 405

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=YoE4AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA355&lpg=PA355&dq=murder+of+margaret+Home,+Lady+Billie+1751&source=bl&ots=WLN4vs7WI0&sig=ACfU3U0WxBupL5x7hwUG_E4yhfc5OQ8Klg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjD89us1eniAhW5XRUIHUHPDpE4ChDoATABegQICRAB#v=onepage&q=murder%20of%20margaret%20Home%2C%20Lady%20Billie%201751&f=false

A Parliamentary Protestation

torn journal.gifParliamentary independence of thought, which may run counter to what those in charge would like to happen, is nothing new.  In 1621 James I’s third Parliament was unhappy about the turn of events – relating to Europe as it happens. They had four main grievances: monopolies, sale of honours, corruption at court and James I’s pro-Catholic foreign policy.  This post deals mainly with the last grievance.

James had decided that his heir, Charles, should marry a Spanish bride.  The lure of a very large dowry and the thought of being seen as Europe’s peacemaker was sufficient for James to ignore Parliamentary anxiety about Protestant England allying itself with the Catholic Hapsburgs- who were busily engaged on the Thirty Years War against Europe’s Protestants at the time including James’ own son-in-law Frederick V of the Palatinate and King of Bohemia.

Many Members of Parliament not only opposed the so-called Spanish match but wanted to go to war with Spain – preferring a sea based campaign rather than a land war . They said as much in June and repeated it less politely on the 3rd December 1621.  James told them to mind their own business given that foreign policy was a royal prerogative.

Meanwhile James did need money because his son-in- law, Frederick V King of Bohemia had been toppled from his throne by the Hapsburgs and James needed to show his support by providing cash for him to regain the aforementioned throne.  This gave Parliament leverage because they would have to grant the subsidies for James to do this. Parliament took the opportunity to assert its rights. It declared they had rights and liberties to discuss matters even if they displeased the king. James was not terribly amused and answered that parliament did not have a right to discuss whether his son should marry a Spanish bride or not since foreign policy was the King’s business rather than Parliament’s and that further more whatever rights Parliament did have were in the king’s gift to give or remove as he saw fit.

In answer Parliament filed a “Great Protestation” of its rights and privileges on 18th December 1621.  They claimed that Parliament held its rights through tradition i.e. inheritance from one generation to the next in that their rights had been given to them by previous monarchs – and that they intended to keep them rather than see them eroded because the current monarch held different views on the matter:

… concerning sundry liberties, franchises, privileges, and jurisdictions of parliament, amongst others not herein mentioned, do make this protestation following:—That the liberties, franchises, privileges, and jurisdictions of parliament are the ancient and undoubted birthright and inheritance of the subjects of England; and that the arduous and urgent affairs concerning the king, state, and the defence of the realm, and of the church of England, and the making and maintenance of laws, and redress of mischiefs, and grievances which daily happen within this realm, are proper subjects and matter of counsel and debate in parliament; and that in the handling and proceeding of those businesses, every member of the house hath, and of right ought to have, freedom of speech to propound, treat, reason, and bring to conclusion the same: that the commons in parliament have like liberty and freedom to treat of those matters, in such order as in their judgments shall seem fittest: and that every such member of the said house hath like freedom from all impeachment, imprisonment, and molestation (other than, by the censure of the house itself), for or concerning any bill, speaking, reasoning, or declaring of any matter or matters, touching the parliament or parliament business; and that, if any of the said members be complained of, and questioned for any thing said or done in parliament, the same is to be showed to the king, by the advice and assent of all the commons assembled in parliament, before the king give credence to any private information.

 

king-james1James was not impressed not least because James had given instruction to Parliament previously and dealt, he thought, with those very same issues. He thought that Parliament was just trying to extend their role. They weren’t just saying they had the right to debate matters they were also saying that they had the right to pass laws having discussed matters first and at the bottom of it all lies the right to freedom of speech.  Furthermore James felt that Parliament were so busy trying to extend its rights that they weren’t actually doing very much that was actually useful.  He sent for John Wright who was the Clerk of the House at that time.  James then tore the record of the protestation from the Commons Journal.

charles i full lengthThe Parliament of 1621 had not been a good experience for James in that not only did they defy him over foreign policy and protest their rights but they had also sought to undermine the power base that George Villers, Duke of Buckingham (and James’ favourite) , had built up by impeaching two of the men that owed him patronage for corruption. Sir Francis Bacon was also impeached for corruption. In return for two subsidies Parliament demanded harsher penal laws. No wonder James dissolved Parliament at the beginning of January 1622 – but the tensions that would build during the early years of Charles I’s reign were already in place.

The so-called torn journal pictured at the start of this post is located in the National Archives. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/citizenship/citizen_subject/docs/torn_document.htm

Henry Hallam, The Constitutional History of England from the Accession of Henry VII. to the Death of George II. (London: Ward, Lock, & Co.)

habeas corpus versus divine right

Habeas CorpusCharles I believed in the Divine Right of Kings – that is to say the absolute power of the monarch based on the so-called Great Chain of Being which essentially placed the king at the top of the food chain, next only to God – who had, after all, placed the king in the position and everyone else in their allotted place as well.  The concept of Divine Right was written about by James I of England VI of Scotland in a book entitled The True Law of Free Monarchies in 1598 (before he became King of England).  In the book James who clearly saw himself as something of a political theorist stated:

they make and unmake their subjects, they have power of raising and casting down, of life and death.

Taking that as a model Charles I was clearly well inside his self-perceived rights to lock up anyone who failed to do as he asked.  Thus he did not feel it unreasonable in 1627 when he levied a forced loan to arrest the men who failed to pay. Further to this it was clearly established that a “king must live of his own,” except in case of war when taxes would be levied by Parliament to pay for the aforementioned wars. Charles believed that the State had a duty to pay for the war and in levying the loan he was merely bypassing parliament which had unhelpfully tried to impeach his foremost adviser – the Duke of Buckingham. Not only that but Charles felt grieved that Parliament had not voted him the subsidies that were traditionally granted when a new monarch ascended the throne – they had given them to him for a limited time only.  The relationship between Crown and State was changing.

The previous three posts have dealt with the Five Knights Case.  Today, bypassing Sir Edmund Hampden (who shouldn’t be confused with John Hampden who was also locked up for refusal to pay the loan) we will finish the case with a very brief look at Sir Thomas Darnel or Darnell.  The Five Knights case is sometimes referred to as Darnel’s Case. Essentially like the other gentlemen Darnel, who was from Lincolnshire, was arrested because he failed to pay the King’s forced loan.  Like the other gentlemen he was called to the Privy Council and when he refused to pay the loan was confined to the Fleet Prison from where he sought a writ of habeas corpus to test the legality of his imprisonment.

 

The reason given for  Darnel’s arrest lay in the ubiquitous “reasons of state.” Essentially it was not illegal not to pay the forced loan because it had not been enshrined in law by Parliament – because Parliament had been dissolved in order to prevent the impeachment of the Duke of Buckingham.  The judges in the case did not wish to look too closely at the way in which Charles was using a medieval Royal prerogative  but stated that the arrests were legal because the authority of the Crown was in itself sufficient and with precedent.  Lord Hyde the King’s Justice stated that he was sworn to uphold the king’s rights and if the king said that he had arrested more than seventy gentlemen across the country for reasons of state it wasn’t up to Lord Hyde to say otherwise. It should also be noted that the judiciary had previously been threatened with dismissal by Charles when they initially questioned the legality of the forced loan.

Realistically Charles couldn’t conduct the war without raising taxation of some kind or other. The fact that Lord Hyde didn’t make a judgement on the matter which would have then become part of Common Law and open to challenge but issued his verdict as a “rule of court,” caused both Charles and his administration to be regarded with suspicion by parliament and increasing numbers of his subjects who didn’t take kindly to the forced loans in any event.

Unsurprisingly when Parliament was recalled in 1628 it drew up a Petition of Right which drew on the arguments that the five knights had made referencing Magna Carta and the right of habeas corpus which states that when arrested a person has the right to be tried to test whether the arrest is legal or not. The debate that followed aired the rights and liberties of  subjects against the Crown.  In asserting those rights Parliament had removed the lid from Pandora’s box so that when Charles went on to rule for elven years without Parliament using medieval rights in order to raise revenue the reason for discontent within the state had already been rehearsed and only became more heated with the passage of time.

Sir John Heveningham, another knight and his son William – regicide.

Charles_I_in_Three_Positions_1635-36Sir John was born in 1577 to a Norfolk family with a colourful pedigree – the Heveninghams claimed to be descended from one of the men who guarded Christ’s tomb.  More realistically they originated from Suffolk.

Suffice it to say the Heveninghams did all the usual things associated with county gentry i.e. education (in this case Cambridge), study of the law, JP, sheriff and member of parliament.

In January 1627, John Heveningham was summoned to appear before the Privy Council for his failure to pay Charles I’s forced loan.  He was packed off to the Marshalsea.  Being a gentleman it was assumed that he wouldn’t skip town so was allowed, in July, to take himself back to Norfolk to put his affairs in order.  Having done that he was placed under house arrest in Shropshire before being moved back to London once again for a stint in the Fleet Prison.

It was from the Fleet that Heveningham petitioned the King’s Bench for a bill of habeas corpus which would have tested whether or not he was being legally detained.  The matter was not resolved legally on account of the fact that the bench had no desire to alienate the king but Heveningham and his four companions were released at the beginning of 1628.

Heveningham found that becoming a jailbird had done his “street cred” the world of good in Norfolk where the king’s forced loan was deeply resented.  He was returned to Parliament on a wave of popular support.

Sir William HeveninghamHeveningham died in 1633. He was succeeded by his son William who was returned to Parliament in 1640.  He served on the committee of the Eastern Association during the English Civil War so was in all respects a parliament man until it came to signing the death warrant of Charles I – which he refused to do in his capacity of commissioner to the high court. Despite this William did agree the execution of the king in his role as member of parliament which was sufficient to make him a regicide.

Having disposed of the king William took a back seat in the running of the country but did manage to acquire rather a lot of sequestrated estates during the Commonwealth period.  Unfortunately for Heveningham the monarchy was restored in 1660 and whilst many things were conveniently forgotten regicide was not.  Heveningham surrendered himself, was put on trial and found guilty of treason for his part in Charles I’s death.  The fact that he had not signed the death warrant itself, together with his wife’s determined petitioning saw him being packed off to Windsor Castle where he remained until he died in 1678.

If you want an interesting and unexpected historical fact then it must be that Sir John Heveningham was a trustee of the Paston estate – his wife Bridget was a Paston – as in the fifteenth century letters family- demonstrating the small pool of  landed families in each county that intermarried over the centuries to create a tight knit network or a smouldering keg of interfamilial feuding.

As for William Heveningham, he married in 1650 to Mary Carey the daughter of the Earl of Dover. The earl was John Carey, a son of Henry  Lord Hunsdon – the son of Mary Boleyn…and potentially Henry VIII.

 

https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1604-1629/member/heveningham-sir-john-1577-1633

Sir John Corbet – and the Five Knights Case

King-Charles-ICharles I dismissed Parliament in 1626 because it was rather keen on the idea of impeaching the Duke of Buckingham for his incompetence in the handling of foreign policy not to mention his influence over Charles I.  The king, on the other hand, wished to preserve his favourite so dissolved Parliament and its radically minded members.  Unfortunately Buckingham had dragged Charles into a war against both the Spanish and the French which was a costly exercise and which Charles could not afford – hence the need to call Parliament to raise the cash.

Charles dealt with his problem by raising Forced Loans.  Essentially wealthy folk were required to dip into their pockets and “lend” the king money.  It was generally accepted that loan was an euphemism for taxation.  The king could not have managed this himself. He used the administrative system that had been in place since before the Norman Conquest i.e. the county administrative system based on sheriffs and justices of the peace.  During the first year of the loan in excess of £250,000 was raised.  It is perhaps unnecessary to say that the loan and the commissioners who raised the money were not terribly popular.

Seventy-six gentlemen across the country refused to pay and were carted off to their local jails as an example to the rest of their peers.   Sir John Corbet, a moderate sort of Puritan who represented Great Yarmouth in Parliament, took exception to the forced loans and was rather vocal in his objections.  He also refused to pay the £20.00 that his rateable value suggested that he could afford. This may have caused some familiar difficulty as his cousin Sir Andrew Corbet of Moreton Corbet was the commissioner in Shropshire collecting the taxes on behalf of the Earl of Northampton who was President of the Council for the Welsh Marches.

Sir John found himself in prison without any charges being drawn up against him.  This was strategic in that the king wanted some examples of what would happen if you weren’t loyal to the Crown but he was also bothered by the idea that if one of the gentlemen ended up in a courtroom that the judge might side with the accused. Thus the gentlemen sat in their cells at the king’s convenience.

Five of the imprisoned men – the five knights of the title brought a writ of habeas corpus.  One of them was Sir John Corbet. Essentially, habeas corpus is the writ which requires someone under arrest to be brought before a judge to demonstrate that their arrest is legal. Magna Carta was used as the precedent amongst other things during the trial to prove that the five knights detention was illegal.  The case did not go in the knights’ favour although the judges were sympathetic and refused to rule conclusively saying that the law required further clarification but that they could do no more because both James I and Elizabeth I were prone to arresting people without charges being drawn.  (Interestingly they were also prone to chopping off various bits of their prisoners’ anatomies but History does not record them as tyrants whilst Charles did none of the above and got labelled a tyrant – just a thought.)

Corbet was released at the beginning of January 1628 but died three weeks later from small pox contracted whilst in prison. As for Sir Andrew, he would vote for the  Petition of Rights when Parliament sat in 1628 and he would eventually lose faith in the Crown. In died in 1637.

Poison and murder – a Boleyn conspiracy?

fisherI recently purchased James Moore’s The Tudor Murder Files.  It’s published by Pen and Sword.  It turns out that under Henry VIII there were something in the region of 72,000 executions – which is a rather eye watering figure.  Clearly there were assorted bigwigs including as Sir Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard  but there were also thousands of nameless men and women such as those who were executed by the Duke of Norfolk during the period of martial law following on form the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536-which has just reminded me of another victim of Henry VIII’s famous Tudor tantrums – Robert Aske. Which brings as neatly to today’s post having mentioned beheading and hanging it’s time to move on to being boiled alive.

In Europe the practise of boiling people either in water, oil or tar (anything that got hot and unpleasant basically) continued into much more recent times.  In 1531 the Act of Poisoning was enshrined in English law.  It came about because a cook called Richard Roose or Rouse was found guilty of murdering two people with broth.  Roose is mentioned by name in the act.  The act made the crime of poisoning that of petty treason. Petty treason, just in case you were wondering, is when a subordinate (wife or servant) kills or betrays their superior (husband or master).  After Roose met his unfortunate end a maid servant was boiled in King’s Lynn for poisoning her mistress  and in March 1542 Margaret Davie was boiled at Smithfield for poisoning three households.

 

Richard Roose was a cook for the Bishop of Rochester – John Fisher (pictured at the start of this post)- the man who had been Margaret Beaufort’s confessor and who wrote her biography.  In 1509 he had led the funeral of Henry VII and had tutored Henry VIII in theology. He was regarded as one of the most learned theologians in the Western world which was fine whilst he and Henry VIII were in agreement.  In short, he was a very important person until he sided with Katherine of Aragon against Henry in Henry’s Great Matter. In 1527 Henry told Fisher that his conscience was tormented by concerns over Leviticus and  Deuteronomy as to whether he was legally married to Katherine.  Fisher, not taking the hint, went off and had a conflab with assorted theologians and got back to Henry with the “good news” that he had nothing to worry about. Henry presumably took a deep breath then went off to consult with theologians that Fisher hadn’t thought to ask.

1529, Fisher expressed his views very clearly at the Legatine Court about marriage and Anne Boleyn. He was Katherine’s advocate.  This was not at all what Henry wanted.

Fisher found himself briefly imprisoned for resisting the reformation of the clergy and the legal strategy that Cromwell was using to exert pressure on Rome.   It didn’t stop him from writing several books in support of Katherine of Aragon. By 1531 Bishop Fisher must have been feeling very uncomfortable indeed. Not only did he resist attempts to limit clerical power but Henry made it very clear that he would throw the bishop into the river if he didn’t start behaving himself.

On the 18th February 1531 the sixteen or so gentlemen who had shared Bishop Fisher’s meal became unwell.  One of them by the name of Curwen died. The beggars who gathered at Lambeth for alms – the leftovers- also became unwell. One, a widow called Alice Trypptt died.  The soup, or pottage as it was called, was dodgy.  The only man who didn’t succumb to food poisoning was Bishop Fisher who hadn’t fancied the soup.  Other sources suggest that Fisher wasn’t even present in Lambeth at the time.

The Venetian Archives contains a report about Richard Roose’s interrogation and confession.  He admitted having put a “powder” in the soup for a bit of fun.  He thought that the powder was a laxative (a man with a strange sense of humour).

At Henry’s insistence rather than being tried for murder in the usual fashion Roose was put on trial for treason as though Fisher was a member of the royal family.    What this meant was that there was no jury to hear the case, the verdict being a summary one. The Imperial Ambassador, Chapuys, noted that Roose did not say where the powder came from in the first place. Chapuys hesitated to blame Henry VIII himself for dishing out powders to get rid of troublesome priests but did suggest that the Boleyn family might have something to do with it – and let’s remember he wasn’t Anne’s greatest fan.  Thomas More reported the rumour that the Boleyn’s were involved to Henry VIII who was signally unamused by the suggestion.  It should be noted that neither Chapuys or More presented any evidence.  Henry is said to have commented that Anne Boleyn was blamed for everything.

It should be added that Fisher had another near miss involving a canon ball that landed in his study.  It appears that the canon which fired the aforementioned cannonball was sited in the home of Thomas Boleyn.  In October 1531 Anne Boleyn sent Fisher a message warning him not to attend parliament.  She noted that he would not get sick again.

On the 5th April The Chronicle of Greyfriars reported Roose’s end along with the mechanics of execution which as based on a rope and pulley system which lifted him in and out of the  water.  Another chronicle noted that there was a lot of yelling and that those people not sickened by the sight felt that the axeman was a more edifying sight.  Roose died without benefit of the clergy.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but up until this point Henry wasn’t known for executing people willy-nilly  he hadn’t got to the point where he was lopping off heads to get the wife he wanted so either he had something to hide and was getting rid of the accomplice in plain sight or he really was deeply concerned about household staff with small bottles labelled with skulls and crossbones getting rid of their employers.  Let’s just remember the that the Tudors had a thing about anyone mentioning that they might die – so fear of being poisoned probably would produce alarm and brand new nasty punishments.

Poor Fisher found himself in ever increasing difficulties.  In 1534 he was imprisoned for not reporting everything about the Maid of Ken (Elizabeth Barton).  And then he refused to take the Oath of Supremacy.  On 22 June 1535 Fisher became one of the 72,000 execution victims of Henry VIII.  When he emerged from the Tower he was gaunt and badly nourished. This probably demonstrates more effectively than anything that Henry had no need to send henchmen to skulk down dark alleys with little bottles decorated by skulls and crossbones.   Henry and Cromwell knew how to use the law to intimidate and then silence Henry’s critics without legally getting their hands dirty.

Boiling people was removed from the statute books in 1547 during the reign of Edward VI although Moore dies note that there was at least one execution of this kind during the reign of Elizabeth I.

Moore, James. (2016) The Tudor Murder Files. Barnsley: Pen and Sword

The Stuarts – King James I of England- key events.

king-james1Elizabeth I died on 24 March 1603 in Richmond.  She had been on the throne for nearly forty-five years.  Whilst the queen had prevaricated about naming her heir,  Sir Robert Cecil could see that her health was deteriorating and began making the necessary arrangements with King James VI of Scotland the son of Mary Queen of Scots.  He was the great-grandson of Margaret Tudor.

When Elizabeth died Philadelphia, Lady Scrope took the sapphire ring given by King James from Elizabeth’s finger and threw it out of a window down to where her brother Sir Robert Carey sat waiting.  Sir Robert headed off up the Great North Road to Edinburgh.  The journey of some 330 miles was completed late on the 26th March (an impressive turn of speed).  The blue ring was James’ confirmation that he was now King of England as well of Scotland.

James saw himself as King by Divine Right.  He was also delighted to gain Elizabeth I’s wealth but he mishandled his finances because of his own extravagance. It is sometimes said that Elizabeth handled her finances better because she was single whereas James had a family – his wife Anne of Denmark  who was raised a Protestant but converted to Catholicism (possibly); their eldest son Prince Henry born in 1594, their daughter Elizabeth and their young son Charles.  In total the couple had nine children but only the three listed here survived to adulthood.  It may be surmised a growing family with sons was one of the attractions of James as king so far as the English were concerned. It should also be added that the finances weren’t entirely James’ fault  for another reason as this was a period of inflation and a time when subsidies returned lower yields.

Another of James’ difficulties was the balancing act between religious beliefs with in the country and on the wider European stage.

5 April 1603 – James left Edinburgh.

Mid-April – arrived in York and sent a letter asking for money from the Privy Council

When James arrived in Newark he attempted to have a cut purse hanged without realising that English common law did not permit the monarch to dish up summary justice. He also  knighted 906 men in the first four months of his reign – more than Elizabeth in her entire reign.  During this time James was also presented with the Millenary Petition.  The Puritan ministers who presented it claimed that there were more than 1000 signatories – hence its name. The petition requested that the king put a stop to some practices that Puritans found objectionable.  This included wearing surplices, confirmation, the necessity of a ring for marriage and the making of the sign of the cross during baptism.

11th May 1603   James entered London.

William_Segar_Sir_Walter_Raleigh_1598.jpg19 July 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh arrested. The  key event of 1603 was the so-called the Main Plot which evolved into a secondary Bye Plot that came to light in 1604 (I’ve blogged about them before).  Essentially with the Main Plot there was some question as to whether James was the best person to be king  Henry VII had other descendants who were English.  The one we think of at this time is usually Arbella Stuart who was implicated in the Main Plot which saw Sir Walter Raleigh sent to the Tower.  The plan was to depose James and put Arbella in his place.  The Bye Plot was much more straight forward.  It simply involved kidnapping James and forcing him to suspend the laws against Catholics.

17 Nov 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh put on trial. Raleigh would be condemned on the evidence of Lord Cobham who was never called to testify despite Raleigh’s repeated demands that his should be examined.

14 Jan 1604  The Hampton Court Conference convened as a result, in part, of the Millenary Petition.  James ordered that everyone should adhere to the Book of Common Prayer.  This did not please the Puritans or the Catholics especially as recusancy fines were being levied with more rigour than previously.

19 March 1604  James’ first Parliament sat.  James admonished the Puritans but it was clear that religion was going to be a bone of contention.

5 April 1604 James demanded that as “an absolute king” he should have conference with the Commons and his judiciary.  It didn’t go down very well.

Mid April 1604  James demanded the Union of England with Scotland.  No one apart from James thought it was a good idea. He will try again in 1606 and 1607.

19 August 1604  War with Spain formally concludes.  England has been at war with the Spanish since 1585.  The Somerset House Conference draws up the  Treaty of London which is seen as favourable to Spain as it prevents continued English support of the Dutch.

Winter 1604 Thomas Percy sub-leased a house beside the Palace of Westminster. A certain Guy Fawkes and other members of a conspiracy began to dig a tunnel…

5th November 1605  The Gunpowder Plot foiled.

1606 The Bates Case . John Bates refused to pay the new duty that James levied on currants.  The Court of the Exchequer said that Bates had to pay the duty as the king was regulating imports rather than raising revenue for himself – they couldn’t prove any different.  This meant that the Crown suddenly found a way of raising taxes without having to call Parliament so long as it was in the name of regulating foreign trade.  The case is also called the Case of Impositions.  The imposition of these taxes would come back to haunt James when he called Parliament in 1614.

22 June 1606 Oath of Allegiance required of all subjects.  It was made up of seven parts. The first bit required loyalty to James.

June 1607  Founding of Jamestown in America by Captain Smith.

Sept 1607 Start of the Plantation of Ulster when leading Irish earls flee the country fearing arrest.  The event is sometimes called “The Flight of the Earls.”  The Crown confiscates their land and begins to hand it to Protestants including troublemakers from the Scottish/English Borders.

1608 – The Book of Bounty issued.  It was a device to reduce royal expenditure.  This should be viewed alongside Robert Cecil’s revision to the rate of taxation. He’s revised the rates once in 1604 and did so again in 1608.  The revisions of 1608 fetched an additional £70,000 into the royal coffers.

22 June 1610 Arbella Stuart enters into a secret marriage with William Seymour (2nd duke of Somerset) – who had his own claim to the throne due to the face that he is the grandson of Lady Katherine Grey. Elizabeth I had refused to recognise her cousin’s marriage to Edward Seymour but their son (another Edward) was recognised by the courtesy title Lord Beauchamp though none the less was permitted to succeed to his father’s title upon Edward Seymour senior’s death.  The marriage of Arbella and Seymour seemed to unite two possible claims to the throne. Not surprisingly all involved ended up in the Tower.  Arbella would escape her prison but recaptured on her way to the Continent and die in the Tower in 1615. There will be more about Arbella!

1610 – Parliament refuse to proceed with the Great Contract which James has proposed.  If they had agreed it would have resulted in a tax being levied to clear James’ debts. Parliament offered  James £200,000 per year. James demanded another £200,000.  In addition to the financial considerations there was a concern that James might not call Parliament again if he got all the money he wanted in one hit.  James was unwilling to sell off any of his prerogative rights so came no where close to meeting Parliament half-way.

14 May 1610 Henry IV of France assassinated

1611 King James Bible issued.

October 1612 Prince Henry, James’ eldest and most promising son, taken ill.

6 November 1612 Prince Henry dies.  He was eighteen.  It prompted a succession crisis that lasted until 1614. Prince Charles, a sickly child, now became heir apparent.  It became essential that Princess Elizabeth should marry. This resulted ultimately in a bill being laid before parliament to permit Elector Frederick and his wife Elizabeth to inherit in the event of Charles’ death.

14 Feb 1613 Princess Elizabeth married Frederick V of the Palatinate.

April 1613 Thomas Overbury sent to Tower but then released.  He would shortly be murdered.  Th king’s former favourite Robert Carr and his wife Frances Howard would be found guilty of his murder. The ensuing scandal would continue throughout the next two years.  Lady Anne Clifford writes about it her her diary.  There will definitely be more about the Overbury case in the coming year.

1614 The Earl of Suffolk appointed treasurer.

4 May 1614 James told Parliament that they had to vote him subsidies when they next sat. If they wouldn’t James would refuse to call Parliament into session.

December 1614 The Cockayne Project announced.  James allowed Alderman Sir William Cockayne to launch a project designed to boost the earnings of those involved in the manufacture of undyed cloth setting up a dyeing industry to do the job at home. The government was promised £40,000 p.a. from increased customs through the importing of dyestuffs. James gave control to Cockayne and the new company was given permission to export in 1615. It was clear by 1616 that Cockayne had not the resources to buy the cloth from the clothing districts and hold it until it could be marketed. Matters became worse when the Dutch banned the import of cloth. Merchants went bankrupt, weavers rioted, cloth exports slumped and the industry stagnated. By 1617 James abandoned Cockayne and the Merchant Adventurers regained control.

June 1614 The so-called Addled Parliament sat.  This was properly James’ second Parliament which had been called with the express purpose of raising funds for the king. Parliament didn’t politely offer the king taxes. They hadn’t been very impressed with the king’s courtiers undertaking to get their cronies elected to to the king’s bidding.  Instead, they told him that his policies were unacceptable and also said that he would receive no money from them whilst he was enforcing so-called “impositions” – these were taxes raised without the consent of Parliament.  Parliament believed that James had overstepped his legal rights and James believed that Parliament had no right to refuse his demands.  It didn’t pass any bills and was dissolved very quickly.

During this time there were two factions at court seeking the king’s ear following the death of Robert Cecil in 1612.  The most prominent was led by Henry Howard.  The Howard family held key posts. Thomas  Howard the Earl of Suffolk was the father of Francis Howard who married Robert Carr (the Earl of Essex).  It was during this time that his daughter and son-in-law found themselves on trial for the murder of Thomas Overbury through the medium of poisoned tarts. The Howard family wanted James to put Parliament in its place, peace with Spain and Recusancy fines reduced.  Their opposition was comprised of people who simply didn’t like the Howards and would have said that day was night if the Howards said otherwise. They were Protestant whilst the Howards were seen as Catholic in their sympathy.

 

1615 James I begins to sell peerages to make some money.

23 April 1616 – William Shakespeare dies.

1616 James sells the Dutch the towns of Brill and Flushing which had been given to Elizabeth to help finance the wars agains the Spanish and for support of the Dutch. Sir Walter Raleigh is released from the Tower and the following year goes in search of El Dorado, involving a voyage up the Orinoco.  No gold was forthcoming.  James returned Raleigh to prison and invoked the 1603 death sentence.

1617 James enters negotiations for the marriage of Prince Charles to the Spanish Infanta.  He demands a dowry of £600,000.

1618 – This was the year when the Thirty Years War started with the invasion of Bohemia and the Palatinate Crisis.  James’ daughter  Elizabeth would be involved in this as her husband had become the King of Bohemia when he had been offered the crown the year before.   They were driven out by Counter-reforming Catholics. History knows Elizabeth as The Winter Queen because she was Queen of Bohemia for only a year.

29 October 1618 Sir Walter Raleigh executed.

 

August 1620 – The Pilgrim Fathers set sail.

8 Nov 1620  The Battle of White Mountain fought near Prague. The battle was won by the Hapsburgs and meant that Catholicism gained an early upper hand in the Thirty Years War.

1621 James’ third Parliament called.

6 January 1621 Elizabeth, the Winter Queen, gives birth to a son Maurice near Berlin.  From there she would go into exile in The Hague.

3 Dec 1621 Parliament petitions the King

1622 Directions to Preachers restrict the contents of sermons.

Forced Loan

1623 Forced Loan

March 1623 Prince Charles makes a trip incognito to Madrid complete with a large hat and false beard. It was a cause of some embarrassment in Madrid.

August 1623 The Spanish want Frederick to marry his eldest son, James’ grandson, to the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor.  The plan was that he would then convert to Catholicism and be raised in Vienna.  Charles realised that the Spanish Match wasn’t going to happen but James was reluctant to break off negotiations.

1624 The so-called Happy Parliament called.  James had previously sworn never to call another parliament.  However the course of the Thirty years War made him reconsider. The so-called Spanish match had become more important as it seemed that the Hapsburgs and Spain would dominate Europe and be victorious agains the Protestant countries but it became clear that the Spanish were not serious in their negotiations with the English or that they were demanding too much. Charles and his friend the duke of Buckingham persuaded James that what needed to happen was that the English should go to war on behalf of the Palatinate.  James refused to go to war without a huge subsidy being voted him.

Nov 1624  Marriage treaty signed between Prince Charles and Henrietta Maria of France.

27 March 1625 – King James I of England/ James VI of Scotland died.  King Charles I proclaimed king.

 

Ackroyd, Peter. (2014) The History of England Volume III: Civil War London:MacMillan

Westminster Hall

Westminster-Hall-1764

It’s all looking very festive around here – and dangerous.  The road hasn’t been gritted so it currently looks and feels just like an ice rink.  On the plus side I have finished some writing today.  On the minus side not only am I not going out for a Christmas meal tonight but I shalln’t be following Buckingham’s rebellion tomorrow or killing off the Princes in the Tower – nor for that matter shall I be allowing either one of them to turn into a conspiracy theory.  All of which is very irritating and I can only extend my apologies to any of my students who may be reading this.

Halls – right at the start of December I mentioned the fact that halls were where their owners dispensed justice.  And of course, there’s a hall with a rather long pedigree that has done exactly that over the last nine hundred years or so.  Westminster Hall was built in 1097 by William Rufus – it was the largest hall in Europe at the time, or so Historians think.  Richard II had the hall rebuilt because it was looking somewhat battered by the time he came to the throne. The medieval hammer beam roof was one of his modifications. The hall gradually evolved into the administrative seat for the kingdom. It was here that Henry II crowned his eldest son Henry in Westminster Hall in June 1170.  There was a second coronation in Winchester.

 

It is as a law court though that Westminster Hall echoes down the pages of history. William Wallace was tried here and by the time of the Tudors the hall is knee deep in well-known names from the duke of Buckingham tried for treason in 1522 based on his Plantagenet blood and probably having irritated Cardinal Wolsey. Sir Thomas More was tried here in 1535, so were Anne Boleyn and her alleged lovers the following year. Protector Somerset had judgement passed down here and so did the father of Lady Jane Grey for his part in Wyatt’s Rebellion. Jesuits faced english law here during the reign of Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex was tried in Westminster Hall following his rebellion. A few years later Guy Fawkes stood in his place.  Later Charles I was tried for crimes against his own people and following the Restoration the regicides were also tried here.

The only man who successful escaped the headsman or the noose following a trial for treason during Henry VIII’s reign was also tried at Westminster Hall.  Lord Dacre of the North was found innocent in July 1535. His accusers were described as “mean and provoked Scottish men” – Sir Ralph Fiennes and his co-accuser a man named William Musgrave were not particularly Scottish but there’s nothing like being damned by association.  Dacre’s wife tried to intercede on her husband’s behalf but was told by the monarch to button it until after her husband’s trial.  Apparently Dacre refuted his accusers in a “manly”  and “witty” sort of way for seven hours before being declared innocent.

William Dacre (a.k.a. Baron Greystoke) was married to the earl of Shrewsbury’s daughter and held down a number of responsible border posts such as Deputy Warden of the West March.  This led to a falling out with the earl of Cumberland (Clifford family) who was given a role in 1525 that Dacre believed to be his by right of blood.  Unsurprisingly there was some border high jinks resulting in Cumberland only being able to rule with Dacre at his side. To make matters worse when Dacre did get his hands on the job his counterpart in the East March was given a pay rise whilst he was given the old rate. Its easy to see that hostilities and resentments were not particularly veiled.  Unfortunately for Dacre he did what Border Wardens do – i.e. talk to the Scots. This was in 1534.  He was accused of treason because this conversation took place during a time of hostility. He was hauled off to London where he was put on trial for treason. The chief witness against him was his former servant – William Musgrave.

Dacre was acquitted but as with all things Tudor there is a sting in the tale.  Henry VIII fined him none-the-less. It is perhaps surprising therefore that in 1536 Dacre demonstrated his loyalty to Henry VIII throughout the Pilgrimage of Grace.  His feud with the Musgrave family was not so easily settled and it is known to have continued into the 1550s.

 William Cobbett, David Jardine (1809) Cobbett’s complete collection of state trials and proceedings for high treason and other crimes and misdemeanors from the earliest period to the present time  accessed from https://archive.org/details/acompletecollec03cobbgoog

http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/building/palace/westminsterhall/architecture/early-history/

Westminster Hall 1097

 

Henry VIII clauses

Henry-VIII-enjoyed-gambli-008The so-called Henry VIII clause is topical at the moment so I thought I’d write a short post about what it is and where it originates. Essentially, according to the Parliamentary website,  “the Government of the day sometimes adds this provision to a Bill to enable a repeal or amend after the Bill has become an Act of Parliament.” That’s not what’s causing the current furore – the problem is that the resulting Act can be changed without further parliamentary scrutiny if the Government so wishes. The House of Lords Select Committee on the Scrutiny of Delegated Powers in its report of 1992-93 defined a Henry VIII clause as,  “a provision in a Bill which enables primary legislation to be amended or repealed by subordinate legislation, with or without further Parliamentary scrutiny.” [HL 57 1992-93, para 10].

 

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01And what you might wonder does the matrimonially challenged Henry VIII have to do with this? Well, these provisions are named after the 1539 Statute of Proclamations by the Crown which meant that Henry VIII could legislate simply by having a proclamation read out. That sounds suspiciously like kicking Parliament into touch and ruling as an absolute monarch.  However,  G.R. Elton didn’t believe that the act was meant to enable to the king to rule without Parliament or make his own laws rather it was an extraordinary power to be used when speed was of the essence.  The example that is generally used is that proclamations were used to prevent the export of English coinage abroad. Elton references price control – or in other words Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, was merely underlining, with typical belt and brace thoroughness, by a Parliamentary Act the way in which proclamations had always worked in regards to enacting well rehearsed uses such as changes to coinage. Elton also notes that the law made it quite clear that this was not an excuse for Henry to go around arresting, imprisoning or executing anyone just because he didn’t like the cut of their jib.

 

It is unsurprising that the mastermind behind this nifty piece of maneuvering was none other than Thomas Cromwell. Essentially things were moving fast in terms of domestic and religious policy as well as foreign policy which was decidedly volatile at the beginning of 1539. Even Cromwell had to agree that the so-called Reformation Parliament was “tractable” – and given that a large number of MPs were on Cromwell’s list of friends, family and acquaintances it is perhaps not surprising. Even so, Cromwell did not always have time to draft a bill and then wait for the parliamentary process to be completed before a bill became law. The act makes it clear at the very beginning:

An act that proclamations made by the king shall be obeyed. Forasmuch as the king’s most royal majesty, for divers considerations, by the advice of his council hath heretofore set forth divers and sundry his grace’s proclamations, as well for and concerning divers and sundry articles of Christ’s religion as for an unity and concord to be had amongst the loving and obedient subjects of this his realm and other his dominions, and also concerning the advancement of his commonwealth and good quiet of his people (which nevertheless divers and many froward, wilful, and obstinate persons have wilfully contemned and broken, not considering what a king by his royal power may do, and for lack of a direct statute and law to coerce offenders to obey the said proclamations… at all times by authority of this act his proclamations, under such penalties and pains and of such sort as to his highness and his said honourable council or the more part of them shall see[m] necessary and requisite; and that those same shall be obeyed, observed, and kept as though they were made by act of parliament for the time in them limited, unless the king’s highness dispense with them or any of them under his great seal.

 

Cromwell seems to have intended the proclamations to be administered by common law but as the quote from the act demonstrates, ultimately because of Parliamentary intractability on the part of the Lords, the proclamations were to be administered by a council: workable in theory but not in practice. The act was amended in 1543 to change the mechanism by which the council worked but finally repealed in 1547 after Henry’s death– not that it seems to have made a jot of difference as proclamations continued to be a perfectly legal way of doing things.

Proclamations would cause the Stuarts no end of problems – you could probably argue that Charles I lost his head over them given that he ruled and collected taxes without the aid of Parliament for more than a decade. Parliament was quite clear that the king didn’t have the right to go around demanding money – taxes had to be voted to him by Parliament and for him to suggest otherwise was illegal. He misused proclamation assuming that he could be behave as an absolute monarch.

And that is where I shall stop as I have no desire for this post to move from an interesting historical meander into political debate about the rights and wrongs of its use in the modern day. If nothing else it proves that Cromwell was a seriously wily political operator.

 

Bush L  “The Act of Proclamations: A Reinterpretation” The American Journal of Legal History. Vol. 27, No. 1 (Jan., 1983), pp. 33-53

Elton, G.R.Tudor Rule and Revolution: Essays for G R Elton from His American Friends

G. R. Elton, The Rule of Law in Renaissance England, in TUDOR MEN AND INSTITUTIONS 265-94 (A. J. Slavin ed., 1972), reprinted in 1 STUDIES IN TUDOR AND STUART POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT 260-84 (1974)

 

http://www.constitution.org/sech/sech_074.txt