1696: 7 & 8 William 3 c.35. An act for regulating marriages.

1696: 7 & 8 Will 3 c.35. An act for the enforcing the laws which restrain marriages without licence or banns, and for the better registring marriages, births, and Burials.

Whereas by an act of parliament made in the fifth and sixth years of the reign of his Majesty King William, and the late Queen Mary of blessed memory, intituled, An act for granting to their Majesties several duties upon vellum, parchment, and paper, for four years, towards carrying on the war against France, it is amongst other things enacted, That a duty or imposition of five shillings shall be rated, levied collected and paid, for every piece of paper or parchment, upon which any licence or certificate of marriage should be written or ingrossed: And whereas by a clause in another act of parliament made in the sixth and seventh years of his Majesty’s reign, intituled, An act for granting to his Majesty certain rates and duties upon marriages, births, and burials, and upon batchelors and widowers, for a term of five years, for carrying on the war against France with vigor, it is amongst other things enacted and provided that no person shall be married at any place pretending to be exempted from the visitation of the bishop of the diocese without a licence first had and obtained, except the banns shall be published and certified according to law; and that every parson, vicar, and curate, who shall marry any persons contrary to the true intent and meaning thereof, shall forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds, which clause was so enacted and provided for the better ascertaining, levying, and collecting the aforesaid duty of five shillings upon every licence or certificate of marriage, but by Experience is found ineffectual for the same, in regard the said penalty of one hundred pounds is not extended to every offence of the same parson, vicar, or curate, so offending as aforesaid: And whereas the force and intent of the said clause is otherwise eluded and made of none effect, by several parsons, vicars, and curates, who, to avoid the said penalty of one hundred pounds, do substitute and employ, and knowingly and wittingly suffer and permit, divers other ministers to marry great numbers of persons in their respective churches and chapels, without publication of banns, or licences of marriage first had and obtained: many of which ministers so substituted, employed, permitted, and suffered to marry as aforesaid, have no benefices or settled habitations, and are poor and indigent, and cannot easily be discovered and convicted of the offences aforesaid: And whereas divers ministers, being in prison for debt and otherwise, do marry in the said prisons, many persons resorting thither for the purposes aforesaid, and in other places for lucre and gain to themselves: by all which means the ­duties and impositions upon licences of marriage, as aforesaid, are greatly diminished and substracted, and many other great inconveniencies do arise: for the remedying and preventing whereof,

II. Be it enacted by the King’s most Excellent Majesty by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, in parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that from and after the four and twentieth day of June in the year of our lord one thousand six hundred ninety and six, every parson, vicar, or curate, who shall marry any persons in any church or chapel, exempt or not exempt, or in any other place whatever, without publication of the banns of matrimony between the respective persons according to law, or without licences for the said marriages first had and obtained, shall for every such offence forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds.

III. And for the more effectual preventing the abuses aforesaid, be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That every parson, vicar, or curate, who shall substitute or employ, or knowingly and wittingly shall suffer and permit, any other ministers to marry any persons in any church or chapel to such parson, vicar, or curate belonging or appertaining, without publication of banns or licences of ­marriage first had and obtained, shall for every such offence forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds; the aforesaid respective forfeitures to be recovered by action of debt, bill, plaint, or information, in any of his Majesty’s courts of record, wherein no ession, wager, or protection of law, or any more than one imparlance, shall be allowed; one moiety thereof to his Majesty, his heirs and successors, and the other moiety to him or them who shall inform or sue for the same.

IV. And for the better ascertaining, levying, and collecting, the said duties on marriages and licences, as aforesaid; Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the four and twentieth day of June in the year of our lord one thousand six hundred ninety and six, every man so married without licence or publication of banns, as aforesaid, shall forfeit the sum of ten pounds, to be recovered, together with costs of suit, in manner as aforesaid, by any person who shall inform or sue for the same; and likewise that every sexton, or parish clerk, or other person acting as sexton or parish clerk, who shall knowingly and wittingly aid, promote, and assist at such marriages so celebrated without banns or licences, as aforesaid, shall forfeit the sum of five pounds, to be recovered with costs of suit in manner as aforesaid by any person who shall inform or sue for the same.

V. And whereas divers children who are born within this kingdom are not christened according to the rites and ceremonies of the church of England, and many are in private houses, nor are the parents of such children obliged by the aforesaid act to give notice to their respective ministers, of the births of such children; for want whereof an exact register of all persons born is not kept, and many persons chargeable with the duties in the said act mentioned do thereby escape the payment of the several sums due to his Majesty, and charged upon them by the said act, by reason of the births of such children: for remedy whereof be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that from and after the four and twentieth day of June, which shall be in the year one thousand six hundred ninety and six, the parents of every child, which shall at any time be born after the said day and year, and during the continuance of the said acts, or one of them, shall within five days after such birth give Notice to the respective rector, vicar, curate, or clerk of the parish or place where such child was born, of the day of the birth of every such child: And in case any parent shall neglect to give such Notice as aforesaid, he or she shall forfeit the sum of forty shillings, one moiety thereof to the King’s Majesty and the other moiety to the informer; the which said rector, vicar, curate, or clerk of the parish, or their substitutes,  are hereby required, during the continuance of the said act, to take an exact and true account, and keep a distinct register of all and every person or persons so born in his or their respective parishes or precincts, and not christened ; for doing which the parents of such child, or one of them, shall pay to every such parson, rector, vicar, curate, or clerk of the parish, the sum of six pence; and if any such rector, vicar, curate, parson, or ministers, shall refuse or neglect to keep a true register thereof, as before is directed, such parson or other ministers, so offending shall forfeit the sum of forty shillings, to be recovered by such persons, and in such manner, as in the said recited act the forfeitures therein mentioned are appointed to be recovered; any thing in the said law contained to the contrary notwithstanding.

VI. And whereas by reason of some defects in the said last recited act, and doubts arising upon the same, divers persons chargeable with the duties in the said act are not taxed as by the said act they ought to be, by reason whereof the said act is eluded: be it therefore further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the commissioners, or any two of them, by the said act appointed to put the same in execution, shall and may, and are hereby required to administers the oaths in the said act mentioned, and by the said act appointed to be taken by the assessors for the first year of the five years, for which the said duties are granted to the several and respective collectors in the country, city, or place where the assessment in the said act contained is to be made, every year during the continuance of the said act. And to the end the duties granted by the said act, may hereafter be more certainly paid into his Majesty’s Exchequer, the said commissioners, or any two of them, shall and may, in their respective counties, cities and places, require and command the deans, parsons, deacons, vicars, curates, and their or any of their substitutes, of their respective parishes, precincts and places twice in every year, or oftner if they shall think fit, to produce and shew forth to the said commissioners, or any two of them, and also to the assessors, the licences of all persons married, or certificates of the banns published, and the registers of all persons buried, born or christened, within the respective parishes, precincts and places aforesaid, on pain to forfeit for every neglect or refusal so to do, the sum of five pounds, to be recovered by such person or persons, and in such manner as the forfeitures in the said act mentioned are appointed to be recovered.

VII. And whereas divers persons are buried in other parishes than where they lived or resided, by reason whereof the duties payable upon the burial of such person or persons are not answered to his Majesty: be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the four and twentieth day of June, one thousand six hundred and ninety six, the said deans, parsons, deacons, vicars, curates, and their respective substitutes, shall, and are hereby required, within ten days after any person or persons shall by them be buried in their respective parishes, precincts and places, to give notice in writing of the day and place, and name of such person or persons so by him or them buried, as aforesaid, to the collectors, or one of them, of the parish, precinct or place where such person or persons last lived or inhabited, on pain to forfeit for every such neglect herein the sum of five pounds, to be recovered by such person, and in such manner as aforesaid.

Source: Pickering, Statutes at Large, volume 9, pp.499 – 502 via Alsatia.