1580-1: 23 Elizabeth c.2: Against seditious words and rumours.

1580-1: 23 Elizabeth c.2:  An Acte against sedicious Wordes and Rumors uttered againste the Queenes moste excellent Majestie.

[Penalty on devising and speaking seditious Rumours, &c. against the Queen; 1st Offence, Pillory, and Loss of both Ears; or Payment of 200 and Six Months’ Imprisonment.]

WHEREAS in and by the Lawes and Statutes of this Realme, alreadye made and ordeyned againste sedicious Wordes and Rumors uttered againste the Queenes moste excellent Majestie, there ys not sufficient and condigne Punishement provided for to suppresse the Malice of suche as be evell affected towardes her Highenes: Bee yt therefore enacted by the aucthoritie of this psent Parliament, That yf any person or persons, after thend of fortie dayes next ensuinge the end of this psent Session of Parliament, shall advisedlye and with a malicious Intent, of his or their owne Imagination, speake any false seditious and slaunderous Newes Rumors Sayengs or Tales againste our said moste naturall Soveraigne Ladye the Queenes Majestie that nowe ys, that then all and everye suche pson and psons so offending, being thereof lawfullye convicted or attainted in fourme hereafter in this psent Acte expressed, shall for everye suche firste Offence, eyther be in some Market Place within the Shire Cittie or Boroughe where the sayd Wordes were or shalbe so spoken, set openlye upon the Pillorie by the Sheriffe or his Ministers, yf yt shall fortune to be without any Cittie or Towne Corporate, And yf yt shall happen to be within any Cyttie or Towne Corporate, then by the principall Officer or Officers of suche Cittie or Towne Corporate, or his or their Ministers, and there to have both his Eares cut of; or at the Election of the Offendour, paye two hundreth poundes to the Queenes Highenesses Use in her Majesties Receipte of the Exchequer, within two monethes next after the Judgement gyven of his said Offence, and also shall suffer Imprisonment by the Space of syxe monethes after suche his or their Conviction, without Bayle or Maineprise.

[II. Penalty on reporting slanderous Tales against the Queen, from others, 1st Offence, Pillory and Loss of one Ear; or 100 Marks and Three Months’ Imprisonment.]

And be yt further enacted by the aucthoritie aforesaid, That all and everye person and psons which after the end of the said fortie dayes shall advisedlye, and with a malicious Intent againste our said Soveraigne Ladye, reporte any false seditious and slannderous Newes Rumors or Tales, to the slaunder and defamac&n of our said Soveraigne Ladye the Queenes Majesty (that nowe ys), of the speaking or reporting of any other, that then all and everye suche person or psons so reportinge, being thereof convicted and attainted in fourme hereafter in this Acte expressed, shall for every suche firste Offence, eyther be in some Market Place within the Shire Cittie Boroughe or Towne where the said Wordes were or shalbe so reported, set openlye upon the Pillorie by the Sheriffe or his Ministers, yf yt shall fortune to be without any Cittie or Towne Corporate, and yf yt shall happen to be within any Cittie or Towne Corporate, then by the principall Officer or Officers of suche Cittie or Towne Corporate, or his or their Ministers, and there to have one of his Eares cut of; or at the Election of the Offendour, paye two hundreth Markes to the Queenes Highenesses use in her Majesty said Receipte of the Exchequer, within two Monthes next after the Judgement given of his sayd Offence, and also shall suffer ymprisonment by the space of three monethes after suche his or their Conviction without Bayle or Maineprise.

[III. Second Offences, Felony without Clergy.]

And be yt further enacted by the aucthoritie aforesaid, That yf any pson or persons, once lawfully convicted for any of the Offences aforesaid, do afterward eftsones offende in any of the Offences aforesaid, that then everye suche secound Offence to be deemed and adjudged Felonye, and the Offendour and the Offendors therein to suffer suche paynes of Deathe and Forfeyture as in case of Fellonye, without any Benefitte of Cleargie or Sanctuarye to be alowed unto the Offendour in that Behalfe.

[VI. Printing, writing, or publishing, (or causing so to be done) of any seditious Book, &c. (not being Treason under St. 25 E. III. st. 5. c. 2. &c. declared Felony without Clergy.]

And be yt further enacted by the aucthoritie aforesaid, That yf any pson or persons, after the ende of the sayd fortye dayes, eyther within this Realme or in any other the Queenes Dominions, or in any other place out of the Queenes Dominions, shall advisedlye and with a maliciouse intente againste our sayd Soveraigne Ladye, devyse and wrighte prime or setforthe, any manner of Booke Ryme Ballade Letter or Writing, conteyning any false sedicious and slaunderous Matter to the Defamation of the Queenes Majesty that nowe ys, or to the encoraging stirring or moving of any Insurrection or Rebellion, within this Realme or any the Dominions belonging to the same, or yf any pson or psons, after thend of the said fortie dayes, eyther within this Realme or other the Queenes Dominions or in any other place out of the Queenes Dominions, shall advisedlye and with a maliciouse intent against our said Soveraigne Ladye procure or cause any suche Booke Ryme Ballade Letter or Writing to be written printed published or set forth, and the said Offence not being punishable by the Statute made in the XXVth yeare of the Raigne of King Edwarde the Thirde, concerninge Treason or Declaration of Treason, or by any other Statute wherebye any Offence ys made or declared Treason, that then everye suche Offence shalbe demed and adjudged Felonye, and the Offendors therein beeing thereof convicted and attaineted, shall suffer suche paynes of Deathe and Forfeyture as in case of Felonye ys used, without any Benefitte of Cleargie or Sanctuarye to be alowed unto the Offendour in that Behalfe.

[V. Casting Nativities, or prophecying,&c. as to the Duration of the Queen’s Life, or who shall succeed to the Crown, or wishing the Queen’s Death, kc. declared Felony without Clergy.]

And for that divers persons wickedlye disposed, and forgetting their Duetie and Allegiaunce, have of late not onlye wisshed her Majesties Deathe, but also by dyvers meanes practised and sought to knowe howe longe her Highenes should lyve, and who should raigne after her Decease, and what Chaunges and Alterations shoulde therebye happen; To the entent that suche Mischeifes and Inconveniences as maye thereby growe in the Comon Weale, to the greate Disturbance of the same, maye be cut of and pVented; Be yt also enacted by the aucthoritie aforesaid. That yf any person or psons, of what Estate Condition or Degree soever he or they bee, at any tyme, after the ende of the said fortie dayes, and during the Lief of our sayde Soveraigne Ladye the Queenes Majesty that nowe ys, eyther within her Highenesses Dominions or without, shall by setting or erecting of any Figure or Figures, or by casting of Nativities, or by calculation, or by any Prophecieng Witchcrafte Cunjuracons or other lyke unlawfull Meanes whatsoever, seeke to knowe, and shall set forth by expresse Wordes Deedes or Writinges, howe longe her Majestie shall lyve or contynue, or who shall raigne as King or Queene of this Realme of England after her Highenesse Decease, or els shall advisedlye and with a maliciouse intent againste her Highenes, utter any manner of directe Pphecies to any suche Intent or Purpose, or shall malitiouslye by any Wordes Writing or Printing wishe will or desier the Deathe or Deprivac&n of our Soveraigne Ladye the Queenes Majesty (that nowe ys,) or any Thing directlye to the same Effecte, That then everye suche Offence shalbe Felonye, and everye Offendour and Offendours therein, and also all his or their Aydours Procurers and Abettors in or to the said Offences, shalbe judged as Felons, and shall suffer paynes of Deathe and Forfeyte as in Case of Felonye ys used, without any Benefite of Cleargie or Sanctuarye.

[VI. Offences shall be tried in K. B. or before Justices of Assise, &c.]

And be yt further enacted by the aucthoritie aforesaid, That the Justices of the Courte comonlye called the Kinges Benche, Justices of Oyer and [Terminer] Justices of Assises in their severall Circuites, and Justices of Generall Gaole Delyverye aswell within Libties as without within the lymittes of their severall Comissions, shall by vertue hereof have full Power and Aucthoritie to enquier of and to heare and determine all and everye the Offences aforesaid; and that the partie indicted and araigned of any the Offences aforesaid, shall have advauntage of all manner of Chalenges to the Jurie as in Triall of Felonye ys used:

[Justices of Peace may inquire of Offences, and commit Offenders.]

And also that all Justices of Peace, aswell within Liberties as without, within the Lymittes of their severall Comissions, in their Generall or Quarter Sessions, shall by vertue hereof have full Power and Aucthoritie to enquier of all and everye the Offences aforesaid, and to cause the Offendour and Offendors therein to be indicted without any further Proceeding therein; And that also everye Justice of Peace, within the Lymittes of his Comission, shall have full Power and Aucthoritie to comitte any pson beinge vehementlye suspected of any the said Offences to Warde, unlesse he doe put in Suerties to make his psonall Apparaunce at the next Quarter Sessions or Gaole Delyverie; and in Defaulte of finding suche Suerties, then to comitte him to Pryson, there to remaine untill he shall finde Suerties for his Apparaunce as ys aforesaid.

[VII. All Felonies under this Act, shall be tried in K. B. wherever committed.]

And be yt further enacted by the aucthoritie aforesaid, That all Offences made Felonye by this Acte, which hereafter shalbe done or comitted by any person or psons out of this Realme of England, shalbe from henceforth inquiered of hearde and determined before the Queenes Majesties Justices of her Benche for Plees to be holden before her selfe, by good and lawfull Men of the same Countie where the same Benche shalbe kepte, in like Manner and Fourme to all Intentes and Purposes as yf the same Offences had byne done and comitted within the same Countie, where they shall be enquiered of heard and determined; Any Thing to the contrarye notwithstanding.

[VIII. Limitation of Prosecutions for Words; One Month, &c.]

Provided alwayes and be yt enacted by the aucthoritie aforesaid, That no manner of pson or psons shalbe molested or ympeached, for any of the Offences concerning speaking or reporting as ys aforesaid, unles he or they be thereof accused within one moneth next after suche Wordes so spoken or reported, before some one Justice of the Peace, and the Witnesses therein to bee used named to the same Justice, and the same Accusation and Witness Names put in Writinge by the said Justice, and certified at the next Quarter Sessions or Gaole Delyverye; And unles suche Offendor also be indicted within one yeare next after his or their said Offence so supposed to bee comitted or done.

[IX. Mayors, &c. of Corporations, &c. may commit and indict Offendors.]

Provided also and be yt enacted by the aucthoritie aforesaid, That everye suche Maior or Maiors Bailyffe or other Heade Officer of Cities Boroughes and Townes Corporate, which have or hereafter shall have Jurisdiction and Aucthoritie within the severall Lymittes of their Office or Offices, to holde and kepe Sessions as Justice or Justices of the Peace, shall and maye by the aucthoritie hereof aswell arest and comitte to Warde or Baile in Manner and Fourme aforesaid, all and everye pson and psons being vehementlye suspected of any the Offences aforesaid, as also to inquier of all and everye the Offences aforesaid, and to pceed to the indictinge of everye suche Offendour without any further Proceeding therein; Any Thinge in this Acte to the contrarye notwithstanding.

[X. Proclamation of this Act in all Counties.]

Provided also and be yt enacted, That this present Acte shalbe proclaimed in all the Counties within this Realme, before the ende of eight and twentie dayes next ensuing the end of this present Session of Parliament; to the intent that all psons maye have Notice thereof, and thereby to avoide the Pill and Daunger that maye ensue by offendinge againste the same.

[XI. Peers shall be tried by Peers.]

Provided allwayes and be it enacted by the aucthoritie aforesaid, That the Peeres of this Realme and everye of them that shall hereafter fortune to be indicted of any the Offences aforesaid, shalbe tried by their Peeres, as before hathe byn accustomed in Cases of Felonye and Treason.

[XII. Attainders for Felonies under this Act, shall not work Corruption of Blood, &c.]

Provided also and be yt enacted by the aucthoritie aforesaid, That this Acte nor any thing therein conteyned, nor any Attaindor or Attaineders of any pson or psons for any Offence or Offences made Felonie by this Acte, shall in any wise extend or be adjudged interpreted or expounded to make the Offendour or Offendors to forfeyte or lose any Landes Tentes or Hereditamentes any longer then onelye during his owne Lief, or to make any Coruption of Bloode to any the Heire or Heires of any suche Offendour or Offendors, or to make the Wief of any suche Offendor to lose or forfeite her Dower or Title of Dower of or in any Landes Tenementes or Hereditamentes, or her Action or Intereste to the same; Any Thinge in this Acte conteyned or any Attainedor or Attainedors hereafter to be had for any Offence or Offences made Felonye by this Acte to the contrarye notwithstanding.

[XIII. Offences by speaking, &c. shall be proved by Two Witnesses, confronted with the Accused.]

Provided allwayes and be yt enacted by the aucthoritie aforesaide, That no pson or psons shalbe hereafter indicted or [attaineted] for any Offence or Offences towching or concerning speaking or reportinge as aforesaid, unlesse the same Offence or Offences be proved by the Testimonye Deposition and Othes of two sufficient Witnesses, at the tyme of his or their Indictement; which said Witnesses also, at the tyme of the Araignement of the Partie so indicted, shalbe brought forth in parson before the Partie so araigned. Face to Face, and there shall openlye declare all they can saye againste the said Partie so indicted, unlesse the said Partie so indicted shall willinglye and without violence confesse the same.

[XIV. 1 & 2 P. & M. c. 3; 1 Eliz, c.6. against seditious Words, repealed, during Continuance of this Act.]

And be yt likewise enacted by the aucthoritie aforesaid, That the Statute of the firste and secounde yeeres of King Phillippe and Queene Marye, entituled An Acte against sedicious Wordes and Rumors, and one other Acte of Parliament made in the firste yeare of the Raigne of our said Soveraigne Ladye the Queenes Majesty that nowe is, whereby yt ys pvided and enacted That the said former Acte shall extende to and for our said Soveraigne Ladye the Queenes Majesty that nowe ys, and every Clause Article and Sentence in everye of the said Actes and Statutes, shall, from and after the Proclamation of this Acte, be repealed and voide to all Intentes and Purposes, for so long tyme as this Acte shall contynue in full Strength and pfitte Force.

[XV. Continuance of this Act; the Queen’s Life.]

And be yt lykewise enacted by the aucthoritie aforesaid, That this Acte nor any thing therein conteyned shall have Continuaunce or be in Force for any longer tyme then onelye during the naturall Lyef of our said Soveraigne Ladye the Queenes moste Excellent Majesty that nowe ys; whome God longe pserve to his Glorye, her Highenes Honour and Safetie, and to the Comon Wealth of all her Majesties Dominions. Amen.

Source: Statutes of the Realm volume 4 part 1. Spelling lightly modernized. See also Raithby, Statutes at Large, vol. 4, 1811 for a fully modernized version.