1530: 22 Henry 8 c. 10: The Egyptians Act.

1530: 22 Henry 8 c. 10: An act concerning outlandish people, calling themselves Egyptians.

[Enforced by 1 & 2 Ph. & M. c. 4. 4 & 5 El. c. 20.]

FORASMUCH as before this time divers and many outlandish people calling themselves Egyptians, using no craft nor feat of merchandise have come into this realm, and gone from shire to shire and place to place in great company, and used great, subtil, and crafty means to deceive the people, bearing them in hand that they by palmestry could tell men’s and women’s fortunes, and so many times by craft and subtilty have deceived the people of their money, and also have committed many heinous felonies and robberies, to the great hurt and deceit of the people that they have come among:

II. Be it therefore by the King our sovereign lord, the lords spiritual and temporal, and the commons, in this present parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, ordained, established, and enacted, That from henceforth no such person be suffered to come within this the King’s realm; and if they do, then they and every of them so doing, shall forfeit to the King our sovereign lord all their goods and chattels, and them to be commanded to avoid the realm within fifteen days next after the commandment, upon pain of imprisonment; and it shall be lawful to every sheriff, justice of peace, and escheator, to seise to the use of our sovereign lord, his heirs and successors, all such goods as they or any of them shall have, and thereof to make account to our said sovereign lord in his exchequer; and if it shall happen any such stranger hereafter to commit within this realm any murder, robbery, or any other felony, and thereof be indicted, and arraigned, and to plead not guilty, or any other plea triable by the country, that then the inquest that shall pass between the king and any such party, shall be altogether of Englishmen, albeit that the party so indicted pray Medietatem linguae according to the statute of Anno 8 Henrici VI. or any other statute thereof made.

III. Provided alway, That the Egyptians now being in this realm, have monition to depart within sixteen days after proclamation of this statute among them shall be made, upon pain of imprisonment, and forfeiture of their goods and chattels; and if they then so depart, that then they shall not forfeit their goods nor any part thereof, this present statute notwithstanding.

IV. Provided alway. That every such person or persons, which can prove by two credible persons, before the same party that seiseth such money, goods, or chattels, of the same Egyptians that any part of the same goods, money, or chattels, were craftily or feloniously taken or stolen from him, shall be incontinent restored unto the same goods, money, or chattels, where- of he maketh such proof before the same party, that so seiseth the same money, goods, or chattels, upon pain to forfeit to the same party, that maketh such proof, the double value of the same by action of debt, bill, or otherwise, in any of the King’s courts to be sued, upon which action and suit he shall not be admitted to wage his law, nor any protection or essoin to be allowed; any thing in this act to the contrary notwithstanding.

V. Provided always, and be it further enacted. That if any justice of peace, sheriff, or escheator, which by authority of this act, have power to take or seise any goods or chattels of any Egyptians, at any time hereafter do seise, or take the goods or chattels of any such Egyptians, that then every such justice, sheriff, or escheator, doing the same, shall have, keep, and retain to bis own use, the moiety of all such goods so by him seised; and of the other moiety so by him taken or seised, shall make answer and account to the King in his exchequer, according to the tenor of this present act; any thing in the same act contained to the contrary hereof notwithstanding: and that upon any account hereafter to be made for the said other moiety of the same goods, the accountant shall pay no manner of fees or other charges, for his account or discharge to be had in the King’s exchequer, nor elsewhere.

Source: Pickering, Statutes at Large, vol. 4.

Further reading: Wikipedia.