The Buggery Act of 1533
Editor’s Note: Yesterday was Pride Day in London, and in recognition, our friends at The Anne Boleyn Society published the following post, which sadly generated homophobic reactions from some responders.
What follows is the actual text of the “Buggery Act of 1533” as composed by Thomas Cromwell. Within the context of 16-century mindsets, the Act passed overwhelmingly. Though the Buggery Act, the first known law condemning homosexuality passed in world history, had a long-lasting impact for people with a variety of lifestyle choices, the law itself targeted solely sodomy and bestiality (in other words, men), Cromwell most likely attempting to use this as a tactic to target Roman Catholic clergy.
“Forasmuch as there is not yet sufficient and condign punishment appointed and limited by the due course of the Laws of this Realm for the detestable and abominable Vice of Buggery committed with mankind of beast: It may therefore please the King’s Highness with the assent of the Lords Spiritual and the Commons of this present parliament assembled, that it may be enacted by the authority of the same, that the same offence be from henceforth ajudged Felony and that such an order and form of process therein to be used against the offenders as in cases of felony at the Common law. And that the offenders being herof convict by verdict confession or outlawry shall suffer such pains of death and losses and penalties of their good chattels debts lands tenements and hereditaments as felons do according to the Common Laws of this Realme. And that no person offending in any such offence shall be admitted to his Clergy, And that Justices of the Peace shall have power and authority within the limits of their commissions and Jurisdictions to hear and determine the said offence, as they do in the cases of other felonies. This Act to endure till the last day. of the next Parliament.”
Note: This act was extended through Parliament three additional times. Notable convictions under the act included: Walter Hungerford, 1st Baron Hungerford or Heytesbury in 1540 (ironically executed alongside Thomas Cromwell); Mervyn Tuchet, 2nd Earl of Castlehaven in 1631; John Atherton, Bishop of Waterford in 1640; Vere Street Coterie in 1810; and Percy Jocelyn, Bishop of Clogher in 1822.
Buggery remained a capital offense in England and Wales until the enactment of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.
The United Kingdom Parliament did not repeal buggery laws for England and Wales until 1967.