Enforcement of the Statutes of 1529

by Robert C. Palmer, Cullen Professor of History and Law, The University of Houston

In 2002 I published Selling the Church: The English Parish in Law, Commerce, and Religion, 1350-1550. The book concerned the enforcement of the statutes of 1529 that intended to reform the activities of clerics in the parishes. The statutes restricted the economic activities of clerics by subjecting them to severe penalties that could be exacted by anyone who chose to inform and prosecute offending clerics.

Appendix 4 in that book contained a brief recounting and citations for all the enforcement actions I discovered. I had committed to putting a fuller description up on the web. Before I could fulfill that commitment, posting on that website were restricted. I can now fulfill that commitment. The links below provide a listing of the enforcement suits contained in Selling the Church, Appendix 4, with each action linked to the AALT source document.

Appendix 4 included material only up through Hilary term 1536. The current listing now goes beyond that through Easter 1541, so that the on-line version is more extensive than the print version.

Caution: Both general pardons and the closing of the courts by reason of plague influence the number of cases in any given year.

Conclusion: While the number of cases per year declined over all, enforcement of the Statutes of 1529 remained vigorous through the dissolution of the monasteries. It would seem that clerics less frequently violated the leasehold prohibition, since not only did the number of enforcement actions decrease, but they also decreased relative to the prosecutions for violations of the absenteeism prohibitions. In the first two terms of 1541, absenteeism prosecutions were almost twice as frequent as leasehold prosecutions. For at least ten years, vigilant and self-interested informants enforced the Reformation regulations on the clergy and participated in segregating the clergy into a non-commercial, more spiritual sphere.

Enforcement of the prohibition against clerics holding leases:
1531, L1 to L54 (54 cases),
1532, L55 to L148 (94 cases),
1533, L149 to L217 (69 cases),
1534, L218 to L307 (90 Cases),
1535, L308 to L349 (42 cases),
1536, L350 to L396 (47 cases),
1537, L397 to L424 (28 cases),
1538, L425 to L445 (21 cases),
1539, L446 to L469 (24 cases),
1540, L470 to L489 (20 cases),
1541, L490 to L496 (7 cases) (through Easter term only)

Enforcement of the prohibition against clerical absenteeism:
1531, R1 to R17 (18 cases),
1532, R18 to R46 (29 cases),
1533, R47 to R74 (28 cases),
1534, R75 to R97 (23 cases),
1535, R98 to R115 (18 cases),
1536, R116 to R127 (12 cases),
1537, R128 to R137 (10 cases),
1538, R138 to R152 (15 cases),
1539, R153 to R168 (16 cases),
1540, R169 to R183 (15 cases),
1541, R184 to R196 (13 cases) (through Easter term only)

Enforcement of the prohibition against buying and selling goods for profit by clerics: 1531-1538 (59 cases)

Enforcement of the prohibition against taking stipends to pray for the dead: 1531-1538

Enforcement of the regulation of mortuary fees: 1531-1538

Enforcement of the regulation of probate fees: 1531-1538

Enforcement of the prohibition against citing people outside their diocese: 1531-1538

Enforcement of the prohibition against clerics holding a tannery: 1531-1538

Unknown Violations of the 1529 Statutes: 1531-1538

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