Page:English Historical Review Volume 37.djvu/181

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1922 173 The Great Statute of Praemunire THE so-called statutes of praemunire are among the most famous laws in English history, and of the three acts to which the title is commonly applied, that of 1393 sometimes called ' the great statute of praemunire ' by modern writers l has won special renown, partly because it has been generally regarded as an anti-papal enactment of singular boldness, and also because it furnished Henry VIII with perhaps the most formidable of the weapons used by him to destroy Wolsey and to intimidate the clergy. But when the student, anxious to know precisely what the statute contained and what it was designed to effect, turns for light to the works of modern historians, he finds himself faced by a perplexing variety of opinions. Stubbs, who in one place 2 says bluntly that ' the great statute of praemunire imposed forfeiture of goods as the penalty for obtaining bulls or other instruments at Rome ', elsewhere 3 restricts its effect to those who procured bulls, instruments, or other things ' which touch the king, his crown, regality, or realm ', while in another passage 4 he states that though the statute allowed appeals to Rome ' in causes for which the English common law provided no remedy ', it nevertheless contributed to a great diminution in the number of such appeals. In other works one may read that ' the great statute of Praemunire was the most anti-papal Act of Parliament passed prior to the reign of Henry VIII ; the Act from which the rapid decline of Papal authority in England is commonly dated ' ; 5 that by the statute ' papal interference was shut out [of England] as far as law could shut it out ' ; 6 or that with its predecessors of 1353 and 1365 it ranked as 'the great bulwark of the independence of the National Church '. 7 On the other hand, Makower, speaking of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, says : ' Only in so far as was necessary for the execution of the statutes against provisors was the endeavour 1 e.g. by Stubbs (Const. Hist., ii, 4th ed., 509) and Sir James Ramsay (Genesis of Lancaster, ii. 288). 2 Stubbs, loc. cit. * Ibid. iii,5thed.,342. 1 Ibid. iii. 363 seq. 5 Ramsay, ii. 288 seq. 4 Gwatkin, Church and State in England to the Death of Queen Anne, p. 106. 7 Capes, The English Church in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, p. 92.