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Praemunire

Praemunire (an error, from Latin præmonere, to pre-admonish or forewarn), was an offence in English law that took its name from the introductory words of the writ of summons issued to the defendant to answer the charge, "Præmunire facias A.B.," &c., i.e. "cause A.B. to be forewarned."

From this the word came to be used to denote the offences, usually ecclesiastical, prosecuted by means of such a writ, and also the penalties they incurred. The statute of Richard II, Purchasing bulls from Rome (1392), is usually designated the Statute of Praemunire, but it is only one of numerous stringent measures (some still unrepealed, and, as a body, of the most confused character) passed for the purpose of putting restraint on the papal usurpation of authority in England. From the beginning of the 14th century papal aggression had been particularly active, more especially in two forms. The one, the disposal of ecclesiastical benefices, before the same became vacant, to men. of the pope’s own choosing; the other, the encouragement of resort to himself and his curia rather than to the courts of the country.

The Statute of Provisors (1306), passed in the reign. of Edward I, was, according to Sir Edward Coke, the foundation of all subsequent statutes of praemunire. This statute enacted "that no tax imposed by any religious persons should be sent out of the country whether under the name of a rent, tallage, tribute or any kind of imposition." A much greater check on the freedom of action of the popes was imposed by the Statute of Provisors (1350) and the Statute of Praemunire passed in the reign of Edward III.

The former of these, after premising "that the Pope of Rome, accroaching to him the seignories of possession and benefices of the holy Church of the realm of England doth give and grant the same benefices to aliens which did never dwell in England, and to cardinals, which might not dwell here, and to others as well aliens as denizens, as if he had been patron or advowee of the said dignities and benefices, as he was not of right by the laws of England . . . ," ordained the free election of all dignities and benefices elective in the manner as they were granted by the king’s progenitors.

The Statute of Praemunire (the first statute so called) (1353), though expressly levelled at the pretensions of the Roman curia, excludes any direct reference to it in actual words. By it, the king "at the grievous and clamorous complaints of the great men and commons of the realm of England" enacts "that all the people of the king’s ligeance of what condition that they be, which shall draw any out of the realm in plea" or any matter of which the cognizance properly belongs to the king’s court shall be allowed two months in which to answer for their contempt of the king’s rights in transferring their pleas abroad. The penalties which were attached to the offence under this statute involved the loss of all civil rights, forfeiture of lands, goods and chattels, and imprisonment during the royal pleasure.

Many other statutes followed that of 1353, but that passed in the sixteenth year of Richard II's reign is, as mentioned before, usually referred to as the Statute of Praemunire. This statute, after first stating "that the right of recovering the presentments to churches, prebends[?], and other benefices . . . belongeth only to the king’s court of the old right of his crown, used and approved in the time of all his progenitors kings of England," proceeds to condemn the practice of papal translation, and after rehearsing the promise of the three estates of the realm to stand with the king in all cases touching his crown and his regality, enacts "that if any purchase or pursue, or cause to be purchased or pursued in the 'court of Rome, or elsewhere, any such translations, processes, and sentences of excommunications, bulls, instruments or any other things whatsoever . . . he and his notaries, abettors and counsellors" shall be put out of the king's protection, and their lands escheat.

(Adapted from 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica)



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