Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1911.
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[10 May, 1650.]
What shall be adjudged Incest.; Such offence shall be Felony.; Such marriages void, and children illegitimate.
For the suppressing of the abominable and crying sins of Incest, Adultery and Fornication, wherewith this Land is much defiled, and Almighty God highly displeased; Be it Enacted by the Authority of this present Parliament, That if any person or persons whatsoever, shall from and after the Four and twentieth day of June, in the year of our Lord One thousand six hundred and fifty, Marry, or have the carnal knowledge of the Body of his or her Grandfather or Grandmother, Father or Mother, Brother or Sister, Son or Daughter, or Grandchilde, Fathers Brother or Sister, Mothers Brother or Sister, Fathers Wife, Mothers Husband, Sons Wife, Daughters Husband, Wives Mother or Daughter, Husbands Father or Son; all and every such Offences are hereby adjudged and declared Incest: And every such Offence shall be, and is hereby adjudged Felony; and every person offending therein, and confessing the same, or being thereof convicted by verdict upon Indict ment or Presentment, before any Judge or Justices at the Assize or Sessions of the Peace, shall suffer death as in case of Felony, without benefit of Clergy: And all and every such Marriage and Marriages are hereby declared and adjudged to be void in Law, to all intents and purposes; and the Children begotten between such persons, notwithstanding any contract or solemnization of Marriage, to be illegitimate, and altogether disabled to claim or inherit any Lands or Inheritance whatsoever, by way of descent from, or to receive or challenge any Childes Portion in any Goods or Chattels of their said Parents, or any other Ancestor of such Parents.
Adultery shall be adjudged Felony.
And be it further Enacted by the authority aforesaid, That in case any married woman shall from and after the Four and twentieth day of June aforesaid, be carnally known by any man (other them her Husband) (except in Case of Ravishment) and of such offence or offences shall be convicted as aforesaid by confession or otherwise, every such Offence and Offences shall be and is hereby adjudged Felony: and every person, as well the man as the woman, offending therein, and confessing the same, or being thereof convicted by verdict upon Indictment or Presentment as aforesaid, shall suffer death as in case of Felony, without benefit of Clergy.
Provided, That this shall not extend to any man who at the time of such offence committed, is not knowing that such woman with whom such Offence is committed, is then married.
This Act not to extend to any woman whose husband shall be three years absent.
Provided also, That the said penalty in the case of Adultery aforesaid, shall not extend to any woman whose Husband shall be continually remaining beyond the Seas by the space of three years, or shall by common fame be reputed to be dead; nor to any woman whose husband shall absent himself from his said wife by the space of three years together, in any parts or places whatsoever, so as the said wife shall not know her said husband to be living within that time.
Fornication punished by three moneths imprisonment, with out Bail, for the first offence.
And be it further Enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any man shall from and after the Four and twentieth day of June aforesaid, have the carnal knowledge of the body of any Virgin, unmaried Woman or Widow, every such man so offending, and confessing the same, or being thereof convicted by verdict upon Indictment or Presentment, as also every such woman so offending, and confessing the same, or being thereof convict as aforesaid, shall for every such offence be committed to the common Gaol, without Bail or Mainprize, there to continue for the space of three Moneths; and until he and she respectively shall give security, to be taken by one or more Justice or Justices of the Peace before whom such Confession or Conviction shall be had, to be of the good behavior for the space of one whole year then next ensuing.
Punishment of a common Bawd. Second offence Felony.
And be it further Enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and every person and persons who shall from and after the Four and twentieth day of June aforesaid, be convicted as aforesaid, by confession or otherwise, for being a common Bawd, be it man or woman, or wittingly keeping a common Brothel or Bawdy-house, shall for his or her first offence be openly whipped and set in the Pillory, and there marked with a hot Iron in the forehead with the Letter B and afterwards committed to Prison or the House of Correction, there to work for his or her living for the space of three years, without Bail or Mainprize, and until he or she shall put in sufficient Sureties for his or her good behavior during his or her life: And if any person by confession or otherwise shall be convicted of committing, after such Conviction, any of the said last recited offences, every such second offence shall be, and is hereby adjudged Felony; and the person and persons so offending shall suffer death, as in case of Felony, without benefit of Clergy.
The crimes afore said to be given in charge at Sessions.
And be it further Enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the Justices of Assize in their respective Circuits, and the Justices of Peace in every County, at their usual and General Sessions, are hereby authorized and required to give in charge to the Grand Jury to enquire of all and every the Crimes aforesaid: And the said Justices of Assize, Justices of the Peace in their General Sessions, and all and every Major and Justices of Peace of any City, Borough or Town Corporate, that have power to hear and determine Felonies at their usual Sessions, shall have full power and authority to enquire by verdict of twelve or more good and lawful men, within the said respective Counties and places aforesaid, of all and every the crimes and offences aforesaid, and upon Indictment or Presentment, to hear and determine the same, as in other cases of Felony or Trespass, Any Law, Usage or Custom to the contrary notwithstanding.
No corruption of blood.
Provided, That no Attainder for any offence made Felony by this Act, shall make or work any corruption of Blood, loss of Dower, forfeiture of Goods, disinherison of Heir or Heirs.
To be prosecuted within twelve moneths.
Provided also, That no person or persons shall incur any of the penalties in this Act mentioned, unless the said person or persons be thereof indicted within twelve Moneths after the offence committed.
Provided also, That it shall be lawful for any person or persons who shall be indicted for any the offences aforesaid, to produce at their respective Tryals any witness or witnesses, for the clearing of themselves from the said offences whereof they shall be so indicted: And the Justices before whom such Tryal shall be so had, shall have power, and are hereby Authorized to Examine the said Witnesses upon Oath.
No parties confession to be taken as evidence against any, but themselves.
Provided, That no parties confession shall be taken as Evidence within this Act against any other, but onely against such party so confessing; nor the husband shall be taken as a Witness against his wife, nor the wife against her husband, for any offence punishable by this Act