84. COMMISSION FOR ECCLESIASTICAL CAUSES (1559)[1]

Elizabeth, by the grace of God, etc., to the reverend father in God, Mathew Parker, nominated bishop of Canterbury; and Edmond Grindall, nominated bishop of London; and to our right trusted and right well-beloved councillors, Francis Knowles, our vice-chamberlain and Ambrose Cave, knights; and to our trusty and well-beloved Anthony Cooke and Thomas Smyth, knights; William Bill, our almoner; Walter Haddon and Thomas Sackford, masters of our requests; Rowland Hill and William Chester, knights; Randoll Cholmely and John Southcote, serjeants-at-the-law; William May, doctor of law; Francis Cave, Richard Gooderick, and Gilbert Gerrard, esquires; Robert Weston and Thomas Huick, doctors of law; greeting.

Where, at our parliament holden at Westminster the 25th day of January and there continued and kept until the 8th of May then next following, amongst other things there was two acts and statutes made and established ...; and where divers seditious and slanderous persons do not cease daily to invent and set forth false rumours, tales, and seditious slanders, not only against us and the said good laws and statutes, but also have set forth divers seditious books within this our realm of England, meaning thereby to move and procure strife, division, and dissension amongst our loving and obedient subjects, much to the disquieting of us and our people: wherefore we, earnestly minding to have the same acts before mentioned to be duly put in execution, and such persons as shall hereafter offend in anything contrary to the tenor and effect of the said several statutes to be condignly punished, and having especial trust and confidence in your wisdoms and discretions, have authorized, assigned, and appointed you to be our commissioners;[2] and by these presents do give our full power and authority to you, or six of you ... , from time to time hereafter during our pleasure to inquire, as well by the oaths of twelve good and lawful men as also by witnesses and all other ways and means ye can devise, for all offences, misdoers, and misdemeanours done and committed and hereafter to be committed or done contrary to the tenor and effect of the said several acts and statutes and either of them, and also of all and singular heretical opinions, seditious books, contempts, conspiracies, false rumours, tales, seditions, misbehaviours, slanderous words or showings, published, invented or set forth ... by any person or persons against us or contrary or against any the laws or statutes of this our realm, or against the quiet governance and rule of our people and subjects in any ... place or places within this our realm of England, and of all and every of the coadjutors, counsellors, comforters, procurers, and abettors of every such offender.

And further, we do give power and authority to you, or six of you ... , from time to time hereafter during our pleasure, as well to hear and determine all the premises as also to inquire, hear, and determine all and singular enormities, disturbances, and misbehaviours done and committed ... in any church or chapel, or against any divine service, or the minister or ministers of the same, contrary to the laws and statutes of this realm; and also to inquire of, search out, and to order, correct, and reform all such persons as hereafter shall or will obstinately absent themselves from church and such divine service as by the laws and statutes of this realm is appointed to be had and used.

And also we do give and grant full power and authority unto you, and six of you ... , from time to time and at all times during our pleasure to visit, reform, redress, order, correct, and amend in all places within this our realm of England all such errors, heresies, crimes, abuses, offences, contempts, and enormities spiritual and ecclesiastical wheresoever, which by any spiritual or ecclesiastical power, authority, or jurisdiction can or may lawfully be reformed, ordered, redressed, corrected, restrained, or amended, to the pleasure of Almighty God, the increase of virtue, and the conservation of the peace and unity of this our realm, and according to the authority and power limited, given, and appointed by any laws or statutes of this realm.

And also that you, or six of you ... , shall likewise have full power and authority from time to time to inquire of and search out all masterless men, quarrellers, vagrant and suspect persons within our city of London, and ten miles compass about the same city, and of all assaults and affrays done and committed within the same city and compass aforesaid.

And also we give full power and authority unto you, and six of you ... , summarily to hear and finally determine, according to your discretions and by the laws of this realm, all causes and complaints of all them, which in respect of religion, or for lawful matrimony contracted and allowed by the same, were injuriously deprived, de frauded, or spoiled of their lands, goods, possessions, rights, dignities, livings, offices, spiritual or temporal; and them so deprived, as before, to restore into their said livings and to put them in possession, amoving the usurpers in convenient speed, as it shall seem to your discretions good....

And further we do give power and authority unto you, and six of you ... , not only to hear and determine the same and all other offences and matters before mentioned and rehearsed, but also all other notorious and manifest adulteries, fornications, and ecclesiastical crimes and offences within this our realm, according to your wisdoms, consciences, and discretions; willing and commanding you, or six of you ... , to use and devise all such politic ways and means for the trial and searching out of all the premises as ... shall be thought most expedient and necessary. And upon due proof had, and the offence or offences before specified, or any of them, sufficiently proved against any person or persons by confession of the party, or by lawful witnesses, or by any due mean ... , then you or six of you, as aforesaid, shall have full power and authority to award such punishment to every offender by fine, imprisonment, or otherwise, by all or any of the ways aforesaid, and to take such order for the redress of the same, as to your wisdoms and discretions [shall be thought meet and convenient].

[And further we do give full power and authority unto you,] or six of you ... , to call before you ... all and every offender or offenders, and such as [to] you ... shall seem to be suspect persons in any of the premises; and also all such witnesses as you ... shall think [meet] to be called before you or six of you as aforesaid and them and every of them to examine upon their corporal oath for the better trial and opening of the premises or any part thereof.

And if you or six of you, as aforesaid, shall find any person or persons obstinate or disobedient either in their [appearance] before you ... at your calling or commandment, or else not accomplishing or not obeying your order, decrees, and commandments in anything touching the premises or any part thereof ... , then you ... shall have full power and authority to commit the same person or persons so offending to ward, there to remain until he or they shall be by you ... enlarged and delivered....

And more, we will and command all and singular justices of the peace, mayors, sheriffs, bailiffs, constables, and other our officers, ministers, and faithful subjects, to be aiding, helping, and assisting and at your commandment in the due execution hereof, as they tender our pleasure, and will answer to the contrary at their utmost perils....

Ibid., pp. 227 f.


[1] This is but one of many such commissions that were issued; see R. G. Usher, The Rise and Fall of the High Commission.

[2] Cf. no. 85B. The two statutes referred to are no. 81A, B.


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