An Act for the Punishment of such as shall take away Maydens that be inheritors, being within the Age of sixteen Years, or that marry them without Consent of their Parents.
‘Where Maidens and Women Children of Noblemen, Gentlemen and others, as well such as be Heirs Apparent to their Ancestors, as others, having left unto them by their Father, or other Ancestor and Friends, Lands, Tenements and Hereditaments, or other great Substances in Goods and Chattels moveable, for and to the Intent to advance them in Marriage, somewhat like according to their Degrees, and as might be most for their Surety and Comfort, as well for themselves as of all other their Friends and Kinsfolks, be oftentimes unaware to their said Friends or Kinsfolks, by Flattery, trifling, Gifts and fair Promises, of many unthrifty and light Personages, and thereto by the Intreaty of Persons of lewd Demeanour, and others that for Rewards buy and sell the said Maidens and Children, secretly allured and won to contract Matrimony with the said unthrifty and light Personages, and thereupon either with Sleight or Force oftentimes be taken and conveyed away from their said Parents, Friends or Kinsfolks, to the high Displeasure of Almighty God, Disparagement of the said Children, and the extream continual Heaviness of all their Friends Which ungodly Dealing, for Lack of wholesome Laws to the Redress thereof, remaineth a great, familiar and common Mischief in this our Commonwealth :’
II. For Remedy whereof, be it enacted by the King and Queen’s Majesties, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and the Commons, of this present Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same, That it shall not be lawful to any Person or Persons to take or convey away, or cause to be taken or conveyed away, any Maid or Woman Child unmarried, being under the Age of sixteen Years, out of or from the Possession, Custody, or Governance, and against the Will of the Father of such Maid or Woman Child, or of such Person or Persons to whom the Father of such Maid or Woman Child, by his last Will and Testament, or
any other Act in his Life-time, hath or shall appoint, assign, bequeath, give or grant the Order, Keeping, Education or Governance of such Maid or Woman Child, except such taking and conveying away as shall be had, made or done, by or for such Person or Persons, as without Fraud or Covin be or then shall be the Master or Mistress of such Maid or Woman Child, or the Guardian in Socage, or Guardian in Chivalry, of or to such Maid or Woman Child.
III. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid , That if any Person or Persons above the Age of xiv. Years shall from and after the first Day of April next coming unlawfully take or convey, or cause to be taken or conveyed, any Maid or Woman Child unmarried, being within the Age of xvi. Years, out of or from the Possession and against the Will of the Father or Mother of such Child, or out of or from the Possession and against the Will of such Person or Persons as then shall happen to have, by any lawful Ways or Means, the Order, Keeping, Education or Governance of any such Maiden or Woman Child ; that then every such Person and Persons so offending, being thereof lawfully attainted or convicted by the Order and due Course of the Laws of this Realm (other than such of whom such Person taken away shall hold any Lands or Tenements by Knights Service) shall have and suffer Imprisonment of his or their Bodies, by the Space of two whole Years, without Bail or Mainprise, or else shallpay such Fine for his or their said Offence, as shall be assessed by the Council of the Queen’s Highness, her Heirs or Successors, in the Star-Chamber at Westminster.
IV. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid , That if any Person or Persons, after the said, Day, shaIl so take away, or cause to be taken away as is aforesaid, and deflower any such Maid or Woman Child as is aforesaid , or shall against the Will, or unknowing of or to the Father of any such Maid or Woman Child, if the Father be in Life, or against the Will or unknowing of the Mother of any such Maid or Woman Child (having the Custody or Governance of such Child, if the Father be dead) by secret Letters, Messages, or otherwise contract Matrimony with any such Maiden or Woman Child, except such Contracts of Matrimony as shall be made by the Consent of such Person or Persons, as by the Title of Wardship shall then have or be intituled to have the Marriage of such Maid or Woman Child ; that then every such Person or Persons so offending, being thereof lawfully convicted, as is aforesaid , shall suffer Imprisonment of his or their Bodies, by the Space of five Years, without Bail or Mainprise, or else shall pay such Fine for his or their said Offence, as shall be assessed by the said Council in the said Star-Chamber; (2) the one Moiety of all which forfeitures and Fines shall be to the King and Queen’s Majesties, her Heirs and Successors, the other Moiety to the Parties grieved.
V. And be it further enacted by the said Authority, That the King and Queen’s Highness honourable Council of the Star-Chamber, by Bill of Complaint or Information, and Justices of Assise by Inquisition or Indictment, shall have Authority by Virtue of this Act to hear and determine the said Offences ; (a) upon every which Indictment and Inquisitions, such Process shall be awarded and lie, as upon an Indictment of Trespass at the Common Law.
VI. And further be it enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That if any Woman Child or Maiden, being above the Age of twelve Years, and under the Age of sixteen Years, do at any Time consent or agree to such Person that so shall make any Contract of Matrimony, contrary to the Form and Effect of this Statute, that then the next of the Kin of the same Woman Child or Maid, to whom the Inheritance should descend, return or come, after the Decease of the same Woman Child and Maid, shall from the Time of such Assent and Agreement have, hold and enjoy all such Lands, Tenements and Hereditaments, as the same Woman Child and Maiden had in Possession, Reversion or Remainder, at the Time of such Consent and Agreement, during the Life of such Person that shall so contract Matrimony (a) And after the Decease of such Person so contracting Matrimony, that then the said Lands, Tenements and Hereditaments, shall descend, revert, remain, and come to such Person or Persons as they should have done in case this Act had never been made, other than to him only that so shall contract Matrimony.
VII. Provided always, and be it enacted, That this Act, nor any Thing therein contained, shall extend to take away or diminish any Liberty, Custom or Authority, touching or concerning any Orphan or Orphans, which now be or hereafter shall be within the City of London, or any other City, Borough or Town, where Orphans are commonly used to be provided for, either by Grant or by Custom, but that the Lord Mayor of the said City of London, and the Aldermen of the same for the Time being, and all and every other Head Officer or Officers of any other City, Borough or Town, where such Orphans be provided for, shall and may have and take like Rule, Order, Keeping and Charge of such Orphan and Orphans and of all their Lands, Tenements, Goods and Chattels, as heretofore they or any of them lawfully had or used, or lawfully might have had and used, if this Act had not been made.
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