Irish Penal Laws

The “Irish Penal Laws” is a term which covers a range of laws enacted between 1558 and 1759 aimed at disenfranchising Catholics in Ireland in practically every means possible. Below is a small selection.

English Statute 1 Eliz c.1 (1558 ): Oath of Supremacy

I, ___, do utterly testify and declare in my conscience, that the Queen’s highness is the only supreme governor of this realm, and of all other her Highness dominions and countries, as well in all spiritual or ecclesiastical things or causes, as temporal, and that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate, hath, or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, preheminence, or authority ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm; and therefore I do utterly renounce and forsake all foreign jurisdictions, powers, superiorities, and authorities, and do promise that from henceforth I shall bear faith and true allegiance to the Queen’s Highness, her heirs and lawful successors, and to my power shall assist and defend all jurisdictions, preheminences, privileges and authorities granted or belonging to the Queen’s Highness, her heirs and successors, or united and annexed to the imperial crown of this realm. So help me God, and by the contents of this book.

English Statute 3 Will & Mary c.2 (1691): An Act for the Abrogating the Oath of Supremacy in Ireland and Appointing other Oaths

No person residing in Ireland shall be obliged to take the oath of supremacy of 1 Eliz. Ch 1, but the oaths appointed to be taken by this present act shall be taken by those persons who were required by the said act, or any other statute made in Ireland, to take the abrogated oath. That is to say: all bishops and archbishops of Ireland, all persons above the degree of baron, all persons in Ireland having any employment or office ecclesiastical, civil or military, the head and fellows of the University of Dublin, master of any hospital or school, barrister, clerk in chancery, attorney, and professor of Law, Physick or other science. All prior acts, to the extent that they required the oath of supremacy, are repealed.

English Statute 3 Will & Mary, c.2 (1691) : An Act for the Abrogating the Oath of Supremacy in Ireland and Appointing other Oaths

It shall be lawful for 2 justices of the peace (one of the quorum) to direct their warrant to any constable to summon any person of the age of 18 years or upwards, to appear before such justices to take the oath before mentioned to be faithful to their Majesties. A person not appearing, or refusing to take the oath shall be committed to gaol for 3 months, or pay a fine not exceeding 40 shillings. After 3 months, the offender may be summoned to take the oath again, on pain of 6 months imprisonment in the common gaol, unless he shall pay a sum, not exceeding 10 pounds, nor under 5 pounds, and unless such offender shall become bound with 2 sureties, with condition to appear at the next assizes or gaol delivery, and in the mean time to be of good behaviour. At which assizes or gaol-delivery, the oath shall be tendered, and if he refuse to take the oath, he shall incur the penalty of praemunire, except women covert, who shall be committed to the common gaol until they take the oath.

4 Will & Mary c.2 (1692): An Act for encouragement of Protestant strangers to settle in this kingdom of Ireland

Continues the Act of 14 Charles II c.13 for the encouragement of Protestant settlement in Ireland for an additional 7 years, and substitutes for the oath of supremacy and allegiance, the oaths and declaration against transubstantiation set forth in English 3 Will and Mary c.2. And provides that such Protestant strangers shall enjoy the free exercise of their religion, and the liberty of meeting publickly for worship, any former law notwithstanding.

7 Will III c.4 (1695): An Act to Restrain foreign Education

In case any of his Majesty’s subjects of Ireland shall go or send any child or other person beyond the seas to be trained in any popish university, college or school, or in any private popish family, or shall send any money for the support of any such person, then the person sending and the person sent shall, upon conviction, be disabled to prosecute any action in a court of law, or be a guardian or executor, or receive any legacy or gift, or bear any public office, and shall forfeit all their lands and estates during their lives.

7 Will III c.5 (1695): An Act for the better securing the government, by disarming papists

Sec. 1. All papists within this kingdom of Ireland shall before the 1st day of March, 1696, deliver up to some justice of the peace or corporation officer where such papist shall dwell, all their arms and ammunition, notwithstanding any licence for keeping the same heretofore granted. Justices of the peace, mayors, sheriffs, and chief officers of cities and towns and persons under their warrants, may search and seize all arms and ammunition of papists, or in the hands of any persons in trust for them, wherever they shall suspect they may be concealed. And such arms shall be preserved for the use of his Majesty.

9 Will III c.3 (1697): An Act to prevent Protestants intermarrying with Papists

Sec. 1. Whereas many protestant women, heirs or heirs apparent to lands or other great substances in goods or chattels, or having considerable estates for life, or guardianship of children intitled to such estates, by flattery and other crafty insinuations of popish persons, have been seduced to contract matrimony with and take to husband, papists, to the great ruin of such estates, to the great loss of many protestant persons to whom the same might descend, and to the corrupting such protestant women that they forsake their religion and become papists, to the great dishonour of Almighty God, the great prejudice of the protestant interest, and the heavy sorrow of all their protestant friends, if any Protestant woman having any estate or interest real or, if personal of a value of 500 pounds, shall take to husband any person without first having a certificate from the minister of the parish, bishop, and justice of the peace living near the place where such person shall be resident at the time of such marriage, that he is a known protestant, which certificate shall also be attested under the hands of 2 credible witnesses, that protestant woman, and the person she shall so marry, shall be incapable of holding or enjoying any of her aforesaid estates or interests. And by such marriage all said estates and interests shall be vested in the next protestant of kin to whom such estate or interests would descend were such protestant woman dead. And such protestant person may sue for and recover such estates or interests at any time after such marriage.

English Statute 1 Ann c.26 (1702): An Act for the Relief of the Protestant Purchasers of the forfeited Estates in Ireland

To the end that none of the aforesaid purchased forfeited estates may ever descend to any Papist but shall remain to be held and enjoyed by Protestants for the strengthening of the English interest and Protestant religion, if any person educated in the popish religion, or professing the same, and being under the age of 18, shall not, within 6 months of attaining the age of 18, take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and the declaration against transubstantiation in the courts of Chancery or Kings-bench in England or Ireland, or in the quarter-sessions where such person shall reside, and continue to be a protestants, such person in respect of himself only, and not his heirs or posterity, shall be disabled to take by decent, devise, or limitation, any of the forfeited estates purchased in Ireland, and during the life of such person, or until he shall take the oaths etc., the protestant next of kin shall enjoy the premises.