Timetable of Legal History logoHenry the VIIIth may well have been a tyrant and his legacy is rife with terror, but that same record does seemingly include an example or two of good.

The 1535 statute in regards to the poor, the first of its kind in the common law world, though centuries after the Roman law's l’Institutio alimentaria.

At first glance, the 1535 document exudes regard for the indigent. However, that same statute imposes on regional persons and government the obligation to sustain its own poor and thus gets the Royal Crown off the hook.

Altruism a la Henry VIII!

The 1535 statute, for which the official legal citation is 27 Hen. 8, ch. 25:

 All governors of shires, cities, towns, hundreds, hamlets and parishes, shall find and keep every aged, poor and impotent person, which was born or dwelt three years within the same limit, by way of voluntary and charitable alms in every of the same cities and parishes, and with such convenient alms as shall be thought meet by their discretion, so as none of them shall be compelled to go openly in begging.

"And also shall compel every sturdy vagabond to be kept in continual labour.

"Children under 14 years of age, and above 5, that live in idleness, and be taken to begging, may be put to service by the governors of cities, towns, and to husbandry or other crafts or labours.

"A valiant beggar, or sturdy vagabond, shall at the first time be whipped and sent to the placve where he was born or last dwelled by the space of three years, there to get his living; and if he continue his roguish life, he shall have the upper part of the gristle of his right ear cut off.

"And if after that he be taken wandering in idleness, or doth not apply to his labour, or is not in service with any mater, he shall be adjudged and executed as a felon...."