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Buggery Act 1533

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Template:British legislation lists, Acts The Buggery Act of 1533 (25 Hen. VIII c. 6) was a sodomy law adopted in England in 1534 during the reign of Henry VIII, and was the first civil legislation applicable against homosexuals in the country, such offences having previously been dealt with by ecclesiastical courts. The law defined buggery as an unnatural sexual act against the will of God and man. This was later defined by the courts to include only anal sex and bestiality.[1]

Description Edit

The Buggery Act was piloted through Parliament by Thomas Cromwell. The Act established punishment of buggery by hanging, a penalty not finally lifted until 1861. Some have suggested that bestiality was specifically included because of the fear of hybrid births, and also because of a demons'ability to turn into animals/beasts.[citation needed]

Although it is sometimes suggested that the Act was introduced as a measure against the clergy during the separation of the Church of England from Rome, there is no firm evidence for this, and indeed the Act preceded the separation.[citation needed]

In July 1540, contravention of the Act, along with treason, led Walter Hungerford, 1st Baron Hungerford of Heytesbury to become the first person executed under the statute, although it was probably the treason that cost him his life. Nicholas Udall, a cleric, playwright, and Headmaster of Eton College, was the first to be charged with violation of the Act alone in 1541. In his case, the sentence was commuted to imprisonment and he was released in less than a year.

The Act was repealed in 1553 on the accession of Queen Mary. However, it was re-enacted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1563 and became the charter for all subsequent criminalization in the English-speaking world. In England, only a few executions are known during the two centuries that followed. The Act itself was finally repealed by the Offences Against the Person Act 1828 and the Criminal Law (India) Act 1828, though the crime remained on the statute books under other legislation. Buggery remained a capital offence in England until 1861; and the last execution for the crime took place in 1836.[citation needed]

The United Kingdom repealed its buggery laws in 1967, ten years after the Wolfenden report, but legal statutes in many former colonies have retained them, such as in the Anglophone Caribbean (see LGBT rights in Jamaica).

See alsoEdit


  1. R v Jacobs (1817) Russ & Ry 331 confirmed that buggery related only to intercourse per anum by a man with a man or woman or intercourse per anum or per vaginum by either a man or a woman with an animal. Other forms of "unnatural intercourse" may amount to indecent assault or gross indecency, but do not constitute buggery. See generally, Smith & Hogan, Criminal Law (10th ed), ISBN 0 406 94801 1

External linksEdit

it:Buggery Act 1533 sv:Buggery Act 1533

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