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The Buggery Act 1533, formally An Acte for the punysshement of the vice of Buggerie (25 Hen. 8 c. 6), was an Act of the Parliament of England that was passed during the reign of Henry VIII. It was the country's first civil sodomy law, such offences having previously been dealt with by the ecclesiastical courts.

The Act 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 penetration and bestiality.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 vaginam 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) The Act remained in force until its repeal in 1828.


The Act was piloted through Parliament by Thomas Cromwell. The Act established punishment of buggery by hanging, a penalty lifted in 1861.

According to the Act:

...the offenders being hereof convicted by verdict confession or outlawry shall suffer such pains of death and losses and penalties of their good chattels debts lands tenements and hereditaments as felons do according to the Common Laws of this Realm. And that no person offending in any such offence shall be admitted to his Clergy...”

This meant that a convicted sodomite’s possessions could be confiscated by the government, rather than going to their next of kin, and that even priests and monks could be executed for the offence — even though they could not be executed for murder. Henry later used the law to execute monks and nuns (thanks to information his spies had gathered) and take their monastery lands — the same tactics had been used 200 years before by Philip IV of France against the Knights Templar. It is likely that Henry had this in mind when he drafted the Act.

In July 1540, contravention of the Act, along with treason, resulted in the first conviction: Walter Hungerford, 1st Baron Hungerford of Heytesbury became 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, for sexually abusing his pupils. 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. Although "homosexual prosecutions throughout the sixteenth century [were] sparse" and "fewer than a dozen prosecutions are recorded up through 1660 . . . this may reflect inadequate research into the subject, and a scarcity of extant legal records."[http ://] Numerous prosecutions that resulted in a sentence of hanging are recorded in the 18th and early 19th centuries.[http ://]

Even if the charge of sodomy was reduced for lack of evidence to a charge of attempted buggery, the penalty was severe: imprisonment and some time on the pillory. "The lesser punishment – to be stood in the pillory – was by no means a lenient one, for the victims often had to fear for their lives at the hands of an enraged multitude armed with brickbats as well as filth and curses. . . . the victims in the pillory, male or female, found themselves at the centre of an orgy of brutality and mass hysteria, especially if the victim were a molly."[http ://]

Periodicals of the time sometimes casually named known sodomites, and at one point even suggested that sodomy was increasingly popular. This does not imply that sodomites necessarily lived in security.

The last two Englishmen that were hanged for sodomy were executed in 1835. John Pratt and John Smith died in front of the Newgate Prison in London on the 27th of November of that year See [http ://] Alternative date April 8 1835, See [http ://] seen 2012 .They had been prosecuted under the 1533 Buggery Act.

The Act was repealed by section 1 of the Offences against the Person Act 1828 (9 Geo.4 c.31) and by section 125 of the Criminal Law (India) Act 1828 (c.74). It was replaced by section 15 of the Offences against the Person Act 1828, and section 63 of the Criminal Law (India) Act 1828, which provided that buggery would continue to be a capital offence.

Buggery remained a capital offence in England and Wales until the enactment of the Offences against the Person Act 1861;section 61 the last execution for the crime took place in 1836.{{cite book|title=Fictions of loss in the Victorian fin de siècle|author=Stephen Arata|page=56|publisher=Cambridge University Press]

The United Kingdom Parliament repealed buggery laws for England and Wales in 1967 (in so far as they related to consensual homosexual acts in private), ten years after the Wolfenden report. Legal statutes in many former colonies have retained them, such as in the Anglophone Caribbean.

See also[edit]

Notable convictions under the Act:


External links[edit]