Usually LGBTQ history month is used to highlight noted achievements or milestones but with the recent gay marriage and destruction of the family paranoia by some religious crackpots essentially and equally idiotic members of the public who simply lap up the vomit they are fed then regurgitate it with the greatest of ease we must understand that the buggery law as it is often coined was not some morally curative legal device to address some wholesale societal infection of some sort of national faggotry or sexual sins as is postured by anti gay groups in recent times. As its text was short with only 16 sentences its shelf life was to also have been short as the last sentence outlined. I am of the opinion that the very text in the act is an anathema in a sense linguistically speaking as the Brits tend to enhance loquacity both in wording and substance when it comes to legislation in particular and writing in general.
See previous LGBT History posts from Gay Jamaica Watch, GLBTQ Jamaica (Blogger), GLBTQ Jamaica (Wordpress) and GJBTQJA (Blogger)
Their calls for the buggery law to remain is so nonsensical and is laughable at best but it is a serious matter as it is done in the name of so called moral values and preserving the family when the family as we knew it and presented has been damaged already by the very same folks who enjoy marriage rights with very little help from those who are same sex attracted or of other sexual orientation/gender identity. These groups will never ever do or encourage the research on the timeline of the buggery law and its true origin and use as they may be left embarrassed and the laughing stock of the country; especially when information is so easily available literally at our fingertips. Remember my post on grooming where in just five minutes as an untrained counselor I found so much material to debunk anti gay voices deliberately conflating homosexuality with paedophilia (See more HERE when you’re done reading). Ask anyone of these homophobic religious fanatics why the law was passed they cannot tell you and conversely the very LGBTQ lobbyists and advocacies real or imagined too are ignorant to the trajectory in British parliamentary history hence they have been unable to tidy up their rebuttals to the poor researched nonsense despite there are lawyers and such supposedly on the frontline (mostly social media) but not on the ground with any real world experience to boot.
Interestingly the law was to have had a short shelf life as its last sentence in the original 16 sentenced long text outlined:
“Forasmuch as there is not yet sufficient and condign punishment appointed and limited by the due course of the Laws of this Realm for the detestable and abominable Vice of Buggery committed with mankind of beast: It may therefore please the King’s Highness with the assent of the Lords Spiritual and the Commons of this present parliament assembled, that it may be enacted by the authority of the same, that the same offence be from henceforth ajudged Felony and that such an order and form of process therein to be used against the offenders as in cases of felony at the Common law. And that the offenders being hereof convict 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 Realme. And that no person offending in any such offence shall be admitted to his Clergy, and that Justices of the Peace shall have power and authority within the limits of their commissions and Jurisdictions to hear and determine the said offence, as they do in the cases of other felonies. This Act to endure till the last day of the next Parliament.”
Thomas Cromwell, House of Commons
Note: This act was extended through Parliament three additional times. Notable convictions under the act included: Walter Hungerford, 1st Baron Hungerford or Heytesbury in 1540; Mervyn Tuchet, 2nd Earl of Castlehaven in 1631; John Atherton, Bishop of Waterford in 1640; Vere Street Coterie in 1810; and Percy Jocelyn, Bishop of Clogher in 1822.
The buggery law was nothing more than an extension of existing legislation in Italy (namely Florence under the Medici popes etc), France (under Phillip the fourth and used to smear the knights Templars etc) and other parts of Europe for varying reasons a legal instrument to bolster the smear campaign to label catholic priests/bishops/clergy or those who did not subscribe to the emerging protestant movement as designed by the monarch as same sex practicing or lovers of choir boys and the usual homosexuality/paedophilia conflation (words such as paedophilia or homosexual never entered the English Language as yet till hundreds of years later) and as part of the expulsion exercise under King Henry VIII also called the dissolution of the monasteries ways legal and theological were employed to bring the imperative into effect.
The Medieval Basis of Modern Law
Although the Middle Ages, extending from about the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, is not a single cohesive epoch, the copious citation of trials and laws would merely accumulate evidence of homophobia rather than give us insight into its causes. Throughout this period anti-homosexual attitudes and stereotypes changed only in so far as they became more rigid, and were used increasingly to bolster certain social institutions such as the papacy and state governments. The real reason for the persecution of the Templars — the most powerful crusading order of its time — derived from political and economic hostility, greed and envy. The Church and the State defeated a real threat to their authority, confiscated their great wealth, and achieved an object lesson which struck terror into the hearts of much less powerful potential enemies. The unquestioned authority of Church and State was reaffirmed.
Since medieval asceticism was virtually identical with an obsession about sex, it was inevitable that charges of heresy and treason were always accompanied by charges of sexual deviation. Popular writers such as Dante used the same technique to attack their personal enemies. It is embarrassingly clear that certain men are condemned as sodomites in his Inferno, Canto XV, simply because it was a convenient smear tactic. Most of those literary men and clerks assigned to the seventh level of hell were Dante's political opponents; some, such as Guerra, Rusticucci, Aldrobandi, Latina, and perhaps Borsiere, were Guelfs, those responsible for Dante's exile from Florence.
In order for the Church and State to maintain control over what they perceived as a disorderly population, medieval people were increasingly forbidden to deviate from the right path in anything. Religious orthodoxy, political orthodoxy, and intellectual orthodoxy were all firmly bolstered by the savage imposition of sexual orthodoxy. Medieval secular law almost universally deferred to ecclesiastic law, in ever more rigid sanctions.
In French legislation, in Beauvais sodomites were burned and their property confiscated; in Touraine-Angou, they were burned and their goods fell to the local baron. In Italy, in such cities as Perugia, Bologna, and Ancona, lay confraternities were created in 1233 and entrusted with the task of ensuring religious and sexual conformity with particular attention to sodomy. In Perugia, the law provided for 40 men (8 from each of the 5 sections of the city) to investigate and denounce sodomites. At Ascoli Piceno a bounty was given to those who denounced sodomites. At Pisa, people who harboured sodomites were fined 100 lire. At Bologna, whoever dwelt in a building where sodomy was practised might be burnt along with the house. In Sienna, if a sodomite could not pay the 300 lire fine for a first offence, he was suspended by his genitals.
In fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Florence — where men were fond of sodomy to such an extent that the Germans dubbed pederasts Florenzer and the German word for sodomy became florenzen — the laws were precise with a vengeance: pederasts were castrated; consenting boys under 14 were beaten, driven naked through the city, and fine 50 lire; youths between 14 and 18 were fined 100 lire; houses or fields where the act took place were laid waste; men found in suspicious circumstances were presumed guilty; torture could be used to elicit a confession; conviction resulted in burning at the stake. The chief city officials could investigate, punish, and torture in any way they saw fit, and could ban suspects from the city; even songs about sodomy were fined 100 lire. It is not much of an exaggeration to call this a campaign of extermination, although the penalties were gradually lowered toward the end of the fifteenth century, and a fine was often sufficient for those enforcers of the law who were more interested in money than in morals.
The persecution of homosexuals was one of the tools in the repertoire of repressive measures by which the Inquisition strengthened the Church and contributed to the centralization of the papacy. Modern defenders of Christianity, who point out that canon law emphasized the punishment of homosexuals within the clergy, usually ignore the fact that the law confraternities and mendicant orders had a brief to seek out and punish homosexuals in all sectors of the community. The fact that that ecclesiastical authorities turned over the heretics / witches / sodomites to the civil authorities for execution or punishment was of course a pious hypocrisy. The Inquisition's spawn of lay confraternities and the mendicant orders established sexual oppression throughout much of northern Europe as well as Italy, and every secular law justified itself with references to the Church Fathers, Scripture, and the papal decrees. Burning at the stake, and laying waste the fields were sodomy occurred, were directly inspired by the Christian interpretation of the store of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the severity of the anti-homosexual secular laws was a Judaeo-Christian inheritance.
The more specific detailing of homosexual crimes and punishments may be due to the rapid rise of political democratization in Italy, the reduced power of the oligarchy and the ethics of the petit bourgeois — though again, the Church's hatred and fear of material pleasures formed the basis of this morality.
The Penitential System had a devastating effect upon the laws of England (and consequently the laws of America). In 960 St Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, began a moral reform of the Church and society, and under his influence ecclesiastical law became the core for civil law. Thus "penances" came to be enforced as "sentences" in the courts of law. The eleventh-century court of the Normal William Rufus and Robert Duke of Normandy was believed to have been rife with homosexuality, and the successor King Henry I set about cleaning it up. At a Council in London he laid down new penalties for "those who commit the shameful sin of sodomy, and especially for those who of their own free will take pleasure in doing so." Homosexual clerics were to be expelled from their orders, and homosexual laymen were to be deprived of their civil rights. Henry's orders were moderated by Archbishop (later Saint) Anselm (himself probably at least a repressed homosexual, to judge by his love letters to several young men), who directed the clergy to exercise discretion: "It must be remembered that this sin has been publicly committed to such an extent that it scarcely makes anyone blush, and that many have fallen into it in ignorance of its gravity."
The first significant reference to civil laws against homosexuality in England occurred in 1376, when the God Parliament unsuccessfully petitioned King Edward III to banish all "Lombard brokers" because they were usurers, and other foreign artisans and traders, particularly "Jews and Saracens," who were accused to having introduced "the too horrible vice which is not to be named" which they thought would destroy the realm. But it was not until 1533 that a statute was actually enacted against homosexuals. The Act (25 Henry 8, chapter 6) adjudges buggery a felony punishable by hanging until dead. The Buggery Act was piloted through Parliament by Thomas Cromwell in an effort to support Henry VIII's plan for reducing the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts, as the first step towards depriving them of the right to try certain offences, which supported his policy of seizing Church property.
The long and short of it is King Henry VIII and his chief enforcer prior to his death Sir Thomas Wolsey and hired sidekick Thomas Cromwell who excellently displayed his skills prior that brought him some notoriety then promoted to his master’s post decided to split from the Vatican and form his own church as the church of England or Protestantism. Ironically Cromwell managed to survive the fall and death of his master and previous chief minister Sir Thomas Wolsey who in failing to gain the divorce King Henry needed ended up getting the boot aided and abetted by queen in waiting Ann Boleyn.
Convictions and punishments in other countries seem to have been more frequent and more severe. When William Lithgow visited Malta in 1616 he "saw a Spanish soldier and a Maltese boy burnt in ashes, for the public profession of sodomy," and by the end of the following day more than one hundred young men had fled to Sicily for fear of suffering a similar fate. In Geneva there were frequent prosecutions for sodomy from 1560 to 1610, linked to peaks of religious revival; a typical case was that of Pierre Canal, who in 1610 was tortured for high treason and murder, and before this inquisition was finished he had accused some 20 men of sodomy. Most of the sodomy charges throughout this period of Genevan history were levelled against French religious refugees. In Ireland, in 1640 John Atherton, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, and his lover and tithe proctor John Child were convicted of buggery and hanged.
One of the tragedies of the New World is that it took over much of the legal system of the Old World. The Buggery Act of Henry VIII (as re-enacted by Elizabeth I in 1563) was adopted, often verbatim, by the original thirteen Colonies, and buggery was punished by death. The records of convictions are scarce, but they were not systematically recorded and are therefore difficult to discover. In 1624 Richard William Cornish, Master of the ship Ambrose, anchored in the James River, Virginia, was hanged for committing sodomy with the 29-year-old cabin boy William Couse. We know that sodomites were prosecuted in Plymouth Plantation in the 1640s. In 1646, in Massachusetts Bay Colony, William Plaine was executed for having committed sodomy with two persons in England before going over to the colonies; and in the same year, in Manhattan, New Netherland Colony, Jan Creoli, a negro, was sentenced to be choked to death and burned to ashes for a second offence of sodomy. In New Netherlands Colony there is a reference to attempted sodomy by N. G. Hillebrant or Hillebrantsen in 1658; and to alleged homosexual rape by J. Q. van der Linde (or Lijnden) in 1660 — he was tied in a sack and drowned in a river, while his partner was whipped and "sent to some other place." In 1674, in Massachusetts, a young man named Benjamin Goad was castrated for a crime which seems to have involved masturbating himself in front of, or with, other boys. Over the years, the death penalty was gradually replaced by whipping, imprisonment, castration, and forfeiture of all lands and goods, though in several states the death penalty was reintroduced.
Indeed the reform of anti-homosexual laws has been exceedingly difficult despite the increasingly liberal attitudes of more recent times. The Judaeo-Christian abhorrence of homosexuality and the buggery laws are likely to be with us for a long time to come, exacerbated by the fear of AIDS and as clear shown in modern times via groups such as Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, JCHS and Dr Wayne West. In March 1991 for example, during the debate in the parliament of the Isle of Man as to whether or not to decriminalize homosexual acts in accordance with the British Government and the European Convention on Human Rights, the majority of the Council of Ministers wished to retain their law against homosexuality. The argument of the select committee which rejected a proposal to bring their law into line with the rest of Western Europe pretends to be modern in its assertion that private homosexual activity should be banned in order to protect public health by preventing the spread of AIDS, but the vocabulary of prejudice has not changed over the centuries. It was summarized in the words of Mr Edgar Quine, opposed to reform of the Manx laws, who said "Dress it up as we will we are still talking about the unnatural offensive and abominable act of buggery."
Fast forward to modern times the same strategy is used despite wider knowledge of HIV/AIDS and the debunking of the epidemic as a gay disease; crackpots such as Dr Wayne West continue to misuse studies and old papers to justify hatred.
Cromwell was promoted in 1532 to chief minister after his successes in getting the divorce through and the supremacy launching the church of England effectively while given more power over the management of monasteries hence as part of the smear campaign to vilify Catholics the timing of the buggery law was most convenient, as a removed or absent Vatican control with its ecclesiastical courts and moral control a vacuum came following the passage of both the Act of Restraint of Appeals to essentially block Queen Catherine from appealing to Rome attempting to block the divorce and greater Acts of Supremacy overall both predicated on the patriotic fantasies of writers such as
King Henry was forced to testify in front of a church court (his own Church of England as its head embarrassingly) that replaced the now evicted ecclesiastical systems under Catholicism as to why he could not consummate the marriage with Ann of Cleves who he eventually divorced and named her as his sister instead in the settlement papers much to her embarrassment but with wealth afforded to her until Henry died. In granting the testimony of impotence King Henry VIII needed to blame someone especially for a king who prided himself with his virility so he laid it all at Cromwell’s feet and with the combination his end was inevitable in my eyes. Deception effectively made him and deception ended up being his downfall. The very church corruption he pretended to fight in later years was what brought him to power.
28 July 1540 – The Executions of Thomas Cromwell and Walter Hungerford -While Henry VIII was busy marrying wife number 5, his former chief minister Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, was being beheaded on Tower Hill. Cromwell had passed against him awful charges on 29th June 1540 for the crimes of corruption, heresy and treason.
Cromwell climbed the scaffold on Tower Hill and addressed the gathered crowd:
“I am come hether to dye, and not to purge my self, as maie happen, some thynke that I will, for if I should do so, I wer a very wretche and miser: I am by the Lawe comdempned to die, and thanke my lorde God that hath appoynted me this deathe, for myne offence: For sithence the tyme that I have had yeres of discrecion, I have lived a synner, and offended my Lorde God, for the whiche I aske hym hartely forgevenes. And it is not unknowne to many of you, that I have been a great traveler in this worlde, and beyng but of a base degree, was called to high estate, and sithes the tyme I came thereunto, I have offended my prince, for the whiche I aske hym hartely forgevenes, and beseche you all to praie to God with me, that he will forgeve me.
O father forgeve me. O sonne forgeve me, O holy Ghost forgeve me: O thre persons in one God forgeve me. And now I praie you that be here, to beare me record, I die in the Catholicke faithe, not doubtyng in any article of my faith, no nor doubtyng in any Sacrament of the Churche. Many hath sclaundered me, and reported that I have been a bearer, of suche as hath mainteigned evill opinions, whiche is untrue, but I confesse that like as God by his holy spirite, doth instruct us in the truthe, so the devill is redy to seduce us, and I have been seduced: but beare me witnes that I dye in the Catholicke faithe of the holy Churche. And I hartely desire you to praie for the Kynges grace, that he maie long live with you, maie long reigne over you. And once again I desire you to pray for me, that so long as life remaigneth in this fleshe, I waver nothyng in my faithe.”
Cromwell then knelt at the block and was beheaded “by a ragged and Boocherly miser, whiche very ungoodly perfourmed the office” – a botched execution in other words.
• Treason for pretending to arrest Pilgrimage of Grace supporter William Bird, Vicar of Bradford-on-Avon, when he actually supported him by employing him as chaplain.
• Using magic, along with Sir Hugh Wood and Dr Maudlin, to predict how long Henry VIII would live.
As for the “buggery” charge, Hungerford had allegedly “exercised and frequented, and used the abominable and detestable vice and sin of buggery with William Master, Thomas Smith” and others in his household.”
Hungerford was also beheaded on Tower Hill, following Cromwell on to the scaffold, and his head joined Cromwell’s on London Bridge for public display. Retha Warnicke believes that it was the information that the King’s council gleaned about Hungerford, and his association with sorcerers and witches, that caused the heresy charges to be added to Cromwell’s bill of attainder because there was a “connection between sodomites and heretics.” Cromwell’s connection with Hungerford was definitely a way to blacken his name.
Henry VIII did come to regret Thomas Cromwell’s fall and execution. Marillac, the French ambassador, reported that the King had said that the King reproached his council for using “false accusations” to bring down Cromwell, complaining that “they made him put to death the most faithful servant he ever had.”
Although centuries later we must not overlook the fact that James VI of Scotland (King James Bible) son to Mary Queen of Scots who came to the English throne after the death of Elizabeth 1 with the law still in place was openly bisexual and was not prosecuted for buggery; yet it was under him that the most successful English translation of the Bible came forth out of the puritanical debate in 1610 and theological clashes concerning piety, abundance of wealth in the church and monarchy. His infamous line during one of the one on one sessions still lingers “No bishop no king” as he recognized that the nakedness of the church in terms of reduction in wealth and display would essentially wipe out the look and feel of the monarchy as it had become.
If the country of origin has so changed their arrangements finally to permit equality to homosexuals and such then why are we still holding on four hundred plus aged outdated legislation given the calls for reparations for slavery and dropping the UK Privy Council as our final court?
I hope some persons who take up spokes-person duties would please do some research before embarrassing themselves effectively on such matters; if we do not understand how we got here then we cannot plan and execute said plans for the future.
Peace and tolerance