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See also: præmunire and Præmunire



An engraving of John Pettie’s 1863 painting George Fox Refusing to Take the Oath at Houlker Hall, A.D. 1663. It depicts George Fox (standing left of centre), one of the founders of the Religious Society of Friends whose members are known as Quakers, in Holker Hall being required to take an oath by judges of the neighbourhood, including Justice Rawlinson (right, hand raised). As Quakers refused to take oaths, they were often charged with the offence of praemunire. This in fact happened to Fox’s wife Margaret Fell (shown seated behind him).

Borrowing from Latin praemūnīre, shortened form of praemunire facias (that you cause to be forewarned) from the opening words of the writ: praemūnīre (to fortify (defend in advance)) (error for praemonēre (to forewarn)) + faciās (you make).



praemunire (plural praemunires)

  1. (law, historical) The offence in English law of bringing suit in or obeying a foreign (especially papal) court or authority, thus challenging the supremacy of the Crown. The offence was created by the Statute of Praemunire 1393 (16 Richard II, chapter 5), and abolished by the Criminal Law Act 1967 (chapter 58).
    • 1613, William Shakespeare, “The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies, London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, Act III, scene ii, page 222:
      Lord Cardinall, the Kings further pleaſure is, / Becauſe all thoſe things you haue done of late / By your power Legatiue within this Kingdome, / Fall into' th' compaſſe of a Premunire; / That therefore ſuch a Writ be ſued againſt you, / To forfeit all your Goods, Lands, Tenements, / Caſtles, and whatſoever, and to be / Out of the Kings protection. This is my Charge.
    • 1644, Edward Coke, The Third Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England: Concerning High Treason, and Other Pleas of the Crown, and Criminall Causes, London: Printed by M[iles] Flesher, for W[illiam] Lee and D[aniel] Pakeman, OCLC 12388731; reprinted as The Third Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England: Concerning High Treason, and other Pleas of the Crown. And Criminal Causes, 15th edition, London: Printed for E. and R. Brooke, Bell-Yard, near Temple-Bar, 1797, OCLC 76956988, pages 119–*120:
      The effect of the ſtatute of 16 R. 2 [Statute of Praemunire (16 Ric. II, chapter 5)] is, if any purſue or cauſe to be purſued in the court of Rome, or elſewhere, any thing with toucheth the king, againſt him, his crowne and regality, or his realme, their notaries, procurators, &c. fautors, &c. ſhall be out of the kings protection. [] This offence is called a premunire of the words of the writ, grounded upon this and other ſtatutes for puniſhment thereof. For the words of the writ be, Rex vicecomiti, &c. Præmunire fac. A. B. &c. And rightly it is ſo called, for he that is præmonitus [forewarned] is præmunitus [fortified].
    • 1724, Jonathan Swift, The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift, volume 9, The Drapier’s Letters 5:
      For I have heard of a judge, who upon the criminal's appeal to the dreadful day of judgment, told him, he had incurred a premunire, for appealing to a foreign jurisdiction; and of another in Wales, who severely checked the prisoner for offering the same plea []
    • 1769, Danby Pickering, The Statutes at Large, from Magna Charta to the End of the Eleventh Parliament of Great Britain, Anno 1761: Carefully Collated and Revised, volume XXIV, Cambridge: Printed by J. Archdeacon, Printer to the University; for Charles Bathurst, at the Cross-Keys, opposite St. Dunstan's Church in Fleet-Street, London, OCLC 150702244, page 456:
      Whoſoever procures from the ſee of Rome, or any foreign court, any appeals, proceſs, ſentences, &c., or refuſes to obſerve this act, ſhall incur the forfeitures, &c. of premunire, 24 H. 8, c. 12. [Ecclesiastical Appeals Act 1532 (24 Hen. VIII, chapter 12)] § 4. 10. 25 H. 8, c. 19. [Submission of the Clergy Act 1533 (25 Hen. VIII, chapter 19)] § 5. vol. 4.
    • 1843, Martin Mar-prelate, Puritan Discipline Tracts: An Epistle to the Terrible Priests of the Convocation House, 2nd edition, London: John Petheram, OCLC 697596904, pages 27–28:
      What haue you to shew for your selues, for I tell you, I heard some say, that for vrging subscription, you were all within the premunire, insomuch that you haue bene driuen closely to buie your pardons, you haue forfayted all that you haue vnto her Maiestie, and your persons are voyde of her Maiesties protection: you knowe the danger of a premunire, I trowe?
    • 1846, [George Long], Political Dictionary; Forming a Work of Universal Reference, both Constitutional and Legal; and Embracing the Terms of Civil Administration, of Political Economy and Social Relations, and of all the More Important Statistical Departments of Finance and Commerce: In Two Volumes, volume II, London: Charles Knight and Co., OCLC 83758504, page 184:
      These penalties were first imposed by the stat. 16 Rich. II. c. 5 (commonly called the Statute of Præmunire); and it is by reference to that statute that all subsequent præmunires have been made punishable.
    • 2002, Robert C. Palmer, Selling the Church: The English Parish in Law, Commerce, and Religion, 1350–1550, Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, ISBN 978-0-8078-6139-4, page 23:
      After cornering and ruining two bishops in the conflict, and as a part of a more general restructuring of government after the Black Death, Edward III restored the fortunes of those two bishops and instituted premunire as a more regularized procedure for crushing future opposition. [] The premunire statute handled the matter broadly and provided process against anyone who undermined king's court judgments by resort to papal or other ecclesiastical court processes. By the terms of the statute, premunire could handle problems beyond appointments to benefices. Fourteenth-century premunire, however, almost always concerned such appointments; other matters were handled more moderately by writs of prohibition.
    • 2006, Diane Martin, “Prosecution of the Statutes of Provisors and Premunire in the King's Bench, 1377–1394”, in J. S. Hamilton, editor, Fourteenth Century England, Woodbridge, Sussex: Boydell Press, ISBN 978-1-84383-220-1, page 109:
      William, angry that he had been forced to answer in an ecclesiastical court outside the realm of England, filed a suit of premunire against Richard Tylhe in the court of the king's bench during the Easter term of 1380, claiming £1,000 in damages. The statutes of premunire prohibited any Englishman from bringing suit in an ecclesiastical court if the cognizance, or jurisdiction, belonged to the king's courts.
    • 2009, Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall, London: Fourth Estate, ISBN 978-0-00-729241-7; republished New York, N.Y.: Picador, 2010, ISBN 978-0-312-42998-0, page 153:
      The law of praemunire dates from another century. No one who is alive now quite knows what it means.
    1. (in extended use) Any of a number of criminal offences unrelated to the original offence of praemunire.
      • 1846, The Supplement to the Penny Cyclopædia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge: Habenaria–Zingiber, volume II, London: Charles Knight, OCLC 3597254, page 163:
        [T]he term ‘Præmunire[] has subsequently, to use the language of Mr. Serjeant Hawkins (Pleas of the Crown, b. 1, c. 19), ‘been applied to other heinous crimes, for the most part having relation to the offences originally coming under the notion of præmunire, but in some instances not at all.’ The Habeas Corpus Act (31 Car. II c. 12) [sic: the Habeas Corpus Act 1679 (31 Car. II, chapter 2)] contains an instance of the latter mode of application. By the 12th [sic: 11th] section of that act it is made a Præmunire to send any inhabitant of England, Wales, or the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, a prisoner beyond the seas in defiance of its provisions to the contrary.
      • 1869, Francis Bacon, James Spedding, editor, The Letters and the Life of Francis Bacon including all his Occasional Works: Namely Letters, Speeches, Tracts, State Papers, Memorials, Devices and all Authentic Writings not already Printed among his Philosophical, Literary, or Professional Works: Newly Collected and Set Forth in Chronological Order with a Commentary Biographical and Historical, volume V, London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, OCLC 633982577, page 385:
        The King's Decree touching the granting of Præmunires against any for sueing in Chancery after a Judgment at Common Law.
    2. (figuratively) Crime, offence, wrongdoing.
      • 1593, Thomas Nashe, Christ’s Tears over Jerusalem; republished as Stanley Wells, editor, Thomas Nashe: Pierce Penniless his Supplication to the Devil, Summer’s Last Will and Testament, the Terrors of the Night, the Unfortunate Traveller, and Selected Writings (Stratford-upon-Avon Library; 1), London: Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd., 1964, OCLC 638719383:
        O Pride, of all heaven-relapsing praemunires the most fearful – thou that ere this had disparadised our first parent, Adam, and unrighteoused the very angels –, how shall I arm mine elocution to break through the ranks of thy hilly stumbling blocks?
      • c. 1640, Richard Brome, Anthony Parr, editor, The Antipodes, Act I, scene i, lines 65–70, page 225; published in Three Renaissance Travel Plays, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995, ISBN 978-0-7190-3746-7:
        Then, sir, of officers and men of place, / Whose senses were so numbed they understood not Bribes from due fees, and fell on praemunires, / He has cured divers that can now distinguish / And know both when and how to take of both, / And grow most safely rich by't.
  2. The writ charging a person with this offence, the writ of praemunire facias.
  3. The penalty for this offence.
    • 1825, David Hume; T[obias] Smollett, The History of England from the Invasion of Julius Cæsar to the Revolution in 1688; by David Hume, Esq. Continued to the Death of George the Second by T. Smollett, M.D. A New Edition, with Portraits and Lives of the Authors: In Thirteen Volumes, volume V, new edition, London: Printed for G. Cowie and Co. [et al., by J. F. Dove, St. John's Square], OCLC 14513438, pages 118–119:
      It was declared treason, during the lifetime of the queen, to affirm, that she was not the lawful sovereign, or that any other possessed a preferable title, or that she was a heretic, schismatic, or infidel, or that the laws and statutes cannot limit and determine the right of the crown and the successor thereof: to maintain in writing or printing, that any person except the natural issue of her body, is or ought to be the queen's heir or successor, subjected the person and all his abettors, for the first offence, to imprisonment during a year, and to the forfeiture of half their goods: the second offence subjected them to the penalty of a premunire.
    • 1834, William Sewel, The History of the Rise, Increase and Progress of the Quakers: Intermixed with Several Remarkable Occurrences, Written Originally in Low Dutch, and also Translated by Hymself into English, 6th edition, London: Darton and Harvey, OCLC 458821814, page 136:
      Before George Fox was brought before the judge, he had passed sentence of præmunire against Margaret Fell, for having refused to take the oath.
    • 1861, Samuel M[acpherson] Janney, History of the Religious Society of Friends: From Its Rise to the Year 1828, volume II, Philadelphia, Penn.: T. Ellwood Zell, OCLC 10174522, page 280:
      At the Quarter Sessions in Second month [April] 1674, he was subjected to a sentence of premunire, and continued in prison.
    • 1995, Constance Braithwaite, Conscientious Objection to Various Compulsions under British Law, York: William Sessions, ISBN 978-1-85072-127-7, page 20:
      A penalty of praemunire involved imprisonment for an indefinite period, ending only with death or the King's pardon.
    1. (figuratively) Penalty, punishment.
      • 1809, William Guthrie, An Historical Account of the Lives and Characters of Mr. William Guthrie, &c. &c. With Lord Warriston's Speech before the Assembly at Westminster. Also an Account of the Battle of Bothwell-Bridge [by William Wilson], Kilmarnock: Printed by H. & S. Crawford, for Joseph Graham, & Co., OCLC 315352274, page 64:
        Sir, this should teach us to be as tender, zealous and careful to assert Christ and his church, their privileges and rights, and to forewarn all lest they endanger their souls by encroaching thereon, and lest their omissions and remissness bring eternal premunires upon them, let all know that the spirit of your Master is upon you []


praemunire (third-person singular simple present praemunires, present participle praemuniring, simple past and past participle praemunired)

  1. (law, historical) To charge with the offence of praemunire; to subject to the penalties of praemunire.
    • 1722, William Sewel, The History of the Rise, Increase, and Progress of the Christian People Called Quakers, Intermixed with Several Remarkable Occurrences. Written Originally in Low-Dutch by William Sewel, and by Himself Translated into English. Now Revis'd and Publish'd, with some Amendments, rev. edition, London: Printed by the Assigns of J. Sowle, at the Bible in George-Yard, Lombard-Street, OCLC 642452454, page 476:
      A Thief having ſtoln two Beaſts from one of thoſe called Quakers, was impriſoned: But ſome body having informed the Judge that the Man that proſecuted was a Quaker, and he (the Judge) perceiving that he would not ſwear, would not hear what the Man could ſay, but tender'd him the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, which the ſaid Quaker refuſing, the Judge premunired him, and let the thief go free.
    • 1791, John Whiting, Persecution Exposed, in Some Memoirs Relating to the Sufferings of John Whiting, and many others of the People Called Quakers, for Conscience Sake, in the West of England, &c. With Memoirs of Many Eminent Friends Deceased, and Other Memorable Matters and Occurrences, Concerning the Sufferings of the said People; and Remarkable Providences Attending Him and Them, during his Long Imprisonment at Ivelchester, till the General Release, in 1686; and Continued Down to the Year 1696, 2nd edition, London: Printed by James Phillips, George-Yard, Lombard-Street, OCLC 642300682, pages 385–386:
      And the ſame year was impriſoned at Warwick, and præmunired for refuſing to take the oath of allegiance: where he was a priſoner in all about nineteen years (as aforeſaid) and four of them kept cloſe priſoners; but being freed by the king's declaration of indulgence, in 1672, while he had a little reſpite he travelled pretty much []
    • 1834, William Sewel, The History of the Rise, Increase, and Progress of the Christian People Called Quakers. Intermixed with Several Remarkable Occurrences. Written Originally in Low Dutch, and also Translated by Himself into English, volume II, 6th edition, London: Darton and Harvey, OCLC 458821814, pages 136–137:
      He [George Fox] then told them, there was no sentence passed upon him, neither was he præmunired, that he knew of; and therefore he was not made the king's prisoner, but was the sheriff's []
    • 1844, William Evans; Thomas Evans, editors, The Friends' Library: Comprising Journals, Doctrinal Treatises, and Other Writings of Members of the Religious Society of Friends, volume VIII, Philadelphia, Penn.: Printed for William and Thomas Evans, by Joseph Rakestraw, OCLC 13368608, page 352:
      Besides in this case of our premunired friends, if the king had not re-conveyed their estates as he did, by his letters patent – under the great seal of England, – from him and his heirs, to them and their heirs, they had remained forfeited, and liable to future claims, and the proper owners to be dispossessed thereof []
    • 1928, Thomas Lower, Norman Penney, editor, Record of the Sufferings of Quakers in Cornwall 1655–1686 [Journal of the Friends Historical Society; Supplement 14], London; Philadelphia, Penn.: Friends Book Centre; Anna W. Hutchinson, OCLC 3547570, page 133:
      C[h]ristopher Soper beinge one off ye persons aforesd yt was sent to gaole by Justice Sawle & others as aforesd & for refuseinge to swear præmunired []
    • 1979, W. Pearson Thistlethwaite, Yorkshire Quarterly Meeting (of the Society of Friends), 1665–1966, Harrogate: W. Pearson Thistlethwaite, OCLC 6675909, page 49:
      [H]e was indeed "discharged of his praemunire but stands yet a prisoner for a fine of £100 for speaking at a burial since he was praemunired; for when he was praemunired his estate was the King's – surely then they fine the King's estate, and £100 is more than the Conventicle Act allows of and it is a hard thing to make a riot of a burial ...".
    • 1995, Constance Braithwaite, Conscientious Objection to Various Compulsions under British Law, York: William Sessions, ISBN 978-1-85072-127-7, page 20:
      A penalty of praemunire involved imprisonment for an indefinite period, ending only with death or the King's pardon. Examples of long continuous imprisonment of praemunired Quakers were the imprisonment of Francis Howgill from 1664 till his death in prison []
    • 2000, Rosemary [Anne] Moore, Light in Their Consciences: The Early Quakers in Britain, 1646–1666, University Park, Penn.: Penn State Press, ISBN 978-0-271-01988-8, page 185:
      [George] Fox and [Margaret] Fell were arrested in January 1664, and Fell was praemunired in August (her estates were later returned) and imprisoned in Lancaster Castle. She was released in 1668. Francis Howgill was praemunired in Appleby and imprisoned for life. He died in the prison there in January 1669.

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  1. present active infinitive of praemūniō
  2. second-person singular present passive imperative of praemūniō
  3. second-person singular present passive indicative of praemūniō