Recusancy

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In the history of England and Wales, the Recusancy referred to those who refused to attend Anglican services. The individuals were known as "recusants".[1] The term, which derives ultimately from the Latin recusare (to refuse or make an objection),[2] was first used to refer to those who remained within the Catholic Church and did not attend services of the Church of England, with a 1593 statute determining the penalties against "Popish Recusants".[3]

The "Recusancy Acts", which began during the reign of Elizabeth I and which were repealed in 1650,[4] imposed a number of punishments on those who did not participate in Anglican religious activity, including fines, property confiscation, and imprisonment.[5] Despite their repeal, restrictions against Catholics were still in place until full Catholic Emancipation in the 19th century.[6] In some cases those adhering to Catholicism faced capital punishment,[7] and a number of English and Welsh Catholics executed in the 16th and 17th centuries have been canonised by the Catholic Church as Christian martyrs (see List of Catholic martyrs of the English Reformation).[8]

Contents

History

After the English Reformation and establishment of the Church of England, from the 16th to the 19th century those guilty of such Nonconformity, termed "Recusants", were subject to civil penalties and sometimes, especially in the earlier part of that period, to criminal penalties. Roman Catholics formed a large proportion of Recusants, and were those to whom the term initially was applied. Non-Catholic groups composed of Reformed Christians or Protestants who dissented from the Church of England were, later, also labeled "Recusants". The recusancy laws were in force from the reign of Elizabeth I to that of George III, though they were not always enforced with equal intensity.

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