Social restrictions on hunting, 1390

Illegal hunting was damaging because it destroyed the valuable warrens, parks and chases of lords' estates. But it also provided an opportunity for secret meetings of the lower orders, where conspiracies and seditious gossip could be exchanged beyond the reach of authority.

For much of the later medieval period, the danger from secret gatherings of peasants was more worrying to the Crown and nobility than the loss of game. After the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 and further rebellions of the lower orders, such as Jack Cade's rising of 1450 and the Western Rebellion of 1497, numerous laws and proclamations were made to restrict hunting and to prevent gatherings of groups of tenants and servants.

This Act of 1390 neatly involved the church, too, since many conspirators, under the guise of hunting, enjoyed their crimes when loyal and honest citizens were at church. The aim of this Act and many others - such as 'sumptuary laws' restricting the colours and material of garments allowed to different social levels - was to ensure that economic status would be the sole criterion determining whether individuals were able to enter the upper echelons of society and enjoy the benefits thus conferred.
Catalogue reference: C 65/49, m. 1 (1390)


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