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Charles issued the 'Book of Sports' October 18, 1633. It follows from William Prynne's Histrio-Mastix which condemned Sunday sports along with other recreations. There is a short addendum of King James's 1618 declaration on the same subject. Puritans thought Sunday Sports violated the sabbath and provided a means to control the people by providing a release for discontent. The book is included immediately below. Extracts from Prynne's Histrio-Mastix can be seen after the Book of Sports.

Our dear father of blessed memory, [King James] in his return from Scotland, coming through Lancashire, found that his subjects were debarred from lawful recreations upon Sundays after evening prayers ended, and upon Holy-days; and he prudently considered that, if these times were taken from them, the meaner sort who labor hard all the week should have no recreations at all to refresh their spirits: and after his return, he further saw that his loyal subjects in all other parts of his kingdom did suffer in the same kind, though perhaps not in the same degree: and did therefore in his princely wisdom publish a Declaration to all his loving subjects concerning lawful sports to be used at such times, which was printed and published by his royal commandment in the year 1618, in the tenor which hereafter followeth:

Whereas upon our return the last year out of Scotland, we did publish our pleasure touching the recreations of our people in those parts under our hand; for some causes us thereunto moving, we have thought good to command these our directions then given in Lancashire, with a few words thereunto added, and most applicable to these parts of our realms, to be published to all our subjects.

We did justly in our progress through Lancashire rebuke some Puritans and precise people, and took order that the like unlawful carriage should not be used by any of them hereafter, in the prohibiting and unlawful punishing of our good people for using their lawful recreations and honest exercises upon Sundays, and other Holy-days, after the afternoon sermon or service. With our own ears we heard the general complaint of our people, that they were barred from all lawful recreations and exercises upon the Sunday's afternoon, after the ending of all divine service, which cannot but produce two evils: the one the hindering of the conversion of many, whom their priests will take occasion hereby to vex, persuading them that no honest mirth or recreation is lawful or tolerable in our religion, which cannot but breed a great discontentment in our people's hearts, especially of such as are peradventure on the point of turning: the other inconvenience is, that this prohibition barreth the common and meaner sort of people from using such exercises as may make their bodies more able for war, when His Majesty or his successors shall have occasion to use them; and in place thereof sets up filthy tippling and drunkenness, and breeds a number of idle and discontented speeches in their ale-houses. For when shall the common people have leave to exercise, if not upon the Sundays and Holy-days, seeing they must apply their labor and win their living in all working days?

Our pleasure is, that the Bishop of that Diocese take the like strait order with all the Puritans and Precisions within the same, either constraining them to conform themselves or to leave the county, according to the laws of our kingdom and canons of our Church, and so to strike equally on both hands against the condemners of our authority and adversaries of our Church; and as for our good people's lawful recreation, our pleasure likewise is, that after the end of divine service our good people be not disturbed, letted or discouraged from any lawful recreation, such as dancing, either men or women; archery for men, leaping, vaulting, or any other such harmless recreation, nor from having of May-games, Whitsun-ales, and Morris-dances; and the setting up of May-poles and other sports therewith used: so as the same be had in due and convenient time, without impediment or neglect of divine service: and that women shall have leave to carry rushes to the church for the decorating of it, according to their old custom; but withal we do here account still as prohibited all unlawful games to be used upon Sundays only, as bear and bull-baitings, interludes, and at all times in the meaner sort of people by law prohibited, bowling.

And we likewise straightly command that every person shall resort to his own parish church to hear divine service, and each parish by itself to use the said recreation after divine service.

Now out of a like pious care for the service of God, and for suppressing of any humors that oppose truth, and for the ease, comfort, and recreation of our well-deserving people, His Majesty [Charles] doth ratify and publish this our blessed father's Declaration: the rather, because of late in some counties of our kingdom, we find that under pretense of taking away abuses, there hath been a general forbidding, not only of ordinary meetings, but of the Feasts of the Dedications of the Churches, commonly called Wakes. Now our express will and pleasure is, that these Feasts, with others, shall be observed, and that our Justices of the Peace, in their several divisions, shall look to it, both that all disorders there may be prevented or punished, and that all neighborhood and freedom, with manlike and lawful exercises be used: and we further command all Justices of assize in their several circuits to see that no man do trouble or molest any of our lawful and dutiful people, in or for their lawful recreations, having first done their duty to God, and continuing in obedience to us and our laws: and for this we command all our Judges, Justices of the Peace, a well within liberties as without, Mayors, Bailiffs, Constables, and other officers, to take notice of, and to see observed, as they tender our displeasure. And we further will that publication of this our command be made by order from the Bishops, through all the parish churches of their several dioceses respectively.

Given at our Palace of Westminster, the eighteenth day of October, in the ninth year of our Reign.

God save the King.

Prynne denounced stage plays, cross-dressed actors and court masques in this work of more than one thousand pages. May poles, wakes and sports on the Sabbath were all condemned too. This was the extreme view of the Puritans and also hit at the very core of Stuart culture, including an attack on Laudian church rituals and court recreations too. A direct attack on the Queen for dancing in masques and appearing in plays is accompanied by inflammatory remarks such as "women actors, notorious whores" were thought direct insults to the Queen. What follows is the key points from the original document.


Effeminate, lascivious, amorous dancing, (especially with beautiful women, or boys most exquisitely adorned in an infecting womanish dress on the open stage, where are swarms of lustful spectators, whose unchaste unruly lusts are apt to be enflamed with every wanton gesture, smile, or pace, much more with amorous dances) is utterly unlawful unto Christians, to chaste and sober persons; as sundry Councils, Fathers, modern Christians, with ancient Pagan authors and nations, have resolved.

Amorous, mixed, effeminate, lascivious, lust-exciting dancing, be it of men, or women, on the stage or elsewhere [is] a dangerous incendiary of lust; an ordinary occasion of, a preparative to much whoredom, adultery, wantonness, and such effeminate lewdness: a diabolical, at least a Pagan practice, misbeseeming all chaste, all sober Christians, especially in their Christian festivals and solemnities; I would our English nation would now at last consider: who for their part spend the Christmas season, with other solemn festivals, in amorous, mixed, voluptuous, unchristian, that I say not, Pagan dancing, to God's to Christ's dishonor, religion's scandal, chastity's shipwreck, sin's advantage, and the eternal ruin of many precious souls.

I would the dancing, wanton (that I say not whorish) Herodiasses, the effeminate, sinqua-pace, Caranto-frisking gallants of our age, together with our rustic, hobbling satyrs, nymphs, and dancing fairies, who spend their strength, their time (especially, the Easter, Whitsun, Midsummer, and Christmas season) in such lewd, lascivious dancing, would not only abandon all such dancing themselves, but likewise withdraw their children, especially their daughters, from the dancing-school.

Witness their [the Pagans] dancing priests, who on the solemn festival days of Cybele, Bacchus, Mars, and other pagan deities, danced about the streets and market place with cymbals in their hands, in nature of our Morris-dances (which were derived from them) the whole multitude accompanying these their dancing Morrises, with which they honored these their dancing-idols. Yea, witness the common practice of most idolatrous pagans, who never honored, saluted, or offered any public sacrifices to their idols but with music, songs, and dances; dancing about their temples and altars, to their honor;  from which practice our dancing at Wakes (a name, an abuse, derived from the ancient vigils) or church-ales have been originally derived. Dancing, write they [a host of classical and Christian authorities], yea even in Queens themselves, and the very greatest persons, who are commonly most devoted to it, hath been always scandalous and of ill report, among the Saints of God; as the  Councils, Fathers, and authors plentifully evidence, who have condemned dancing as a pomp, a vanity of this wicked world; an invention, yea a work of Satan which Christians have renounced in their Baptism, a recreation more fit for pagans, whores, and drunkards, then for Christians.

If we compare (I say) our Bacchanalian Christmases and New Year's tides, with these Saturnalia and feasts of Janus, we shall find such near affinity between them both in regard of time (they being both in the end of December, and on the first of the January) and in their manner of solemnizing (both of them being spent in reveling, epicurism, wantonness, idleness, dancing, drinking, stage-plays, masques, and carnal pomp and jollity) which should cause all pious Christians eternally to abominate them.

It hath been always reputed dishonorable, shameful, infamous, for Emperors, Kings, or Princes to come upon a theater to dance, to masque, or act a part in any public or private Interludes, to delight themselves or others.

[If] Tilting Barriers, Jousts, and such like martial feats with a hundred such like laudable exercises, favoring both royalty, valor, and activity were now revived instead of effeminate, amorous, wanton dances, interludes, masques, and stage-plays, effeminacy, idleness, adultery, whoredom, ribaldry, and such other lewdness would not be so frequent in the world as now they are.


Stage-Plays are thus odious, unseemly, pernicious, and unlawful unto Christians in the precedent respects [they were invented by idolatrous pagans and infidels for idolatrous worship] so likewise are they in regard of their ordinary style, and subject matter; which no Christian can or dares to patronize: if we survey the style, or subject matter of all our popular interludes; we shall discover them, to be either scurrilous, amorous and obscene; or barbarous, bloody, and tyrannical; or heathenish and profane; or fabulous and fictitious, or impious and blasphemous; or satirical and invective; or at the best frothy, vain and frivolous [so] The plays themselves must needs be evil, unseemly, and unlawful unto Christians.

Our play haunters [are] adulterers, adulteresses, whoremasters, whores, bawds, panders, ruffians, roarers, drunkards, prodigals, cheaters, idle, infamous, base, profane, and godless persons.

What wantonness, what effeminacy parallel to that which our men-women actors, in all their feminine, (yea, sometimes in their masculine parts) express upon the theater? Was [any former unnatural behavior] comparable unto that which our artificial stage-players (trained up to all lasciviousness from their cradles) continually practice on the stage without blush of face, or sorrow of heart, not only in the open view of men, but even of that all-eyed God, who will one day arraign them for this their gross effeminacy? And dare we men, we Christians yet applaud it? Is this a light, a despicable effeminacy for men, for Christians, thus to adulterate, emasculate, metamorphose, and debase their noble sex? thus purposely, if I may so speak, and to make themselves, as it were, neither men nor women, but monsters.

If our English polled females (who may do well to make them beards of the hairs they have shorn from their locks and foretops)  they may then seem bearded men in earnest, and fall to wearing breeches too (as they have lately taken up men's tonsure, locks, and doublets, if not more).

[Crossed-dressed actors] perverts one principal use of garments, to difference men from women: by confounding, interchanging, transforming these two sexes for the present, as long as the play or part doth last [exciting lust, sodomy, and masturbation]. The transcendent badness of the one [male actors] doth neither expiate nor extenuate the sinfulness of the other [female actors, if there were any].

Let a man be a diligent, upright Magistrate punishing drunkenness, drunkards, swearers, suppressing ale-houses, may-games, revels, dancing, and other unlawful pastimes on the Lord's day, according to his oath and duty. Let any of any profession be but a little holier or stricter than the major part of men and this his holiness, his forwardness in religion, is sufficient warrant for all profane ones to brand and hate him for a Puritan.