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The Age of George III

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The Williamite Penal Laws

Eighty percent of the population of Ireland, owning one third of the land, were Roman Catholics. All suffered from the Penal laws of 1697-1727. From the reign of Elizabeth I when the Church of England became the Established Church, there had been attempts made to eradicate Catholicism from the British Isles. Under William III this was enshrined in a series of laws that Edmund Burke described as "well-fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man".

Examples of the Penal Laws

Priests did not officially exist since Anglicanism was the established Church. Priests relied on their congregations for gifts of food and money for their survival, while Anglican clergy had vast estates and few parishioners. Roman Catholics had to pay tithes (one tenth of their income) to the Anglican Church, and often paid rents as well.


The University of Minnesota Law Library has put on line transcripts of the Penal Laws. They can be found here.
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Last modified 26 October, 2013

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