Procedure: commission; king's letter to the estates
Commission regarding ravishing [of women]2

The estates presently convened give and grant full power and commission to John [Erskine], earl of Mar, John [Kennedy], earl of Cassilis, George [Gledstanes], archbishop of St Andrews, John [Spottiswood], archbishop of Glasgow, James [Law], bishop of Orkney, Andrew [Stewart], lord Stewart of Ochiltree, Walter [Stewart], lord Blantyre, Sir John Cockburn of Ormiston, knight, justice clerk, Sir Thomas Hamilton of Binning, knight, advocate, Sir John Skene of Curriehill, clerk register, Master John Preston of Fenton Barns, collector, [Sir David] Carnegie of [Colluthie and] Kinnaird, Sir William Livingstone of Kilsyth, Master John Learmonth of Balcomie, James Wemyss of Bogie, Sir John Arnott [of Birswick], provost of Edinburgh, and William Weland, commissioner for the said burgh, Master Alexander Wedderburn [of Kingennie], commissioner for the burgh of Dundee, John Lockhart [of Boghall], commissioner for the burgh of Ayr, to convene and meet at such days, times and places as they shall appoint, and to confer and reason upon the contents and heads of his majesty's missive letter directed to the said estates regarding the crime of ravishing of women, and upon the several degrees and branches of that crime and what pain and punishment they think fit to be inflicted to the persons guilty of the said crime in the several degrees and branches thereof, or if they think fit that the punishment prescribed and set down by his majesty in his said missive letter shall be embraced and enacted, and to report their opinions and overtures regarding this to the next parliament. Follows his majesty's missive letter:

Right trusty and well-beloved cousins, councillors and others of our trusty, loving and dutiful subjects of the estates of that our kingdom presently convened, we greet you well. The odious and now too frequent crime within that kingdom of ravishing of women, being both there and elsewhere by statute laws appointed to be punished with great severity and rigour, is either by the slackness of the execution of those laws or by the obscurity of the same become so common as out of this growth of evil manners the defects either in law or execution thereof would be amended, but because there will be of this offence many several branches and degrees, we have thought fit to divide the same, and according to the quantity of the offence to add the greater or less punishment, which we would have to be by you considered and passed by act in this your convention, that so it may pass in statute at the next ensuing parliament. And first, for those that do ravish any woman, either widow, married or maid, and have copulation with her against her will (the same being already on the points of our crown), what further punishment than what is already provided shall be inflicted on them, we do remit to your own discretion to appoint, wherein we would have it enacted that the first fact and the violence committed therein shall not be purged by any subsequent consent of the woman, but that the offender shall stand punishable by law notwithstanding thereof; and because often ravishings are committed whereon no further action than only taking away does follow, specially where the party ravished is by her friends, the magistrate or by other means relieved, we would have it declared that in this case, since the party offender did his endeavour to commit the worst, that the same fact of the taking away of a woman against her will, albeit rescued in time, shall be nonetheless in the committer thereof a crime capital. And because it is not the respect of the person but the aim either to the goods or lands of the party ravished in possession or appearance that moves the fact, without all doubt some provision made by statute to disappoint them of those their unlawful hopes would make them the less curious to offend herein, and there being now a new form used to avoid punishment in law by pressing without knowledge of the parent, tutor testamentar or guardian of the maid, being young of years and therewith of frail sex, to entice her to go with them, and so they to convoy or to cause her be convoyed away, we would have in this case both a punishment appointed for the offender with a secluding of that party being thus corrupted and seduced to go away without the knowledge or consent of father, tutor or guardian of either whole or part of that which otherwise would have befallen her, and the same to be declared to fall to the next of her kin, if so the party thus seduced be within the age of 16 years, but being passed of that age it is presumed that they are come to those years of discretion as that they can make a right choice and will hardly without consent of friends cast themselves away, the father, tutor or guardian having then some cause to distrust them and therefore to be the more wary of them, whereas in their younger years his security as suspecting no such matter gives the better opportunity to those who intend the abuse. And since this is a general thing which may touch many of the kingdom, we leave it to your considerations to provide remedies for all such abuses of this nature. And so we bid you farewell from our court at Royston, 22 January 1609, to our right trusty and well-beloved cousins and councillors and to our trusty and well-beloved the nobility, clergy and commons of that our kingdom of Scotland now presently convened.

  1. NAS, PC1/24, 385-387.
  2. Addition to title is an APS interpolation. Not in manuscript.