THE DECLARATION OF SPORTS
Our dear father of blessed memory, 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 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 Sunday and other holy days, after the afternoon sermon or service, we now find that two sorts of people wherewith that country is much infected - we mean papists and Puritans - have maliciously traduced and calumniated those our just and honorable proceedings... We have therefore thought good hereby to clear and make our pleasure to be manifested to all our good people in those parts...
Our pleasure likewise is, that the bishop of that diocese take the like strait order with all the Puritans and precisians 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 contemners 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 Maypoles 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.