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Peter's Pence

PETER'S PENCE, ROME SCOT, or ROM-FEOH, a tax of a pennyon every hearth, formerly paid annually to the popes; now represented by a voluntary contribution made by the devout in Roman Catholic churches. Its date of origin is doubtful. The first written evidence of it is contained in a letter of Canute (1031) sent from Rome to the English clergy. At this time it appears to have been levied on all families possessed of land worth thirty pence yearly rental, out of which they paid one penny Matthew Paris says the tax was instituted by Offa, king of Mercia (757-796) for the upkeep of the English school and hostel at Rome. Layamon, however, declares that Ina, king of Wessex (688-725), was the originator of the idea. At the Norman Conquest it appears to have fallen into arrears for a time, for William the Conqueror promised the pope in 1076 that it should be regularly paid. By a bull of Pope Adrian IV. the tax was extended to Ireland. In 1213 Innocent III. complained that the bishops kept 1000 marks of it, only forwarding 300 to Rome. In 1306 Clement V. exacted a pennyfrom each household instead of the 201, gs. at which the tax appears to have been then fixed. The threat of withholding Peter's pence proved more than once a useful weapon against recalcitrant popes in the hands of English kings. Thus in 1366 and for some years after it was refused on the ground of the pope's obstinacy in withholding his consent to the statute of praemunire. During the roth century the custom of Peter's pence was introduced into Poland, Prussia and Scandinavia, and in the 11th century Gregory VII. attempted to exact it from France and Spain. The tax was fairly regularly paid by the English until 1 534, when it was abolished by Henry VIII.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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