Define: Writ Of Proclamation

Writ Of Proclamation
Writ Of Proclamation
Quick Summary of Writ Of Proclamation

A writ of proclamation is issued alongside an exigent, directing the sheriff of the defendant’s county of residence to publicly declare outlawry three times in a well-known location a month prior to the official declaration. This writ is used in legal proceedings to strip an individual of the benefits and protections of the law. For instance, if an individual is accused of a crime and fails to attend court, a writ of proclamation may be issued. The sheriff of the individual’s county of residence will be instructed to publicly declare outlawry three times, allowing the individual a month to appear in court before being officially declared an outlaw. This example demonstrates how a writ of proclamation is employed in legal proceedings to provide an opportunity for an individual to attend court before being declared an outlaw.

What is the dictionary definition of Writ Of Proclamation?
Dictionary Definition of Writ Of Proclamation

The writ of proclamation is a legal directive that instructs the county sheriff to publicly announce three times that an individual is no longer under the protection of the law. This occurs when someone is deemed an outlaw, indicating that they have violated the law and are no longer permitted to be a member of society. Outlaws can be individuals who have received a court sentence or those who are evading law enforcement. The writ of proclamation plays a crucial role in the procedure of declaring someone an outlaw.

Full Definition Of Writ Of Proclamation

The Writ of Proclamation is a historical legal instrument originating from the medieval English legal system. Its primary purpose was to serve as an official announcement or declaration issued by the monarch or governing authority. This writ has played a significant role in various legal, political, and administrative processes, such as the summoning of Parliament, the declaration of new laws, and the calling of elections. Understanding the Writ of Proclamation requires delving into its historical context, its legal implications, and its evolution over time.

Historical Context

The origins of the Writ of Proclamation can be traced back to medieval England, where it served as a crucial tool for communication and enforcement of royal commands. During the reigns of early English monarchs, the writ was often employed to disseminate royal orders, laws, and policies throughout the realm. This was particularly important in a time when literacy rates were low, and the centralised distribution of written documents was limited.

The Writ of Proclamation was typically issued under the Great Seal of the Realm, symbolising its authority and authenticity. It was read aloud in public places, such as marketplaces and town squares, to ensure that the king’s commands were communicated to the populace. Over time, the use of the writ expanded beyond royal edicts to include various administrative functions, such as the summoning of Parliament and the declaration of national events.

Legal Significance

The legal significance of the Writ of Proclamation lies in its function as a formal and authoritative means of communication. It was not merely a tool for making announcements but also had binding legal effects. Several key aspects of its legal significance include:

  1. Authority: The writ derived its authority from the monarch, who was considered the supreme legal authority in the realm. As such, any proclamation made through the writ was deemed to carry the full force of law.
  2. Binding Nature: Proclamations issued via the writ were binding on all subjects of the realm. Failure to comply with the terms of a proclamation could result in legal penalties, including fines, imprisonment, or other forms of punishment.
  3. Public Notification: The writ served as an official means of public notification, ensuring that important legal and political decisions were communicated to the populace. This was essential for maintaining order and ensuring compliance with the law.
  4. Procedural Formality: The issuance of a Writ of Proclamation followed specific procedural formalities, which lent it an air of legitimacy and authority. The use of the Great Seal and the public reading of the writ were key elements of this formality.

Key Uses of the Writ of Proclamation

The Writ of Proclamation has been employed for various purposes throughout history, each serving a distinct legal and administrative function. Some of the most notable uses include:

  1. Summoning Parliament: One of the most significant uses of the writ was to summon Parliament. The monarch would issue a writ to call members of the nobility, clergy, and commons to assemble for a parliamentary session. This was a crucial aspect of the legislative process in medieval and early modern England.
  2. Declaration of New Laws: The writ was often used to declare new laws and statutes. Upon the enactment of new legislation, a proclamation would be issued to inform the public of the changes in the law and to ensure compliance.
  3. Calling Elections: The Writ of Proclamation was also used to announce general elections. The monarch would issue a writ to dissolve Parliament and call for new elections, initiating the electoral process.
  4. National Events and Policies: The writ was employed to announce significant national events, such as royal marriages, births, deaths, and military victories. It was also used to communicate important policies, such as trade regulations, tax changes, and public health measures.

Evolution and Decline

The use of the Writ of Proclamation evolved significantly over time, reflecting changes in the political and legal landscape of England. Several key factors contributed to its evolution and eventual decline:

  1. Parliamentary Sovereignty: As the power of Parliament grew, the authority of the monarch to issue proclamations unilaterally was increasingly challenged. The development of parliamentary sovereignty, particularly following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, limited the monarch’s ability to issue binding proclamations without parliamentary consent.
  2. Legal Reforms: Legal reforms in the 17th and 18th centuries further restricted the use of the writ. The Bill of Rights 1689, for example, curtailed the monarch’s power to suspend laws or levy taxes without parliamentary approval, thereby reducing the scope of proclamations.
  3. Print Media: The advent of print media and the increasing literacy rates among the population diminished the need for oral proclamations. Printed newspapers and pamphlets became the primary means of disseminating information, reducing the reliance on the Writ of Proclamation.
  4. Modern Legal Instruments: The development of modern legal instruments and administrative processes rendered the Writ of Proclamation largely obsolete. Contemporary legal systems rely on statutes, regulations, and official gazettes for public notification and enforcement of laws.

Contemporary Relevance

While the traditional Writ of Proclamation is no longer in widespread use, its legacy persists in certain contemporary legal and administrative practices. Some modern equivalents and related practices include:

  1. Royal Proclamations: In the United Kingdom, royal proclamations are still occasionally issued for ceremonial and formal purposes. For example, proclamations are issued to mark the accession of a new monarch or to summon a new Parliament following a general election.
  2. Official Gazettes: Many countries use official gazettes to publish new laws, regulations, and official notices. These gazettes serve a similar function to the historical Writ of Proclamation by providing public notification of important legal and administrative matters.
  3. Executive Orders: In some jurisdictions, executive orders issued by heads of state or government function as modern equivalents to proclamations. These orders are binding directives that carry the force of law, similar to the proclamations of medieval monarchs.
  4. Public Announcements: Government agencies and local authorities continue to use public announcements and notices to communicate important information to the public. This practice retains elements of the traditional use of proclamations for public notification.

Case Studies

To further illustrate the historical and legal significance of the Writ of Proclamation, it is useful to examine a few notable case studies:

  1. The Proclamation of 1534: During the reign of Henry VIII, the Act of Supremacy was proclaimed through a writ, declaring the king as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. This proclamation had profound legal and religious implications, severing ties with the Roman Catholic Church and establishing the Anglican Church.
  2. The Proclamation of 1763: Issued by King George III, this proclamation established new regulations for colonial expansion in North America following the Seven Years’ War. It restricted settlement beyond the Appalachian Mountains and sought to manage relations with Native American tribes, influencing colonial policy and contributing to tensions leading to the American Revolution.
  3. The Proclamation of 1914: At the outbreak of World War I, a writ was issued to proclaim a state of war between the United Kingdom and Germany. This proclamation had significant legal and military implications, mobilising the British armed forces and implementing wartime measures.


The Writ of Proclamation has played a pivotal role in the legal and administrative history of England. As a formal and authoritative means of communication, it facilitated the dissemination of royal commands, the declaration of new laws, and the management of public affairs. While its use has evolved and declined over time, the legacy of the writ persists in various modern legal instruments and practices.

Understanding the historical context, legal significance, and evolution of the Writ of Proclamation provides valuable insights into the development of legal systems and the administration of justice. It highlights the importance of formal processes and public notification in maintaining order and ensuring compliance with the law. Despite its decline in contemporary legal practice, the Writ of Proclamation remains a fascinating and instructive example of the interplay between law, authority, and communication throughout history.

Writ Of Proclamation FAQ'S

A Writ of Proclamation is a legal document issued by a court or government authority that announces or declares a specific action or decision.

A Writ of Proclamation is typically used in situations where a court or government needs to make a public announcement or declaration, such as the proclamation of a new law or the announcement of an election.

A Writ of Proclamation can be issued by a court, a government authority, or an individual with the necessary legal authority to make such a declaration.

The purpose of a Writ of Proclamation is to make a public announcement or declaration in a formal and legally recognised manner.

In most cases, a Writ of Proclamation cannot be directly challenged or appealed. However, if there are legal grounds to challenge the underlying decision or action being proclaimed, separate legal proceedings may be initiated.

The enforcement of a Writ of Proclamation depends on the nature of the proclamation itself. If it involves the implementation of a new law, appropriate government agencies and law enforcement authorities are responsible for enforcing it.

In certain circumstances, a Writ of Proclamation can be revoked or modified by the issuing authority. However, this usually requires valid legal reasons and may involve a separate legal process.

Non-compliance with a Writ of Proclamation can have legal consequences, depending on the nature of the proclamation and the applicable laws. It is important to consult with legal counsel to understand the specific implications.

No, a Writ of Proclamation must be issued by a person or entity with the necessary legal authority. Issuing a false or unauthorised Writ of Proclamation can have serious legal consequences.

To challenge the validity of a Writ of Proclamation, you may need to consult with an attorney and initiate legal proceedings. The specific process will depend on the jurisdiction and the grounds for challenging the proclamation.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 9th June 2024.

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