William Prynne (1600-1699) was educated at Bath Grammar School and Oriel
College, Oxford, and was admitted as a barrister to Lincoln's Inn in 1621,
but it is impossible to briefly sum up his career as Prynne seems to have
gone through his entire life alienating people in authority.
This book for example was brought to the attention of the King and Queen
by Archbishop Laud. In his violent denunciation of the theatre, Prynne was
accused of an attack on the King, Charles I, and the Queen, Henrietta Maria,
who was fond of drama and often acted in plays at the Court. As a result,
Prynne was brought before the Star Chamber on the 17 February 1634. He was
sentenced to imprisonment for life, heavily fined the sum of 5000 pounds,
expelled from Lincoln's Inn, the loss of his University degree, and to be
pilloried where he was to lose both his ears. The whole of the sentence except
for the permanence of the imprisonment and the size of the fine, was carried
out. This work has the distinction of being the first book to be burnt in
England by the common hangman.
In 1637, for an attack on the "Declaration of Sports", Prynne was imprisoned
again, first at Caernarvon, and then in Mont Orguel in Jersey, fined another
5000 pounds, deprived of the remains of his ears, and branded on the cheeks
with the letters "S.L.", for "Seditious Libeller", which Prynne with a strange
sense of humour called Stigmata Laudis after Archbishop Laud. He was to be
released by the Long Parliament in 1640 and his sentences declared illegal.
Prynne continued his paper warfare, attacking Laud, then the independents,
surprisingly defending the role of the House of Lords, and when he became
a member of Parliament opposing the execution of Charles. In consequence
of this he was imprisoned again without trial. He continued his attacks on
the Government and Cromwell until his release in 1653 when he switched his
attention to attacking the Papists and Quakers. In 1660 he supported the
return of Charles II who made him keeper of the records in the Tower of London.
Despite a long series of further vitriolic pamphlets he managed to stay out
of jail until his death in 1669.