Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

In Henry VIII’s time, Sunday was the great day for sports, fairs, drinking, archery and dancing. If any objection was raised to this, it was rather on the grounds that people would be better employed at work. Frith, an early Reformer, said,

“having been to church, one may return and do one’s business as well as any other day”.

Cranmer went further and said that rest from labour was “mere ceremonial” — a Jewish practice which Christ had abrogated. Elizabeth, who regularly transacted State business on Sundays, refused to pass a Sunday observance act in 1585; and licensed a man called Powlter to organize Sunday games.

The Stuarts continued this tradition, Charles reissuing James’s Book of Sports in 1633 and complaining that the Puritans had been suppressing wakes, or feasts of dedication, under pretence of removing abuses. Public feeling seems to have been decidedly matrist: for instance, ten parishioners of Shaftesbury “presented” their minister, one Edward Williams, in 1634, for certain irregularities, but chiefly for preaching against the King’s Declaration

“in a high kind of a terrification, as if it were a most dreadful thing and near damnable, if not absolutely damnable, to use any recreations on the Sabbath or Lord’s Day”.