Well, dur… Trying to destroy the country and its people would, in most people’s books, count as treason, I’d imagine. But then again, it’s a fairly tricky crime these days.
Until 1998, the penalty for treason was death. Under the Treason Act of 1351, anyone who “do violate the king’s companion, or the king’s eldest daughter unmarried, or the wife of the king’s eldest son” is committing treason. So James Hewitt and Will Carling, plus whoever else got lucky with her, should have been burned at the stake (the required punishment) for shagging Princess Di.
It was also, until 1998, treason to kill one of the Queen’s swans – and the majority of these vicious, hissing white brutes in the country technically belong to Her Majesty thanks to a statute dating from 1186 (reaffirmed by the Act of Swans of 1482 and the Wild Creatures and Forest Law Act of 1971). Only the Dyers’ Company and Vintners’ Company of the City of London have any other claim to ownership, and this only to specific birds on the River Thames. So, a swan attacks your dog on a gentle stroll by the river, you hit it with a stick and it dies, you should technically have been executed.
Oh, and speaking of animals, thanks to an Act from the reign of George I, if your faithful mutt shags one of the Queen’s corgis, technically you are again committing treason, and the “severest Penaltys will be suffered by any commoner who doth permit his animal to have carnal knowledge of a pet of the Royal House.”
More amusingly – and perhaps appropriately for our current situation – in 1663 a group of apprentices stood trial at the Old Bailey for high treason. For attempting to knock down a brothel. Over to Chief Justice Sir John Kelynge, presiding (the same man who sent John Bunyan down for twelve years for preaching without a license):
“The prisoners are indicted for levying war against the King. By ‘levying war’ is not only meant when a body is gathered together as an army, but if a company of people will go about any public reformation, this is high treason. These people do pretend their design was against brothels; now for men to go about to pull down brothels, with a captain and an ensign, and weapons – if this thing is to be endured, who is safe?”
There was a repeat performance during the reign of Queen Anne, when some High Church rioters demolished a brothel. At their trial, Chief Justice Sir Thomas Parker, presiding, stated that
“A brothel is a nuisance and may be punished as such, and being a particular nuisance to anyone, if he enters to abate it may only be guilty of a riot; but if he will presume to pull down all brothels, he has taken the Queen’s right out of her hand, he has committed high treason, by compassing her death, and levying war against her in her realm.”
In both cases, those responsible were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, although the latter group were later reprieved and pardoned.
Now call me stupid, but if treason can apply to killing an upleasant (if pretty) bird, letting Fido have some fun with a corgi, shagging the Princess of Wales, or pulling down a whore house, I’m pretty damn certain it can be applied to blowing or planning to blow the living fuck out of a bunch of commuters.
But then again, I’m no lawyer…