This site claims that:

Serious crimes, such as murder, rape, or impersonating an Egyptian were given the death sentence in England.

Is that true?

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    Heh. I've heard this before, but with the caveat that "impersonating an Egyptian" was technical way of referring to gypsies, and therefore the crime in question was incorrigible vagrancy, not actual impersonation. I'll see if I can find a primary source for that. – Scott Hamilton Apr 25 '11 at 0:48
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    I have never heard this claim before, but it is awesome – Monkey Tuesday Apr 25 '11 at 2:19
  • Doesn't it sound that the very word Gipsies is a changed with time word Egyptians? – user3888 Jul 1 '11 at 14:42
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    Yes, Gino, that's where the word Gypsy is from (but, not the people). etymonline.com/index.php?term=gypsy – Oddthinking Jul 1 '11 at 14:48

In England a law of 1713 outlawed

all Persons pretending to be Gipsies, or Wandering in the Habit or Form of Counterfeit Egyptians, or pretending to have Skill in Physiognomy, Palmestry, or the like Crafty Science, or pretending to tell Fortunes or like Phantastical Imaginations, or using any Subtle Craft, or Unlawful Games or Plays

Source: The Gypsies, by Angus M. Frasier, 1995: Blackwell Publishing. Page 136. Amazon Link

It was not a capital offense.

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    "The last person hanged as a wandering Gypsy was in the 1650s" So it would seem that Gypsies were at some stage hanged for just being Gypsies – Casebash Apr 25 '11 at 9:38
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    The law was the Vagrancy Act 1713. Page 134 of The Gypsies describes a 1572 statute where a person taken as a Rogue, Vagabond or sturdy Beggar three times would be treated as a felon "with terminal consequences". Earlier it describes the execution of foreign-born Gypsies. – Henry Apr 25 '11 at 11:55
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    @Casebash: I think there's an implication that pretending to be one and being one were two different acts. – ProdigySim Apr 25 '11 at 17:07
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    Or just that Gypsies told people they were Egyptians – Joel Spolsky Apr 25 '11 at 19:40

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