Sanctio in Latin means a “decree or ordinance with a penalty
attached,” or, in other words, a “penal statute.” Pragmaticus means “relating to state affairs,” so that Pragmatic Sanction is a
penal statute bearing on some important question of state. The term was
first applied by the Romans to those statutes which related to their
provinces. The French applied the phrase to certain statutes which
limited the jurisdiction of the Pope; but generally it is applied to an
ordinance, fixing the succession in a certain line.
Pragmatic Sanction of Charles VII. (of France),
1438, defining and limiting the power of the Pope in France. By
this ordinance the authority of a general council was declared superior
to the dictum of the Pope; the clergy were forbidden to appeal to Rome
on any point affecting the secular condition of the nation; and the
Roman pontiff was forbidden to appropriate a vacant benefice, or to
appoint either bishop or parish priest.
Pragmatic Sanction of St. Louis,
1268, forbade the court of Rome to levy taxes or collect
subsciptions in France without the express sanction of the king. It
also gave plaintiffs in the ecclesiastical courts the right to appeal
to the civil courts. The “Constitutions of Clarendon” were to England
what the “Pragmatic Sanction” was to France.
Pragmatic Sanction of Germany,
1713. Whereby the succession of the empire was made hereditary in
the female line, in order to transmit the crown to Maria Theresa, the
daughter of Charles VI.
This is emphatically the Pragmatic Sanction, unless some qualifying
word or date is added, to restrict it to some other instrument.
Pragmatic Sanction of Naples,
1759, whereby Carlos II. of Spain ceded the succession to his third
son in perpetuity.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894