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Obscure UK laws you probably didn't know existed


In the UK it is technically illegal to post a letter with the stamp upside down. The reason is the monarch – Queen Elizabeth II – is on the stamp.

Technically it’s considered an act of treason, which was usually punishable by death. Despite the UK repealing the death penalty in 1965, the punishment for treason was only changed from death to life imprisonment in 1998.

The 1848 Treason Felony Act outlaws any offence intended to "deprive or depose" the Queen of the "imperial crown of the United Kingdom" but makes no mention of stamps. Stick a stamp upside down and your gas bill payment or family postcard might be late but it will not get you in trouble with the law.

Other bonkers laws which have been enforced at some point include it being illegal to die inside the House of Parliament. The Earl of Chatham nearly broke this law in 1778, when he collapsed during a debate in the House of Lords.

The idea seems to be tied up with another parliamentary myth - that anyone who dies in Westminster is entitled to a costly state funeral. Because state funerals are usually reserved for kings and queens, so the story goes, non-monarchs must not be allowed to die in Parliament and should instead be rushed off the Westminster estate in an ambulance.

Although a spokesman for the House of Commons says: "We're not aware of any such law. It's tied up with the convention that, if somebody does die, they're under the jurisdiction of the coroner of the Royal Household."

Three men who definitely would have fallen foul of the mythical law were Guy Fawkes, Sir Walter Raleigh and Spencer Perceval. All were killed in the grounds of Westminster and none received a state funeral.

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