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LESE (leez)

Lese Majeste: An offense committed against the ruler of a state
Common clues: ____ majesty (act of treason); It precedes majesty; Literally, “injured”
Crossword puzzle frequency: 3 times a year
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Lèse majesté (French expression, from the Latin Laesa maiestas or Laesae maiestatis (crimen), (crime of) injury to the Majesty; in English, also lese majesty or leze majesty) is the crime of violating majesty, an offense against the dignity of a reigning sovereign or against a state.

In Poland, it is illegal to publicly insult foreign heads of state present on Polish territory. On 5 January 2005, Jerzy Urban was sentenced to a fine of 20,000 złoty (about 5000 euros) for having insulted Pope John Paul II, a visiting head of state.

This was however first classified in Ancient Rome, as a criminal offense against the dignity of the Roman republic. In time, as the Emperor became identified with the Roman state (the empire never formally became a monarchy), it was essentially applied to offenses against his person.[1] Though legally the princeps civitatis (his official title, roughly 'first citizen') could never become a sovereign, as the republic was never abolished, emperors were to be deified as divus, first posthumously but ultimately while reigning, and thus enjoyed the legal protection provided for the divinities of the pagan state cult; by the time it was exchanged for Christianity, the monarchical tradition in all but name was well established (an example of the way the Roman religion was made to serve the political elite).

In the (mainly Christian) states emerging after the fall of Rome the style of Majesty and the notion of offenses against it were exclusively related to offenses against the crown. In feudal Europe, various real crimes were classified as lèse majesté even though not intentionally directed against the crown, such as counterfeiting because coins bear the monarch's effigy and/or coat of arms.

However, since the disappearance of absolute monarchy, this is viewed as less of a crime, although similar, more malicious acts, could be considered treason. By analogy, as modern times saw republics emerging as great powers, a similar crime may be constituted, though not under this name, by any offense against the highest representatives of any state ( e.g. all heads of state, regardless of their title, as in Belgium).

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Lèse majesté".