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Edward Coke in United Kingdom

Coke Sir Edward

Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634), English jurist, who is considered one of the most eminent jurists in all English history, and best known as a compiler of the law. Often called Lord Coke or Lord Cooke, he was born in Norfolk, and educated at the University of Cambridge. He was admitted to the bar in 1578, became a member of Parliament in 1589, and became solicitor general in 1592. He became speaker of the House of Commons and then attorney general, after having competed for the latter appointment with the English philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon; this victory was the beginning of a long-standing rivalry between the two men. Coke’s first years as representative of the Crown were characterized by ruthless support of authority; his prosecution of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, of the English statesman, courtier, and writer Sir Walter Raleigh, and of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators has been termed severe.

In 1606 Coke was made chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas. Thereafter he vigorously championed the common law against all other authority, even against the royal prerogative and the privilege of the church. In 1613 King James I of England promoted Coke to the Privy Council and to the office of chief justice of the King’s Bench, thinking that Coke would be more easily managed in this post, but Coke continued to clash with the Crown. In 1616, at the instigation of Bacon (then attorney general), charges on relatively minor issues were brought against him, and he was removed from office. The following year, however, Coke was reappointed to the Privy Council, and after his reelection to Parliament in 1620 he once again challenged royal authority. The following year Coke helped impeach Bacon, then lord chancellor. He was also a leader in a debate urging that Parliament should not be subservient to the king. A few years later, Coke helped to write the Petition of Right, the most explicit statement of the principles of liberty to appear in England up to that time. It became an integral part of the English constitution.

Coke was a stern but able judge. His compilations of the law took the form of Reports on the cases he heard, issued regularly (1600-15, 1656-59); and four volumes of the Institutes of the Laws of England (1628-44), analyses of legal statutes, criminal law, and court jurisdiction. (1)


Notes and References

  1. Encarta Online Encyclopedia

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  • Article Name: Edward Coke
  • Author: W.S.M. Knight
  • Description: Coke Sir Edward Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634), English jurist, who is considered one of the most eminent jurists in all [...]

This entry was last updated: March 26, 2014


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