Chief Justice Coke: Common Law v Royal Absolutism




Royal prerogative, common law, parliamentary sovereignty, reason, Dr Bonham's case, Sir Edward Coke, King James I, Sir Francis Bacon, Magna Charta


This contribution considers the character of Chief Justice Coke and his contribution to the development of English law. More specifically the focus falls on his profound knowledge of the common law and the concomitant emphasis he placed on human freedom. Coke's reliance on the common law was the cause of continuous conflict between himself and King James 1, and later also King Charles 1. True to the Royal approach in this era they strongly endorsed royal absolutism, believing it stemmed from a divine origin. James 1 enjoyed the support of Sir Francis Bacon. Intense rivalry of a personal nature existed between him and Coke too. In response to James 1 and Bacon's continuing attacks on his views, Coke could only turn to the common law.


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Author Biography

Robbie Robinson, North-West University South Africa

Professor, Faculty of Law, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, South Africa.




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Case law

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How to Cite

Robinson, R. (2023). Chief Justice Coke: Common Law v Royal Absolutism. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 26, (Published on 23 November 2023) pp 1 – 24.



Special Edition: Legal History

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