Sir Edward Coke is a 17th-century English nobleman who earned the title of ” human rights defender”. He served as a politician, judge, and lawyer with great success in each of these areas. Historically he is considered the best jurist of the era of the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I.
His professional career in law gained him such popularity that it led to his election to parliament. Later he held the position of Attorney General of the Nation and finally became Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, the president of the Supreme Court of Justice that applied the Common Law.
A career with a dizzying ascent that was hindered by the principles he defended. Since he defended above all Edward Coke was the defender of the rights of the person, any kind of absolutism displeased him. That is why he began to press with decisions that limited the power of the King.
That earned him to fall out of favor with respect to the king and be moved to places in the legal system where he would make “less of a dent” at the king’s power.
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Edward Coke’s family and youth
The Coke family was a wealthy family with great social and political influence. Public servants, lawyers and merchants were part of his family tree.
The Coke family had a tradition in law. His father, Robert Coke, was a lawyer with great success which allowed him to buy numerous estate and real estate. In addition, thanks to his practice and wealth he was able to obtain a noble title. His maternal grandfather and great-grandfather were also lawyers and practiced with great success. No doubt this was one of the reasons that prompted Edward Coke to choose to be a legal professional.
In addition to giving him the motivations necessary to become a lawyer, it also gave him connections in the legal world.
Edward Coke had 7 sisters and, perhaps for this reason too, it fell to him to give continuity with the professional tradition of the family. In those times there was no openness for women to exercise such a profession.
When Edward Coke was 7 years old his father passed away, leaving “a void in his life”. A short time later he began his studies at Norwich Free Grammar School. In this school he would learn the basics that would lead him to become an excellent speaker.
Another thing he learned there was to vehemently defend free speech. This was something that was an integral part of his life and his struggles as a lawyer, judge and politician.
Two years later his mother Winifred would remarry. Her marriage to merchant Robert Bozoun a merchant with a strong moral conviction. His stepfather exerted a great influence on Coke and forged his moral beliefs and his ability to negotiate.
The Royal Letters and the Patent Conflict
Edward Coke after seeing how his status as a great authority was attacked by the defense of human rights, began his great crusade. He wanted to end absolutism and strengthen parliament. After the dismissal of the courts he decided that his political struggle was not over.
Returning to the political struggle, he returned to parliament to end the absolute power of the king. The illegality of royal letter motivated his dismissal would become his great struggle.
King James I used the delivery of patents through royal charters as a way to increase the crown coffers. However, the surrender of these patents gave the exclusivity of exploitation of an invention to its “inventor” or “importer”. This meant that invention was not encouraged through patents. This only granted the right of monopoly to its holder and thus constituted a limitation on competition.
The delivery of pantentes in this way turned commercial activity into a form of real influence peddling. This became a way for the crown to abuse the delivery of patents to commercial activities. Monopolies were granted to activities that offered no innovation in exchange for income for the crown.
This was arousing great discontent in the population and in other merchants with less money and connections. All this led to protests that led to the revocation of all the patents granted and the creation of the Statute of Monopolies.
The Statute of Monopolies
The Statute of Monopolies was written by Sir Edward Coke who also gave great promotion and impetus to this regulation. It granted the right of patents to the true inventor and this right was limited to 14 years.
This stopped the systematic abuse of monarchs to control trade and create artificial monopolies. All this so that these monopolies ended up pouring huge amounts of money into their coffers. Parliament saw this abuse as a way to create taxes without going through parliamentary control. Sir Edward Coke’s leadership began to earn him a reputation as a defender of human rights.
The Statute of Monopolies was a great triumph against the absolute power of the monarchs and in turn a severe blow to their finances.
This is considered the first major conflict between Parliament and the Crown. It is considered part of the chain of events it triggered in the English Civil War.
The Petition of Rights and the legacy of sir Edward Coke, human rights defender
This is one of the most important documents not only of the life of Edward Coke, but of the British legal establishment. This document embodies the fundamental rights of the subjects of the crown. But the most important thing about these rights is that they cannot be violated even by the King.
It was the result of the bloody conflict between parliament and the King over the behaviour of James I in the so-called “Thirty Years’ War“. It is considered a fundamental document of British legality and a precedent for the English Bill of Rights and the declaration of human rights.
Sir Edward Coke, a man who changed the world and survived it
No doubt Sir Edward Coke managed to reach the top of his profession. But he is remembered more for his contributions to the common people than for his services to the crown. We can consider that thanks to the legal foundations left by the crown it is still in place.
Controlling the absolute power of a power is part of its protection. An absolute power will always end up abusing it and with it will lead to political instability.
Without control of parliament, the British crown would have crupped many years ago. Thanks to men like Sir Edward Coke, defender of the human rights, the British constitutional monarchy is in good health.
With this we can also say that he made great contributions to humanity through the request for rights and the restriction of the oath “ex officio”. The latter played a fundamental role in dismantling the inquisitorial courts and the development of the right to silence.
Perhaps little material can be found about this famous British legislator in the Spanish language. However, we can say that their contributions are not limited to the Common Law. We can say that Edward Coke was one of the great ideologues of human rights and its defender… And this is a lot to say.