Born Feb. 1, 1552, in Mileham, Norfolk; died Sept. 3, 1634, in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire. An English political figure, lawyer. Attorney general from 1594 to 1606, chief justice of the King’s Bench from 1613 to 1616.
In the 1620’s, Coke was one of the leaders of the opposition in Parliament to the Stuarts’ absolutism. He was a prominent expert and commentator on common law. Basing his argument on medieval legal documents (mainly, Magna Carta) and customs, he spoke out for limitation of the king’s prerogatives and establishment of a constitutional monarchy. This position was in the interest of the growing bourgeoisie and the new gentry. Coke was one of the authors of the Petition of Right (1628), which demanded from the crown a guarantee of personal and property rights. Because of his speeches in parliament (in particular those against arbitrary taxation and illegal arrests) he fell into disgrace and was imprisoned (1621).
WORKSReports. . . , vols. 1–11. London, 1600–15.
Institutes of the Laws of England, parts 1–4. London, 1628–44.
The Complete Copyholder. London, 1641.