Sir Edward Coke, MP, Lord Chief Justice

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Edward Coke, Lord Chief Justice

Birthplace: Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, England
Death: Died in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, England
Place of Burial: Tittleshall, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Coke 'of Mileham' and Winifred Coke
Husband of Bridget Paston and Lady Elizabeth Hatton (Cecil)
Father of Edward Cooke; Edward Cooke; Henry Coke 'of Thorington'; 6 Children Unrecorded Coke; Anne Coke and 7 others
Brother of Winifred Coke; Anne Stubbe; Dorothy (Dorothea) UNPROVEN Franklin; Audrey (Ethelreda) Bohun; Robert Cooke and 6 others

Managed by: Virginia Lee Hill
Last Updated:

About Sir Edward Coke, MP, Lord Chief Justice

Sir Edward Coke SL PC (/ˈkʊk/ ("cook"), formerly /ˈkuːk/; 1 February 1552 – 3 September 1634) was an English barrister, judge and politician, considered to be the greatest jurist of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. Born into a middle-class family, Coke was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge before leaving to study at the Inner Temple, where he was called to the Bar on 20 April 1578. As a barrister he took part in several notable cases, including Slade's Case, before earning enough political favour to be elected to Parliament, where he served first as Solicitor General and then as Speaker of the House of Commons. Following a promotion to Attorney General he led the prosecution in several notable cases, including those against Robert Devereux, Sir Walter Raleigh and the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. As a reward for his services he was first knighted and then made Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.

As Chief Justice, Coke restricted the use of the ex officio (Star Chamber) oath and, in the Case of Proclamations and Dr. Bonham's Case, declared the king to be subject to the law, and the laws of Parliament to be void if in violation of "common right and reason". These actions eventually led to his transfer to the Chief Justiceship of the King's Bench, where it was felt he could do less damage. Coke then successively restricted the definition of treason and declared a royal letter illegal, leading to his dismissal from the bench on 14 November 1616. With no chance of regaining his judicial posts, he instead returned to Parliament, where he swiftly became a leading member of the opposition. During his time as a Member of Parliament he wrote and campaigned for the Statute of Monopolies, which substantially restricted the ability of the monarch to grant patents, and authored and was instrumental in the passage of the Petition of Right, a document considered one of the three crucial constitutional documents of England, along with the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights 1689. With the passage of the Petition of Right in 1628, Coke retired to his estates, where he revised and finished his Reports and the Institutes of the Lawes of England before dying on 3 September 1634.

Coke is best known in modern times for his Institutes, described by John Rutledge as "almost the foundations of our law", and his Reports, which have been called "perhaps the single most influential series of named reports". Historically, he was a highly influential judge; within England and Wales, his statements and works were used to justify the right to silence, while the Statute of Monopolies is considered to be one of the first actions in the conflict between Parliament and monarch that led to the English Civil War. In America, Coke's decision in Dr. Bonham's Case was used to justify the voiding of both the Stamp Act 1765 and writs of assistance, which led to the American War of Independence; after the establishment of the United States his decisions and writings profoundly influenced the Third and Fourth amendments to the United States Constitution while necessitating the Sixteenth.


Family and Education

  • b. 1 Feb. 1552, 1st son of Robert Coke of Mileham, Norfolk and Winifred, daughter of William Knightley, attorney, of Norwich, Norfolk
  • educ. Norwich g.s. 1560; Trin. Coll. Camb. 1567, MA 1597; Clifford’s Inn 21 Jan. 1572; I. Temple 24 Apr. 1572, called 1578.
  • married (1) 13 Aug. 1582, ? with £30,000, Bridget (d. 27 June 1598), daughter and heir of John Paston of Cookley, Suffolk, 7 sons, 2 daughtger (1 d.v.p.);
  • married (2) 6 Nov. 1598, Elizabeth (d. 3 Jan. 1646), daughter of Thomas Cecil†, 1st earl of Exeter, and widow of Sir William Hatton† (d.1597) of Holdenby, Northamptonshire and Hatton House, Holborn, London, 1 daughter
  • Succeeded father 1561;
  • Knighted 22 May 1603.[1]
  • d. 3 Sept. 1634.
  • sig. Edw[ard] Coke.

Offices Held

  • Reader, Lyon’s Inn 1579-82;
  • recorder,
    • Norwich 1586-92,[2]
    • London Jan.-June 1592,
    • Orford, Suffolk 1593-1621,[3]
    • Harwich, Essex by 1603-d.,[4]
    • Coventry, Warwickshire 1614-d.;[5]
  • fee’d counsel,
    • Camb. Univ. 1586,[6]
    • Great Yarmouth, Norfolk by 1603;[7]
    • Drapers’ Co. 1603-6,[8]
    • Anne of Denmark 1603;[9]
  • steward, reader’s dinner, Inner Temple 1590,
  • bencher 1590-1606,
  • auditor 1590,
  • reader 1592,
  • treasurer 1595-7,
  • attendant to reader 1604-6;[10]
  • solicitor-general 1592-5,
  • attorney-general 1594-1606;
  • sjt.-at-law 1606;[11]
  • justice of assize,
    • Norfolk circuit 1604, 1606-11,
    • Midlands circuit 1612;[12]
  • c.j.c.p. 1606-13;
  • c.j.k.b. 1613-16;[13]
  • j. in eyre, forests and parks belonging to Anne of Denmark c.1618.[14]
  • Freeman, Norwich 1586;[15]
  • Justice of the Peace
    • Norfolk 1586-at least 1622,[16]
    • Suffolk by 1601-at least 1622,
    • Middlesex by 1601-at least 1622,
    • Northamptonshire by 1601-at least 1614,
    • Harwich by 1603-at least 1618,[17]
    • Buckinghamshire 1604-at least 1622,[18]
    • Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire 1607,[19]
      • liberties of Southwell and Scroby, Nottinghamshire 1613-17,[20]
    • Cawood, Wistow and Otley, Yorkshire 1614-17,[21]
    • Ripon, Yorkshire 1614-17,[22]
    • Westminster 1618-at least 1620,[23]
    • Cambs. by 1622;[24]
  • Commissioner of gaol delivery,
    • Newgate, London by 1601-1616, 1619,[25]
    • Ipswich, Suffolk 1601-d.,[26]
    • Orford, Suffolk 1611,[27]
  • Commissioner of swans, Thames 1601-at least 1609,[28]
  • Commissioner oyer and terminer,
    • London 1601-1616, 1618,
    • Middlesex 1601-16, 1618-at least 1620,
    • Norfolk circuit 1602-1617,
    • Midlands circuit 1602,
    • the Verge 1604,
  • Commissioner enclosure rioters, Northamptonshire 1607,[29]
  • Commissioner of sewers,
    • Norfolk and Cambridgeshire 1601,
    • Surrey and Kent 1603,
    • R. Lea 1604-at least 1609,
    • rivers Ouse and Welland 1605-at least 1608,[30]
    • London 1607,[31]
    • R. Gleane 1609-at least 1618,
    • Hertfordshire, Middlesex, and Buckinghamshire 1609,
    • Westminster 1611,
    • Norwich 1611,
    • Hertfordshire 1615-at least 1618,
    • Middlesex 1619,
    • Suffolk 1619,[32]
  • Commissioner of piracy,
    • Norfolk 1602,
    • Essex, Kent, etc. 1603-at least 1615,
    • Suffolk 1604-at least 1612,
    • London 1606,
    • Devon 1614-at least 1615,[33]
  • Commissioner of inquiry, limits and boundaries, Cambridgeshire 1602,[34]
  • Commissioner of charitable uses,
    • Middlesex 1605,
    • Norfolk 1611,[35]
  • Commissioner of survey limits and boundaries, Isle of Ely, Northamptonshire, Suffolk, Hunts. and Lincolnshire 1605,[36]
  • Commissioner of subsidy,
    • Buckinghamshire 1608, 1621-2, 1624,
    • London and Middlesex 1608, 1621-2, 1624;[37]
  • Commissioner of exacted fees in ecclesiastical courts 1610,[38]
  • Commissioner of annoyances,
    • Surrey 1611,
    • Middlesex 1613;[39]
  • Governor of Charterhouse hospital, London 1611-d.;[40]
  • Commssioner Admtly. causes, Suffolk 1612;[41]
  • steward, Cambridge University 1614;[42]
  • Commissioner of new buildings, London 1615, 1618;[43]
  • high steward,
    • Gloucester, Gloucestershire 1615-27,[44] ?
    • Chipping Wycombe, Buckinghamshire by 1624;[45]
  • sheriff, Buckinghamshire 1625-6;[46]
  • Assistant to Comissioners for disafforesting the forest of Neroche, Somerset 1628.[47]
  • Speaker, House of Commons 1593.
  • Member, High Commission, Canterbury province 1601-at least 1620;[48]
  • Commissioner for the office of chancellor of duchy of Lancaster 1601;[49]
  • Gentleman of privy chamber 1603;
  • Commissioner to find seminary priests 1606,
  • Commissioner to arbitrate in dispute between the Battery Works Co. and the 4th earl of Worcester 1607;[50]
  • PC 1613-16, 1619-21;[51]
  • Commissioner of cloth exports 1614,[52]
  • Commissioner to appoint justices of assize, Midlands circuit 1616;[53]
  • cllr. to Anne of Denmark by 1617-?19,
  • Commissioner for Anne’s revenue 1618;[54]
  • Commissioner to investigate fraud in the Exchequer 1618,
  • Commissioner to run the Treasury 1618-19,
  • Commissioner to investigate Sir Walter Ralegh† 1618,
  • Commissioner to banish Jesuits and seminary priests 1618,
  • Commissioner to inventory the king’s jewels 1619,
  • Commissioner to sell Anne of Denmark’s jewels 1619,
  • Commissioner to resolve differences with the Dutch 1619,
  • Commissioner to sell gold and silver plate 1620,
  • Commissioner to improve Crown rents 1620,
  • Commissioner to prevent illegal export of ordnance 1620,[55]
  • Commissioner for poor relief 1620,[56]
  • Commissioner to survey Ireland 1623-4.[57]

The Lion and the Throne,(1956) by Catherine Drinker Bowen pg. 115 names the children of Sir Edward and Bridget as "Edward, Anne, Robert, Arthur, John, Henry, Clement and Bridget" and on the following page names a son Thomas who was "christened and died." Wife Bridget died six months later.

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Sir Edward Coke, MP, Lord Chief Justice's Timeline

February 7, 1551
Mileham, Norfolkshire, England, United Kingdom
February 1, 1552
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, England
November 27, 1583
Age 31
Mileham, Norfolk, England
November 27, 1583
Age 31
Norfolk, England, United Kingdom
August 27, 1591
Age 39
Age 46
London, Greater London, United Kingdom
September 3, 1634
Age 82
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, England
November 28, 2003
Age 82