Synopses & Reviews
Charles I waged civil wars that cost one in ten Englishmen their lives. But in 1649 Parliament was hard put to find a lawyer with the skill and daring to prosecute a King who claimed to be above the law: in the end the man they briefed was the radical lawyer John Cooke. His Puritan conscience, political vision, and love of civil liberties gave him the courage to bring the King's trial to its dramatic conclusion: the English Republic. He would pay dearly for it: Charles I was beheaded, but eleven years later Cooke himself was arrested, tried, and brutally executed at the hands of Charles II.
Geoffrey Robertson, an internationally renowned human rights lawyer, provides a vivid new reading of the tumultuous Civil War years, exposing long-hidden truths: that the King was guilty as charged, that his execution was necessary to establish the sovereignty of Parliament, that the regicide trials were rigged and their victims should be seen as national heroes.
John Cooke sacrificed his own life to make tyranny a crime. His trial of Charles I, the first trial of a head of state for waging war on his own people, became a forerunner of the trials of Augusto Pinochet, Slobodan Milosevic, and Saddam Hussein. This is a superb work of history that casts a revelatory light on some of the most important issues of our time.
"Not only has he written the first biography of John Cooke, one of the pivotal figures of the mid-seventeenth century, but he has illuminated the legal process by which a powerful monarch was held to account by the law of the land." Sunday Herald
"In telling his story, Geoffrey Robertson has redeemed from obscurity an unsung hero of true greatness, a selfless champion of the poor and a law reformer of rare distinction. More important, he has shed invigorating light on the course of the English Civil War." The Spectator
"[A] work of great compassion and, at a time when it seems to be fashionable for politicians to denigrate lawyers, an essential read for anyone who believes in the fearless independence of the law." The Times
"[Robertson's] forensic intelligence can penetrate where professional historians have not yet reached." Literary Review
"A work of literary advocacy as elegant, impassioned and original as any the author can ever have laid before a court." The Observer
In 1649, no lawyer in the country would accept the brief of prosecuting Charles I, except one John Cook, the bravest of barristers, who was killed as punishment for sending the King to the scaffold.
About the Author
Geoffrey Robertson is a leading human rights lawyer and a UN war-crimes judge who has won landmark rulings on civil liberties from the highest courts in Britain, Europe, and the British Commonwealth. He was involved in the cases against General Pinochet and Hastings Banda and in the training of judges for the trial of Saddam Hussein. Robertson is the author of Crimes Against Humanity, which has been an inspiration for the global justice movement. Born in Australia, he now lives in London.