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The Tyrannicide Brief: The Story of the Man…

The Tyrannicide Brief: The Story of the Man Who Sent Charles I to the… (2005)

by Geoffrey Robertson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Geoffrey Robertson very ably recounts the trial of Charles I and the subsequent trials of the regicides, using as his centerpiece John Cooke, the lawyer assigned to prosecute the king (who later paid for his efforts with his own life). While Cooke certainly seems like a fascinating character, it seems like his actual role as a regicide was a bit overblown, given that he never actually got to make his case in open court given that Charles refused to plead.

The bits of this book where Robertson is delving into the details of the legal intricacies of the case against the king, and then the differences in procedure between that trial and the proceedings against the regicide are riveting. The parts where he attempts to link these events to the late-twentieth-century trials for crimes against humanity felt less successful, and Robertson's very strong inclination to the republican side makes his criticisms of previous historical and legal treatments of the events he covers lose a bit of their punch. ( )
  JBD1 | Apr 1, 2015 |
A well researched well written book. John Cooke is a man that has barely rated a mention in any history book I have read, this book fixes that oversight. Highly recommended to any one with an interest in republican England. ( )
  alexhunter | May 18, 2013 |
Excellent review of the life of a great man, and a well written account of a time when England struggled, however, feebly towards a just society. Robertson skilfully and engagingly writes a biography of John Cooke, the lawyer who successfully prosecuted Charles 1st for tyranny and war crimes. Long live the Republic! ( )
  Traveller1 | Mar 30, 2013 |
I reviewed this book for the Portland Phoenix. ( )
  jinglis | Oct 24, 2012 |
This is a book that succeeds very well in giving us a lawyer's-eye-view of both the trial of Charles I and the "regicide trials" after the Restoration. This is something that most books on the period tend to skirt around rather: with his expert knowledge and his forensic way of presenting a case, Robertson makes the intricacies of 17th century court procedure very clear. Moreover, he does a pretty good job of demonstrating to the reader what an interesting figure John Cooke must have been.

Anyone who was previously unfamiliar with the details of "hanging, drawing and quartering" will be happy to know that Robertson explains this gruesome punishment in detail at least four times in the course of the book: the rest of us might wish to skip those passages...

Where it doesn't quite achieve its goal is in its attempt to convince us that Cooke and the prosecution of Charles I laid the foundations for the modern concept of "crimes against humanity". Robertson does show that arguments, e.g. of head-of-state immunity and refusal to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the court, that were discussed in 1649 were also relevant to (say) the prosecutions of Milosevic and Saddam Hussein, but he doesn't really explain how we got from 1649 to 1945. Whilst the lawyers preparing the Nuremberg trials must have been glad to find precedents in the trial of Charles I, that doesn't mean that the one was a prerequisite for the other.

I thought Robertson rather oversold Cooke, as well. He's clearly very interesting in many ways: his unsuccessful schemes for law reform, for example, and his equally unsuccessful attempt to defend himself in the regicide trial with the classic (but then new) argument that a barrister has a duty to accept any client, no matter how distasteful. However, his role as prosecutor in the 1649 trial clearly wasn't as pivotal as Robertson would have liked it to be: since Charles's refusal to enter a plea had to be considered, according to the practice of the time, as a confession, there was no case for the prosecutor to prove, and the trial was a bit of a damp squib, completely eclipsed by Charles's virtuoso performance as "royal martyr" at his execution. ( )
1 vote thorold | Jul 17, 2012 |
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Robertson, GeoffreyAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coques, GonzalesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0701176024, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:29 -0400)

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"John Cooke was a plebeian, son of a poor Leicestershire farmer. His puritan conscience, political vision and love of civil liberty gave him the courage to bring the King's trail to its dramatic conclusion: the English republic. Cromwell appointed him as a reforming Chief Justice in Ireland, but in 1660 he was dragged back to the Old Bailey, tried and brutally executed." "Geoffrey Robertson, the internationally renowned human rights lawyer, provides a 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 was the bravest of barristers, who risked his own life to make tyranny a crime. He originated the right to silence, the 'cab rank' rule of advocacy and the duty to act free-of-charge for the poor. He conducted the first trial of a Head of State for waging war on his own people - a forerunner of the prosecutions of Pinochet, Milosevic and Saddam Hussein, and a lasting inspiration to the modern world."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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