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 was above the law - in the end the man they briefed was the radical barrister, John Cooke. Cooke was a plebeian, son of a poor Leicester shire farmer. His puritan conscience, political vision and love of civil liberty gave him the courage to bring the King's trial 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 QC, the 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 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.
How do you put a king on trial? How do you presume to not only find him guilty, but execute him too? In this excellent book, Geoffrey Robertson QC lays out the case against Charles I in a detailed though easy to follow manner, and shows the fearlessness with which Cooke pursued the case, even though it eventually meant, once Cromwell had died, that the newly ascendant royalists would soon be baying for Cooke's blood - how dare he do such a good job of doing what he was told! The story is fascinating on its own, but even more so in the light of the recent trials of heads of state. Here's where it started.