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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, they chose the radical lawyer John Cooke, whose Puritan conscience, political vision, and love of civil liberties gave him the courage to bring the king to trial. As a result, Charles I was beheaded, but eleven years later Cooke himself was arrested, tried, and executed at the hands of Charles II.
Geoffrey Robertson, a renowned human rights lawyer, provides a vivid new reading of the tumultuous Civil War years, exposing long-hidden truths: that the king was guilty, 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. Cooke’s 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. The Tyrannicide Brief is a superb work of history that casts a revelatory light on some of the most important issues of our time.
“Superb. . . . We owe Robertson a debt for reminding us of our benefactors and the price they paid.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Fascinating. . . . The best account of these events to date. . . . A very major book, a persuasive reminder of the ongoing need to defend human rights and civil liberties. . . . Historical writing and legal writing at its best.” —Houston Chronicle
“Scholarly and gripping. . . . The Tyrannicide Brief is not only a compelling history and legal thriller, but also a telling commentary for today.” —New York Law Journal Magazine
“Those terrible, blood-soaked years are vividly conjured up by Geoffrey Robertson. This is a fine book: well researched, well written, well indexed and well illustrated. The fact there is no bibliography is evidence that Robertson has broken new ground. 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
“Geoffrey Robertson provides us with some fascinating insights into this significant case. What makes the book especially illuminating are the parallels with modern practice. . . . [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