08 October 2005

A Thought for the Day

They understood… that the precondition of [legislative] sovereignty is that all legislation must conform with rights declared and enforced by judges who are free from political pressure.

Without doing a search, identify:

  • "They"
  • The context of the statement
  • The context discussed in the statement

OK, time's up. Answers:

  • The Puritans who ordered the execution of Charles I in 1641
  • A book extract in The Times from this forthcoming book by a UN appeals judge
  • A later paragraph explains this quite nicely:

    This use of the word impunity enters history in Cooke's brief. He deposed more than 30 witnesses to prove Charles's command responsibility — not merely for starting the conflict but also for supervising the torture of prisoners of war and for directing plunder and pillage of the homes of non-combatants. At the opening of the trial, held in a packed Westminster Hall, the King hit the prosecutor with his cane: its silver tip was dislodged and rolled between the two men. Cooke's refusal of the King's command to retrieve it led to that iconic moment when Charles was obliged to bend to pick it up himself — a moment that gave meaning to what had previously been an empty aphorism: Be you ever so high, the law is above you. Historians have caricatured it as a "show trial" although it was uniquely fair by the standards of the time and its verdict was far from pre-ordained — it was crucially influenced by the King's lack of remorse for deaths on both sides during the Civil War. His execution brought about a short-lived republic but, at the Restoration, Cooke and the surviving judges were subjected to a rigged trial at the Old Bailey, followed by disembowelling at Charing Cross in the presence of Charles II.

    This book is scheduled for US publication on 22 November 2005. The irony of a book on the death of kings being published on that date—the death of Camelot—is probably not unintentional. Probably.