Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Tyrannicide on Radio NZ

Just finished listening to a fascinating interview with Geoffrey Robertson, Australian human rights lawyer and the author of The Tyrannicide Brief, the story of how Cromwell’s lawyers produced the first trial of a Head of State, after the English Civil War, and what they won with the head of King Charles I.
The proceedings against Charles I in 1649 secured the constitutional gains of the civil war – the supremacy of parliament [over the monarch], the independence of judges, individual freedom guaranteed by Magna Carta and the common law. But other than Cromwell (who later became King in all but name) the regicides are not to be found on statues or stamps, and their fate is seldom mourned: in 1660, after a rigged trial at the Old Bailey, their heads were stuck on poles and their body parts fed to the stray dogs of Aldgate. British liberty is usually dated from the “glorious revolution” of 1689 [sic], although the House of Commons in 1649 declared it: “The first year of freedom, by God’s blessing restored”.
Robertson reflected on the many lessons of the English Civil War and of the prosecution against the king that still resonate today, most notably lessons on the nature and limits of tyranny. He made no comment(and nor, unfortunately, was he invited to) about the use by Bernard Darnton in his action against Queen Helen of the 1688 Bill of Rights (written after the 'Glorious Revolution,' not after the Civil War of forty-five years before as erroneously suggested by NBR last week) but Robertson's point is still clear: politicians and tyrants forget the lessons of these events at their peril.

The interview should be online at Radio NZ's Nine-to-Noon page shortly.

LINKS: Publications - Geoffrey Robertson QC
Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan - Audio Archives - Radio New Zealand
Clark faces legal challenge over election spend - National Business Review

TAGS: History, War, Politics-UK, Common Law, Darnton v Clark

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