The Case of Proclamations (1610) 12 Co Rep 74; 77 ER 1352

Royal prerogative; statutory limitation of prerogatives

(224 words)


In what turned out to be a landmark case concerning the Royal Prerogative, Sir Edward Coke (the Chief Justice of Common Pleas) was asked to express his opinion as to whether the monarch could prohibit new buildings or the making of wheat. The King (James I) wished to outlaw these activities as he found them to be against the law.


The case raised the question whether the monarch could by his proclamation change existing laws without consent from Parliament.


The Chief Justice of Common Pleas (following consultations with other judges) held that the King did not have the legal power to create new offences or prohibit the erection of new buildings. In other words, the Royal Prerogative did not allow the outlawing of previously legal actions without Parliament’s consent. Sir Coke argued that the introduction of new laws required a lot of consideration and thus should be left at the hands of Parliament, instead of just one person. The judgment also confirmed that English law consisted of the common law, statutory rules and custom only and did not include proclamations by the monarch. Sir Coke famously said that “the King hath no prerogative but that which the law of the land allows him”.