Front Page Titles (by Subject) | Cap. IV. Felony by compassing or conspiring to kill the King, or any Lord or other, of the Kings Counsell. - Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. II
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| Cap. IV. Felony by compassing or conspiring to kill the King, or any Lord or other, of the Kings Counsell. - Sir Edward Coke, Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. II 
The Selected Writings and Speeches of Sir Edward Coke, ed. Steve Sheppard (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003). Vol. 2.
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| Cap. IV. Felony by compassing or conspiring to kill the King, or any Lord or other, of the Kings Counsell.
Next hereunto we have thought good to speak of the Statute of 3 H.7.1 the letter of which law ensueth.
Item,2 Forasmuch as by quarrels made to such as have been in great authority, office, and of counsell with Kings of this Realme, hath ensued the destruction of Kings, and the undoing of this Realme; so as it hath appeared evidently, when compassing of the death of such as were of the Kings true subjects was had, the destruction of the Prince was imagined thereby: and for the most part it hath growne, and been occasioned by envie, and malice of the Kings own housholdservants; as now of late such a thing was likely to have ensued:*Nota. *And for so much as by the law of this land, if actuall deeds be not had, there is no remedy for such false compassings, imaginations, and confederacies had against any Lord, or any of the Kings Counsell, or any of the Kings great Officers in his Houshold, as Steward, Treasurer, & Comptroller: and so great inconveniencies might ensue, if such ungodly demeaning should not be straitly punished before that actuall deed were done. Therefore it is ordained by the King, the Lords Spirituall and Temporall, and the Commons of the said Parliament assembled, and by authority of the same, That from hence forward, the Steward, Treasurer, and Comptroller of the Kings house for the time being, or one of them, have full authority and power to enquire by Twelve sad men, and discreet persons of the Chequer Roll of the Kings honourable houshold, if any servant admitted to be his servant sworne, and his name put into the Chequer Roll of hishoushold, whatsoever he be, serving in any manner, office, or roome, reputed, had and taken, under the state of a Lord, make any confederacies, compassings, conspiracies, or imaginations with any person or persons, to destroy or murder the King, or any Lord of this Realme, or any other person sworne to the Kings Counsell, Steward, Treasurer, or Comptroller of the Kings house; that if it be found before the said Steward for the time being, by the said twelve sad men, that any such of the Kings servants as is abovesaid, hath confederated, compassed, conspired, or imagined, as is abovesaid, that he so found by that Inquiry, be put thereupon to answer. And the Steward, Treasurer, and Comptroller, or two of them have power to determine the same matter according to the Law. And if he put him in triall, that then it be tried by other twelve sad men of the same houshold: and that such misdoers have no challenge, but for malice. And if such misdoers be found guilty by confession, or otherwise, that the said offence be judged felony, and they to have judgement and execution as felons attainted ought to have by the Common Law.
| This Act divideth it self into Two generall parts, viz. the Preamble, And the body of the Act. In the preamble Three things are to be observed.
1. That by quarrels made to such, as are in great Authority, office, and of Counsell with the Kings of the Realm, have ensued the destruction of the Kings, and the undoing of the Realm, as in the Records of Parliament, and Histories of King E.2. R.2. King H.6. &c. you may read. And as King William Rufus was slain in the new Forest by the glance of an arrow, so the overthrow of the king, &c. hath followed by glances, and consequents, when the bow of destruction hath been aimed at the overthrow of those, who were in great Authority neer about, and dear to the King, not daring in direct manner to aim at the King himself. Therefore, the first conclusion is, that when the compassing of the death of such, as were of the Kings true subjects was had, the destruction of the Prince was imagined thereby.
2. That for the most part, it hath grown by envy and malice by the Kings own houshold servants: and the reason thereof is, for that they being of the Kings houshold, have greater and readier means either by night, or by day to destroy such as be of great Authority, and neer about the King: and such an attempt and conspiracy was before this Parliament made by some of this Kings houshold servants, and great mischief was like thereupon to have ensued, which was the cause of the making of this Act.
3. The conclusion of the Preamble is, 3 that by the law of the land, if actuall deeds be not had, there is no remedy for such false compassings, &c. This is a true declaration: For the bare conspiracy of the death of any Lord or other of the Kings Councell, or of the Steward, Treasurer, or Comptroller, unlesse they had been slain indeed, was no felony before this Act, and so resolved upon the contempt and conspiracy aforesaid.
In the body of this Act, Six things are enacted. First, that the offender must have three qualities. 1. He must be the Kings servant sworn. 2. His name must be put in the Cheque Roll of the Kings houshold. 3. He must be under the state of a Lord: and if he conspire with any other, that is not of the Kings, houshold, yet is the conspiracy within this Act, but he of the Kings houshold is only the felon within the purvien of this statute, as it appeareth by the words of the statute.
Secondly, Against what persons the offence made felony by this Act is to be committed: and in number they be Four. 1. To destroy or murder the King. By this Act it expresly appeareth by the judgement of the whole Parliament,4 that besides the confederacy, compassing, conspiracy, or imagination, there must be some other overt act or deed tending thereunto, to make it treason within the statute of 25 E.3. And therefore the bare confederacy, compassing, conspiracy, or imaginations by words only, is made felony by this Act. But if the Conspirators doe provide any weapon, or other thing, to accomplish their devilish intent, this and the like is an overt act to make it treason. 2. Any Lord of this Realme being sworn of the Kings Councell: for by the Purvien of this Act, he must be also of the Kings Councell: this is understood of the Kings Privy Councell, and so throughout the Act. 3. Any other of the Kings Councell (that is, the Kings Privy Councell) being under the degree of a Lord. 4. The Steward, Treasurer, and Comptroller of the Kings houshold, being great officers, though they be not of the Kings Councell.
Thirdly, The third generall part expresseth the persons to whom power is given to enquire & determine this felony. The Steward, Treasurer, and Comptroller, or any one of them may enquire. And they or two of them have power by this Act to hear and determine the same:5 and though the words be for the Inquiry, that they three, or any of them, &c. yet an Indictment taken before two of them is good, because it is for advancement of Justice. And this Act is in nature of a Commission to them, for other Commission they need not to have: and this you may see in divers other Acts of Parliament of like nature. If any the houshold servants conspire the death of the Steward, Treasurer, and Comptroller, yet by force of this Act they are Judges of the cause, and none other can be, and in that case, | they will assist themselves for their direction, with some grave and learned men in the laws. But if the death of any one of them be compassed, then it is more convenient that it be heard and determined before the other two.
Fourthly, the fourth part setteth forth, first, how the Inquiry, & after the triall shall be made, that is, that the Inquiry must be made by twelve sad men and discrect persons of the Cheque Roll of the Kings houshold: and when the offender hath pleaded not guilty, the tryall shall be by the like persons. And here though this Act limiteth the inquiry to be by twelve, yet if it be Inquired of by more then twelve, the presentment is good, but the tryall must be by twelve only.
Fifthly, no challenge shall be made, but for malice.
Sixthly, by the consert of the whole Act, the conspiracy, that is to be heard and determined by this Act, must be plotted to be done within the Kings houshold.6
The offender against this statute shall have the benefit of his Clergy: for whensoever Felony is made by any statute, and the benefit of Clergy is not expresly taken away, the offender shall have his Clergy.
See the statute of 3 & 4 E.6.7 whereby amongst other things in some case it was High treason, and in some case felony, to intend, or goe about to kill, or imprison any of the Kings Privy Councell, &c. from which felony, the benefit of Sanctuary, and Clergy was taken away:butthesetreasonsandfelonies are repealed by the statute of 1 Mar.
[1. ]3. H. 7. cap. 14.
[2. ][Ed.: Also.]
[3. ]See before in the chapt. of High treason. Verb. Overt Act.
[4. ]See before in the chapt. of High treason. Ubi sup.
[5. ]18 E. 3. 1. 23 Ass. 17. 27 H.
[6. ]8. 27 H. 8. 13. 6. Vide. lib. Plac. Coke fo. 482.
[7. ]3 & 4 E. 6. ca. 5.