Portrait of Sir Edward Coke

Sir Edward Coke declares that your house is your “Castle and Fortress” (1604)

Found in: Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. I

The English judge and jurist Sir Edward Coke (pronounced cook) (1552-1634) declared in a ruling known as Semayne’s Case that there were strict limits on how Sheriffs may enter a person’s house in order to issue writs:


That the house of every one is to him as his Castle and Fortress as well for defence against injury and violence, as for his repose; and although the life of man is precious and favoured in law; so that although a man kill another in his defence, or kill one per infortuntun’ (by misfortune), without any intent, yet it is felony, and in such case he shall forfeit his goods and chattels, for the great regard which the law hath of a mans life; But if theeves come to a mans house to rob him, or murder, and the owner or his servants kill any of the theeves in defence of himself and his house, it is no felony, and he shall lose nothing, and therewith agreeth 3 Edw. 3. Coron. 303, & 305. & 26 Ass. pl. 23. So it is holden in 21 Hen. 7. 39. every one may assemble his friends or neighbours to defend his house against violence: But he cannot assemble them to goe with him to the Market or elsewhere to keep him from violence: And the reason of all the same is, because domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium. [everyone’s house is his safest refuge (“Every man’s home is his castle.”)]