The Historical Journal


The Origins of the Petition of Right Reconsidered

J. A. Guya1

a1 University of Bristol

Whatever their differing interpretations of the prehistory of the Civil War, historians of early Stuart England have long recognized the unsolved problems raised by the parliament of 1628. Did Charles I abuse the legal procedures of King's Bench in the five knights’ case in order to defy the spirit of English ‘due process’ legislation? In starting the chain of events which led to the petition, who were the innovators? Why did the house of commons pass resolutions which were an absolute denial of Charles I's right of discretionary imprisonment in any circumstances? And why did M.P.s endure the ugliest parliamentary scenes before 1640 in their desire to secure an explanatory document in the spirit of their resolutions? In view of the wealth of literature on the petition, it is perhaps surprising that these issues have never been satisfactorily addressed.