Edward Coke : biography

01 February 1552 - 03 September 1634

Following his first wife's death in 1598, Coke married Elizabeth Hatton, a desirable marriage due to her wealth; when he found out that Bacon was also pursuing her hand, Coke acted with all speed to complete the ceremony. It was held at a private house at the wrong time, rather than at a church between 8 and 12 in the morning; all involved parties were prosecuted for breaching ecclesiastical law, and Coke had to beg for a pardon. It is said that Coke first suggested marrying Hatton to Sir Robert Cecil, Hatton's uncle, at the funeral of Lord Burghley, Coke's patron; he needed to ensure that he would continue his rise under Burghley's son, Cecil, and did this by marrying into the family. Hatton was 26 years younger than Coke, hot-tempered and articulate; Boyer wrote that "if she and Coke were not compatible, at least they were well-matched". Coke was buried beside his first wife, who was called his "first and best wife" by his daughter Anne; his second wife died in 1646. Coke had two children with his second wife, both daughters: Elizabeth and Frances. Elizabeth married Sir Maurice Berkeley,Gloucestershire Record Office: Badminton Muniments Volume II, Estate and Household (D2700/MA1/1 - D2700/PB3/22) while Frances married John Villiers, 1st Viscount Purbeck.


Thanks to his work in their behalf, Coke had earned the favour of the Dukes of Norfolk. When he secured the Lordship of Aldeburgh for them in 1588 he also obtained the Aldeburgh Parliamentary Constituency, which elected two Members of Parliament (MPs). With their support, Coke was returned for Aldeburgh as an MP in February 1589.

Elizabeth I

Solicitor General and Speaker

The political "old guard" began to change around the time Coke became a Member of Parliament. The Earl of Leicester died in 1588, followed by Sir Walter Mildmay, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a year later, and Sir Francis Walshingham a year after that. In 1592 the Lord Chief Justice died and, according to custom the Attorney General, John Popham, succeeded him, with the Solicitor General, Thomas Egerton, succeeding Popham. This created a vacancy among the Law Officers of the Crown, and thanks to the influence of the Cecil family, Coke became Solicitor General on 16 June 1592. This was likely a narrow victory owing to Coke's defence of unpopular clients; he was summoned before Elizabeth I, who berated him until he cried before confirming him as Solicitor General.

Coke held the position only briefly; by the time he returned from a tour of Norfolk to discuss election strategy, he had been confirmed as Speaker of the House of Commons by the Privy Council, having been proposed by Francis Knollys and Thomas Heneage following his return to Parliament as MP for Norfolk. Coke held the positions of Speaker and Solicitor-General at the same time, although he did not take up his post as Speaker until the state opening of Parliament on 19 February 1593 (despite being confirmed on 28 January 1593). After "disabling" himself in the House of Lords (a ceremony in which the incoming Speaker apologised for his failings) Parliament was suspended until 24 February; Coke returned two days later, having suffered from a stomach problem. The Parliament was intended to be a brief and simple one; with the Black Death resurgent throughout England and the threat of Spain on the horizon, the only matter was to impose certain taxes to fund the Queen's campaign against the Spanish, with no bills to be introduced. The taxes were paramount; subsidies collected in 1589 had been spent, and the war continued.

The idea of a calm, swift Parliament foundered on the rocks of religious conflict. On 27 February James Morice, a Puritan Member of Parliament, proposed two new bills: one against the bishops of the Church of England, and the other against the Court of High Commission. Morice was placed under house arrest, and seven Members of Parliament were later arrested, but the bills remained in Parliament. They were defended by Francis Knollys, one of the few remaining Puritan Members of Parliament, while other Puritans spat and coughed to drown out speeches by opponents. Coke and Cecil, the government's two strongest defenders in Parliament, made several efforts to put off or end the debate over the bills. Cecil first pointed out that the Queen had forbidden bills on religion; Parliament ignored him, and the bill went ahead. Coke, as Speaker of the House of Commons (whose job was to schedule any bills), conducted a delaying campaign, first suggesting that the bill was too long to be read in the morning and then that it be delegated to a committee; both suggestions were voted down by the Commons. Coke continued talking until the end of the Parliamentary day in a filibuster action, granting a day of delay for the government. Immediately afterwards, Coke was summoned by the Queen, who made it clear that any action on the bills would be considered evidence of disloyalty. The warning was accepted by the Commons, and no more action was taken on the two Puritan bills.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine