Darnell's Case

  (Redirected from Five Knights case)

The Five Knights' case (1627) 3 How St Tr 1 (also Darnel's or Darnell's case) (K.B. 1627), is a case in English law, and now United Kingdom constitutional law, fought by five knights (among them Thomas Darnell) in 1627[1] against forced loans placed on them by King Charles I in a common law court.


Thomas Darnell, John Corbet, Walter Earle, John Heveningham, and Edmund Hampden petitioned King's Bench for a writ of habeas corpus to be set free. The attorney general replied that they were being held "by the special command of his majesty".[2] The question before the court was whether this was an adequate return on the writ.


The court found in favour of the King, since common law had no control over the royal or absolute prerogatives of the monarch.


The Petition of Right 1628 reversed the effect of the decision by preventing the power of arbitrary committal by the King. The Habeas Corpus Act 1640 restored the right to petition the courts for being let free against the wishes of the King and his Council.

John Selden acted as counsel for one of the defendants, Edmund Hampden, in this case;[3] he was a Member of Parliament and claimed afterwards that there was an effort made by the King and Robert Heath, the Attorney General, to tamper with the rulings of the case. While historians have generally agreed with Selden's assertions, Mark Kishlansky has disputed them.[4]

According to some sources taxation, if not sanctioned by Parliament, was declared illegal by this case.[1] On the other hand, Glenn Burgess writes "The Five Knights' Case ... was not about non-parliamentary taxation".[5]


  1. ^ a b Professor John McEldowney (2006). "Select Committee on Constitution Minutes of Evidence : Memorandum by Professor John McEldowney". United Kingdom Parliament. Archived from the original on 25 February 2012. Retrieved 26 March 2009.
  2. ^ 3 How. St. Tr. 1 (1627).
  3. ^ "Selden, John" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  4. ^ Mark A. Kishlansky, Tyranny denied: Charles I, Attorney General Heath, and the Five Knights' Case. Historical Journal, 42 (1999), 53-83.
  5. ^ Glenn Burgess, The Politics of the Ancient Constitution (1992), pp. 191.

External linksEdit