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"My Bitter Comedie": The Treason Trial Of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton And The Rule Of Law In Tudor England

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Chapter Summary

This chapter argues on the basis of the Sir Nicholas Throckmorton case that the law of treason in Tudor England was first and foremost an aspect of the rule of law. Even though treason trials were based on the "accused speaks" theory rather than the "testing the prosecution" theory, the law, nevertheless, was designed "to afford the accused an opportunity to reply in person to the charges against him". It was, of course, almost universally assumed that the accused would use this opportunity to make a public confession of his guilt. Sir Nicholas did something quite unexpected; he pleaded innocent and survived a potentially perilous situation by virtue of his acute knowledge of statute laws and the trial procedure as well as by his sheer forensic skill. Throckmorton was right to label his trial "my bitter comedie", though he did argue on points of law and win his acquittal.

Keywords: "my bitter comedie"; Sir Nicholas Throckmorton; statute laws; treason trials; Tudor England



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