• In the case of Case of Proclamations (1611) 77 ER 1352, 12 Co rep 74, it was found that common law defines the degree of royal prerogative.
  • It was also held that the Crown is not entitled to legally utilise its prerogative powers outside the degree it is defined.

Facts of the Case

  • D, King James I, sought to prevent new buildings being built in London as well as the making of starch of wheat in the absence of Parliamentary consent.
  • C, the House of Commons, described D’s actions as grievances and contrary to the law.


  • Was D able to exercise his royal prerogative to alter existing laws in the absence of Parliamentary consent?

Held by the Court of King’s Bench

  • The Court held that it was unlawful for D to exercise his royal prerogative to alter existing laws without gaining Parliament’s permission to do so because the royal prerogative did not provide D with the power to create new offences.

Sir Edward Coke, Chief Justice of the Common

  • The judge emphasised D’s lack of capability to alter laws without going through the Parliamentary procedure. Where the law already permits an action, D was not able to convert such action into an unlawful one.
  • “The King cannot change any part of the common law, nor create any offence by his proclamation, which was not an offence before, without Parliament.” [75]

Editor’s Notes

  • This was an importance and defining moment in common law as the outcome clearly defined the principle of separation of the powers in Britain’s Constitution. It highlights that Parliament possesses the highest law-making authority.