Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book Notes: Benedict XVI and Charles I

Apparently Pope Benedict XVI has landed in Britain without being arrested. But he has a formidable opponent on his trail: British/Australian barrister Geoffrey Robertson. In his new book The Case of the Pope, Robertson, a distinguished prosecutor in international war-crimes tribunals, seeks to fix upon Pope Benedict "command responsibility" for the crimes and cover-ups committed under his authority.

I haven't read The Case of the Pope, but Robertson's previous book was a historical tour de force.

The Tyrannicide Brief: The Story of the Man who Sent Charles I to the Scaffold, from 2005, is both a tribute to John Cooke, the lawyer who prosecuted King Charles I of Britain in 1649, and a spirited argument that that trial was the first true war-crimes trial, the first demonstration that the law can and must hold heads of state responsible for acts of tyranny committed in their name and at their direction. It's also a vigorous survey of English constitutional development in the seventeenth century, and Robertson has strong views on the subject. He much prefers the head-chopping republicanism of 1649 over "the constitutional milk-soppery" of the 'glorious revolution' of 1688-9, which merely produced lasting constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy in Britain.  But if the new book is anything like the previous one, the Pope has something new to worry about.  (Charles I thought he was under divine protection too.)
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