Constitutional struggles of the early 17th c. were over the extent of the royal prerogative or the sum of all of the king’s lawful power.  Misgovernment was believed to be the fault of royal advisors, not the monarch.  The premise since medieval times: “The king can do no wrong.”

Subjects possessed certain rights vis a vis the king, however. The king could not deprive any person of life or property except by due process. Custom dictated that money bills originated in the House of Commons. Statutes (laws made by the king in parliament) were considered more binding and permanent than ordinances and proclamations (these were made by the king alone).

The Apology of the Commons, written in 1604 but never formally presented to James I, was an attempt by the House of Commons to explain English customs to a foreign king. James had already clashed with parliament over the election of Sir Francis Goodwin and the arrest of Sir Thomas Shirley.  Chief Justice Coke (pronounced Cook) reminded James that “quod Rex non debet esse sub homine sed sub Deo et lege.”

Law was everywhere important in English life. Land was bought and sold through the Court of Common Pleas. Estates were managed through the manorial courts. Church courts had jurisdiction over wills and tithes. The Court of Requests offered cheap and speedy justice to the poor. The Court of the Star Chamber dealt with political issues and matters of public order. [N.B.: There were three types of law: common law, equity law, and canon law]

The Protestation of 1621 resulted from James’ conflict with parliament over foreign policy. The Commons asserted its rights and privileges against the prerogative of the king. James dissolved parliament and tore the offending page out of the Commons Journal.

An Act of Monopolies in 1624 forbade the king to grant a monopoly to private individuals; this was the first instance in English history of Parliament legislating away a prerogative of the king.