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Flowers of the Crown in English Legal Thought

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This article contemplates the origins of one of the most curious expressions used to explain royal power in English jurisprudence: namely, to speak of the crown’s flowers. After the Angevin kings showed so much preference for floriated crown designs, a number of poets, clerics, and common lawyers worked the image into their appraisals of the monarchy generally. Up to the Stuart period, it will be argued here that the idea enjoyed special purchase in the common law for suggesting that prerogative donations and delegations, like flowers, eventually die once plucked from their source. This is a finding that encourages, in conclusion, some reflection upon the circumstances which compel jurists, past and present, to invoke metaphors in their assessments of royal power in dicta. The point of this exercise is twofold: to search for new and unconventional connections between medieval and modern English legal thought, and to reveal, in the process, what kind of profit the history of ideas might derive from law and jurisprudence.

This talk is part of the Political Thought and Intellectual History series.

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