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Sir Matthew Hale lived through the momentous seventeenth-century struggles between the Crown and Parliament that produced the English civil war, the execution of Charles I, the rule of Oliver Cromwell and the restoration of the Monarchy. It was a time of dramatic events that changed the political face of Britain and sowed the seeds for the future rise of democracy in its modern interpretation.
At this vitally important time Hale played a significant role as an advocate, a Member of Parliament, a jurist and a judge. He was the pre-eminent lawyer of the day and his life bears witness to a pivotal interaction of history, politics and law. His place in history survives because of his understanding and exposition of the crucial bedrock function of the rule of law in the flexible and changing constitution of this country.
During the rule of Cromwell and the army he helped retain the influence of the Bench and he was also involved in the infamous witchcraft trial in Bury St Edmunds in 1665 as well as being prominent in the efforts to rebuild London after the Great Fire of 1666.