Lex animata

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Lex animata — the law animate — is a mediaeval Latin term for the law being embodied in a living entity, usually the sovereign by the grace of God. In that sense a king could be lex animata, a living, breathing law. This worked both ways, the argument went: the king was law, but he could not do but as the law instructed.[1]

This idea is sometimes traced to king James I of England who said "Rex est lex" ([The] King is [the] Law), an idea moderated by his successor, king Charles I of England as "A Deo rex, a rege lex", meaning that regal powers come from God, while legal powers derive from the king. These ideas were later deconstructed by Montesquieu and other constitutional thinkers of the Enlightenment.

Modern usage[edit]

The idea of Lex animata is sometimes used in modern political debate, usually to scorn an opponent for being too self-important or delusional about his insights into the law and constitutional affairs.

In judicial circles it is sometimes used in jest, recognising a peer as an authority on the law in general.


  1. ^ Rutherford, Samuel (1644), Lex, Rex [The Law and the Prince], Constitution .