What is the meaning of [An Englishman’s home is his castle]

The English dictum that a man’s home is his refuge.

The maxim that ‘An Englishman’s home (or occasionally, house) is his castle’ is most often cited these days in articles in the British right-wing press that bemoan the apparent undermining of the perceived principle that a man can do as he pleases in his own house, which they hold up as an ancient right. The grumbles centre about the feminist response ‘what about Englishwomen?’ and the public disquiet about the smacking of children, attacking of intruders etc. The proverb was used in almost all of the articles about the court case of Tony Martin in 2000. Martin was convicted by jury trial of murder, after shooting and killing a 16-year old who had broken into his house in Norfolk, UK.

An Englishman’s home is his castleDid Englishmen actually ever have a unique right to act as they pleased within the walls of their own home? Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that it has been a legal precept in England, since at least the 17th century, that no one may enter a home, which would typically then have been in male ownership, unless by invitation. This was established as common law by the lawyer and politician Sir Edward Coke (pronounced Cook), in The Institutes of the Laws of England, 1628:

“For a man’s house is his castle, et domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium [and each man’s home is his safest refuge].”