Duhaime's Law Dictionary

High Treason Definition:

Treason as against the monarch, king or queen, or his/her government.

Related Terms: Attaint of Blood, Sedition, Petit Treason, Treason

In the 1888 edition of their law dictionary, Stewart Rapalje and Robert Lawrence wrote:

"Treason against the king, as distinguished from petit treason, which was treason by a servant against his master, a wife against her husband, &c.

"Since petit treason was abolished by 9 Geo. IV. c. 31, §2, (1829) the correlative term "high" is not now usually retained, when speaking of this the highest civil crime. It is merely denominated treason."

In the South African Law Journal, C. Snyman wrote:

"... high treason is the unlawful intentional commission of any act with the 'additional intent' to overthrow or coerce the state."

High treason has been the subject of a longstanding debate among jurists especially as concerns whether the crime must be towards the overthrow of the monarchy or something less.

Thomas Becket was convicted of high treason in 1163.

Most jurisdiction have now defined high treason in statute such as within a criminal code.


  • Rapalje, Stewart and Lawrence, Robert, A Dictionary of American and English Law, Volume II (Jersey City: Frederick D. Linn & Co. Law Publishers and Booksellers, 1888), page 608.

R v Erasmus [1923] AD 73

Snyman, C. R., Dolus Eventualis in the Offences of Terrorism, Subversion and Sabotage,107 S. African L.J. 365 (1990)

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