American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. A 15th-century to 17th-century English court consisting of judges who were appointed by the Crown and sat in closed session on cases involving state security.
- n. A court or group that engages in secret, harsh, or arbitrary procedures.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. [capitalized] In English history, a court of civil and criminal jurisdiction at Westminster, constituted in view of offenses and controversies most frequent at the royal court or affecting the interests of the crown, such as maintenance, fraud, libel, conspiracy, riots resulting from faction or oppression, but freely taking jurisdiction of other crimes and misdemeanors also, and administering justice by arbitrary authority instead of according to the common law. Such a jurisdiction was exercised at least as early as the reign of Henry VI., the tribunal then consisting of the Privy Council. A statute of 3 Henry VII. authorized a committee of the council to exercise such a jurisdiction, and this tribunal grew in power (although successive statutes from the time of Edward IV. were enacted to restrain it) until it fell into disuse in the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII. In 31 Henry VIII., c. 8, a statute declared that the king's proclamation should have the force of law, and that offenders might be punished by the ordinary members of the council sitting with certain bishops and judges “in the Sterr Chamber at Westm. or elsewhere.” In 1640 the court of Star Chamber was abolished by an act of 16 Charles I., c. 10, reciting that “the reasons and motives inducing the erection and continuance of that court [of Star Chamber] do now cease.” As early as the reign of Edward III. a hall in the palace at Westminster, known as the “Chambre des Estoyer” (or “Etoilles”), was occupied by the king's council; and about the reign of Henry VII. appear records of “the Lords sitting in the Star Chamber,”or “the Council in the Star Chamber,”from which time it seems to have been regarded as the court of the Star Chamber. There is a difference of opinion whether the tribunal sitting under the act of 3 Henry VII. should be deemed the same court or not.
- n. Any tribunal or committee which proceeds by secret, arbitrary, or unfair methods: also used attributively: as, star-chamber proceedings; star-chamber methods.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. (Eng. Hist.) An ancient high court exercising jurisdiction in certain cases, mainly criminal, which sat without the intervention of a jury. It consisted of the king's council, or of the privy council only with the addition of certain judges. It could proceed on mere rumor or examine witnesses; it could apply torture. It was abolished by the Long Parliament in 1641.
- n. Any court, committee, or other tribunal which exercises arbitrary and unaccountable power, or uses unfair or illegal methods, in investigation or judgment of persons.
- n. a former English court that became notorious for its arbitrary methods and severe punishments
- So called because the ceiling of the original courtroom was decorated with stars. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“To abandon Oxford, was to dash from him at once all those fair prospects which had hitherto shone before him in his career as a student, — to shut against himself the door, not only of honourable preferment, but, as it probably at this time appeared to his mind, of Christian usefulness, — to incur the inevitable displeasure of that prelate, whose keen and sleepless efforts to search out all who were opposed to his policy had already subjected every corner of the realm to a vigilant and minute inspection, and whose cruel and malignant spirit was already finding desolating scope in the unconstitutional measures and atrocities of the Star Chamber and the High Commission.”
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