The Court of Star Chamber, 1629-1641
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The Court of Star Chamber was abolished by the Long Parliament for reasons, as yet, not clearly established. Most recent research has shown that the court retained its popularity with litigants until the 1640's. Three reasons for the court's downfall have also been suggested; namely, that the Star Chamber meted out severe corporal punishments, that Charles I's government made use of the court to support controversial religious and economic policies. However, this research has not clearly established a link between these three factors and the dissolution of the court of Star Chamber. It also failed to show how the court could nonetheless remain popular until the late 1630's and only then be hastily abolished in 1641. Historians, with hind-sight, have sought to blame the actions of the court during the 1630's for its abrogation. They have presented only a limited cause and effect relationship. How did the actions of the court from 1629 - 1640 result in a call for its dissolution? The research to be presented herein begins with a review of the cliche reason, that the court had exceeded its statutory rights. By showing that the court had no real statutory foundation and by examining the attitudes of various historians on this aspect, one can understand how this viewpoint became possible and how it eventually was found to be a false viewpoint. Next, a review of the actions of the Court during 1629 to 1641 was undertaken to seek possible causes for the dissolution of the Court. Upon failing to find any conclusive evidence for such causes, an in-depth analysis of the Long Parliament during 1640 - 1641 seemed appropriate. It is here that one sees what truly influenced the decision of the Long Parliament to dissolve the Star Chamber. Re-examination of those cases which Parliament had reviewed shows clearly why Parliament felt it to be necessary to abrogate the Court of Star Chamber. Parliament examined the most notorious cases from the period, 1629 - 1640. These cases influenced Parliament's eventual decision because they indicated that the Court was extending its mandate beyond some undefined boundaries. The reasons for its dissolution were, and still remain, the same but when these reasons are analyzed in the context of Parliament's review of the Star Chamber, the cause for the dissolution becomes apparent. I believe that it was the influence of the petitions of Walter Long, Richard Chambers, Alexander Leighton, William Prynne, David Foulis, John Corbet, John Williams, Richard Wiseman, Pierce Crosby, John Bastwicke, and John Burton that directly initiated the review of the Court and, subsequently, indirectly, caused the dissolution of the Court.
Thesis, MPhil Master of Philosophy
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