Where does the term “Star Chamber” come from and What does Star chamber mean?

Somewhat over five hundred years ago, the royal palace at Westminster contained an apartment which, it is presumed, was decorated with gilt stars upon the ceiling.

By virtue of its decoration, the room became known as the Starred or Star Chamber.

It was the practice of the reigning monarchs to hold special high courts of jurisdiction in this room, courts on which the king’s council sat as judges, and from which there was no appeal.

It is good politics, of course, for the king’s counselors to play along with the wishes of their sovereign, and the natural result was that this special court came to be used by the king for the exercise of tyranny.

The flagrant misuse of the power of the court became so great during the rule of James I and that of Charles I that, in 1641, the court was abolished by Act of Parliament.

But the notoriety of the court had become such that the phrase star-chamber court, or just star-chamber, was applied to any trial proceedings in which the defendant could expect nothing better than arbitrary and oppressive treatment, and in this sense the term continues to live today.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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