Date of Award

8-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Committee Member

Dr. Carolina Dunn, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Alan Grubb

Committee Member

Dr. Lee Morrissey

Abstract

The abrupt legislative destruction of the Court of Star Chamber in the summer of 1641 is generally understood as a reaction against the perceived abuses of prerogative government during the decade of Charles I's personal rule. The conception of the court as an 'extra-legal' tribunal (or as a legitimate court that had exceeded its jurisdictional mandate) emerges from the constitutional debate about the limits of executive authority that played out over in Parliament, in the press, in the pulpit, in the courts, and on the battlefields of seventeenth-century England. Too narrow a focus on the question of the court's legitimacy, however, impedes our ability to understand the historical Court of Star Chamber and the significant role it played in policing the boundaries of public expression in prerevolutionary England. This thesis attempts to capture an image of the Court of Star Chamber as it existed during the late 1620s and early 1630s by identifying the individuals who formed the 'core' of the court and by examining the court's decisions in a series of representative cases. This study exposes the fault lines of political allegiance, religious persuasion, and judicial temperament that divided the members of the court. On the other hand, it suggests that the men who sat as judges in the Court of Star Chamber shared a commitment to the preservation of the established order in church and state—a commitment fundamentally out of place in a society that was entering a period of radical change.

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