What role did the Court of the Star Chamber play in England during the age of James I and Charles I?
The Court of the Star Chamber has a history that goes back to the foundation of the Tudor dynasty toward the end of the fifteenth century. Originally, it was formed for the monarch to oversee the lower courts in the land, as well as to hear cases on appeal. In some ways, it is similar to the Supreme Court in the United States in terms of its functions. Most importantly, the Court of the Star Chamber was supposed to ensure that no matter a citizen's station in society, his/her voice could be heard in this forum. In the intervening period between the end of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth, however, monarchs had come to use the Court more for its own purposes. Henry VIII (r.1509-1547) used it to hear cases against those who would speak or act out against the government. This trend continued in the reign of James I (1603-1625). He used the Court of the Star Chamber to silence those perceived guilty of sedition. When his son, Charles I, came to the throne in 1625 and especially in the period known as the Eleven Years of Tyranny (1629-1640) when the king dissolved Parliament, the Star Chamber served Parliament's functions for the monarch. With no governing body to contest it, the Star Chamber only grew in power during those eleven years. The members of Parliament saw only the abuses of which the Court was guilty. When Parliament was reconvened in 1640, it immediately took action to dissolve the Court of the Star Chamber, which it did.