Court Of The Star Chamber (curia cameroe stellata, so called from the gilded stars on the ceiling of the old council chamber of the palace of Westminster, in which it sat), a tribunal famous in the political history of England, and mentioned as early as the reign of Edward III. It appears to have been then, and for upward of a century and a half afterward, identical with the ancient concilium regis, or king's ordinary council, which alone exercised jurisdiction, the concilium secretum, or privy council, being a deliberative body; and at the accession of Henry VII. its powers had become so greatly abridged by restraining statutes as to render it almost inoperative as a court of justice. The statute of 3 Henry VII. (1488) placed the jurisdiction on a permanent basis by establishing a court composed of three high officers of state, to whom a fourth was subsequently added, a bishop and temporal lord of the council, and two justices of the courts of Westminster, which took cognizance of riots, perjury, the misbehavior of sheriffs, and other offences against the administration of justice, without the assistance of a jury. This tribunal was distinct from the council itself, of which it may be considered a committee having delegated powers.
It received an augmentation of its powers by act of 31 Henry VIII.; but during the minority of Edward VI. it was merged in the general body of the council, which thenceforth, as in earlier times, constituted the real court of the star chamber. The latter continued under the Tudors and their successors, in spite of numerous restraining statutes, to exercise a jurisdiction, particularly in criminal matters, unauthorized by the act of Henry VII. erecting a new court, and which gradually rendered it one of the most odious instruments in overthrowing the liberties of the people. Every misdemeanor, and especially those of public importance for which the law had provided no sufficient punishment, seems to have come within the scope of its inquiry. Among these were corruption, breach of trust, and malfeasance in public affairs, attempts to commit felony, or breach of proclamations; and to such an extent was its authority stretched under the Stuarts, that, according to Clarendon, "any disrespect to any acts of state, or to the persons of statesmen, was in no time more penal, and the foundations of right never more in danger to be destroyed." The mode of process was generally by information filed at the suit of the attorney general, or, in certain cases, of a private relator, and in other respects resembled that familiar to the court of chancery.
Although the court was held incompetent to pronounce sentence of death, fines, imprisonment, the pillory, whipping, branding, and various species of maiming were freely resorted to. After flourishing with constantly increasing power 'for upward of a century, as thus constituted, the court of the star chamber was finally abolished by act of parliament in 1041.