Catalogue description Court of Star Chamber: Hudson's 'Treatise of the Court'

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Details of STAC 12
Reference: STAC 12
Title: Court of Star Chamber: Hudson's 'Treatise of the Court'

A manuscript copy of William Hudson's 'A Treatise of the Court of Star Chamber'.

Hudson's treatise was partly didactic in purpose: the instruction of John Williams, bishop of Lincoln, who succeeded to the office of keeper of the Great Seal on 10 July 1621. But it was also a treatise in praise and defence of the Court of Star Chamber, and a vehicle for the advocacy of reform.

The first part of the text is a history of the court, with an account of its judges and officers. The second part deals with the jurisdiction of the court, concentrating principally upon its criminal jurisdiction, but acknowledging that, prior to the reign of Elizabeth, the court also enjoyed a civil jurisdiction and would try questions of title. The third part of the work treats of the course of the court. It is part history, part polemic, advocating restoration of the ancient course, and part descriptive of the practice of the court as it operated in Hudson's time.

Despite its underlying political agenda, Hudson's treatise remains an essential guide to the court, its jurisdiction and procedure. It cites over five hundred cases in Star Chamber, many of which can no longer be traced in any other source.

Date: c1621
Related material:

The best extant version of the treatise is thought to be that of British Library, Harleian MS 1226, which a memorandum of 1635 declares to be in the handwriting of Hudson's son, Christopher.

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English
Physical description: 1 volume(s)
Custodial history: A nearly contemporary copy, apparently acquired by purchase, possibly for the Tower Record Office.
Publication note:

A corrupt version of the text, derived from two other manuscripts, was published in pp 1-240 Collectanea Juridica, ed F Hargrave, 2 vols (London, 1791-1792), ii T G Barnes, 'Mr Hudson's Star Chamber', in Tudor Rule and Revolution, ed D J Guth and J W McKenna (Cambridge, 1982), pp 285-296

Administrative / biographical background:

William Hudson was a trained lawyer whose wealth was made entirely in practice in Star Chamber. Having served as underclerk, attorney and counsellor, he built up a practice larger than any of his contemporaries, and a competence and a knowledge of the procedures of the court that may have been unique in Star Chamber's history.

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