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Glossary - Document 4

The answer of Nicholas Porter and others in Star Chamber.

(Catalogue reference: STAC 2/14 folio 10)


Star Chamber pleadings generally consisted of the initial bill of complaint, followed by the answer, and sometimes further replications and rejoinders. The answer was a written statement by the defendant refuting the complaint.

Bill of complaint

Star Chamber pleadings generally consisted of the bill of complaint, the answer, the replications and the rejoinder. The bill of complaint was a written petition explaining the plaintiff's grievances and the wrong he claimed the defendant had done him and the damages he had sustained. Bills often exaggerated the violence in order to make the case a matter of public disorder (and therefore a matter for the royal courts) rather than a private complaint.

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A person defending themselves against a complaint or suit in a court of law, as opposed to the plaintiff, who is the person making the complaint.


A village in the west of the Isle of Wight, two miles south-west of Yarmouth.

Henry VIII

Henry VIII was born at Greenwich on 28 June 1491. He was the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. His elder brother Prince Arthur died in 1502, making Henry heir to the throne, to which he succeeded on 21 April 1509. Desperate for a male heir to secure the Tudor succession, Henry VIII had six wives. During the English Reformation Henry became head of the Church in England, repudiating papal supremacy, and closed down the monasteries. The monastic lands were sold off and the revenues went to the Crown. Henry died at Whitehall in London on 28 January 1547, and was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.

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Mixed hand

A term applied to styles of handwriting that mix letter-forms from different distinct hands, such as secretary hand and legal hands.


A document submitted by the defendant to counter the plaintiff's replication. It consisted either of a general refutation of the plaintiff's case or a more detailed pleading countering every point made by the plaintiff.


A document submitted by the plaintiff in response to the defendant's answer. It consisted either of a short general denial of the defendant's answer, or a more detailed pleading in which the plaintiff countered each point made in the answer. It might introduce new facts and circumstances but it could not alter the basic case.

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Star Chamber

The Star Chamber was effectively the king's council sitting as a tribunal to enforce law and order. It was named after the room in the palace of Westminster where the council met, which had a blue ceiling painted with gold stars. The Star Chamber became a separate court of law after 1485. It investigated cases of public disorder, official corruption, municipal and trade disputes, fraud, and disputes over the enclosure of land.

Star Chamber cases frequently allege public disorder, such as riots, forcible entry and assault, but many of them were in fact private disputes about rights to property. After the Star Chamber was abolished in 1641 its records were stored in two places. Those kept in the Star Chamber itself are now at The National Archives. Those stored at the Star Chamber Office at Gray's Inn have not survived.

Wadham, Sir Nicholas

Sir Nicholas Wadham (died 1541) was created captain of the Isle of Wight by Henry VIII in 1509. Wadham's second wife Margaret was an aunt of Jane Seymour and the Protector Somerset. His grandson by his first wife was Nicholas Wadham who, with his wife Dorothy, founded Wadham College, Oxford.

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