Back in 1642, a Dutch artist by the name of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, now generally known as Rembrandt, completed his painting ‘The Night Watch’. A few years later, he created an etching of a night-time scene called ‘The Star of the Kings’, an etching he created to celebrate Epiphany.
In England, and back in 1641, another ‘Star of the Kings’ ceased to exist, however this was no piece of art. It was part of the Palace of Westminster, a sinister and foreboding court known as the Star Chamber. A court where the accused had to testify against themselves, where there were no juries, no witnesses and no right to appeal. The subjective justice imposed by the Court of the Star Chamber was swift.
The Star Chamber, or Sterred Chambre as it was first referred to in 1398, was built during the reign of King Edward II, so between 7 July 1307 – 25 January 1327, specifically for meetings of the King’s Council. Over time its role changed to become more powerful. In 1632, the Court of the Star Chamber even banned the publication of all new books; a ban that lasted for six years.
The chamber was so named because of its ceiling. Vivid blue with golden stars painted all across it, apparently for the benefit of the accused who could stand in the chamber, look up the ceiling and ponder their place in the Universe.
The Star Chamber served sixteen monarchs, until an Act of Parliament abolished it in 1641. After its abolition, the chamber remained empty and unused. Eventually, it was demolished in the early Nineteenth Century, but parts of it remain to this day, with a door now hanging at a school in London, and the ceiling itself now hanging proudly in Leasowe Castle, in Wirral, Cheshire. Cheshire, of all places…
In 1889, some 83 years after the Star Chamber was demolished another Dutch artist, who was partly influenced by Rembrandt, completed his painting ‘The Starry Night’. This artist was Vincent Van Gogh.
Van Gogh’s interpretation of the stars above is so different to what we expect to see, yet the painting, like The Night Watch, is so full of movement it really is incredible to see.
I doubt that those waiting to be dealt with in the Star Chamber, if they looked up at the ceiling above them, would have seen movement in those stars. They may have had, however, an epiphany all of their own when they actually realised where they were standing; and the stars above bore witness to their fate. Each and every one…
Sideview’s Weekend Theme this week is ‘Starry Night’, which instantly made me think of the Star Chamber, but during my research for this post I accidentally (or coincidentally!) stumbled across a post written by my blogging friend Kate Shrewsday called Star Chamber early in 2011, fourteen days after my birthday to be exact! Thanks Kate for allowing me to continue with this post, by the way!