Court of High Commission

Hist. Eccles. law. A tribunal responsible for inquiring into religious offenses such as the holding of heretical opinions, and absence from church.

• Functioning as a court, the High Commission also prosecuted violations of the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity (1559), the statutes that gave the Crown supreme power over the Church of England. The Commission’s broad powers and use of civil-law procedures in ways counter to the common law (such as compelling suspects to testify against themselves) sparked opposition to its existence. Its close relationship with the Court of Star Chamber hastened its demise (along with the Star Chamber) in 1641.

— Also termed High Commission Court.


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