Lempriere history from Payne's Armorial

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Lempriere history from
Payne's Armorial

A detailed history of the family from its earliest time in Jersey to the end of the 19th century

Norman records and variations

In the earliest records preserved to us of the Normans, after they had acquired a local habitation and a name, the patronymic of this family finds a frequent place. It has not escaped the mutations in orthography common to surnames in use at this remote period, and it is found variously chronicled as I'Empereur, Lempreur, Lemprere, de Lempeiiere, de Lempriere, and Lempriere; and, in Latin, Imperator from which imperial designate all the other renderings, no doubt, resolve themselves.

In this, its earliest form, the name, although very rare, exists in England; in the Times of 12 January 1861 the death of one John Emperor is recorded. An innovation in spelling this name, affected by some branches of the family—that of placing a grave accent over the penultimate e - gives an erroneous notion of the root of the word, and is falsified by this derivation.

With regard to the derivative, a fanciful tradition makes the source of the family the very chieftain to whom Rollo delegated the disagreeable duty of saluting the foot of Charles the Simple, when he was formally admitted into his dukedom; and the legend infers that the haughty clumsiness of the Scandinavian warrior, in upsetting the king, earned for him the soubriquet borne by himself and his descendants.

Origins in Morfontaine

But, be this as it may, the early Norman historians bear ample testimony to the rank and possessions of the family.

It undoubtedly takes its rise from the same source as the house of I'Empereur de Morfontaine, of the provinces of Champagne and Brie. D'Hozier, in his "Registre II." mentions that Michael I'Empereur, Seigneur of Morfontaine, and an officer in the Light-Horse of the King's Guard in Ordinary, proved the nobility of his family by documents that carried the name back to the middle of the fourteenth century, the owners of which were dignified by posts in the state only given to the most talented as well as the most influential of the aristocracy.

Des Bois also concurs in bearing witness that this house possessed, from a very early period, the attributes of ancient nobility, and instances in support of his assertion that from the fourteenth century its members were permitted the use of a seal—a certain mark of antique noblesse.

Jacques L'Empereur

Jacques I'Empereur, who was, between the years 1356 and 1360, Tresorier des Guerres du Roy, et du Due de Normandie, gave several receipts to the Treasurer- General of the Revenues of Languedoc, to which were attached his seal, which represented a shield—Gyronny of twelve pieces; on a chief, a double-headed eagle, displayed.

In 1364, this same Jacques I'Empereur, in the quality of Treasurer of the Duke of Berry and of Auvergne, "charge pour ce Prince des cinq cens francs d'or, que le roi Jehan avoit ordonné par ses lettres a prendre chacun mois par ledit Seigneur Duc ou son certain mandement pour soutenir son etat en Angleterre, ou il etoit offager."

Among the descendants of this eminent person, who remained in France, are found the names of Renaud, Michael, Nicholas, and others most in use by the members of the Jersey family.

History researched

In the middle of the last century, Thomas Lempriere, Seigneur of Chesnel, an Advocate of the Royal Court of Jersey, and Commissary of Musters of HM Forces in Jersey and Guernsey — a man of much erudition, of antiquarian tastes, and of vast industry—compiled a voluminous tome, containing genealogical and biographical memoirs of his family from the earliest period of its history, illustrated with copious extracts from Norman and Jersey State papers. In this he was assisted by the researches of a learned French antiquary, M de Lemperiere, of Reunes, Brittany, who supplied him with important memoranda relative to the pre-insular history of the Lemprieres.

To these labours were added those of the erudite Dr Lempriere, of Exeter, who succeeded in tracing the ancestors of the family for some six generations higher than had been done by his predecessors. From the information thus collected is learned that the family of de Lempriere possessed in the Duchy of Normandy the extensive seigneuries and lands of Lempriere, Pontrilly, Gourbesville, Rauville, Quierqueville, la Carpenterie, Croville, Belle-Fontaine, Cauquigny, St Refaire, Bois-Gingant, Durrelle, Courseville, Duiteville, la Grandiere, and others.

Fiefs held in Jersey

In Jersey, besides the estates hereafter mentioned, which Raoul Lempriere and his brother-in-law, Guille Payn, purchased of the De Barentine family, various branches of the name have held the fiefs of Godeaux, Herupe, Ecoucqueville, Bouteville, Buisson, Surville, Houguette, Lempriere, Covey, Maufant, Chesnel, des Pres in St John's parish, Petit Rozel in St Saviour's parish, with Morville, Robilliard, and de Lecq in St Ouen's parish.

Everard de Lempriere and descendants

According to the genealogies referred to, Everard de Lempriere, or l'Empereur, was born in Normandy, circa 970, and was sent by Robert, King of France, son of Hugh Capet (the founder of the Capetian dynasty), with other French barons, in 1026, to treat with the chiefs of Lorraine, concerning the annexation of that province to the kingdom of France.

His son, Otho de Lempriere, born circa 1015, distinguished himself with other Norman nobles in the wars of Italy. He was present at the storming of Beneventura, 18 June 1053, when Pope Leo X was taken prisoner. William of Normandy (the Conqueror) rewarded his various services in statecraft and in the field, by a grant of lands in the Cotentin. He died in 1060.

His son, Rodolph de Lempriere, born circa 1050, was engaged in the First Crusade under Peter Gautier, better known as Peter the Hermit, in 1096. He remained several years serving in the wars in the Holy Land, and died soon after his return to his native country, in 1110. His son, Philip de Lempriere , born circa 1072, married Claudia de la Riviere, a daughter of an illustrious Norman house, derived by Ordericus Vitalis, Le Boeuf, and other historians, from Rudolph, son of Robert, Count of Evreux, by Herlue, his legitimate wife. This Robert was great-grandson of Rollo.

His son, Theobald de Lempriere, born circa 1099, appears as one of the courtiers of Louis VII, King of France, who succeeded to the sole sovereignty in 1137. His son, Guy de Lempriere, born 1121, was the father of the famous John de Lempriere, born 1142, who was Seigneur of Pontrilly and numerous other seigneuries in Normandy.

In 1163, upon his coming of age, he was constituted Vicomte of Valognes. He was one of the barons of the Third Crusade, under Richard Coeur du Lion, and was present at the memorable seige and surrender of Acre, in the Holy Land, in 1191. He married Alice, daughter of the Seigneur de Tollevast, and by her had issue, Raoul de Lempriere, so named after his ancestor Rollo, or Raoul, Duke of Normandy, was born circa 1170, and succeeded his father in his estates in Normandy.

He married a daughter of the Baron de Sottevast, and left issue, John de Lempriere, Seigneur of Pontrilly, born circa 1202; married Florence des Riviers, daughter of Zachariah, Seigneur of Amfreville. He was killed at the seige of Avignon, in France, in 1227, while serving in the army of Louis VIII of France. He had three sons. Nicholas, the eldest, who married Jane Lucas, of a Norman Seigueurial house ; Oudard, who was a priest, and Cure de Valognes ; and Raoul Lempriere, said to have founded the great insular family of his name in Jersey, by settling in the island about the year 1270.

Jersey settlement

Here he obtained a fief named after himself, as well as another, that of Covey, situated at Rouge Bouillon. In 1309, John de Fresingfield and Drogo De Barentine, Justices Itinerant in the Island of Jersey, called upon this Raoul, who had reached a patriarchal age, to compound for having erected a Colombier, or dove-cote, without license of the King.

His son, Thomas Lempriere, was Seigneur of Lempriere and Covey. By the Extente of 1331, it appears that this Thomas owed a rent termed Grèverie to the King, and that the fine inflicted on his father for the dove-cote was levied also on him.

His son, Raoul Lempriere, was the first of his name conspicuous in insular history. The fact of the family possessing a fief of its own name, as well as that most cherished and important feudal privilege of rank—a Colombier—argues a social position which justifies, and accounts for, the brilliant career of this Raoul.

The Extente of Guernsey, also, of 1331, mentions "fieu ès Lempriere" as a Crown escheat; and this would seem to certify an ancient as well as an important connection of this family with both islands.

Seigneuries purchased

In 1360 Raoul Lempriere purchased, jointly with Guille Payn, the whole of the Seigneuries and estates held by Philip de Barentine, consisting of the Manors of Rosel, Samares, Dielament, les Augres, Longueville, St John la Hougue Boete, with others of minor importance. In 1353 he became a Jurat of the Royal Court — a judicial function which has uninterruptedly been filled by one or more of his direct descendants for the elongated period of fourteen generations — a circumstance perhaps without parallel in Jersey family history.

Office holders

The Lemprieres have given to the island one Governor, one Lieutenant-Governor, five Baillies, three Lieutenant-Baillies, two Attorneys-General, four Solicitors-General, and twenty-five Jurats. In 1362, this Raoul was preferred to the then important and onerous post of Bailly of Jersey, an office then of very high dignity and power, and one which had but been just separated from the sole higher and more powerful preferment of Governor or Warden of the island.


Dr Lempriere states that from this time the family discontinued the prefix de before its name, and that also it abandoned the arms peculiar to the Norman branch, and adopted, with a change of tincture, those of De Barentine. That manorial arms ever existed in Jersey, or that they were adopted, in this instance, for the reason assigned, is difficult to imagine; although it is just possible these arms appeared on a broad seal used to authenticate documents passed before the feudal courts, then of much consequence and power; and were thus adopted, officially, by the new Seigneur. It is interesting to note that, from their earliest known history, the family of I'Empereur, of Normandy, has borne for cognizance the eagle, and it is not pushing supposition too far to suppose the imperial symbol was originally adopted to keep pace with an imperial cognomen. On the signet used by Raoul Lempriere in 1367, appears a fox courant, a badge never assumed by his descendants.

Death in Guernsey battle

His son, Drouet Lempriere, was Seigneur of Rosel, Dielament, St John, la Hougue Boete, Les Augres, and other fiefs, and was one of the Jurats of the Royal Court in 1409. Urged by patriotic zeal to recover the Island of Guernsey from the French, who then held it, he assisted to raise the almost incredible sum of six thousand four hundred marks, to which he himself liberally contributed, accompanied his followers to the assault of the island, and was killed in the moment of victory. A huge two-handed sword, still preserved in the manor-house of Rozel, is said to have been his.

His sister, Jeanette, married Peter Le Marchant, of Guernsey, an ancestor of the present Sir Denis Le Marchant, of Chobham Place, Surrey.

French invasion

His son, John Lempriere, Seigneur of Rosel and other fiefs, was Receiver-General of the King's Revenues in Jersey and Guernsey, under John, Duke of Bedford, during the minority of Henry VI. He was afterwards Bailly of the island. His son, Renaud Lempriere, Seigneur of Rozel, when the French, by the supine treason of the Governor of the Island, John Nanfan, gained possession of Mont Orgueil Castle for Pierre de Breze, Count de Maulevrier, was conspicuously active in harassing the invaders, which he was enabled to do with the more success, owing to the proximity of his estate to the head-quarters of the enemy.

The following quotation from an Issue Roll, 30 Henry VI (1452), will show that it was not for want of means or money that the castle was lost, and that the character for treachery he has gained in local records was fully deserved.

" To John Nanfan, whom the Lord the King ordered and appointed to be the Keeper and Governor of the Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, with the appurtenances, and of the castles and other places within the fame, retained in the King's Service, by indenture made between the said Lord the King, and the said John, for him to have continually in the said islands, castles and places, 130 archers, well and sufficiently arrayed, as to them doth belong; for and during the time and term of half a year, to begin on the day of the muster of the archers made by the said John ; viz., the 9th of August in the thirtieth year of the present King, etc., for the first quarter of the said half year. By writ, etc., £295 15/."

And in the grand attack, by which the expulsion of tlie enemy was triumphantly effected, under the united leadership of Richard Harleston, and Philip De Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen, he fell gallantly fighting at the head of his contingent.

Royal Commission

His son, John Lempriere, Seigneur of Roael, was Governor of Jersey, by Patent, in 1500, a Jurat of the Royal Court in 1504, and Judge-Delegate (or temporary chief magistrate, on the death of the Bailly, until his successor is appointed) in 1524. In 24 Henry VIII, 1533, Commissioners were appointed by the King to inquire into the state of the government and of the defences of the island. These were "John Lemperour, R Ffoster, Robert Kyrke, and John Dummarke" (Dumaresq) "or three or two of them". His services were rewarded by Henry VIII by a grant of part of the government revenues of the island, that escheated to the crown on the dissolution of religious houses, whose patrons held the great tythes. Dying without issue, in 1534, Rozel, its manor and dependencies, devolved upon his only sister, Catherine Lempriere, Lady of Rozel, who married Dominic Perrin, a member of a Guernsey family, whose descendants became seigneurs of Rozel for four generations.

Fief sold

The fief was then sold to Sir Philip de Carteret by Abraham Perrin, in 1625, and after a tenure of the estate of some years by this former family, it was sold to a member of the house of Corbet, a branch of which ancient English house had settled and become naturalized in the island. Finally, and as if by poetic justice, Rozel eventually returned to a younger branch of the Lemprieres by the marriage of one of its members with the heiress of James Corbet, the owner and seigneur of the state. With Catherine Lempriere expired the eldest branch of this family, the deeds of the members of which had shed lustre not only on themselves but on their native island.

The representation of the family in the male line was continued by George Lempriere, who, by his marriage with the sister and heiress of William De St Martin, founded the branch of Lempriere of Trinity. And by his brother, Raulin Lempriere, the Seigneur of St John, La Hougue Boete. Both these persons were uncles of Catherine Lempriere. The fief Haubert of Trinity departed from the branch that held it, as soon as that of Rozel did from the eldest section of the family, for the great-great-granddaughter of George Lempriere, Catherine, the only child and heiress of Gilles Lempriere, Seigneur of Trinity, by her marriage with Amice de Carteret, carried her estates to that branch of this powerful family.

In junior sections, however, members of this house still exist; the eldest of which is represented, amongst other brothers, by the Rev Daniel Matthew Lempriere, Chaplain to the hospital and prison of Jersey. To a younger division of the same branch belonged the Rev John Lempriere, by far the best known of his name in England.

St John

The section of Lempriere of St John, La Hougue Boete, founded by Raulin Lempriere, became extinct in its eldest branch by the marriage of his great-granddaughter, Thomasse Lempriere, eldest daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Lempriere, and Lady of St John, with Clement Journeaulx, Jurat of the Royal Court, and Lieutenant-Bailly of Jersey, through whom the representation has devolved upon Edward George Le Couteur, the present seigneur.

In younger branches it is represented by the families of Payn, Hammond, and Anley. To the section represented by Capt Anley, of Maitland, St Clement, belonged Capt James Lempriere, RN, a most distinguished officer of the reign of Queen Anne. For his services against the French he was presented by the Queen with a magnificent gold medal (weighing 40 sovereigns) and a chain, and honoured with a letter of instructions signed by her majesty. The medal, which on the obverse has an effigy of the Queen, and on the reverse the arms of, and an eulogy on, the recipient, together with a characteristic portrait of the veteran, are now at Maitland in the possession of Capt Anley, having descended, by the marriage of Elizabeth, daughter of Capt Lempriere, with Philip Nicolle, of St Clement, to their present possessor.

Republican Bailiff

From Thomas, a younger son of Drouet Lempriere, Seigneur of Trinity, to whom the Seigneurie of Dielament had descended as a patrimony, is derived the branch of Lempriere of Rozel. The grandson of this Thomas was the famous Michael Lempriere, the Republican Bailly and Champion, and the Seigneur of Maufant.

Government recognition

His son, Michael Lempriere, who represented but a junior branch of bis section of the family, became its heir-general, and Seigneur of Dielament, by the successive deaths of two of bis cousins without heirs. From him descended three generations, all distinguished by their positions in the Royal Court and Militia of the island, and by gifts and talents which seemed almost hereditary. Tbe English Government recognised, by highly flattering letters, and tbe States of Jersey, by Acts of tbe Court, the services rendered by these members of tbe family and their staunch loyalty during the French war. And it increased in wealth, if not in consequence, by the recent acquisition, by marriage, from the Corbet family, of tbe Seigneurie of Rozel, and from tbe same heiress a fourth share of tbe large St Ouen estates.

Of these, Charles Lempriere, Seigneur of Rosel, Chief Magistrate and President of the States of Jersey for upwards of 30 years, was esteemed the representative Jerseyman of his day.

Military career

The late Captain William Lempriere, Royal Horse Artillery, was a brother of the late Seigneur of Rozel; and after his retirement from the service, settled at Ewell, Epsom.

He served the campaign under Sir John Moore, including the actions at Sahagun and Benevente, and the famous retreat to Coruuna. In 1814, he served in the South of France, and was present at the battle of Toulouse, after which he served in the American War, and assisted in the battle of Bladusberg, capture of Washington, and in the operations with the army in the Chesapeake, and before New Orleans. In 1815, he served in the Netherlands, and was attached to the Prussian army, in reducing the fortresses on that frontier.

The great-uncle of the present Seigneur of Rozel, and the only brother of William Charles Lempriere, Seigneur of Rozel, Jurat of the Royal Court, Lieutenant-Bailly of Jersey, and Colonel of the North Regiment of Militia, was Thomas Lempriere, who was Commissary -General of Musters of HM Forces in Jersey and Guernsey, and who was also an Advocate of the Royal Court, and the successor of his brother as Colonel of the North Regiment of Militia. He was Seigneur of Chesnel, Pesnel, or Paynel — a fief so called from its first probable owners, members of the family of Paynel. His eldest son, Vice Admiral George Oury Lempriere, married Frances, only daughter and heiress of William Dumaresq, of Pelham, Hants, where he is now located, and is the representative of this portion of the family.

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