Raoul Lempriere

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Raoul Lempriere, Bailiff of Jersey 1362-1364

Breton origins

The first of a number of Lemprieres to hold the position, Raoul Lempriere was Seigneur of Rosel, the son of Thomas Lempriere. Payne's Armorial of Jersey shows the family as descending from the de Lempriere family of Normandy, but subsequent research has shown that they probably came from a branch of the family which had settled in Brittany.

The first mention of Raoul Lempriere is as a member of the garrison at Gorey Castle in 1337. A year later he was one of eight men-at-arms under Jean de Barentin who defended the castle with 43 bowmen and 22 servants against the French Admiral Béhuchet. He was still on duty at the castle in 1341 and 1342, and next appears in recorde in 1348 as a Jurat. Although J A Messervy does not show him as holding the office of Bailiff until 1362, George Balleine's Biographical Dictionary of Jersey indicates that in September 1357 he issued a proclamation fixing the rate of exchange of an English crown at 13/4 tournois as "Bailiff of our Lord the King in the island of Jersey".

In the same year Lempriere and Sir Renaud de Carteret lad a party of Jerseymen to recapture Guernsey's Castle Cornet, which had been occupied by French raiders. Although successful, this good deed on behalf of their neighbouring islanders landed Lempriere and de Carteret in considerable trouble. A prominent Guernseyman, William Le Feyvre, was found to have been a traitor and was court martialled and executed. Although neither Lempriere nor de Carteret had been present at the proceedings, they accepted responsibility in the face of deep resentment in Guernsey and were placed under arrest on the demand of Le Feyvre's widow.

Prisoners in Castle Cornet

They were themselves held prisoner in Castle Cornet for nearly two years before they were pardoned by the King "because they were not at the killing or consenting to it". Lempriere resumed his work as Bailiff until 1364, before reverting to his old role as Jurat.

When Philippe de Barentin, Seigneur of Rosel and several other major and minor fiefs decided to leave Jersey after a scandal involving his wife and murder committed by his two sons, he sold his properties to Lempriere and his brother-in-law Guillaume Payn for a payment of £200 a year during de Barentin's lifetime. This led to a bitter lawsuit with de Barentin's relatives, starting in 1362, and claims that Lempriere was a foreigner and not entitled to acquire property, even though his family had been in the island for four generations.

Payment of a £70 fine to the King and a contract with the family of de Barentin's daughter put matters straight and Lempriere and Payn were accepted by the Cour d'Heritage as Seigneurs of the fiefs in May 1368.

80-year legal action

But that was far from the end of the affair. De Barentin's nephew, tried to claim that he had the right to buy the properties for the same as Lempriere and Payn had paid, but failed in his claim because it was not made within a year and a day of the transaction. This alerted Gautier Hewet, Warden of the Isles, to the possibility of making a similar claim on behalf of the King, which set in motion a legal action which lasted at least 80 years.

Raoul Lempriere died by 1378 and the case was taken up by his son, Drouet, who divided the properties with Payn in 1382.

Full biography

From a Biographical Dictionary of Jersey

Raoul Lempriere, also known as Rauf, Ralph and Radulphus, was the son of Thomas Lempriere, Seigneur of the Fief es Empereres in St Helier. In 1337 he is mentioned as one of the garrison of Mont Orgueil. In the following year he was one of eight men-at-arms who, under Jean de Barentin with 45 bowmen and 22 servants, sucessfully defended the Castle against the French Admiral Behuchet. In 1341 and 1342 he was still on duty in the Castle.


In 1348 he became a Jurat, and in September 1357 he issued "as Bailiff of our Lord the King in the island of Jersey" a proclamation fixing the rate of exchange of an English crown at 15s 4d tournois.

In 1356 the French raided Guernsey and captured Castle Cornet. In the following year Lempriere joined a party of Jerseymen, who with Sir Renaud de Carteret set out to try to recover it.

After a severe combat they took the Captain of the Castle, who ransomed himself for 80,000 florins. They might have taken those florins in aid of their expenses; yet they surrendered the Captain without ransom in return for the surrender of the Castle.

After its recovery William Le Feyvre, a prominent Guernseyman, was “slain as a traitor and adherent of the enemy by common assent of the armed men".

This caused deep resentment in Guernsey, and Nicolaa, his wife, secured the arrest of all responsible. Neither Lempriere nor de Carteret had been present at the court-martial or the execution, but before the Guernsey Court they took full responsibility, declaring that they were "as blameworthy as any of those impeached".


"Whereupon the Bailiff and Jurats adjudged them to the King's Prison to be detained till justice were done on them".

The Deputy-Warden of the Isles crossed to England to try to secure their release, but they remained prisoners in Castle Cornet until March 1359, when, "because they were not at the killing or consenting to it", they received the King's Pardon. Lempriere then resumed his work as Bailiff until 1364, when he took up again his old position as Jurat.

Meanwhile Philippe de Barentin, Seigneur of Rosel, after a scandal in which his wife was involved and a murder by his two sons, had decided to leave the island and sell his property. This included not only Rosel, but the Manors of Samares, Dielament, Longueville, and La Hougue Boete, and the smaller Fiefs of Patier and Maufant at St Saviour, of Buisson and La Fosse at St Helier, of Grochy and Burner at St Martin, of Le Hornet at St Clement and Ponterrin at Trinity.

Lempriere and his brother-in-law Guillaume Payn (they had married the two daughters of Geoffroi Brosdefer) decided to buy the lot for a promise to pay de Barentin annually £200 sterling as long as he lived. His relations furiously contested the sale. In October 1362 they declared that de Barentin was a leper, and therefore by Jersey law a dead man, incapable of alienating his property.

When this plea failed, they remembered that Raoul's great-grandfather had come from Brittany. Though the family had been in Jersey for four generations, they were still regarded by some as foreigners who were forbidden to acquire property in the island. A Latin genealogy, ascribed to Dean Soulemont (1534), contains the note: "Lempriere and Payn were Bretons and aliens".


This was put right by paying a fine of £70 sterling to the King, and on 8 May 1368 they received a "Pardon to Ralph le Emperer and William Payn of their trespasses in acquiring in fee from Philip de Barentyn the Manors of La Rosen and Sant Marey (Samares) without the King's licence, and a Grant that they may hold the Manors as acquired".

Meanwhile they had registered at the Royal Court in January a contract by which they had bought out any possible claims of the Lovel family, children of de Barentin's daughter; and in June the Cour d’Heritage admitted them to make comparence as joint Seigneurs of the Fiefs.

But the struggle was not yet over. De Barentin's nephew, Pierre Payn, Rector of St Brelade, next claimed the retrait lignager , by which, according to Norman law, if a man sold his property any of his heirs could buy it back for the price paid. He failed, because he did not make his claim within a year and a day, but the King's Receiver then demanded the Manors under the retrait feodal , by which the Seigneur had the same privilege as the heirs, and on 8 May 1369 the Council issued:

"Grant in fee to Walter Huwet, Warden of the Isles, of those lands in Jersey which Ralph Lempriere and William Payn lately bought from Philip Barentyn, and of which the retrait belongs to the King according to the custom of that country, because Walter in the King's name offered to pay Philip as much as Ralph and William paid him, no one of the blood of Philip suing for the purchase of the lands within a year, whereby the lands have fallen to the King".

This was followed by a long and immensely complicated lawsuit, the course of which cannot be followed from the facts that have survived. Among the Close Rolls in November 1378 is a Writ of Supersedeas (a writ commanding a stay of legal proceedings) addressed to the Bailiff and Jurats "In favour of William Payn and Drouet Lempriere (Raoul's son), joint tenants of lands in Jersey, as they have done homage to the King". But 80 years later the case was still dragging on.

The writ of Supersedeas allows that Raoul was dead by 1378. In 1382 Drouet and Payn divided the property, Drouet taking as his share Rosel, Longueville, La Hougue Boete, and Patier. Besides Drouet, Raoul had a daughter Jeanette, who married Pierre Le Marchant of Guernsey.

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