Renaud Lempriere

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Renaud Lempriere (1418-1467), Seigneur of Rosel, was arrested in 1463 for plotting to expel the French who had invaded Jersey.

He was the eldest son of Jean Lempriere, Bailiff, and Jehanette Le Lorreur; great-grandson of Raoul Lempriere, who bought Rosel Manor.

Wars of the Roses

In 1461, when England was paralysed by the Wars of the Roses, Mont Orgueil was surprised by Norman troops, sent by Pierre de Brae, Comte Maulevrier, Seneschal of Normandy. This was not a clear-cut foreign invasion, for de Breze, though a vassal of the French King, was first cousin and staunch supporter of Marguerite of Anjou. Henry VI's Queen.

Things were going badly for Henry and the Lancastrians, and there is reason to believe that the Queen had ordered Jean Nanfan, the Lancastrian Warden of the Isles, to hand over the Castle to de Breze to secure the islands as a refuge for the royal family in case the Yorkists should win.

De Breze assumed the title Lord of the Isles, and, though he failed to secure Guernsey, for seven years all Jersey submitted to his rule. In spite of traditional hatred of the French, Lancastrian sympathiszers could hardly refuse obedience to their Queen's cousin. Lempriere and most of the other Seigneurs took an oath of fealty. Le Cornu's refusal to take the oath for the Fief Levesque at St Mary and the confiscation of his land is the only exception recorded.

Details of family life

But in 1463 Lempriere was arrested for plotting to expel the French. The depositions of the witnesses at his trial give details of his life. He is described as a man of about 45, so was born about 1418. He became a Jurat in 1442. His household at the Manor at the time of his arrest consisted of his illegitimate son Jehan, always referred to as "the bastard of Rozel", old enough to play tennis and to drink with the men, Renaud's gallant young wife of 22, Katherine, daughter of John Camel of Shapwick near Blandford in Dorset, their two "beautiful children", Jean and Catherine, and Renaud's 15-year-old niece Guillemine, daughter of his dead brother Jehan.

He was a keen fisherman, a chess-player, took pride in his gardens, which every visitor was taken to admire, and had a tennis court in his barn (for real tennis, not lawn tennis, played, not over a net, but against the walls). Mass was said daily in the manor chapel, and on Sundays the Seigneur and his household attended both mass and vespers in St Martin's Church. Thomas Le Hardy, Rector of St Martin, was his closest friend.

John Hareford

At his trial both sides agreed on certain facts. In Easter week 1465 Guillaume Carbonnel, the Norman Captain of the Castle, lunched at Rosel Manor and invited Lempriere and his wife to dine on the following day. The Seigneur went alone, but the Captain sent a message that they would not sit down without Katherine, so she followed. He received her effusively, and said that she must talk with his "goblin", a fellow countryman of hers, an English prisoner named John Hareford or Hereford.

He was a retainer of Warwick the Kingmaker, one of the garrison of Calais, who had been captured on a plundering raid in St Ouen's Bay. He came of good family, and was a cousin of Thomas Wynchels or Wynselo, an Englishman, who had married a relative of the Lemprieres. He professed to know Katherine's father and many mutual friends. At his suggestion she persuaded the Captain to remove his fetters, and herself helped to unshackle him. Later Hareford was allowed to roam about the island on parole, and became a frequent visitor at the Manor.

On Whit Monday there was another dinner-party at the castle to meet the Captain's wife, who had arrived from Normandy. Lempriere and Katherine were present, and the Lady of St Ouen. On 11 August Hareford arrived at the Manor with a bitten thumb, rather the worse for drink. He had got roaring drunk on the previous day, St Lawrence's Day, at the fair in St Lawrence, had fought with "a country lout", who had bitten him, and he had put himself to bed in a pig-trough, until Raulin Payn took him home for the night.

He offered to exchange his jet rosary for one on Katherine's girdle, and she consented, until he said he had stolen the black one from a merchant at Gorey. Four days later, on the Feast of the Assumption, they all met again at a dinner given by du Vieuxchastel, Marshal of the Castle, to the Confraternity of our Lady, and Katherine invited Hareford to come next day and help with the harvest.

He worked for an hour with the reapers, and then invited himself to dinner. In the afternoon he went fishing with Lempriere, though the latter "told him many times that he did not want his company". They returned late, and Hereford slept at the manor. On the following Thursday he arrived again, while the Seigneur and his wife were dining, and sat down at table with them. On the Sunday he came to Mass at St Martin's, and returned to the Manor for dinner. He then had a game of chess with Lempriere, and, when the rest of the family went to vespers, played tennis with Jehan and four other young men for a gallon of beer a set, and then they adjourned to St Martin's tavern to drink their winnings. When Jehan returned, his father thrashed him for staying out so late.

Plot alleged

All this sounds trivial enough; but at the trial a sinister interpretation was put on many of these details. The prosecution alleged that before the Easter dinner party Le Hardy had sounded Hareford at confession as to whether he would help to oust the Normans from the Castle, and that after the dinner he and Lempriere had offered him 100 crowns if, on a certain night, he would leave the Rochefort sally-port open. They swore that they had had no private conversation with the prisoner that day, but two witnesses declared that they had seen the three conferring together in a little court in the Middle Ward, and that Lempriere had been overheard cursing the garrison for stealing some of his sheep, and "that false traitor, Guillaume de St Martin", de Breze's Attorney-General, "who brought the French to the island, and sold us like meat on a butcher's stall".

It was also alleged that at Hareford's visit after St Lawrence's Day he had been shown a letter from Guernsey promising 60 men to rush the Castle on the night the postern was left open, and that the harvesting episode was only a cloak for another conference at which the agreement for a hundred crowns had been signed and sealed, and entrusted to Katherine to keep. Much of this information can only have come from Hareford himself, who was obviously being used by Carbonnel as a spy and agent provocateur.

The striking-off of his irons had evidently been a cunningly devised trick to rouse Katherine's interest in the prisoner. Lempriere had had many warnings. The Lady of St Ouen had told Katherine that Hareford had tried to play de Carteret a dirty trick; a French man-at-arms had cautioned Lempriere that the Englishman was a bad lot; Le Hardy's assistant priest had advised him not to allow the prisoner to come so often to his house; but he had only replied: "If John comes to see me, I cannot throw him out".

On 23 August John paid his final visit, and followed Katherine into the kitchen, asking why he did not get a warmer welcome. Then the Captain arrived and she sent to the harvest field for her husband. Carbonnel told him that a dying prisoner had made a confession implicating him, and that he must come to the Castle to confront him. The Marshal followed almost at once with a troop of soldiers, and searched the manor for letters from Guernsey, finding only some not very compromising correspondence about a lawsuit and a cloak.


Le Hardy was arrested the same day, and the two men were kept in prison until 10 December, when they were brought before a tribunal consisting of Carbonnel, du Vieuxchastel, and Guillaume de St Martin, the Attorney-General. The examination of witnesses lasted ten days, one and a half of which were occupied in cross-examining Katherine. Hour after hour this girl of 22 faced her inquisitors, swearing "by the passion of Christ" and "as she hoped for Paradise", that her husband was innocent of all the charges against him. "Might she be damned for ever in Hell with the irrevocably lost", if all Hareford's stories were not a pack of lies. The prisoners also strenuously denied the accusations. Nevertheless the evidence leaves a strong suspicion that the plot was a real one.

Unfortunately the last page of the manuscript is missing, so we have no record of the result of the trial, but Lempriere must have been acquitted for four years later in 1467, when Harliston blockaded the castle by sea, and Philippe De Carteret besieged it by land, the Chronicler wrote: "During the siege many gentlemen and men of property in the island were slain and wounded, among others the Seigneur of Rosel". De Soulemont's genealogy has the note: "Regnaldus Lempriere, killed in an assault on the Castle".

A Latin document quoted by De La Croix gives the actual date: "During that siege on the eve of Corpus Christi (the Wednesday after Trinity Sunday) Reginald Lempriere was killed during a certain assault".

Soon after his death Katherine married Edmund Weston, one of Harliston's men-at-arms, and became the mother of Sir Richard Weston and Sir William Weston.

Lempriere's son Jean succeeded him as Seigneur, and on his death without direct heirs his sister Catherine became Lady of Rosel. She married Dominic Perrin of Guernsey, and thus the Manor passed for a time to the Perrin family.

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