Thomas Lempriere

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Thomas Lempriere - Bailiff of Jersey 1495-1513

The son of Raulin Lempriere, Seigneur of La Hougue Boëte, and Jeanette Nicolle, he was the grandson of Jean Lempriere who was Bailiff from 1434-1438. Thomas continued a tradition of alternate generations of his family becoming Bailiff. Jean's grandfather Raoul Lempriere had been the first of this famous name to hold the office. His first cousin Jean Lempriere ( -1534) was to be joint acting-Bailiff for a short time after him and the last of the name to be appointed was the famous Republican Bailiff, Michel Lempriere, who was the 4x great-grandson of Thomas's grandfather Jean.

Thomas was elected Jurat in 1482 at the age of about 26 and on his father's death in 1492 he became seigneur. He was appointed Bailiff by 27 March 1495 and is shown in this position in an inquest report. When Henry VIII came to the throne Thomas Lempriere's position as Bailiff was confirmed by letters patent on 10 November with an honorarium of 20 francs tournois per annum.

He was to become the first Bailiff to fall out with the Governor, Sir Hugh Vaughan, and was suspended from office in 1513. Probably even more important as far as the history of the island is concerned, however, is that in about 1502 his house in Morier Lane, at the Hill Street end of Halkett Place, burnt down and with it were lost the ancient rolls of the Royal Court and other island records and registers.

Hugh Vaughan, a close friend of Henry VII during his days in exile, was appointed Governor of Jersey in July 1502 and became a friend of the de Carteret family, which had traditionally been at loggerheads with the Lemprieres. The two did not get on and Lempriere eventually went to England in 1513 to complain to the king about Vaughan's behaviour.

According to the Chroniques de Jersey Vaughan:

"gave himself up to so lewd a life that he was wont to seize young girls by force; wherefore they durst not walk alone on the roads for dread of him. Furthermore, if he claimed any man's heritage he would send a soldier from the Castle to fetch him to produce his title deeds, and, as soon as he saw them, he tore off the seal, and broke it in pieces. Moreover he beat divers persons so sorely, that oft times they were in no small danger of death".

Vaughan immediately removed Lempriere from office, despite the fact that Henry VII had ruled in 1485 that the Governor should no longer have the authority to appoint or dismiss Bailiffs and other officers of the Crown. Vaughan appointed Hélier de Carteret in his place, although their relationship was to be no better than that between Vaughan and Lempriere.

A Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the situation in the island, but its members supported Vaughan and the de Carterets, who counter-attacked by claiming that Lempriere had illegally owned a tavern while a Jurat and illegally levied a fee of two shillings on every land transaction.

Thomas Lempriere was not to resume his roll as Bailiff. He and his wife Jeannette Hamptonne, daughter of Jurat Guille Hamptonne, had six children. Thomas, the elder, succeeded his father as seigneur of La Hougue Boëte, Clement Lempriere became Bailiff for a short time, and Nicolas became a Jurat.

Biography

From A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey by George Balleine Thomas Lempriere was seigneur of St Jean La Hougue Boete and Bailiff from 1495 to 1514.

Family

He was the son of Raulin Lempriere, Seigneur of La Hougue Boete, and grandson of Jean Lempriere, Bailiff, Seigneur of Rosel. His mother was Jeanette Nicolle. In 1482 he was elected Jurat. In 1492, on his father's death, he became Seigneur. An inquest report of 27 March 1495 shows that by that date he had been appointed Bailiff. About 1502 his house in Morier Lane (now the Hill Street end of Halkett Place) was burnt with what have been said to have been disastrous results for future historians of the island.

At an inquest into the property of Geoffroi Wallis, held in 1532, 12 old men testified that “they knew of a truth from what they had seen and from common knowledge that about 30 years back a house in St Helier belonging to Thomas Lempriere, then Bailiff, was accidently destroyed by fire; that in it were the Privileges, Confirmations, and ancient Rolls, Records, and Registers of the island, and that these were burnt with the house".

However, more recent research has suggested that the loss of documents in the fire was not as dramatic as has been claimed. An analysis of the documents prior to this date which survive in Guernsey reveals great similarities between the two islands’ records, and it is now believed that rather than large numbers of documents having been destroyed in the fire, early records had never been archived.

On 10 November 1509, on the accession of Henry VIII, Lempriere was reappointed Bailiff with a stipend of 20 francs tournois a year.

Sir Hugh Vaughan

In July 1502 Sir Hugh Vaughan had been appointed Governor. He was a Welshman of low birth, a favourite with Henry VII in the days of his exile. He allied himself closely with the de Carterets of St Ouen, and after a time, according to the Chronicler, "gave himself up to so lewd a life that he was wont to seize young girls by force; wherefore they durst not walk alone on the roads for dread of him. Furthermore, if he claimed any man's heritage, he would send a soldier from the Castle to fetch him to produce his title-deeds, and, as soon as he saw them, he tore off the seal, and broke it in pieces. Moreover he beat divers persons so sorely that oft times they were in no small danger of death".

The charges were fully confirmed at a Commission of Inquiry in 1531. His conduct grew so outrageous that in 1513 Lempriere crossed to England to complain to the King. Thereupon Vaughan deprived him of his office, and appointed Helier De Carteret in his place. Lempriere's protest, however, caused the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the state of affairs in Jersey; but the two Commissioners, who were Englishmen, were easily hoodwinked by Vaughan and the de Carterets, and produced a whitewashing report in 1515.

"Through the influence of the Seigneur of St Ouen and his brothers all was hushed up for a time" (Chroniques). They even turned the tables on Lempriere by discovering that his own conduct had not been blameless. While Jurat, he had owned a tavern, contrary to law. For 20 years as Bailiff he had illegally levied for himself a fee of 2 shillings on every sale of land. He was wrongfully detaining certain rentes belonging to Jehan Journeaux. And he had occupied the water-mills of Ponterrin, Quetivel, and Tostain without any title (Report of Commissioners of Henry VIII).

His later career is difficult to disentangle from that of two namesakes. When a Thomas Lempriere is mentioned in the records, it is hard to say whether it is the ex-Bailiff, or his son, or a cousin of Rosel.

He married Jeanette, daughter of Jurat Guille Hamptonne, and had six children, Thomas, who succeeded him as Seigneur of La Hougue Boete, Clement, who became Bailiff, Nicolas, who became a Jurat, Katherine, Peronelle, and Jeanne, who married Jean Dumaresq, Seigneur of Samares.

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