Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lemprière, Michael

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1434581Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 33 — Lemprière, Michael1893Thomas Seccombe ‎

LEMPRIÈRE, MICHAEL (fl. 1640–1660), seigneur of Maufant, and one of the leaders of the parliamentary party in Jersey, second son of Hugh Lemprière, lieutenant-bailiff under Elizabeth, and judge-delegate of Jersey under James I, by Elizabeth, daughter of Edward Dumaresq of La Haule, was born in Jersey about 1600. Elected a jurat of the royal court in 1639, he at once occupied a leading place in the opposition to the bailiff of the island, Sir Philip de Carteret [q. v.] The part that he played has led to his being styled, not quite appropriately, the ‘Hampden of Jersey.’ Lemprière's party, though they professed liberal opinions, had no specific grievances to allege, and were in fact actuated almost entirely by jealousy of the predominant De Carteret family, whose representative, Sir Philip, had been unwisely allowed by Charles I to combine with the post of bailiff those of lieutenant-governor and farmer of the revenues. The attitude taken up by Lemprière and his friends, among whom was David Bandinel [q. v.], was consequently condemned by William Prynne, whom Carteret had befriended while in prison on the island from 1637 to 1640 (see Prynne, Lyar Confounded; Le Quesne, Hist. p. 300). In 1642, with four other jurats and three clergymen, Lemprière prepared a petition to parliament containing twenty-two articles of accusation against Sir Philip de Carteret, who was at the time in London. This produced no immediate effect, but the feeling against Carteret steadily grew. In February 1643 Lemprière was appointed by the parliamentary committee for the defence of the kingdom as a special commissioner, together with Francis de Carteret, who refused to act, Benjamin Bisson, Abraham Herault, and Henri Dumaresq, to suspend De Carteret, and in the meantime to take over the government from his hands. At a meeting of the States summoned in the following month, upon De Carteret's producing the royal commission appointing him bailiff, Lemprière, who alone of his party was present, forthwith displayed his commission from the parliament. De Carteret promptly ordered his officers to turn him out of the assembly as a traitor. But Lemprière with undaunted courage insisted that Sir Philip should submit to the parliament's order for his apprehension. The unpopular bailiff had to retire for refuge to Elizabeth Castle, and Lemprière was one of the signatories of the letter rejecting De Carteret's appeal for permission to see his family. Sir Philip died on 23 Aug. 1643. Three days later the parliamentary commissioner, Major Lydcot, arrived, and named Lemprière bailiff of the island. The latter at once took the oath of bailiff, and administered that of lieutenant-governor to Lydcot. For the next three months the island was under Lemprière's rule, but during that period popular sentiment entirely veered round. The new bailiff was unable to restrain even his own officers from going over to the royalist party, and no progress was made against the castles, which were still in royalist hands. On the arrival of Sir George De Carteret in the island with a royal commission, Lemprière at once fled with the remnant of his followers to London, embarking by stealth on 21 Nov. 1643.

A royal warrant dated 1643 was issued for the arrest of the parliamentary leaders, Lemprière's name standing first on the list. His property was sequestrated, and during the eight years' exile that followed Lemprière underwent many privations, which he described in the manuscript narrative entitled ‘Pseudo-Mastix—The Lyar's Whipp, in refutation of Prynne's Liar Confounded,’ written by him in conjunction with his fellow-exiles and ex-jurats, Herault and Dumaresq. This work was first printed by the Société Jersiaise in its thirteenth ‘Annual Bulletin’ (1888). After De Carteret's capitulation to Sir James Haines on 15 Dec. 1651, Lemprière at once returned and resumed his office as parliamentary bailiff. During this second tenure of office he acted with wisdom and patriotism, as well as with conspicuous moderation. He zealously endeavoured to secure for Jersey the goodwill of the parliament, along with a confirmation of the privileges of that ‘poor plot of earth.’ In February 1651–2 he sent a full account of the civil government of Jersey to the speaker of the House of Commons, by his friend Colonel Stockall, strongly deprecating any change in the constitution (printed in appendix to Hoskins's Charles II in the Channel Islands). In February 1654 Cromwell issued an order to Lemprière, superseding, ‘for that time only,’ the old method of election by nominating twelve gentlemen, including two Lemprières, ‘with an earnest desire that they should be forthwith sworn jurats of the Isle,’ but the bailiff was allowed discretion in the choice of the smaller civil officers. He was also given the control of the militia, in which ‘malignants’ were replaced by his own adherents. In his capacity of commissioner for compounding with delinquents, to which post he was appointed by Cromwell on 14 March 1655, he is generally allowed to have been lenient. As a judge his decisions were remarkable for fairness and ability, and perfect order reigned during his tenure of office from 1652 to 1660. Lemprière seems to have stood high in the esteem of the Protector, though the latter lent a cold ear to his proposal for excluding the clergy from the island's state assembly (Pegot-Ogier, p. 364).

On the Restoration Lemprière's estates were granted to a royalist, John Nicolls; but this grant was afterwards rescinded, ‘Michael Lemprière, late pretended bailiff of Jersey, though guilty of great offences, being restored to his estates’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660, p. 442). Though removed from the bench of jurats, his retirement was probably unmolested. The exact date of his death is not known.

By his wife Sarah, daughter of Francis Carteret of La Hague, Lemprière left two sons and two daughters. The present seigneur of Rozel is a direct descendant.

[Information most kindly supplied by E. T. Nicolle, esq., of Jersey; Payne's Armorial of Jersey, p. 245, which is somewhat untrustworthy, and Monograph on Family of Lemprière, pp. 8, 9, 17; Burke's Landed Gentry, p. 778; Falle's Hist. of Jersey, ed. Durell, pp. 298–344; Le Geyt, Œuvres, vol. i. p. v; Ahier's Tableaux Historiques de la Civilisation à Jersey, pp. 320–6; Pegot-Ogier's Hist. des Iles de la Manche, pp. 364 sq., 430; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1652–60, passim; Prynne's Lyar Confounded, pp. 33–43; Hoskins's Charles II in the Channel Islands, 1854, pp. 37 sq., and pp. 107 sq., in which the best account of the history of Jersey at this period will be found; Shebbeare's Hist. of the Oppression of the Islanders, 1771, i. 250; Chevalier's Chronicle (manuscript); Société Jersiaise, thirteenth Annual Bulletin, 1888, in which appears the Pseudo-Mastix; Le Quesne's Constitutional Hist. 1856, chap. ix.; La Croix's Ville de St. Hélier, 1845, pp. 72–92.]

T. S.