KEMPE, Anthony (by 1529-97), of Slindon, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1529, yr. s. of Sir William Kempe of Wye, Kent by Eleanor, da. and h. of Robert Browne of Betchworth Castle, Surr.; bro. of Francis and Sir Thomas. educ. ?Canterbury sch.; Oxf. 1541-2. m. (1) 1558, Anne (d.10 Jan. 1567), da. and coh. of John, 3rd Lord Conyers, 1s.; (2) 19 Nov. 1569, Margery, da. of Sir Edward Gage of Firle, Suss., 3s.; 2da. prob. by 2nd m.1

Offices Held

Servant of Princess Mary by 1550; keeper, Colchester castle, Essex 25 Nov. 1553; aid of the chamber to King Philip June 1554; gent. privy chamber by Mar. 1557; i.p.m. commr. Westmld. 1566.2


A younger son in a family which had produced a cardinal archbishop of Canterbury and chancellor, Anthony Kempe followed his mother into the service of Princess Mary, perhaps after studying at Oxford on an exhibition from the dean and chapter of Canterbury. How early he went abroad on Mary’s behalf is unknown, but in October 1550 she successfully opposed the Council’s decision to recall him from the Netherlands and early in 1552 his servant Anthony Cradock was arrested for bringing letters from him. His task of maintaining contact between the princess and the imperial court Kempe evidently combined with attendance on the Queen dowager of Hungary, regent of the Netherlands, to whom on the eve of her coronation Mary sent a request for his return to England for that event and for two or three months’ stay. Kempe doubtless himself bore the regent’s reply giving him indefinite leave. Two months later he was made keeper of Colchester castle.3

Early in 1554 Kempe was sent to Spain and for the rest of the reign he was regularly employed as a messenger between England and the Continent: early in 1556 he excused himself for not having written earlier to Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon, on the ground of his frequent posting between Greenwich and Brussels. In June 1556 he brought news that Philip’s second visit to England would be delayed and in March 1557 he reported the King’s arrival at Calais. On 3 Jan. 1558 Henry Manners, 2nd Earl of Rutland, reported that on his way to Calais he had met Kempe who had warned him that the town was no longer accessible.4

Kempe’s service to Philip had been formalized since June 1554 by his appointment as an aid of the chamber to the King, in company with Richard Shelley and James Bassett; his brother George Kempe was made a sewer of the chamber. In March 1558 his services were rewarded by a grant of the wardship of Anne, eldest daughter and coheir of John, 3rd Lord Conyers. He and his ward were married by the following August, and in October they were licensed to enter on her inheritance, which lay mainly in Yorkshire. It was doubtless to this projected alliance that Kempe owed his return on 17 Jan. 1558 to the last Marian Parliament, for Anne Conyers was the granddaughter of Henry Clifford, 1st Earl of Cumberland, the hereditary sheriff of Westmorland. Three days after the prorogation of Parliament the Count of Feria wrote to Philip that Kempe was taking him a report of all the decisions reached there. On 17 Oct. 1558, three weeks before the opening of the second session, Kempe was one of those commissioned by the Queen to have custody of the signet known as ‘our stamp’ and to sign all documents with it. On 29 Oct. he received his last favour from her when a warrant was issued for a grant to him of a house at Kew. He was present at the funeral as a gentleman of the privy chamber; his mother was also present.5

Kempe’s wife died in January 1567 and in 1569 he married Margery Gage of Firle, a marriage which may account for his decision to settle at Slindon, which he had held since 1555. His Catholic faith and Spanish connexion not only excluded him from public affairs, save for an isolated commission in Westmorland, but as time went on produced more positive ill-effects. In 1577 he was listed as a recusant at Blackfriars, where he had his town house, and early in 1588 he was in danger of arrest as one who was ‘like to be a dangerous person’: it was Thomas Sackville, Baron of Buckhurst, once his fellow-Member for Westmorland, who on that occasion reproved three of the deputy lieutenants of Sussex for their proposed action against him, while a fourth, Sir Thomas Shirley, who was Kempe’s nephew by marriage, testified to his loyalty and conformity with the law. Shirley again defended Kempe in 1595, when he was threatened with exposure as a papist by the doctor whom he held responsible for his second wife’s death: he was, Shirley then told Sir Robert Cecil, ‘very aged and even worn to the last; weak of spirit, quiet and softly of disposition’.6

Whether Kempe had behaved otherwise earlier in the reign it is hard to say, chiefly because of the risk of his being mistaken for one of his various namesakes. That he was in close touch with Catholic exiles is not to be doubted: among them were his brother George and his nephew William, both in the service of Spain. He may even have spent some time abroad himself, perhaps in the Duchess of Feria’s entourage, which included a man of his surname who is mentioned in letters between the duchess herself, George Kempe, Damascin Stradling and (Sir) Thomas Chaloner. It was this ‘Mr. Kempe’, too, whom King Philip planned to send to England with letters of encouragement from the Duke of Feria to the northern earls, a mission for which Anthony Kempe’s connexions with the north would have well fitted him. Difficult as it is to believe that Kempe could have lent himself to such schemes without incurring more attention at home than he seems to have done, this could have been the final phase of his career as international go-between, which he outlived in peaceful retirement.7

Kempe made his will on 16 Mar. 1597. His body was to be buried at Slindon if he died there, at the Savoy chapel if he died in London. He left properties in Gloucestershire, Kent and Sussex to his three surviving sons, and 1,000 marks each to his daughters Elizabeth, who was still under 21 and unmarried, and Mary, who had married Humphrey Walrond. Edward Gage of Bentley and James Thatcher of Priesthawes were the executors, and Sir Thomas Shirley and Sir John Caryll the overseers of the will, Shirley being given the use of the Blackfriars house rent free for a year. Kempe died on 29 Oct. 1597 when his son and heir Garrett was aged 21 years and three months.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first certain reference. Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. lxxxix), 66; Glover’s Vis. Yorks. ed. Foster, 71-72; C142/147/171; F. Hitchin-Kemp, Kemp and Kempe Fams. sec. i. bet. pp. 14 and 15; sec. iv. bet. pp. 20 and 21; Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, p. 327.
  • 2. APC, iii. 144; CPR, 1553-4, pp. 283-4; 1557-8, pp. 296-7; 1563-6, p. 509; CSP Span. 1554, p. 297; Machyn’s Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 128.
  • 3. APC, iii. 144, 458, 463; iv. 31; CSP Span. 1553, pp. 257, 275.
  • 4. CSP Span. 1554, pp. 149, 310, 312; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 75, 85; Strype, Eccles. Memorials, iii(1), 495, 513; CSP For. 1553-8, pp. 210, 357.
  • 5. CSP Span. 1554, p. 297; 1554-8, pp. 367-8, 374, 454; CPR, 1557-8, pp. 64, 296-7, 389, 453-4, 465; 1560-3, p. 149; PCC 59 Mellershe; C142/147/171; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 109; LC2/4/2.
  • 6. CPR, 1563-6, p. 266; 1566-9, pp. 117, 407; 1569-72, pp. 138, 316; VCH Suss. iv. 234; Cath. Rec. Soc. xxii. 45; Harl. 703, f. 51v; R. B. Manning, Rel. and Soc. in Eliz. Suss. 146; HMC Hatfield, v. 200-2, 211.
  • 7. A. J. Loomie, Spanish Elizabethans, 252; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, pp. 265, 281; Stradling Corresp. ed. Traherne, 216-18; CSP For. 1560-1, p. 480; 1561-2, p. 468; 1563, pp. 310, 524; 1564-5, p. 68; Jan.-July 1589, p. 10; R. Lechat, Les Réfugiés Anglais, 67; P.O. de Törne, Don Juan d’Autriche et les projets de conquete de l’Angleterre, 84.
  • 8. PCC 61 Kidd; C142/252/28; Suss. Arch. Colls. xix. 116, 132n; the effigy in Slindon church here said to be of Kempe is identified as probably that of Sir Anthony St. Leger in Nairn and Pevsner, Suss. 327.