KEMYS, Sir Charles, 3rd Bt. (1651-1702), of Cefn Mabli, Glam.; Llanfair Discoed, Mon.; and Denmark Street, St. Giles-in-the-Fields, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1685 - 1687
1690 - 1695
1695 - 1698

Family and Education

b. 18 May 1651, 1st s. of Sir Charles Kemys, 2nd Bt., of Cefn Mabli by his 3rd w. Margaret, da. of Sir George Whitmore, ld. mayor of London 1631–2, of Balmes, Hackney, Mdx.  educ. Wadham, Oxf. 1669, MA 1669.  m. (1) 1678, Mary (d. 1699), da. of Philip, 4th Baron Wharton, sis. of Hon. Goodwin* and Hon. Thomas Wharton*, and wid. of William Thomas of Wenvoe, Glam., 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 30 Dec. 1701, Mary (d. 1717), da. of William Lewis† of Bletchington, Oxon. and The Van, Glam., coh. to her bro. Edward Lewis† (d. 1674) of The Van and Boarstall, Bucks. and wid. of William Jephson* and Sir John Aubrey, 2nd Bt.*, s.psuc. fa. as 3rd Bt. c.June 1658.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Glam. 18–24 Mar. 1689; v.-adm. Mon. by 1700–d.; constable, Cardiff Castle by 1700–d.2


Kemys’s first wife, the daughter of a Dissenting peer, succeeded eventually in weaning her husband away from his family’s Cavalier loyalism, even if she failed to mend his ways in other respects, notably his addiction to the bottle. Besides the strength of her own personality, and the powerful influence of her father and brothers, she enjoyed other advantages in the struggle. In the new political climate after the Revolution, her connexions afforded Kemys access to important ministerial and court patronage. More significant still, her first marriage had enhanced her financial allure: the surviving children, both minors, were heirs to the Glamorgan estates of Wenvoe and (through their paternal grandmother) Ruperra, and there was also the prospect of a Dutch inheritance worth some £13,000. By 1693, when Kemys’s stepson was dead and only a stepdaughter remained, the young lady was confidently reported to be worth £3,500 a year, ‘without any debts’, plus a fortune of ‘not less than £20,000 in ready money’. By contrast, Kemys himself enjoyed an income of no more than £1,600 a year at best, and had inherited debts of £18,000 which his own wastefulness did nothing to diminish. So unreliable was he in this respect that his stepchildren’s affairs were placed in the hands of trustees and in 1698 he was sternly warned against ‘intermeddling’. The following year inquiries were made of Thomas Wharton about the possibility of some employment for Kemys in the ballast office, but they came to nothing.3

Kemys had emerged from the Revolution still a High Church Tory. He favoured the Tory interest in the 1690 election and retained the friendship of Jacobite peers such as Beaufort (Henry Somerset†) and Craven. Indeed, he may have been returned at Monmouth at least partly on the Beaufort interest. Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) was unable to classify him as a Whig or a Tory, though listing him as a likely Court supporter, and kinsmen and acquaintances disagreed about the way he was likely to vote on party questions, as a letter from his wife makes clear:

My father and Lady Wharton told me yesterday that Mr [Francis*] Gwyn . . . did rejoice much to hear that you were so [?elected], for he said he did make no question but by his own, Mr Tho[mas] Mansel’s [?I*] and my Lord of Worcester’s [Charles Somerset*] interest, they would get you to be as much of their side in your votes in Parliament as anybody in the House, but still my father says he is very confident that he [Gwyn] is mistaken, because you promised, and he believes are inclined, to go very honestly in the House.

However, at first Kemys appears to have done his duty as a Tory rather than, as his wife urged, his duty as a ‘Protestant’. In a debate on the abjuration bill on 26 Apr. 1690 he intervened in response to Sir John Mainwaring’s* flimsily veiled accusations of Jacobitism against Sir Thomas Grosvenor, 3rd Bt.* He was included in another of Carmarthen’s lists, from December 1690, possibly of those who would support the Marquess against the projected attack on him in the Commons. In April of the following year he was listed by Robert Harley* among the Country opposition, though this classification was marked ‘d[oubtful]’. On 21 Jan. 1693 Kemys was granted a three-week leave of absence.4

The years 1693–5 appear to have witnessed Kemys’s final transformation from Tory to Court Whig. For one thing, financial and legal problems began to crop up following the death of his stepdaughter in 1694. There was the immediate consequence of the loss of Wenvoe and Ruperra. Then litigation was begun in Chancery over £10,000 that Kemys and his wife claimed from the estate, a suit Sir Charles was only able to win in April 1701, after an unsuccessful appeal against him to the House of Lords. Subsequently legal disputes also arose over the Dutch inheritance, and as late as 1699 Kemys was sending his thanks to Lord Portland for assistance in this peculiarly difficult enterprise. At the same time, the potential value of the Wharton connexion as a key to Court and ministerial favour rapidly increased with the Junto Whig takeover of the administration. Kemys was now Thomas Wharton’s ‘dear brother’, and found himself an intermediary through whom local gentlemen sought to approach the Court. King William was, for Kemys, ‘our glorious King’. In the 1695 election Sir Charles described himself as being under attack from ‘the Jacobites (as some folks call them)’ for ‘not being of their party’. His ‘behaviour’ also made him the object of the Duke of Beaufort’s deep displeasure. He stood with Thomas Morgan* against some Tory opposition, but a contest was averted through a compromise between the leading interests: Kemys and Morgan to represent the county, John Arnold* the Boroughs; Kemys and Arnold to resign at the next election but to be returned again to the Parliament after that. His election secured, Kemys embarked on a course of political conduct which doubtless enraged Beaufort even more. Forecast as likely to support the Court in the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 over the proposed council of trade, he signed the Association promptly and, after his unexcused absence had been noted at a call of the House on 2 Nov., voted on 25 Nov. 1696 in favour of the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. Despite such support for the Whig-dominated ministry, Kemys appears to have remained on good terms with his Tory friends. In March 1698, for example, he entrusted Francis Gwyn with asking the House for a leave of absence for him on account of the ill-health of his wife. A comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments in about September 1698 classed Kemys as a supporter of the Court.5

Despite his promise, Kemys made a preliminary canvass in Monmouthshire in 1698, though he did not carry the matter very far. He also intervened in Glamorgan, where his principal seat lay, and where he had already been manoeuvring against the dominant interest, that of the Mansel family and its head, Sir Edward Mansel, 4th Bt.*, of Margam, an old enemy of the days of Exclusion. His target seems to have been the county representation itself, but the campaign proved abortive, and he was obliged to write what was almost certainly a mendacious letter to Mansel denying that he had ever solicited for votes. Kemys did, however, protest against the fact that he had been excluded from the parliamentary meeting of the gentlemen: ‘Why was I not thought worthy to be sent for . . . is past my understanding.’ Thereafter his challenge to the Mansel ascendancy was concentrated in an attempt to gain control of Cardiff corporation and thus the Boroughs constituency. Obtaining the constableship of Cardiff Castle, he built up a party in the town and abused his authority in refusing to swear supporters of the Mansel faction as bailiffs until obliged by a writ of mandamus. Despite the violence of the factional conflict, it is not clear whether Kemys either stood himself or supported a candidate there in the general elections of 1701. In February 1700 he canvassed against the anticipated Monmouthshire by-election, and was pressed by John Arnold in January 1701 to join in insisting upon their right to election, for county and borough respectively, on the basis of the treaty of 1695; but there is no positive evidence of a candidature. Kemys was in declining health, suffering inevitably from gout, and increasingly driven, by the death of his wife and his defeats at the hands of the Mansels in Cardiff, to take solace in drink. He evidently roused himself in December 1701 to conclude a second marriage but none the less spent his last year ‘sinking into an alcoholic despair’. Kemys died in December 1702, and was buried at Michaelston, Glamorgan on the 22nd.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


Unless otherwise stated, this biography draws on the sketch of Kemys in P. Jenkins, ‘Mary Wharton and the Rise of the “New Woman”’, NLW Jnl. xxii. 170-86.

  • 1. Post Boy, 1–4 Apr. 1699.
  • 2. DWB, 532; Welsh Hist. Rev. xii. 184.
  • 3. NLW Jnl. xxi. 167–8; HMC Lords, n.s. iv. 170–2; HMC Hastings, ii. 235; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 45.
  • 4. NLW, Kemeys-Tynte mss, Lady Kemys to Kemys, 11 Mar. 1690 (Horwitz trans.); Grey, x. 78.
  • 5. HMC Lords, 170–2; CSP Dom. 1699–1700, p. 221; NLW, Penrice and Margam mss L298, Kemys to Thomas Mansel I*, 29 Oct. 1695; Kemeys-Tynte mss 252, Edward Perkins to Thomas Morgan, 1 Nov. 1695; 253, Francis Catchmay to Kemys, 2 Nov. 1695; 296, Gwyn to same, 26 Mar. 1698; 384, Arnold to same, 10 Jan. 1700[–1].
  • 6. Kemeys-Tynte mss 310, Ld. Abergavenny to Kemys, 23 July 1698; 384, Arnold to same, 10 Jan. 1700[–1]; 389, Mary Kemeys to same, 6 Nov. 1702; Penrice and Margam mss L348, Sir Edward to Thomas Mansel I, 20 July 1698; L355, Kemys to same, 28 Oct. 1698; Glam. Co. Hist. iv. 398–9; P. Jenkins, Making of a Ruling Class, 129, 147, 200; Welsh Hist. Rev. 183–5; HMC Lords, 170–2; Top. and Gen. iii. 43.