KEMEYS (KEMYS), Nicholas (by 1593-1648), of Llanfair Castle, Llanfair Discoed, Mon.; later of Cefn Mabli, Glam.
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Family and Education
b. by 1593,1 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Rhys Kemeys of Llanfair Discoed and the Inner Temple, and Wilosphet, da. of William Aubrey† of Cantreff, Brec., master of Requests.2 m. (1) by 1614, Jane, da. of Rowland Williams of Llangibby, Mon. 1s. 4da.; (2) 11 Jul. 1625, Mary (d. betw. 1642/4), da. of William Powell of Monmouth, Mon., wid. of Walter Griffith of Monmouth, s.p.; (3) 4 Nov. 1644, Jane (d. aft. 1650), da. of Rawleigh Bussey of Llantrithyd, Glam., wid. of William Herbert I† (d. 23 Oct. 1642) of Cogan Pill, Glam. 1s.3 suc. fa. 1634; nephew Edward Kemeys in Glam. estate 1636;4 kntd. 31 May 1641;5 cr. bt. 13 May 1642.6 d. 25 May 1648.7 sig. Nich[olas] Kemeys.
J.p. Mon. 1620-d. (custos rot. 1645), Glam. 1636-d.,8 commr. subsidy, Mon. 1621-2, 1624, 1641-2, Glam. 1641-2,9 Palatine Benevolence 1622,10 i.p.m. 1623, 1635,11 Forced Loan 1626-7,12 sewers 1629, 1639;13 ranger, Wentwood Forest, Mon. by c.1630;14 sheriff, Mon. 1631-2, Glam. 1638-9;15 commr. repair of St. Paul’s cathedral, Mon. 1635;16 kpr. of royal game, Glam. and Mon. 1637;17 dep. lt., Glam. 1637-42;18 commr. array, Glam. 1642-6,19 assessment (roy.) 1643, impressment (roy.) 1643, accts. of roy. contributions, Mon. 1644.20
Kemeys’ family, of Norman origin, derived its name from Kemeys in the kingdom of Gwent.24 His father was a younger son of the branch established at Cefn Mabli in Glamorgan, close to the Monmouthshire border. His uncle, Edward Kemeys of Cefn Mabli, left him estates in Caldicot, Monmouthshire, where he apparently resided for a time, as well as lands in Llanfair Discoed, but he settled at Llanfair, which he purchased in 1614 from Sir Francis Barrington*.25 Kemeys seemed to be destined for a minor role in the county’s political affairs, but early deaths and the lack of male heirs among his relatives saw him rise to greater prominence in Monmouthshire and later Glamorgan. In particular, the death in December 1617 of Kemeys’ elder brother, David, meant he became heir-apparent to the Monmouthshire estates, and his appearance on the county bench shortly thereafter reflected this new-found status.26
The likelihood that Kemeys would inherit the Monmouthshire lands probably explains his election to Parliament for a county seat in 1628, but the earls of Worcester may also have facilitated his return, as he was later mentioned as a ranger for the 4th earl in Wentwood Forest.27 He took little recorded part in his only Parliament, being named to only two committees: on 23 June 1628 he was added to the committee regarding a Chancery decree in the case of a Monmouthshire native, (Sir) Arnold Herbert*, and on 23 Feb. 1629, he was named to consider a private bill allowing John Flemming to sell lands for the payment of debts; the nomination of all the Members of Wales to this committee suggests that the measure was of local interest.28
Kemeys’s estates increased significantly upon the death of his nephew, Edward Kemeys of Cefn Mabli, in 1636, while the death of Edward’s only daughter shortly after made Nicholas’s title more secure. Contemporaries estimated the value of the combined estates at £1,400-1,500 p.a.29 Nevertheless, he had to deal with obstructions raised by his nephew’s former guardians and maternal relatives, the Hoptons of Somerset, who must have resented the loss of family influence in the area.30 The rather unusual manner by which Kemeys came into this estate appears to have encouraged a legal challenge by the guardians of an adolescent nephew, who claimed some of the Monmouthshire lands by virtue of the supposed local custom of inheritance by the youngest son.31
Kemeys was knighted in May 1641, an indication that the king hoped to win his support, as was his receipt of a baronetcy a year later. He was probably the candidate who stood against Henry Herbert† of Coldbrook for one of the Monmouthshire seats at a by-election in March 1642, which followed the death of his brother-in-law, (Sir) Charles Williams*.32 A man of ‘gigantic stature and strength’, Kemeys played a leading role in the royalist administration of south-east Wales.33 He was removed as governor of Cardiff by Lord Charles Gerard in 1644, however, after he questioned the area’s ability to meet Gerard’s financial demands.34 After the region’s reduction by Parliament, Kemeys was imprisoned at Southwark, but obtained the leave of the Commons to visit Bath for his health in September 1647.35
The outbreak of the Second Civil War allowed Kemeys to venture back into Wales, when he became the royalist Governor of Chepstow. He continued to hold the castle after the town had fallen to Oliver Cromwell*, but was killed when Isaac Ewer’s forces stormed the garrison on 25 May. The subsequent sequestration of his estate was handled by his son, Sir Charles, who compounded for £3,500 in 1652, and shortly thereafter procured an adminisration for his father’s lands.36 A number of Kemeys’s descendants represented Monmouthshire and Glamorganshire constituencies before intermarriage saw the family assume the name of Kemeys-Tynte in the eighteenth century. In the late nineteenth century the family’s historian recorded that portraits of Nicholas Kemeys could be found at Bertholdy and Malpas, Monmouthshire, and also his ancestral home of Cefn Mabli, but their present whereabouts have not been ascertained.37
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Lloyd Bowen
- 1. Assuming he was 21 in 1614 when he purchased the manor of Llanfair. An i.p.m. of 1637 described him as over 40: C54/2211/13; C142/613/63.
- 2. J.A. Bradney, Hist. Mon. iv. 182-3; C2/Eliz.I/K5/2; G.T. Clark, Limbus Patrum Morganiae et Glamorganiae, 413; PROB 11/116, f.413v. Clark places Nicholas as 4th s. but this is not supported by other sources.
- 3. Bradney, iv. 182-3; Al. Ox. (Charles Kemeys); Soc. Antiq. ms 502; Gwent RO, D/Pa58.1, f. 59; D43.5949; Glam. RO, P/38/CW/1, f. 6; D/D KT 29; C2/Chas.I/P8/34.
- 4. NLW, LL/1634/47. His nephew’s date of death varies from source to source, but Nicholas was described as ‘of Cefn Mabli’ in 1636: C142/613/63; C2/Chas.I/K14/56; 2/Chas.I/K17/42; Gwent RO, D43.6203; Soc. Antiq. ms 502.
- 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 208.
- 6. SO3/12, f. 199.
- 7. Full and Particular Relation of the ... Taking of Chepstow Castle (1648).
- 8. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 300-1, 353-9; Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed.W.H. Black, 247.
- 9. C212/22/21, 23; SR, v. 68, 79, 91, 153, 157.
- 10. SP14/134/12.
- 11. C142/655/111; G.B. Morgan, Hist. and Geneal. Mems. of the Morgan Fam. ii. 156.
- 12. C193/12/2, f. 36v.
- 13. C181/4, f. 20v; 181/5, f. 156.
- 14. J. Mitchell, ‘Nathan Rogers and the Wentwood Case’, WHR, xiv. 33.
- 15. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 83, 257.
- 16. GL, ms 25475/1, f. 49v.
- 17. CSP Dom. 1637, p. 356.
- 18. HEHL, EL7443; Glam. RO, D/D KT 5/1.
- 19. Northants. RO, FH133; NLW, LL/MB/17, ff. 68-9.
- 20. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6, pp. 44, 47-8, 110-11, 217-18.
- 21. P.R. Newman, Roy. Officers in Eng. and Wales, 213. CB states he was a col. of horse.
- 22. NLW, LL/MB/17, ff. 61, 84; Kemeys-Tynte M2.
- 23. Full and Particular Relation.
- 24. Bradney, iii. 176-7; iv. 130, 182-3.
- 25. PROB 11/116, ff. 414v-16v; C54/2211/13; Gwent RO, D43.5624; M. Gray, ‘Dispersal of Crown Property in Mon. 1500-1603’, (Cardiff Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1984), pp. 198, 257.
- 26. C142/652/189.
- 27. Mitchell, 33.
- 28. CJ, i. 917b, 932b.
- 29. C6/10/124; C2/Chas.I/K16/42. Symonds later gave a figure of £1,800 p.a.: Diary of the Marches of the Roy. Army ed. C.E. Long (Cam. Soc. lxxiv), 217.
- 30. C2/Chas.I/K17/42; 2/Chas.I/K22/4; E134/17Chas.I/Mich.13.
- 31. C2/Chas.I/K13/17; 2/Chas.I/K14/56; 2/Chas.I/K16/42; 2/Chas.I/K20/10.
- 32. Diary of Walter Powell ed. J.A. Bradney, 26.
- 33. CB.
- 34. NLW, LL/MB/17, ff.84; R. Hutton, Royalist War Effort, 139-40.
- 35. CCC, 1276; CCAM, 717; CJ, v. 295a.
- 36. PROB 6/27, f. 132.
- 37. W. Kemmis, Family of Kemeys.