KEMPE, Robert (by 1526-71 or later), of Lincoln's Inn, London and Spains Hall, Finchingfield, Essex.

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 1526, 1st s. of William Kempe of Spains Hall by Mary, da. of John Colt of Netherhal, nr. Roydon, Essex. educ. L. Inn, adm. 11 Mar. 1540, called 1547. m. Elizabeth, da. of (Sir) Clement Heigham of Barrow, Suff., wid. of Henry Eden of Bury St. Edmunds, at least 3s. 3da.1

Offices Held

Pens. L. Inn 1555, marshal 1556, Lent reader 1557, 1562, treasurer 1559, gov. 1561, 1562, 1565, 1566. 1567, 1570, 1571, dean of chapel 1566-8.

J.p. Essex 1554, 1558/59, 1569.2


Robert Kempe’s life moved between his own home at Finchingfield, where his family had been settled since the 14th century, his wife’s at Bury St. Edmunds, and Lincoln’s Inn: that his single experience of Parliament was as a Member for Boroughbridge is to be explained by his personal and professional connexions.3

Boroughbridge lay within the duchy of Lancaster’s honor of Knaresborough, and in 1555 the chancellor of the duchy was Sir Robert Rochester. Both Rochester and his nephew Sir Edward Waldegrave, who was to succeed him in the duchy, were Essex men, and during their chancellorships a number of duchy seats were to go to natives of that county. Kempe’s wife was related both to the Waldegraves and, probably, to the George Eden who sat in 1555 for Knaresborough. Her father Sir Clement Heigham, Speaker in the previous Parliament, belonged to Lincoln’s Inn, as did Christopher Wray, who sat for Boroughbridge in every Marian Parliament. To nominate such strangers as Kempe and Wray was to ignore the crown’s repeated demand for the election of residents, but in so far as this was calculated to produce royal supporters the result was the same. Kempe was certainly one: he had been given an annuity of £13 6s.8d. for his service at Framlingham, and he had since been brought onto the Essex bench. Predictably, his name is not on the list of Members who followed Sir Anthony Kingston in voting against one of the government’s bills.4

Kempe sued out a general pardon at Elizabeth’s accession, but unlike Wray, he was to take no further part in public life: his Rochester and Waldegrave connexions must have told too heavily against him. His professional career was therefore confined to his inn. In the absence of a will and inquisition the date of his death has not been discovered, but his last appointment at the inn was in 1571. He had been an executor of the wills of his brothers Arthur and John, of whom the first, another Lincoln’s Inn man, had left 40s. ‘unto the amendment of my brother Robert Kempe’s chapel’ and £50 and his lawbooks to Kempe’s son Arthur, and the second, a London draper, had provided for 300 sermons to be delivered after his death, 50 in his own parish church, 50 at Finchingfield, ‘and the other 200 sermons in such places as Robert Kempe my brother and Robert Crowley preacher shall think meet and convenient to have need of teaching’. This bequest, with its proviso that Kempe and Crowley were to appoint the preachers, may indicate that Kempe had by then conformed, although some members of the family were to be recusants.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from education. Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 230-1; Vis. Suff. ed. Howard, ii. 3-4.
  • 2. CPR, 1553-4, p. 19; 1569-72, p. 224.
  • 3. F. Hitchin-Kemp, Kemp and Kempe Fams. iii. 1.
  • 4. Lansd. 156, f. 91.
  • 5. CPR, 1558-60, p. 208; PCC 45 Streat, 23 Sheffelde.