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John Kemp

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John Kemp

His Eminence
John Kemp
Cardinal, Archbishop of Canterbury
Primate of All England
Province Canterbury
Diocese Canterbury
Appointed 21 July 1452
Term ended 22 March 1454
Predecessor John Stafford
Successor Thomas Bourchier
Consecration 3 December 1419
by Louis d'Harcourt
Created Cardinal
Personal details
Born about 1380
Died 22 March 1454
Buried Canterbury Cathedral
Nationality English
Denomination Roman Catholic
Alma mater Merton College, Oxford

John Kemp (c. 1380 – 22 March 1454) was a medieval English cardinal, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Lord Chancellor of England.


Kemp was son of Thomas Kempe, a gentleman of Ollantigh, in the parish of Wye near Ashford, Kent. He was born about 1380 and educated at Merton College, Oxford.

Kemp practised as an ecclesiastical lawyer, was an assessor at the trial of Oldcastle, and in 1415 was made dean of the Court of Arches but did not do a good job as dean. He then passed into the royal service, and being employed in the administration of Normandy was eventually made chancellor of the duchy. He was briefly archdeacon of Durham.[1] In 1418 he was made Keeper of the Privy Seal which he retained until 1421.[2] Early in 1419 he was elected Bishop of Rochester, and was consecrated at Rouen on 3 December.[3] In February 1421 he was translated to Chichester,[4] and in November following to London.[5]

During the minority of Henry VI Kemp had a prominent position in the English council as a supporter of Henry Beaufort, whom he succeeded as chancellor in March 1426.[6] In this same year on 20 July he was promoted to the Archbishop of York.[7] Kempe held office as chancellor for six years; his main task in government was to keep Humphrey of Gloucester in check. His resignation on 28 February 1432[6] was a concession to Gloucester. He still enjoyed Beaufort's favour, and retaining his place in the council was employed on important missions, especially at the congress of Arras in 1435, and the conference at Calais in 1438.

In December 1439 Kemp was created a cardinal priest,[8] and during the next few years took less share in politics. He supported William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk over the king's marriage with Margaret of Anjou; but afterwards there arose some difference between them, due in part to a dispute about the nomination of the cardinal's nephew, Thomas Kempe, to the bishopric of London. At the time of Suffolk’s fall in January 1450 Kemp once more became chancellor.[6] His appointment may have been because he was not committed entirely to either party. In spite of his age and infirmity he showed some vigour in dealing with Jack Cade's rebellion, and by his official experience and skill did what he could for four years to sustain the king's authority.

Kemp was rewarded by his translation to Canterbury in July 1452,[9] when Pope Nicholas V added as a special honour the title of cardinal-bishop of Santa Rufina. As Richard of York gained influence, Kempe became unpopular; men called him "the cursed cardinal," and his fall seemed imminent when he died suddenly on 22 March 1454.[9] He was buried at Canterbury, in the choir.

Kemp was a politician first, and hardly at all a bishop; and he was accused with some justice of neglecting his dioceses, especially at York. Still he was a capable official, and a faithful servant to Henry VI, who called him "one of the wisest lords of the land" (Paston Letters, l. 315). He founded Wye College at his native place at Wye, that was part of the University of London before officially being closed in 2009.


  1. ^  "Kemp, John (1380?–1447)".  
  2. ^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 95
  3. ^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 267
  4. ^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 239
  5. ^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 259
  6. ^ a b c Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 87
  7. ^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 282
  8. ^ Cardinal John Kempe. The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Retrieved on 20 November 2008.
  9. ^ a b Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 234


  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  
Political offices
Preceded by
Henry Ware
Lord Privy Seal
Succeeded by
John Stafford
Preceded by
Henry Beaufort
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
John Stafford
Preceded by
John Stafford
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
The Earl of Salisbury
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Richard Young
Bishop of Rochester
Succeeded by
John Langdon
Preceded by
Henry Ware
Bishop of Chichester
Succeeded by
Thomas Polton
Preceded by
Richard Clifford
Bishop of London
Succeeded by
William Grey
Preceded by
Richard Fleming
Archbishop of York
Succeeded by
William Booth
Preceded by
John Stafford
Archbishop of Canterbury
Succeeded by
Thomas Bourchier
Preceded by
Bandello Bandelli
Cardinal Priest of Santa Balbina
Succeeded by
Amico Agnifili
Preceded by
John of Toledo
Cardinal Bishop of Santa Rufina
Succeeded by
Bernard de Languissel


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