John Kemp
Cardinal, Archbishop of Canterbury
Primate of All England
Appointed21 July 1452
Term ended22 March 1454
PredecessorJohn Stafford
SuccessorThomas Bourchier
Consecration3 December 1419
by Louis d'Harcourt
Created cardinal
Personal details
Bornc. 1380
Died22 March 1454
Canterbury, Kent
BuriedCanterbury Cathedral
DenominationRoman Catholic
Alma materMerton College, Oxford

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


Kemp was the son of Thomas Kempe, a gentleman of Ollantigh, in the parish of Wye near Ashford, Kent, and Beatrix Lewkenor, daughter of Sir Thomas Lewkenor.[1] 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.[2] He was briefly archdeacon of Durham.[3] In 1418 he was made Keeper of the Privy Seal which he retained until 1421.[4] Early in 1419 he was elected Bishop of Rochester, and was consecrated at Rouen on 3 December.[5] In February 1421 he was translated to Chichester,[6]and in November following to London.[7]

During the minority of Henry VI Kemp had a prominent position in the English council as a supporter of Henry Beaufort,[8] whom he succeeded as chancellor in March 1426.[9] In this same year on 20 July he was promoted to the Archbishop of York.[10] Kemp held office as chancellor for six years, consistently supporting Henry Beaufort against Humphrey of Gloucester.[11] His resignation on 28 February 1432[9] 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,[12] 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.[13] At the time of Suffolk's fall in January 1450 Kemp once more became chancellor.[9] 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,[14] when Pope Nicholas V added as a special honour the title of cardinal-bishop of Santa Rufina.[15] As Richard of York gained influence, Kemp became unpopular; men called him "the cursed cardinal," and his fall seemed imminent[16] when he died suddenly on 22 March 1454.[14] 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".[17] He founded Wye College near his birthplace, which became part of the University of London before closing in 2009.[18]


  1. ^ Davies, R.G. "Kemp [Kempe], John (1380/81 — 1454)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/15328. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ "Archbishop John Kemp (1380?-1454)". Luminarium: Encyclopedia Project. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  3. ^ Tout, Thomas Frederick (1892). "Kemp, John (1380?–1447)" . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 30. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  4. ^ Fryde et al. 1996, p. 95.
  5. ^ Fryde et al. 1996, p. 267.
  6. ^ Fryde et al. 1996, p. 239.
  7. ^ Fryde et al. 1996, p. 259.
  8. ^ "Archbishop John Kemp (1380?-1454)".
  9. ^ a b c Fryde et al. 1996, p. 87.
  10. ^ Fryde et al. 1996, p. 282.
  11. ^ "Archbishop John Kemp (1380?-1454)".
  12. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "John Kemp". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  13. ^ "Archbishop John Kemp (1380?-1454)".
  14. ^ a b Fryde et al. 1996, p. 234.
  15. ^ Plea Rolls of the Court of Common Pleas; Year: 1460, his titles listed & administrators named: second entry in:
  16. ^ Kingsford, Charles Lethbridge (1911). "Kempe, John" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 725.
  17. ^ Clere, Edmund (1896). "Letter to John Paston, A.D. 1455, 9 Jan". In Gairdner, James (ed.). The Paston letters, 1422–1509. Westminster: A. Constable.
  18. ^ "Wye College Heritage Statement" (PDF). Ashford Borough Council. Canterbury Archaeological Trust. 17 July 2017. Retrieved 13 June 2022.


Political offices Preceded byHenry Ware Lord Privy Seal 1418–1421 Succeeded byJohn Stafford Preceded byHenry Beaufort Lord Chancellor 1426–1432 Preceded byJohn Stafford Lord Chancellor 1450–1454 Succeeded byThe Earl of Salisbury Catholic Church titles Preceded byRichard Young Bishop of Rochester 1419–1421 Succeeded byJohn Langdon Preceded byHenry Ware Bishop of Chichester 1421–1422 Succeeded byThomas Polton Preceded byRichard Clifford Bishop of London 1422–1426 Succeeded byWilliam Grey Preceded byRichard Fleming Archbishop of York 1426–1452 Succeeded byWilliam Booth Preceded byJohn Stafford Archbishop of Canterbury 1452–1454 Succeeded byThomas Bourchier Preceded byBandello Bandelli Cardinal Priest of Santa Balbina 1439–1452 Succeeded byAmico Agnifili Preceded byJohn of Toledo Cardinal Bishop of Santa Rufina 1452–1454 Succeeded byBernard de Languissel

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Kempe, John". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 725.