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Cardinal Kemp: The Last Lancastrian Statesman

Grussenmeyer, J.M. (2018) Cardinal Kemp: The Last Lancastrian Statesman. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:70643)

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John Kemp (c. 1380-1454) - cardinal, archbishop, councillor, chancellor, and diplomat - was one of the most central figures in the royal government during the reign of Henry VI, serving the Lancastrian Crown for four decades. Despite this, scholars have treated him with varying degrees of neglect, mentioning him often enough but rarely ever attributing consequential policy to his influence.

This thesis presents a comprehensive study of Kemp's political career, examining him as an individual statesman and using his biography as a lens through which to gain a deeper understanding of royal government and political culture under the Lancastrian dynasty. While it is notoriously difficult to paint a detailed portrait of any medieval personage, Kemp's career is considerably well documented. Records of chancery, the exchequer, and the royal council give us a great deal of information about his public career, while the invaluable correspondence recorded by William Swan, his proctor at the curia, grants us a rare glimpse of the private feelings, ambitions, and concerns of a fifteenth-century prelate.

From his time on the minority council in the 1420s to his chancellorship in the volatile 1450s, he was often called upon during times of crisis, and it is during such trying times that we can most clearly see his stabilising effect upon the governance of the realm. His parliamentary addresses and court of chancery decisions evidence his strong principles, and his statesmanship is further confirmed by the remarkable diplomacy with which he balanced his obligations to both Church and state, finding favour with the papacy while always prioritising the interests of the Crown.

Kemp's death in 1454 removed the last figure able to restrain the duke of York's ambitions and to prevent political faction from descending into violence, and it is no coincidence that the Wars of the Roses commenced the following year. Cardinal Kemp was, indeed, the last Lancastrian statesman.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Grummitt, David
Thesis advisor: Fincham, Kenneth
Thesis advisor: James, Sarah
Uncontrolled keywords: medieval history; ecclesiastical history; church history; political history; fifteenth century; medieval bishops; medieval church
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2018 10:10 UTC
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2022 12:25 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Grussenmeyer, J.M..

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