Michel Lempriere, Seigneur of Maufant, was Bailiff of Jersey in 1643, and again in 1651-1660.
Michel Lempriere was appointed Bailiff on the death of Sir Philip de Carteret in 1643. This was a time of considerable turmoil in Jersey, and even greater turmoil in England, where the Civil War had been under way for two years. Lempriere had been a Jurat of the Royal Court and was one of a number who became more and more opposed to the rule of Sir Philip, and the considerable number of members of his family and supporters who occupied other senior positions in Jersey's Government.
History suggests that Lempriere was not anti-Royalist, but because the de Carteret family were staunch loyalists, to oppose them at this time meant supporting the Republican cause.
While Sir Philip was still Bailiff in March 1643 Lempriere rose during a States of Jersey meeting and read orders he had received from Parliament to seize Sir Philip and send him to England for trial. Although there were soldiers outside the Chamber preventing Lempriere from leaving, it became clear that large numbers of country people were heading for town to seize Sir Philip and he retreated to Elizabeth Castle, where he remained a virtual prisoner until his death.
Lempriere replaced him, but his first period of office was short-lived because, a Royal warrant having been issued for his arrest, Sir George de Carteret, Sir Philip's nephew, returned from England and took control of the island. Lempriere was forced into exile.
In 1551 when parliamentary troops were sent to regain control, he was reinstated as Bailiff and remained in office until the Restoration in 1660, when Sir George again replaced him.
This is J Bertram Payne's assessment of Lempriere in Payne's Armorial of Jersey:
- His lot was cast in dark and troublous times, in which his courage and straightforwardness stood him in good stead. Participating in the feeling then generally prevalent in the island, that the De Carteret family possessed too large a share of insular official appointments and emoluments, he was induced, as a reformer, mainly by this reason, to espouse the republican cause; opposition to, and defiance of, a local rival for fame, and not disloyalty to the king, being his mainspring of action.
- In these views, once adopted, he was firm and unwavering; and forsaken, in the moment of trial, by almost all his colleagues, he was the only one who dared, alone, to traverse by his presence and arguments, the united force of his opponents, and to beard the powerful Sir Philip De Carteret in his own peculiar domain, the Royal Court House. Although the leaders of the rebel party in Jersey have never been looked upon with that condonation and indulgence extended to their more fortunate coadjutors in England (a favour which, as a whole, their motives little deserved), yet even his enemies admitted, on all hands, that in weal or woe, Michael Lempriere did, to the best of his power, his duty both to himself and his countrymen. Indeed, he may with much propriety be called " the Hampden of Jersey"; for when a weak compliance with the order of the day would at once have secured to him personal immunity and the enjoyment of his estates, he preferred honourable exile to the adoption of views foreign to his conscience.
- During his official rule as Bailly (a preferment given by Charles I and continued by Cromwell), too much commendation cannot be given him for the unexceptionable justice shown in the judgments of his Courts, and he has earned the gratitude of every local antiquary from his rule of keeping the public records in a systematic manner, and of having them transcribed legibly. As a proof of the estimation in which his genuine worth of character was held by the king, it may be stated that although he had been the very heart and soul of the Nonconformist party, he was fully and freely pardoned by Royal Proclamation, when others of his colleagues, by no means conspicuous for rampant republicanism, were excepted by name.
- Nor ought another trait in his character to pass unrecorded. Having much interest with the Protector, and being perfectly acquainted with the laws and customs of bis country, he exerted all his influence to mitigate the rigour of the military occupation which threatened the island after its subjugation by the republicans; and he bad the generosity to so far conquer private feeling as to obtain from Cromwell, for all the small, and consequently needy, proprietors an entire exemption from the impost levied on the estates of loyalists. The benevolence that dictated this intercession reflects as much credit on bis character as a man as its success does on his talents as a diplomatist.