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Sir Thomas Kent (c.1460–1511) was an Irish judge who held office as Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer.

He was born in Drogheda; like almost all Irish judges of the time he belonged to the Anglo-Irish gentry of the Pale. His family came from Kent to County Meath in the thirteenth century. Sir William Darcy, Vice-Treasurer of Ireland, was his cousin.[1]

Kent and Darcy were in Dublin in 1482-3, studying law. The King's Inn was not founded until the next century, but a rudimentary form of legal education did exist in Ireland. Darcy many years later recalled that he and Kent lodged with John Estrete, the Deputy Chief Baron, to study those legal texts, notably Treatise on Tenures by Thomas de Littleton, a knowledge of which was necessary to allow a student proceed to the English Inns of Court and qualify as a barrister.[2] During the holidays they went to the home of Philip Bermingham, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, to study dancing and the harp; these were not simply recreations but an essential part of a young lawyer's education. Kent then proceeded to London; most likely he went to Lincoln's Inn, where his cousin William Darcy had enrolled in 1485.[3]

In 1495 Kent was appointed to a minor official post, Escheator of the Exchequer of Ireland. In 1496-7 he was appointed Serjeant.[4] The appointment suggests that Kent was a protégé of Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, who had been restored to favour after a period of disgrace, due to efforts to place two pretenders on the English throne and had obtained from King Henry VII the right to appoint all judges and law officers except the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Hart believes that Kent's appointment marks a return to the practice of appointing Irish-born judges, whereas after the Lambert Simnel rebellion, of which Kildare had been the prime instigator, the practice had been to appoint judges of English birth.[5]

Kent was appointed Chief Baron in 1504 and knighted in 1509; he died in 1511.[6]


  1. ^ Kenny, Colum King's Inns and the Kingdom of Ireland Irish Academic Press Dublin 1992 p.21
  2. ^ Kenny p.22
  3. ^ Kenny p.22
  4. ^ Hart, A.R. History of the King's Serjeant at law in Ireland Four Courts Press Dublin 2000 p.25
  5. ^ Hart p.25
  6. ^ Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in ireland 1221–1921 John Murray London 1926 p.191