MOLYNEUX, Richard (c.1368-1397), of Sefton, Lancs.
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Family and Education
Sheriff, Lancs. 14 Feb. 1397-d.2
The Molyneux family established itself at Sefton at the very beginning of the 12th century, and over the years acquired the manors of Ellel, Litherland, Larbrick and Euxton, together with properties in the Lancashire villages of Linacre, Lydiate, Newsham and Thornton. Sir William Molyneux, a comrade-in-arms of the Black Prince, distinguished himself in the wars in France and Spain, and was knighted for his valour at the battle of Nájera. His son, Richard, cannot have been more than four years old when he died, in 1372, leaving a widow, Agnes, who received the customary third of his possessions and took another husband soon afterwards. The rest of his property passed, with the marriage and wardship of the young heir, into the hands of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, the feudal overlord. The latter promptly sold all his rights for 400 marks to two of his own employees, the boy’s kinsman, Sir Thomas Molyneux of Cuerdale, who was feodary of Gaunt’s estates in Lancashire, and Matthew Ashton, the treasurer of his household. Half of the money was to be paid in instalments, but Molyneux (who eventually changed his allegiance to Richard II’s favourite, Robert de Vere) evidently thought better of the arrangement, and in 1378 he sold his share to a local landowner named Edmund Laurence†. Richard probably came of age in June 1389, since he then acted as a trustee of certain holdings in Sefton and also agreed to offer sureties on behalf of the farmer of other estates temporarily in Gaunt’s custody. It was not, however, until the following February that he officially entered his own inheritance.3
No more is heard of Richard Molyneux until 1392, when Gaunt retained him formally at a fee of ten marks a year. Like many other members of the ducal affinity, Richard was prepared to risk his patron’s displeasure by hunting illegally in the parks and forests of the duchy of Lancaster, secure, no doubt, in the knowledge that he would eventually be pardoned, as indeed proved the case. Gaunt was clearly disposed to favour the young man, probably because of the loyal service already shown him by the latter’s uncles, Sir Richard* and Sir Henry Hoghton*, as well as other influential local administrators related to his mother. At all events, not long afterwards he granted him the lease of herbage at Toxteth for a rent of 24 marks a year. Molyneux may have married by this date, for it was in 1394 that he made two major settlements of almost all the property then in his hands, together with the reversion of land in the wapentakes of West Derbyshire and Amounderness which he hoped to inherit. His wife, Ellen, was the daughter of Sir Robert Urswyk, a dominant figure among the Lancashire gentry who had, moreover, acquired great prestige in Gaunt’s service. Urswyk clearly used his position to ensure that his son-in-law was returned with him to the January Parliament of 1397, this being the eleventh occasion on which he himself took a seat in the Commons. Yet for all his attachment to Gaunt, which was, of course, strengthened even further by his marriage, Molyneux felt an even greater sense of commitment to Richard II and the court party. The King was already then consolidating his position ready to move against the Lords Appellant of 1388, and it is easy to see why, on 14 Feb., just two days after the Commons rose, Molyneux was made sheriff of Lancashire. Sir William Molyneux’s long association with the King’s father, the Black Prince, and his grandfather, Edward III (who was said to have ‘loved him as a friend’), must have drawn his own son towards the Court; and the death of the latter’s kinsman and former guardian, Sir Thomas Molyneux, in 1387, while fighting in the royal army against the Lords Appellant at Radcot Bridge, cannot have been forgotten or forgiven by him either.4
Molyneux’s early death, on 27 Dec. 1397, spared him further involvement in the King’s relentless drive towards absolutism, as well as the inevitable alienation from his staunchly Lancastrian kinsfolk and neighbours which would have followed. His son and heir, Richard, was then still a baby, and for the next 20 years the Molyneux estates once again passed into the custody of others. In April 1398, Sir John Stanley obtained the wardship and marriage of the heir, who much later pursued an implacable vendetta against his son, (Sir) John*, perhaps because of their mismanagement of his affairs. Molyneux is said to have had a second son, Robert, whose main claim to fame now rests in his capture, in 1448, by the Turks. His widow, Ellen, shared with her father, Sir Robert Urswyk, the task of executing his will; and as late as 1401 she was still engaged in trying to recover outstanding debts. She went on to marry two more husbands, her second being Sir James Haryngton*, and her third the Cheshire landowner, Sir John Savage.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Molenewes, Mollineux.
- 1. VCH Lancs. iii. 69; J. Foster, Lancs. Peds. sub Clifton and Hoghton; Chetham Soc. xcv. 70-71.
- 2. Chetham Soc. n.s. xcvi. 82.
- 3. VCH Lancs. iii. 68-69; Reg. Gaunt 1371-5, nos. 488-9, 1374; Chetham Soc. xcv. 36.
- 4. Chetham Soc. n.s. xcvi. 82; DKR, xl. 526; VCH Lancs. iii. 68-69; S.K. Walker, ‘John of Gaunt and his retainers, 1361-99’ (Oxf. Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1986), 279.
- 5. VCH Lancs. iii. 69; Chetham Soc. xcv. 70-71; n.s. lxxxvii. 23; xcvi. 82; CPR, 1396-9, p. 329.