MULSHO, John (d.1400), of Newton by Goldington, Northants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Sept. 1388
Sept. 1397

Family and Education

m. (1) by 1379, Margaret, at least 3s., inc. Thomas* and Henry; (2) Joan.1

Offices Held

J.p. Northants. 16 Dec. 1384-July 1389, 28 June 1390-d.

Escheator, Northants. and Rutland 30 Nov. 1385-3 Dec. 1386, 13 Feb. 1391-2 Jan. 1392.

Commr. to proclaim the Statute of Labourers, Northants. Dec. 1385 (at Pytchley); of inquiry Oct., Nov. 1386 (oppression by the King’s ministers), Dec. 1392, Jan., May, June 1393 (waste on the lands of Eleanor, Lady Basset), Feb. 1393 (ownership of land at Clipston); oyer terminer Dec. 1391 (attack tall Sulby abbey); gaol delivery, Oakham castle, Rutland Apr. 1393, Peterborough, Northants. Oct. 1398;2 to recruit workmen for repairs at the royal parks of Benefield and Brigstock, Northants., Leics., Beds., Hunts. Aug. 1397; assemble men and ships to clear the coast of pirates, Calais May 1398; of kiddles, Northants. June 1398; array Dec. 1399.

Dep. to Sir William Thorpe, keeper of the royal forest of Rockingham, Northants. bef. Oct. 1388-c. Apr. 1391.

Sheriff, Northants. 7 Nov. 1393-11 Nov. 1394, 9 Nov. 1395-1 Dec. 1396, 3 Nov. 1397-30 Sept. 1399.


Although no direct evidence of his parentage survives, it seems likely that our MP was the son of Henry Mulsho of Geddington, who served as a royal commissioner in Northamptonshire during the mid 14th century and also leased a sizeable amount of property there from the Crown. Perhaps he also numbered William Mulsho (d.1376), sometime chamberlain of the receipt of the Exchequer and keeper of the royal wardrobe, among his kinsmen. The attachment to Richard II which proved so strong a feature of his later life may well have grown up as a result of some youthful connexion with the Court, but we can only guess about this.3 Indeed, Mulsho’s early years remain obscure and nothing is known of his activities before 1375, by which date he was holding one quarter of a knight’s fee in Newton by Geddington of the earls of Pembroke. In October 1377, just a few months after the accession of Richard II, he and an associate named John Wyght obtained a lease of the royal manor of Brigstock, which they were to farm for six years at an annual rent of £46. Mulsho was also a feudal tenant of William, Lord Zouche of Harringworth, with whose family he maintained fairly close personal connexions from 1381 onwards, if not earlier. Zouche’s will of 1396 contains a bequest to him, and he subsequently acted as a trustee for the deceased’s son and heir.4

Meanwhile, by the mid 1380s, Mulsho had begun to play an active part in the business of local government. Save for a brush with the law in November 1387, when a group of friends (including John Tyndale*, another intimate of the Zouches) offered sureties of £200 in Chancery for his future good behaviour, his career went from strength to strength, and he was returned to the House of Commons for the first time in September 1388. As a feoffee-to-uses of the judge, Sir John Holt, whose estates had been confiscated by the Merciless Parliament not long before, he may well have felt some antipathy towards the Lords Appellant and their circle, although he had gone surety in the previous July for Sir William Thorpe as farmer of the forfeited property. He and Thorpe appear to have been very close, since he not only deputized for the elderly courtier as keeper of the royal forest of Rockingham, but was also given the opportunity to buy his manor of Pilton in Northamptonshire before it went on the open market. Thorpe died in 1391, having made provision for such a purchase in his will, in which he also left personal legacies totalling 30 marks to Mulsho and one of his sons. Needless to say, they took advantage of this opportunity and the manor thus passed into their possession.5 After Thorpe’s death Richard II had to find a new farmer for the Holt estates, and his choice, understandably enough in view of the judge’s past loyalty to him and the Court, fell upon a group of Northamptonshire landowners including Holt’s own son, John. He and his associates, among whom was the subject of this biography, agreed to pay £500 for a life interest in the properties, and it was in this way that Mulsho acquired the right to present to the livings of East Farndon and Whilton in Northamptonshire. A third member of the consortium was John Styuecle*, whose lease from the Exchequer of some of the land which had been confiscated from Sir Robert Bealknap, another victim of the Merciless Parliament, Mulsho agreed to underwrite to the tune of 400 marks. Styuecle encountered serious financial problems as a result of this transaction; and two years later he and Mulsho exchanged a number of bonds with Walter Doreward of Essex and others, to whom they had evidently appealed for help.6 Our Member seems also to have established a connexion with Thomas, earl of Stafford, one of the claimants to the estates of Ralph, Lord Basset of Drayton, who died childless in 1390. Not long afterwards the earl wrote to him about the expenses involved in establishing his title, and it may be that Mulsho was then acting as his attorney. No more references to their association have survived, although the MP was later granted some land in the Exton area of Rutland by Stafford’s younger brother and eventual heir, Edmund, the 5th earl. Another of Mulsho’s influential friends was Alice, the widow of Sir Thomas Wake of Blisworth in Northamptonshire, a manor which she conveyed to him and others in 1392, and which he held to her use until she died six years later. He was greatly in demand as a feoffee and witness to conveyances of property throughout the central Midlands, although not all the people for whom he acted were so eminent.7

All this information suggests that Mulsho was probably a lawyer, or that he had at least received some form of legal training. Expertise of this sort would certainly explain why Edward, earl of Rutland, chose him in September 1394, to be one of his attorneys in England. Five years later he again performed this office for the earl (who had by then been made duke of Aumâle); and at about the same time the two men agreed to act together as co-feoffess of Richard Basset of Weldon in Northamptonshire. We cannot now tell if Mulsho’s association with Aumâle was the cause or the result of his growing attachment to, the court party, but there can be little doubt that by the summer of 1397 he had become one of Richard II’s most trusted servants.8 On 5 Sept. of that year he was sent by the King at dead of night to the home of William Rickhill, c.j.c.p., to deliver a writ instructing him to cross immediately to Calais with Thomas, earl of Nottingham, the then captain, and do ‘whatever should be required of him’. The purpose of this secret mission was to obtain a ‘confession’ from the duke of Gloucester, who had been sent to Calais as a prisoner, but the judge was apparently told nothing, at least so far as plans to eliminate Gloucester altogether were concerned, and was, moreover, threatened with forfeiture should he fail to obey. According to a deposition made under very different political circumstances at the beginning of Henry IV’s reign, Rickhill claimed to have been intimidated by Mulsho, who left him no alternative but to comply with his orders. The admission of treason thus obtained by the judge was in fact read before the Parliament of September 1397 in which Mulsho himself sat as one of the representatives for Northamptonshire. The county electors clearly felt it expedient to return someone who stood so high in the King’s favour, and we can be sure that Mulsho himself played an active part in helping to bring about the downfall of Richard’s enemies. His appointment as sheriff of Northamptonshire in November, during the parliamentary recess, may be seen as further evidence of his political sympathies, which remained unshaken throughout the turbulent events of the next two years. The award of a royal pardon to him at about this date was evidently little more than a matter of routine, possibly designed to protect him from the consequences of misconduct in office. He had already been fined £15 for allowing three felons to escape from Northampton castle during his first term as sheriff, and it appears that a further £41 13s.4d. was due from him in similar fines at the time of his death. Mulsho had, moreover, been pardoned before, by royal letters patent of October 1395, which made specific reference to offences concerning the sale or purchase of wool.9 It seems quite likely that both he and his eldest son John, were involved in the wool trade, since each of them had interests in Calais. John Mulsho the younger is known to have owned a house there, which probably formed part of his inheritance, and like his father before him he was active as a royal commissioner for the suppression of piracy in the Channel. The very real possiblity that Mulsho’s part in the abduction and eventual murder of the duke of Gloucester was not merely confined to his interview with Justice Rickhill cannot, therefore, be ignored.

As we have already seen, Mulsho did not accompany Richard II on his ill-fated expedition to Ireland in 1399, but stayed behind to discharge his duties not only as sheriff but also as an attorney for John, Lord Lovell, who had left England with the King. Understandably enough, he was among the first to offer resistance to the forces of Henry of Bolingbroke, who seized upon Richard’s absence as an ideal opportunity for invasion. On 12 July 1399, an assignment of £132 6d.8d. was made to him from the Exchequer as payment for a body of men-at-arms and archers hastily mobilized for the defence of the realm.10 Recognizing that resistance was futile, he and the other supporters of the court party soon threw in their lot with the Lancastrians. The triumphant Henry IV was inclined to be clement towards his former opponents, and although he removed Mulsho as sheriff the latter at least managed to retain his seat on the local bench and continue acting as a royal commissioner.

John Mulsho died in 1400 and was buried at his parish church of Newton by Geddington in the same tomb as his second wife, Joan, who appears to have predeceased him. A shrewd and able man, he would probably have prospered equally well under the new regime had he lived to exploit his old connexion with the duke of Aumâle (by then demoted to the earldom of Rutland, but from 1402 duke of York). His son, Henry, who represented Northamptonshire in the Parliament of 1422, certainly benefited from the duke’s patronage, and distinguished himself during the French wars of Henry V. His two brothers, John (the eldest) and Thomas, likewise found it easy enough to reconcile themselves with the house of Lancaster. John, who married Alice, the widow of William Spernore*, was from the time of his father’s death actively involved in local government, and Thomas likewise continued the family tradition by holding office and serving as an MP.11

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variants: de Mulsa, Moulsoe, Mulshoe, Mulso(e), Mulsoo, Mulsowe.

  • 1. J. Bridges, Northants. ii. 323; C1/7/114; Reg. Chichele, ii. 371-2, 667; Mon. Brasses ed. Mill Stephenson, 387. According to Bridges, 259, our MP was the son of one John Mulsho of Goldington, Beds., but this cannot now be proved.
  • 2. C66/337 m. 15d, 350 m. 1d.
  • 3. CPR, 1374-7, p. 285; 1377-81, pp. 100, 102; CFR, vii. 87; viii. 140; ix. 134; T.F. Tout, Chapters, iv. 153, 155-6.
  • 4. CIPM, xiv. 162; ibid. (Rec. Comm.), iii. 193; CFR, ix. 21; CAD, iii. B3554; CCR, 1381-5, p. 623; 1396-9, pp. 66, 120, 404; Early Lincoln Wills ed. Gibbons, 93; Bridges, ii. 323.
  • 5. CPR, 1385-9, p. 519; CCR, 1385-9, p. 445; CFR, x. 244; CIMisc. v. no. 33; Lincs. AO, Reg. Buckingham, XII f. 381; VCH Northants. iii. 130.
  • 6. Bridges, i. 543; ii. 31; CPR, 1388-92, p. 285; 1391-6, pp. 47-48; CCR, 1392-6, p. 255.
  • 7. C1/7/114; C136/108/50; CP25(1)178/87/83, 89/44, 82; Bridges, ii. 299; CCR, 1377-81, p. 117; 1385-9, pp. 145, 611-12; 1389-92, p. 534; 1396-9, p. 347; Staffs. RO, D641/1/2/4 m. 4; Early Lincoln Wills, 104.
  • 8. CPR, 1391-6, p. 477; 1396-9, p. 519; 1399-1401, p. 325.
  • 9. RP, iii. 431; DNB, xvi. 1149-50; C67/30 m. 14; CPR, 1391-6, p. 630; 1396-9, p. 11; 1399-1401, p. 373; 1401-5, p. 201; 1408-13, p. 43; CCR, 1402-5, pp. 36-37.
  • 10. CPR, 1396-9, p. 552; E403/562 m. 14.
  • 11. Mon. Brasses, 387; J.S. Roskell, Commons of 1422, pp. 206-7; PPC, i. 158, 160; ii. 88; CFR, xii. 130, 254; CPR, 1401-5, pp. 128, 287, 363; 1405-8, pp. 154, 200; Bridges, ii. 258, 323; iii. 130; Reg. Chichele, ii. 371-2, 667.