MOYLE, Thomas (by 1500-60), of Gray's Inn, London, Clerkenwell, Mdx. and Eastwell, Kent.
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Family and Education
b. by 1500, yr. s. but event. heir of John Moyle (d.1500) of Eastwell by 2nd w. Anne, da. of Sir Robert Darcy of Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Essex. educ. G. Inn. m. by 1528, Catherine, da. of Edward Jorden of London, 2da. Kntd. 16 Jan. 1542.3
Ancient, G. Inn 1528, Lent reader 1533, 1539.4
J.p. Kent 1537-d.; gen. surveyor, office of gen. surveyors 1537-42, ct. gen. surveyors of the King’s lands 1542-7, ct. augmentations 1547-54; commr. benevolence, Kent 1544/45, chantries 1546, contribution 1546, relief 1550, heresies 1552, 1556, Rochester bridge by 1557; sheriff, Kent 1556-7; warden, Rochester bridge by 1557.5
Speaker of House of Commons 1542.
In July 1537 Moyle was appointed, with three others, to go to Ireland to re-establish order after the Geraldine rebellion and to secure the passage through the Irish Parliament of a number of Acts, already drawn up, which they were to take with them: the commissioners left for Ireland in August 1537 and were away at least ten months. In the year following his return Moyle was made a general surveyor of crown lands, retaining the office in the courts of general surveyors and of augmentations as they were in turn created: the work involved many tours of inspection, in 1539 to Reading and Glastonbury, whence he sent up a book of accusations of treason against the abbot, in 1541 to Calais and Guisnes and in 1546 to the Boulonnais. On the accession of Edward VI he was commissioned with Sir Richard Rich and (Sir) Richard Southwell to compound with those who were eligible for knighthood.6
Moyle’s parliamentary career can be traced from 1542, but as he was to be chosen Speaker of that Parliament it is likely that he had sat in its precursor of 1539, for which the names of borough Members are nearly all lost: the supposition receives support from the appearance of Moyle’s name in the preamble to the Act for changing the custom of gavelkind (31 Hen. VIII, c.3) passed in the second session of this Parliament. His constituency in 1542 also remains unknown and cannot be guessed at with any confidence. If he had wanted, or been expected, to achieve the Speaker’s customary status of knight of the shire, the county for him to turn to would have been his native one of Kent, but he was not elected for that shire. Of the alternatives, another shire or a borough in Kent or elsewhere, there is reason to prefer a shire, in that if Moyle had begun by sitting for a borough he would probably have been by-elected for Kent in place of the junior knight, Sir Thomas Wyatt I, who died before the end of 1542 but who was replaced by Sir John Guildford.7
Knighted and chosen Speaker when the Commons assembled, Moyle was presented on 20 Jan. 1542. He made the customary protestation of unworthiness and was answered, on behalf of the King, by Chancellor Audley, himself a former Speaker: Moyle, he declared, had served the King at home and abroad without ever wanting diligence or dexterity, and the King would not allow him to decline the office to which he had been elected. Moyle then delivered his oration in which, after praising the King, he made a request for freedom of speech and another for freedom of access to the King. To the first request the chancellor replied that the King would not deny Members honestam dicendi libertatem. This petition, the first to be recorded in the Lords Journal, was not a new one: it had been made in 1523 by Moyle’s most famous predecessor. Yet this Parliament was to see an extension of the privileges of the Commons in a different direction. When George Ferrers, Member for Plymouth, was arrested for debt and released not by a writ of privileges from the chancellor but by the serjeant-at-arms of the Lower House ‘without writ, only by show of his mace, which was his warrant’, this assertion of the Commons’ right to secure this freedom from arrest in civil suits was a landmark in constitutional law and a monument to Moyle’s Speakership.8
Moyle’s leading role in the prebendaries’ plot against Archbishop Cranmer in 1547 seems to have had no effect on his career. In four out of the next five Parliaments he sat for Rochester. It was a city which often elected court nominees and Moyle, whose main property lay some 30 miles away, probably enjoyed official support there. Whether his absence from the Parliament of March 1553 implies that such support was not forthcoming from the Duke of Northumberland, under whose aegis it was called, it is hard to say, for Moyle, despite his religious conservatism, is not known to have had any strong political allegiance during these faction-ridden years. His professional usefulness in the Commons is shown by the committal to him of six bills during the session of 1548-9, including those for uses upon fines and recoveries and for process and orders of the common law. In what was to prove his last Parliament Moyle sat for Lynn. His translation from Rochester is the more striking in that he was also returned for Chippenham. His election at Lynn was presumably the work of a kinsman and former colleague as a general surveyor, (Sir) Richard Southwell, who on this occasion obtained his own return as one of the knights for Norfolk: Southwell’s brother Robert had thrice represented Lynn in Henrician Parliaments. At Chippenham Moyle almost certainly relied on his official links with Wiltshire to procure election and, when he chose to sit for Lynn, it was probably he who introduced his replacement Cyriak Petyt to the borough: the royal forests in the neighbourhood of Chippenham had been administered by the courts where Moyle held his surveyorships, and since 1539 he had been the recipient of an annuity worth over £50 payable by the sheriff of the county.9
Moyle was one of the Members who quitted this Parliament without leave before its dissolution and for this offence he was informed against in the King’s bench in Easter term 1555 and repeatedly summoned to appear: to these demands three successive sheriffs of Kent, the last being Moyle himself, made no return, but his own successor distrained him three times, at Michaelmas 1557 3s.4d., and at Trinity and Easter 1558 6s.8d. and 3s.4d., before the death of the Queen brought the proceedings to an end.10
In April 1558 Moyle was said to be too ill to take part in the defence of Kent, but he lived to sue out the general pardon from Elizabeth which, among other things, consigned his parliamentary ‘secession’ to oblivion. In 1559 and 1560 he set about dividing his lands between his two daughters and coheirs, but the arrangements were still incomplete when on 1 Aug. 1560 he made his will. To his wife he left all the household stuff in his house at Clerkenwell and all his lands there. The rest of his lands, in Devon, Kent and Somerset, he divided between Catherine, his elder daughter, who was married to Sir Thomas