MALET, John (c.1593-1644), of Enmore, Som.
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Family and Education
b. c.Sept. 1593,1 1st s. of Sir John Malet of Enmore and Mary, da. of Sir John Popham†. educ. M. Temple 1612, travelled abroad (France) 1614. m. by 1636, Ann (d.1670), da. of Sir John Tracy†, later 1st Visct. Tracy of Rathcoole [I], of Toddington, Glos. 1s., 4da. (1 d.v.p.).2 suc. fa. 1615. bur. 10 Apr. 1644.3 sig. John Malet.
?Capt. ft. (parl.), c.1643.10
An old established Somerset family, the Malets owned the manor of Enmore, four miles west of Bridgwater, from 1166.11 Malet’s grandfather, Thomas Mallet, sat for Minehead in 1571. His father, John, was knighted at James’s coronation and married the daughter of chief justice John Popham†. Sir John Malet supported Sir Robert Phelips* in the bitterly fought 1614 Somerset contest, and at his death had extensive property, mostly in west and south Somerset but also in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.12
Malet was admitted on 20 Nov. 1612 to the Middle Temple, where he probably studied for about 18 months. On 28 May 1614 he was licensed to travel to France to learn the language and may have returned to England soon after the death of his father on 20 Mar. 1615. He subsequently married the daughter of Sir John Tracy, knight of the shire for Gloucestershire in 1597, who was created Viscount Tracy in the Irish peerage in 1643.
Malet made extensive purchases of land and seems to have been considered credit-worthy in London.13 Described as ‘loyal, hardworking, and possessed of business sense’,14 he was also very litigious: in 1623 he sued John Colles, the son of the executor of Malet’s grandfather, for money he claimed was owing from Sir John Malet’s minority. After some procedural irregularities on Malet’s part, lord keeper Williams threw the case out, arguing that Colles could not answer for events so long ago, and pointing out that Sir John Malet could have brought a case against Colles’s father had he wanted to.15 When Malet sued his steward Edward Clarke in 1628, Clarke complained of the ‘multiplicity of suits and vexations’ which Malet had directed against him.16
Malet was added to the Somerset bench in September 1621. In 1624 he seems initially to have thought of standing for the county for, on 19 Jan., Edward Hext* wrote to Sir Robert Phelips that Malet ‘piddles for freeholders about Taunton’.17 However, Malet quickly decided to settle for Bath, a seat he acquired probably through the influence of his Popham relations, an important local family with influence in the borough. Malet left no mark on the surviving records of the 1624 Parliament; the Mr. Malet who appeared as counsel for the undersheriff of Cambridgeshire before the privileges committee on 4 Mar. 1624 was Malet’s kinsman, the barrister Thomas Malet*.18 In late 1625 Malet was removed from the bench, probably as part of lord keeper Coventry’s (Sir Thomas Coventry*) purge of inactive justices.19 Malet seems to have subsequently played only a limited role in local administration until he was appointed sheriff in January 1636 to complete Henry Hodges’ second year in office. He was restored to the Somerset bench in September 1638, probably as a reward for his assiduous pursuit of Ship Money arrears.20
In 1638 Malet undertook, at his own expense, to make the River Tone navigable between Bridgwater and Taunton. His intention seems to have been to make it easier to transport coal, although there were no coalmines in the area. In March 1638 a commission to compound with the owners of property around the river was issued. Malet expended a great deal of money on the work, which appears to have been largely completed to Ham, four miles east of Taunton, but further progress was presumably halted by the Civil War. In return for his investment, Charles I granted that no coal or other goods should be carried on those parts of the river he had improved without his licence.21
When the Civil War broke out, Malet supported Parliament, and may have commanded a company in its service. However he remained in Somerset after it was overrun by royalists in 1643. Malet made his will on 4 May 1642, at which time his only son, John, was not yet 13. Malet consequently invested his estate in trustees, including his brother-in-law Sir Robert Tracy*, until his son came of age. He died in 1644 and was buried on 10 Apr. in Bath Abbey, where a monument was erected.22 Although Malet left behind large debts, his trustees were able to pay them off out of the income from his lands. Malet’s son died in 1656 leaving a daughter, Elizabeth, as his sole heir. She was later abducted by John Wilmot, 2nd earl of Rochester, whom she subsequently married.23
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Ben Coates
- 1. Calculated from age at father’s death: WARD 7/54/124.
- 2. A. Malet, Notices of Eng. Branch of Malet Fam. 46-7; M. Temple Admiss; APC, 1613-14, p. 450; Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 167; St. Michael, Enmore Par. Reg. and Bishop’s Transcript ed. M.C. Hawley (Som. Par. Regs. xi), 47, 74.
- 3. Abbey Church of SS. Peter and Paul, Bath ed. A.J. Jewers (Harl. Soc. Reg. xxviii), 363.
- 4. J. Tolmin, Hist. of Town of Taunton, 219.
- 5. C231/4, f. 128v; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 14; Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxiv-vii), 75; C66/2858.