MALET (MALLET), John (c.1623-86), of St. Audries, Som.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



25 Aug. 1666
Mar. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1623, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Malet of Poyntington, j.K.b. 1641-5, May 1660-3, by Jane, da. of Francis Mylles, clerk of the privy seal, of Pear Tree House, Bitterne, Hants; bro. of Michael Malet. educ. M. Temple, entered 1634, called 1641; Univ. Coll. Oxf. matric. 18 Jan. 1638, aged 15. m. Florence, da. of John Wyndham of Orchard Wyndham, Som., 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 6da. suc. fa. 1665; kntd. 20 Feb. 1667.1

Offices Held

J.p. Som. July 1660-80; commr. for assessment Aug. 1660-80, Devon and Exeter 1667-9, 1673-80, sewers, Som. Dec. 1660, oyer and terminer, western circuit 1661, loyal and indigent officers, Som. 1662; recorder, Bridgwater 1669-83; commr. for recusants, Som. 1675.2


Malet came from a cadet branch of a Somerset family seated at Enmore since the 11th century and first entering Parliament in 1563. His father, who sat in several early Stuart Parliaments, was a professional lawyer. As judge of assize in March 1642 he encouraged the Kentish grand jury to petition Parliament in favour of the Book of Common Prayer and against depriving the King of control of the militia. He was imprisoned in the Tower for two years until exchanged for Sir John Temple. He then joined the Court at Oxford. Malet himself was in arms in various royalist garrisons, including Bridgwater, and joined with his father in compounding for £871 10s. on the Oxford articles.3

Malet’s father regained his judgeship at the Restoration, and was granted a warrant for a baronetcy, which he did not take up. Malet himself had been automatically disbarred during the Interregnum, and probably never practised as a barrister. He succeeded to the estate in 1665, but not to his father’s uncomplicated loyalty, though he was never so outspoken in Opposition as his maggoty younger brother. He was returned for Minehead, 12 miles from his home, at a contested by-election in the following year, and became a very active Member of the Cavalier Parliament. He was appointed to at least 231 committees, taking the chair in nine, acted as teller in 14 divisions, carried two bills to the Upper House, and made 15 recorded speeches. On 7 Dec. he was teller for adjourning the House to enable Members to prepare for receiving the sacrament; his brother was in the opposite lobby. His first important committee was on 15 Oct. 1667, when he was among those ordered to report on freedom of speech in Parliament; but he took no known part in the attack on Clarendon. In 1669 Sir Thomas Osborne listed him among the Members to be gained for the Court by the Duke of York. In the following year he unsuccessfully opposed the renewal of the Conventicles Act, and acted as teller for a bill to strengthen habeas corpus, which became a permanent interest of his. He was among those ordered to consider the Lords amendments to the Coventry bill on 25 Jan. 1671, and to manage a conference. On 9 Mar. he was teller against the exemption of former Cavaliers from the provisions of the bill to prevent the growth of Popery.4

Malet’s first recorded speech was in the debate on the suspending power on 21 Feb. 1673. ‘We have formerly addressed about the Papists and disbanding the army’, he reminded the House. ‘The same day the King gave us a gracious answer, and hopes we shall have so of this’. In the following month he was named to the committees that produced the test bill and considered a bill of ease for Protestant dissenters, and took the chair for a bill to improve paving and draining in London and for a new clause in the electoral reform bill. In the autumn session he was among those ordered to prepare an address against a standing army. It would be sufficient, he thought, for the militia to guard the King in rotation. On 17 Jan. 1674 he was sent with Sir Charles Harbord and Sir Richard Temple to desire the lord great chamberlain to make proper provision for the safe keeping of the Journals and other records of the Commons. But this did not prevent him, later in the day, from launching an uncomfortably detailed and well-informed attack on Lord Arlington for imprisoning two colonial offenders in the Tower without a warrant. Two days later he was sent with four other Members to require John Robinson I to bring in details of the commitment and release of prisoners in the Tower. He was appointed to two committees on habeas corpus, in the latter of which he took the chair. He was teller on 3 Feb. for asking the Lords to concur in the address of the Lower House for the removal of the Duke of Buckingham from Court. In the same session he was among those appointed to consider a general test bill, a bill to prevent illegal exactions, and the condition of Ireland. He had just reported a bill to establish certain water engines invented by Sir Samuel Morland when Black Rod appeared; and it was presumably for more substantial services that Morland made Malet’s daughter Zenobia his universal legatee.5

In the spring session of 1675 Malet was appointed to the committee to draw up an address for the removal of Lauderdale. He took Burnet’s testimony against the Scottish statesman, and was teller on 6 May against proceeding immediately with it; but after a further complaint from Sir Robert Moray he was the first member appointed to the committee of inquiry. During the attack on Danby he proposed a general inquiry into the revenue. He helped to draft the address for the recall of British subjects from the French service, and acted as teller for reading it on 20 May. His committees also included those to hinder Papists from sitting in Parliament and to prevent the growth of Popery. In the dispute over the jurisdiction of the Lords he helped to prepare reasons for a conference on the Four Lawyers, but opposed sending his countryman Sir John Churchill to the Tower. He was noted on the working lists as under the influence of his friend and correspondent, Lord Orrery (Roger Boyle). In the autumn session he was among those ordered to bring in a bill against the suspending power. He was teller for giving further directions to the supply committee on 4 Nov. and for the adjournment four days later. He chaired the inquiry into the assault on the Protestant convert de Luzancy by a French Jesuit.6

When Parliament reassembled after the long prorogation, Malet delivered a carefully prepared speech (the text of which he gave to Anchitell Grey) for an address for summoning a new Parliament, and Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice worthy’. A week later he complained

of an election imposed upon the East India Company, by special direction from the King, to exclude Mr [Thomas] Papillon; and [that] Sir Francis Drake [3rd Bt., was] left out of the commission of the peace in Devonshire.

He was appointed to the committees to consider the bills for recall from the French service and for a reduction in the power of Chancery, and he was the first Member named to the committee on the bill to abolish burning for heresy. ‘He feared there were some very great in our counsels and power that did endeavour too much to countenance a Popish party’, and moved, with obvious reference to the Duke of York,

that if there were any great man, though ever so great about the King, who might be suspected not to be a friend to our religion, he might have the tests offered him, whether he was a Privy Councillor or no, and might be removed from Court if he refuses them.

This was perhaps the furthest step towards the exclusion policy that had yet been taken in the Commons, and he found no seconder. He showed his independence further by refusing to join in the outcry against the Lords bill that would have reduced the penalties on recusants who did not meddle with politics. He helped to draw up the addresses promising £200,000 credit (12 Apr. 1677) and demanding the withdrawal of France from all territory occupied since the Peace of the Pyrenees (29 Jan. 1678). Of the six private bills that he steered through committee, the most politically important was to enable Thomas Thynne II to make a jointure on his estate. On 15 Apr. he was added to the committee to prepare reasons for a conference on the danger from Popery, and he helped to draw up the address of 10 May for the removal of counsellors. He was teller for disbanding the expeditionary force in Flanders and against accepting the ordnance accounts. With his brother in the Tower for lese-majesty, he wisely absented himself from the last session of the Cavalier Parliament until December, when he was among those entrusted with the address on the danger in which the nation stood and the bill to prevent the growth of Popery. On the reading of the letters produced by Ralph Montagu he demanded the imprisonment of Lord Treasurer Danby, as Osborne had now become:

He is near the person of the King, and the not securing him will be a strange precedent for other traitors. I believe the House will prove this treason, and in the judgement of the law he is a traitor till he has purged himself.

He acted as teller for bringing in candles so that the debate on impeachment could continue.7

Malet was re-elected at the first election of 1679, and as a member of the Green Ribbon Club he was noted by Shaftesbury as ‘worthy’. An active committeeman in the first Exclusion Parliament, he was named to 21 committees. He helped to manage a conference on Danby on 22 Mar., and had the satisfaction of serving on the committee that at last placed habeas corpus reform on the statute-book. His other committees included those for the speedier conviction of recusants and for security against Popery. He was among those entrusted with drafting an address for the removal of Lauderdale, and he took the chair for a naturalization bill. His only recorded speech was to point out that a pardon must be accompanied by a writ of allowance. He voted for exclusion, and in the autumn election he was replaced at Minehead by the court supporter Thomas Palmer; but he was returned for Bridgwater on his corporation interest in 1681. Apart from nomination to the committee of elections and privileges he left no trace on the records of the Oxford Parliament. After its dissolution he continued active locally. In October he was reported to be in consultation with ‘his cabal of fanatics’ to strengthen their party in Bridgwater against a future election, and in 1683 he was the spokesman for those in the borough who opposed the surrender of its charter. He is unlikely to have stood in 1685, and he was buried on 8 Apr. 1686 at St. Andrew’s, Holborn, the last of his family to sit in Parliament.8

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: Irene Cassidy / Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. A. Malet, Malet Fam. 59-62; Collinson, Som. i. 93; Procs. Som. Arch. Soc. xvi. 36-37.
  • 2. Q. Sess. Recs. (Som. Rec. Soc. xxxiv), p. xiv; C181/7/26; Malet, 61.
  • 3. Collinson, iii. 496-7; DNB; A. M. Everitt, County Community of Kent and the Gt. Rebellion, 95-99, 105-7; SP23/191/638, 647.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1666-7, p. 74; CJ, ix. 136, 142, 194.
  • 5. Grey, ii. 50, 299, 392; CJ, ix. 275, 277, 303, 314.
  • 6. HMC 5th Rep. 317, 318; Grey, iii. 85-86; CJ, ix. 353, 375.
  • 7. Grey, iv. 64-65, 138, 204, 337; vi. 400; Add. 28091, f. 39v; CJ, ix. 443, 495, 499, 562.
  • 8. CJ, ix. 630; Add. 28046, f. 106; Som. RO, Sanford mss, William to Edward Clarke, 28 July 1679; CSP Dom. 1680-1, p. 514; July-Sept. 1683, p. 440; Malet, 62.