MALET (MALLET), Thomas (c.1582-1665), of the Middle Temple, London and Poyntington, Som.; later of Serjeants' Inn, Chancery Lane, London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. c.1582, o.s. of Malachi Malet of Luxulyan, Cornw. and Elizabeth, da. of Richard Trevanion of Tolverne, Cornw., wid. of Thomas Rashleigh of Fowey, Cornw.1 educ. M. Temple 1600, called 1606.2 m. 18 Mar. 1619,3 Jane, da. of Francis Mylles† of God’s House, Southampton, clerk of the Signet 1606-18, 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p.).4 suc. fa. 1613, aged 28 plus;5 kntd. 6 July 1641;6 suc. uncle Michael in St. Audries estate, Som. 1651.7 d. 19 Dec. 1665.8 sig. Tho[mas] Mallet.

Offices Held

Steward to Westminster Abbey chapter 1621-d.;9 commr. sewers, Westminster 1627-34, Som. 1660, Bedford level 1662;10 j.p. Som. 1634-at least 1643, Essex 1641;11 commr. oyer and terminer, Western circ. 1634-42, Home circ. 1642, London 1660-2, Mdx. 1660, Oxf. circ. 1660, Wales 1661, Verge 1662.12

Reader, M. Temple 1626, bencher 1626-35, treas. 1633-4;13 solicitor gen. to Queen Henrietta Maria 1626-41;14 sjt.-at-law 1635;15 j.k.b. 1 July 1641-24 Oct. 1645, 31 May 1660-18 June 1663;16 just. assize, Home circ. 1641, Oxf. circ. 1660.17


Malet’s great-grandfather Baldwin Malet served as solicitor-general to Henry VIII and founded the Poyntington line.18 Malet himself became a lawyer, and was called to the bar during the readership of Sir Henry Montagu*, whose actions as the referee of scandalous patents he later defended in Parliament. Malet’s election at Tregony in 1614 was no doubt assisted by his mother’s Cornish connections. He made his maiden speech on 2 May, when he successfully called for the second reading and commitment of bills concerning common bail and forfeitures, in which he perhaps took a professional interest.19 Two days later he joined with Sir George More to move that ordinary committees should be smaller, and not over-weighted with ‘those that sat about the chair’, the usual place for privy councillors.20 Malet moved on 5 May for a bill to regulate impositions, ‘in respect the king was pleased to promise if he had the right to impose yet to limit them, but if His Majesty had no right then we were the better able to give him’. He added that he thought supply should be deferred until the matter had been settled.21

When business was interrupted by the accusations against the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Sir Thomas Parry*, of electoral abuses at Stockbridge, Malet proposed on 9 May that if Parry wished to be present when the House heard the borough’s petition he should stand at the bar, to avoid overawing the complainants.22 The following day he asked that Parry be given a chance to defend himself, but his motion to seat one of the aggrieved candidates, Henry St. John, as Member for Stockbridge was unsuccessful.23 Malet also took an interest in a further electoral dispute, requesting a hearing on 24 May for those who had petitioned against the sheriff’s conduct of the Northumberland election.24 In the ‘undertaking’ debate on 14 May, Malet was unconvinced by Sir Henry Neville I’s* assertion that his paper proposing a Parliament had been written by royal command, asking why, if that were the case, it had been addressed to ‘some private persons’ rather than the king.25

Malet proposed on 17 May to extend the bill for Sir Horace Vere’s children to cover future offspring, and he took the chair in committee, reporting the unamended bill three days later.26 However, he was less enthusiastic about a bill to naturalize two Scottish courtiers that was read on 23 May, and suggested a clause to debar monopolists. He was thereupon appointed to the bill committee.27 On 30 May, when the Commons debated how to proceed against Bishop Neile for slandering the Lower House, Malet produced precedents proving that ‘common fame is sufficient to imprison a man much more to complain of him’, and proposed to ‘cease from business till we had satisfaction’.28 Two days later he spoke in favour of a bill to regulate new buildings in London and Westminster.29 On 7 June, with the dissolution imminent, he maintained his earlier stance of opposing supply until concessions had been won on the question of impositions, saying ‘for now it were to give for fear’.30

Re-elected to the third Stuart Parliament, on 7 Feb. 1621 Malet objected to seating Sir Henry Carey I*, created a Scottish peer since his election, because it would set a precedent and also because ‘the reason of the division of the Upper House and the Lower House was that the citizens and burgesses in the presence of the great men could not speak their minds so freely’. He favoured deferring the matter for further consideration, warning that ‘it may be dangerous to have too many persons naturalized of other countries to be here; their greatness may be fearful, their affections may be changed’.31 Reminding the Commons on 13 Feb. in the debate on the export of ordnance to Spain that ‘it’s too late to shut the stable door when the horse is stolen’, he urged immediate action, and was one of those ordered to draft a bill six weeks later.32 On 14 Feb., after informing the House that the warden of the Fleet charged 2d. for every dish brought in for prisoners who could not afford his ‘high rated commons’, he was among those appointed to investigate the warden’s abuses.33 He showed a keen interest in electoral fairness, arguing on 26 Feb. that ‘if elections [be] not free ... we shall have packed parliaments. Free elections [are] the foundation of our parliament liberty’. He was appointed to a committee to draft an electoral reform bill (10 March).34 One of the most difficult cases of a disputed return in this Parliament involved the constituency of Westminster, where Malet had recently been appointed to succeed (Sir) James Whitelocke* as steward. He naturally upheld the right of the Westminster electors to replace a deceased Member without waiting for a new writ, arguing on 22 Mar. that his colleague, William Man*, who had been substituted in following the death of Edmund Doubleday soon after the election, should be allow to take his seat. The following day Malet also urged the punishment of the high constables who had sought to intimidate the Yorkshire electors.35

On 2 Mar. Mallet urged that the extension of a statute of 1610, protecting local officials against vexatious suits, should be included among the bills of grace, and was appointed to the committee.36 At the first reading of the subsidy bill on 5 Mar. he objected to Thomas Crewe’s proposal to link the subsidy to the king’s grant of a general pardon, and three days later Malet unsuccessfully moved to defer the second reading ‘because the subsidy [is] ever the last Act, and ever returned from the Lords hither and carried up by the Speaker the last day of Parliament’.37 Ordered on 6 Mar. to help Heneage Finch* prepare charges concerning the gold and silver thread patent of (Sir) Giles Mompesson*, he maintained that the monopoly injured the ancient trade of the silk men, and that its 20-year term went far beyond merely compensating the inventor.38 On 14 Mar. he cited the defrauding of creditors by the issue of bills of conformity in Chancery as a fit subject for inquiry, and the next day called to the attention of the justice committee several abuses in the Court of Wards.39 He called (Sir) Robert Lloyd’s* patent for engrossing wills ‘so unworthy a thing that no man thought it fitting to be taken up’, and on 21 Mar. demanded that Lloyd be expelled.40 He also accused Sir John Townsend* of using his patent for the recovery of concealed tithes to blackmail a small hospital just outside Winchester, and was among those Members appointed to bring in a bill against the exactions of proctors in church courts immediately after the recess (21 March).41

The bill was never introduced, but Malet did not waste his time during the Easter holiday. The proctors provided him with abundant evidence of the corrupt practices of Sir John Bennet*, judge of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, which he retailed to the Commons when Parliament resumed. Further work would be necessary, he said on 20 Apr., before the case could be transmitted to the Lords, since some charges were still unproved, and he recommended that Bennet, who had been dilatory in attendance, should be ordered to appear before the committee on a certain day. Malet was among those appointed to draw up the charges, and deputized for Sir Edward Sackville* in delivering the report.42 Using his own notes, he informed the House on 23 Apr. that 15 allegations had been proved, with as many more under investigation.43 The case against Bennet was dispatched to the Lords, and Malet’s zeal earned him a seat on the sub-committee for petitions.44 He was also appointed to a conference on the informers bill (19 April), as one of several lawyers ‘fittest ... to answer the objections’.45 When the attack on monopolies was resumed on 21 Apr. the House waived one of its standing orders to allow him to recommend withdrawal of the bill, though without success. He reminded the Commons that their object had been to reform abuses rather than punish individuals, and that the king had since annulled the patents. He agreed that those who had offended since the Proclamation should be pursued, ‘but if we punish for what is past ... [it] will take up a great deal of time which we may ill spare. Therefore since His Majesty hath reformed the principal, let the rest sleep lest the king conceive some displeasure’.46

On 27 Apr. Malet vigorously attacked the authorization of the fees charged by masters in Chancery as improperly obtained, injurious in its effects and in breach of a statute of 1604, arguing that ‘none but base parasites, if they have knowledge in the law, will say that the privy seal can frustrate an Act of Parliament’.47 Those who falsely maintained that the patent had been approved by the judges deserved exemplary punishment, since ‘such like scandals lie not only in the persons, but in the seat of justice, which will bring all to confusion, if that seat have not its due reverence and esteem’.48 He was appointed to two committees of inquiry appointed the same day.49

Malet berated Sir John Jephson*, an Irish privy councillor, for launching an attack on the administration of Ireland on 26 Apr. without first consulting the king, complaining that ‘they who inform here speak, as it should seem, more freely and with less respect of persons than they do to His Majesty’. He proposed on 30 Apr. that the Commons should seek for permission to gather more information and present it to the king, but in the event James took the matter into his own hands.50 On 1 May Malet moved to defer the punishment of the Catholic lawyer Edward Floyd until his papers had been examined, and three days later argued that the House, as ‘a court, where law and discretion’, should exercise the best discretion by proceeding no further.51 He was named to the committee for the jeofails bill (2 May), to provide a remedy for mistakes in pleading, a subject which he was to make his own.52 On 7 May he argued that John Lepton’s monopoly of engrossing bills in the Council in the North imposed a tax on his own profession, and three days later he condemned the alehouse patent as the greatest grievance to come before Parliament.53 However, arguing that ‘some of these things make a greater noise than matter’, he wished to exonerate both lord treasurer Mandeville (formerly Sir Henry Montagu), one of the referees, and also Sir Francis Seymour* who, as Malet argued on 11 May, had done no more than his duty as chairman of the inquiry in referring to reports of corruption.54 He objected to the patent granted to Sir Robert Mansell* for the manufacture of glass by a new process, ‘for ‘tis even [as] if a man for the inventing the making of galoshes should have the sole making of shoes’.55 In the adjournment debate of 31 May he opposed asking for the Royal Assent for bills because this implied there would be a prorogation, or even a dissolution.56

When Parliament reassembled Malet moved, on 24 Nov., to resume consideration of the bill against informers, ‘much approved in general’, and was appointed to the committee to examine the amendments made in the Upper House.57 In the supply debate on 26 Nov. he urged the grant of two or three subsidies and as many fifteenths, though ‘with some cautions’, to enable ‘an army of our own to go into the Palatinate ... I cannot deny to give, my voice hath engaged me; if it had not, the merits of the cause call for it’.58 He contributed to the debate of 30 Nov. on purveyance on malt by defending the interests of the London Brewers’ Company, by whom he was perhaps already engaged as a legal adviser.59 On 10 Dec. he reminded the Commons of its petition for an ending of the session before Christmas. If Parliament was dissolved without passing the bill for continuance and repeal of expiring statutes, which was in his custody and almost ready for engrossment, most of the legislation of the entire reign, including even the Subsidy Act, would be called into question. Nevertheless, his proposal to go into committee for that purpose met with no response.60 On 13 Dec. he joined in the widespread condemnation of Lepton and Goldsmith, two patentees who out of malice towards Sir Edward Coke* ‘went about to accuse him and ruin him’.61 However, he made no contribution to the debates over liberties and foreign policy that brought the session to a close, only making a final motion for the continuance bill on the last day of the session (18 Dec.), and declaring hopefully ‘that for any offence we should be punished here and nowhere else, if the business be not capital’.62

In 1623 Malet helped to negotiate the marriage settlement between Sir Robert Harley* and Brilliana, daughter of his kinsman Sir Edward Conway I*.63 The following year he leased the manor house at Poyntington, and made it his main residence.64 He does not seem to have stood in the 1624 election, but as the representative of the Brewers’ Company he was paid to appear before the committee for a bill concerning brewhouses in May 1624. The Company opposed the bill, which had been promoted in the Lords by a lobby of ‘Kentishmen’, and succeeded in defeating it.65 The following year Conway, as captain of the Isle of Wight, secured Malet’s return for Newtown.66 Perhaps out of loyalty to Conway, who by this time was a senior statesman, Malet’s political stance shifted, in the words of his biographer, from ‘the zealous, painstaking reformer of 1621’ into a ‘casual, half-hearted courtier’ who hardly spoke, except to urge moderation. However, the extent of the contrast should not be exaggerated; in 1621 Malet’s speech on the situation in Ireland, his defence of his patron lord treasurer Mandeville, and his support in the autumn sitting for additional supply, suggest that he had never been unsympathetic towards the Court. On 21 June 1625 he successfully opposed motions for an adjournment in view of the danger from the plague then raging in London.67 The following day he agreed with Coke that a grievance committee was unnecessary so early in the reign, and instead urged that the one overriding necessity was supply.68 In the supply debate at Oxford on 9 Aug. he announced that he would speak like a courtier not a lawyer. Although it was unprecedented to grant more than one subsidy in the same session, he moved that since the Commons in the Tunnage and Poundage bill had dispensed with precedent to the king’s disadvantage, they should do so to his advantage over supply. Maintaining that ‘parliaments never break with the king but they meet with loss’, he cited the varying fortunes of the last three assemblies. He moved for a general resolution in favour of supply, the amount to be decided at a subsequent division. (Sir) John Eliot*, who attributed Malet’s speech to his ‘haste to purchase some credit by devotion’, expressed astonishment that someone whose livelihood depended on legal precedent should argue so ‘unlawlike’ against its application in this instance.69

Re-elected for Newtown on Conway’s nomination again in 1626, Malet had to combine his parliamentary activities with his onerous duties at the Temple, where his readership on jeofails had been postponed because of the plague.70 On 14 Feb. 1626, at the second reading of the bill against covert inquisitions, he proposed to add a requirement that notice should be posted on the door of the parish church, and took the chair in committee.71 He was also chairman for the bill to enable Lord Bergavenny (Sir Henry Neville II*) to sell part of his entailed estate, which he reported on 20 April.72 Malet continued to act as Conway’s henchman in this Parliament. Indeed, on 14 Feb. he sided with the king, who had sought to exclude Coke and several other Members from the Parliament by pricking them as sheriffs. During the debate on Coke, who had been returned for Norfolk regardless, he cited precedents that showed that sheriffs were not permitted to sit. Malet commented that it was no reflection on Coke’s abilities that he was barred from serving, as it was ‘of long continuance’ that ‘very good men not admitted to be Members of this House, as barons, convocationers, et cetera’.73

In the debates on the impeachment of Buckingham, Malet producing a whole series of reasons why common fame should not be accepted as a basis on which the Commons could proceed. These included the case of Bishop Neile in 1614, which he mentioned on 22 March. Although he had previously argued that common fame was sufficient to condemn Neile, he now declared that the Lords’ refusal to accept common fame evidence against the bishop had produced a contrary precedent.74 On 24 Mar. he sought a vote on whether Buckingham was responsible for the growth of Catholicism as was alleged, but he failed to find a seconder.75 On 1 Apr. he opposed the Remonstrance against the king’s accusation of unparliamentary conduct, declaring ‘liberty [is] better preserved by using it than by disputing it’, so ‘better now to go to the preservation of the kingdom than of our liberties’.76 He reiterated his opinion that common fame was insufficient grounds for impeachment, and managed to prove on 3 Apr. that Eliot’s example of Parliament securing the dismissal of an officer of state had no bearing on the current case.77 Although the Commons initially refused Malet’s request to discuss the general question of common fame on 19 Apr., it became clear that it was crucial to the case against Buckingham, and a debate was arranged for 22 Apr. when, in a major opening speech, Malet explained the problem, that ‘an accusation grounded upon common fame or report ... will drive the defendant to a double defence to answer to the fame and to the charge, and this may inveigle the court in their judgment’. He cited precedent and current practice to support his position, maintaining that the Commons had a right to investigate but not to judge. ‘I do not like the resemblance of our proceeding to a grand jury of the kingdom. I like the resemblance of this House’s proceedings to the common laws in an action of account where are two judgments’. He feared that if Parliament accepted accusations grounded upon common fame other courts would follow suit, and reminded the Commons that they had tacitly accepted the Lords’ ruling on Bishop Neile’s case.78 However, the House remained determined to proceed, and thereafter his only interventions were to condemn the salt patent of John More II* on 5 May, informing the House that John Packer*, one of the projectors, consented to its abolition;79 and to note on 25 May that the imposition on currants, cited as a grievance, had been upheld by the courts in Bate’s case 20 years earlier.80 His appointments included committees for a bill to bring recusants to conformity (8 May) and to draft an alnage bill (25 May).81

Malet’s defence of Buckingham was rewarded by his appointment as solicitor-general to Queen Henrietta Maria.82 In 1628 Conway again nominated him, as his ‘cousin’, for Newtown, but the islanders expressed their resentment of both the Forced Loan and the billeting of soldiers by rejecting the captain’s candidates, and Malet was defeated by Robert Barrington.83 During the 1630s he continued to build up his legal career, and was promoted to the serjeantcy in 1635 with the help of Mandeville, now 1st earl of Manchester. As a follower of the 1st earl of Bristol (Sir John Digby*) Malet was raised to the bench in 1641, and imprisoned in the Tower for over two years for promoting the moderate Kentish petition of 1642.84 On his release he went to Oxford, and eventually compounded as a royalist delinquent at £871. His losses were mitigated by his inheritance of West Quantoxhead from a cousin and his uncle Michael’s Somerset estates.85 He was restored to the bench at the Restoration, though manifestly superannuated, and granted a pension of £1,000 p.a. on his retirement three years later.86 Having drawn up his will on 26 May 1664 he died on 19 Dec. of the following year, aged 83, and was buried at Poyntington.87 A portrait of Malet in his judicial robes is held by the National Portrait Gallery. His sons, John and Michael, both strong Whigs, sat for Somerset constituencies after the Restoration.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. A. Malet, Malet Fam. 58-59, 60; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 391, 501, 504.
  • 2. M. Temple Admiss.; MTR, 469.
  • 3. St. Matthew Friday St. (Harl. Soc. Reg. lxiii), 51.
  • 4. Collinson, Som. i. 93.
  • 5. C142/341/70.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 209.
  • 7. PROB 11/215, f. 389v.
  • 8. Collinson, Som. ii. 377.
  • 9. Acts of Dean and Chapter of Westminster 1609-42 ed. C.S. Kingston (Westminster Abbey Recs. ser. v), 69, 70-1, 118.
  • 10. C181/3, f. 213v; 181/4, f. 191; 181/7, pp. 26, 148.
  • 11. C231/5, p. 140; Q. Sess. Recs. ed. E.H. Bates (Som. Rec. Soc. xxviii), p. xx; HMC Westmorland, 507.
  • 12. C181/4, ff. 185, 194; 181/5, ff. 6, 221, 222; 181/7, pp. 1, 3, 10, 119, 130, 173.
  • 13. MTR, 701, 703, 810-11.
  • 14. Stowe 142, f. 35.
  • 15. Order of Sjts.-at-Law ed. J.H. Baker (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. v), 525.
  • 16. Ibid. 525.
  • 17. C181/5, ff. 199, 217v; 181/7, p. 6.
  • 18. Malet, 49, 56-58.
  • 19. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 124.
  • 20. Ibid. 135.
  • 21. Ibid. 149, 157.
  • 22. Ibid. 177, 181.
  • 23. Ibid. 195, 197.
  • 24. Ibid. 334.
  • 25. Ibid. 245.
  • 26. Ibid. 268, 275, 296, 302.
  • 27. Ibid. 320, 325.
  • 28. Ibid. 381, 385.
  • 29. Ibid. 402.
  • 30. Ibid. 439.
  • 31. CD 1621, ii. 26; iv. 36, v. 5.
  • 32. Ibid. ii. 70.
  • 33. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 42; CD 1621, iv. 69, v. 511; CJ, i. 526a.
  • 34. CJ, i. 548a; CD 1621, ii. 142.
  • 35. CD 1621, v. 65; CJ, i. 568b, 571a.
  • 36. CJ, i. 534a.
  • 37. Ibid. 538a, 544a.
  • 38. CD 1621, ii. 176, iv. 126.
  • 39. Ibid. ii. 223; CJ, i. 556a.
  • 40. CD 1621, ii. 255.
  • 41. Nicholas, i. 218; CJ, i. 567a; CSP Dom. 1623-5, pp. 338, 357.
  • 42. CD 1621, iii. 15, 29, v. 339.
  • 43. Ibid. ii. 310, v. 345; Nicholas, i. 297.
  • 44. CD 1621, ii. 323.
  • 45. CJ, i. 582b.
  • 46. CD 1621, ii. 309; Nicholas, i. 291.
  • 47. CD 1621, iii. 97, v. 103.
  • 48. Nicholas, i. 334.
  • 49. CD 1621, v. 352; CJ, i. 594b.
  • 50. Nicholas, i. 359.
  • 51. CD 1621, iii. 126, 129; vi. 135; Nicholas, ii. 20; CJ, i. 599b, 608a.
  • 52. CJ, i. 602b.
  • 53. CD 1621, iii. 194, 225.
  • 54. Nicholas, ii. 55; CJ, i. 618a.
  • 55. CD 1621, v. 166; Nicholas, ii. 73.
  • 56. CD 1621, iii. 372; Nicholas, ii. 149; CJ, i. 633b.
  • 57. CD 1621, iii. 440; Nicholas, ii. 202; CJ, i. 644a.
  • 58. CD 1621, ii. 451; iii. 457; CJ, i. 647a.
  • 59. CJ, i. 652b.
  • 60. CD 1621, ii. 508; Nicholas, ii. 301; CJ, i. 661b.
  • 61. CD 1621, ii. 516; vi. 231.
  • 62. CD 1621, ii. 538; vi. 337, 341.
  • 63. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 608; Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 167; Malet, 47.
  • 64. T.P.S. Woods, Prelude to Civil War 1642: Mr. Justice Malet and the Kentish Petitions, 22-23.
  • 65. GL, ms 5174/3, f. 354; CJ, i. 715b, 786b, 790a.
  • 66. SP16/523/14.
  • 67. Woods, 6; Procs. 1625, p. 211.
  • 68. Procs. 1625, p. 216.
  • 69. Ibid. 430, 432-3, 553, 712.
  • 70. Woods, 164; MTR, 701, 703.
  • 71. Procs. 1626, ii. 33 34, 36, 39, 40, 81, 82; iii. 107, 110.
  • 72. Ibid. iii. 29, 31.
  • 73. Ibid. ii. 36.
  • 74. Ibid. 342, 344.
  • 75. Ibid. 359.
  • 76. Ibid. 418, 420.
  • 77. Ibid. 423.
  • 78. Ibid. iii. 25, 45, 48, 162; C.C.G. Tite, Impeachment and Parl. Judicature, 190-1.
  • 79. Procs. 1626, iii. 170, 174, 331.
  • 80. Ibid. 333, 335.
  • 81. Ibid. 190, 330.
  • 82. Stowe 142, f. 35.
  • 83. Procs. 1628, vi. 157.
  • 84. CSP Dom. 1641-3, pp. 367-8; LJ, vi. 23a, 709a; vii. 49a.
  • 85. CCC, 1511-2; CCAM, 347; VCH Som. v. 22, 131.
  • 86. CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 363; CTB, 1660-7, p. 533.
  • 87. PROB 11/319, f. 221.