MALET (MALLET), Michael (c.1632-aft.1683), of Poyntington, Som. and the Middle Temple.
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Family and Education
b. c.1632, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Sir Thomas Malet†, and bro. of John Malet. educ. M. Temple 1650, called 1655. m. by 1664, Mary, da. of Thomas White of Fyfield Berks., wid. of John Aldworth of Letcombe Regis, Berks., at least 3s.1
J.p. Som. July 1660-70; commr. for assessment, Som. 1661-9, Berks. 1664-7, Westminster 1677-9; bencher, M. Temple 1675.
Commr. for maimed soldiers Dec. 1660-1.2
Malet, a lawyer, became a member of the Rota Club in 1659, despite the royalist traditions of his family. His father held property at Poyntington, adjacent to Milborne Port, for which he was elected in 1660, together with his fellow Templar William Milborne. He was marked by Lord Wharton as a friend. A moderately active Member, he was appointed to 24 committees in the Convention. He was named to the committee on the indemnity bill, from which he desired to exclude former members of the High Court of Justice, and he also spoke on a proviso for Sir John Stawell. When a petition from the intruded dons at Oxford was received, Malet urged the House not to question the actions of the Marquess of Hertford as a chancellor of the university, and he was named to the committee to repeal the Act limiting the entail on Lord Hertford’s lands. He was also appointed to the committees for settling ecclesiastical livings and for reparations to his neighbour, the Earl of Bristol. After Milborne died in July, Malet complained that his dead colleague’s uncle Henry (a Roman Catholic) was delaying the execution of the writ for the by-election. On 17 Dec. he was named one of the commissioners for maimed soldiers, and on the same day was appointed to the small committee ordered to bring in ‘a short bill’ to provide for the care of soldiers wounded in the Civil Wars out of local funds.3
There was a double return for Milborne Port in 1661, but Malet’s name was on both indentures and he took his seat at once. Wharton again listed him as a friend. An active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was probably appointed to 196 committees, taking the chair in 13 of them, acted as teller in nine divisions, and made 56 recorded speeches. In the first session he was appointed to the committee for the uniformity bill and took the chair for Lord Abergavenny’s estate bill. On 13 May 1662 he was ordered to hand over to the archbishop of Canterbury all the ecclesiastical records that had come into his hands from the Commonwealth triers and ejectors. In 1663 he chaired an inquiry into a commission for discovering land reclaimed from the sea in Sussex, and on his report his committee was instructed to draw up the impeachment of those responsible for the miscarriages. He was listed as a court dependant in 1664, but he appears to have been absent from the House for the next three sessions, and he was not mentioned in his father’s will. He marked his return by acting as teller against the second reading of the bill to regulate hospitals and schools, but he was named to the committee nevertheless. His hostility to the high church was demonstrated by his opposition to the usual holiday on St. Luke’s day and to the adjournment on 7 Dec. 1666 to give Members time to prepare for receiving the sacrament. He was added to the inquiry into the indigent officers fund, from which he presented two reports on defaulting receivers. He again took the chair for an Abergavenny estate bill, which he carried to the Lords on 7 Feb. 1667. On the same day he reported a leasehold reform bill, and acted as teller for the third reading. He played no known part in the attack on Clarendon. On 24 Apr. 1668 he acted as teller against a proviso for distraining on offenders against the Conventicles Act. He took the chair of the committee for reforming the collection of hearth-tax, seeking further instructions from the House on 11 Nov. 1669. About this time he was listed by Sir Thomas Osborne among the independent Members who usually voted for supply; but he was removed from the commission of the peace in 1670, presumably as an opponent of the Conventicles Act.4
When Parliament met again in 1673 Malet soon revealed himself as perhaps the most recklessly outspoken enemy of the Court. In the debate on the test bill he ‘extravagantly’ interrupted Edmund Waller I to point out that the Duke of York was a mere subject, and could not claim the protection of an international agreement for his servants, unlike the Queen. When William, Lord Cavendish and the Hon. William Russell cautiously attacked the King’s ‘evil counsellors’, Malet boldly named Thomas Clifford, asserting (amid laughter) that common fame was infallible, and truthfully describing the lord treasuer as ‘a known enemy of the Protestant religion’ who had reviled the test bill in the House of Lords. His Protestant zeal outweighed any doubts of his mental stability, and on 21 Jan. 1674 he was named to his first important committee since 1661, when he was among those Members ordered to bring in a general test bill to distinguish Protestants from Papists. Sir Charles Harbord called him to order for reading a long speech, but (Sir) Thomas Lee I replied that ‘if his memory be not so good as others, he may be indulged’, and William Garway kindly observed: ‘it may be Mr Malet cannot contract his notions as other men do’. He acted as teller on 20 Feb. for giving additional instructions to the committee of inquiry into the condition of Ireland. Aware, perhaps, of increasing doubts over his own sanity, he wittily declared on 15 May 1675 that it must be ‘full moon with Lord Mohun’, the rakish young peer who had flouted the Speaker’s warrant in the dispute over the jurisdiction of the House of Lords. The appreciative Commons promptly named the punster to the committees for appropriating the customs to the use of the navy and hindering Papists from sitting in Parliament. In the autumn he was among those entrusted with bringing in a bill against the suspending power. When Samuel Pepys announced the naval programme on 22 Oct.,
Michael Malet, who, to make good the M’s in his name, is many times mightily mad, without a metaphor or a trope, said he knew no need we had of ships in time of peace, unless it were to carry away the Italian women again, meaning the duchess [of York]. At which extravagancy the House showed a most just indignation, and took him down; notwithstanding which he got up again, thinking perhaps to make amends, and said he was for money, but was for being rid of ministers and the women in the first place.
It was perhaps unfortunate for Malet’s mental balance that he still had access to Whitehall, where he could scarcely fail to observe the King toying with his Popish concubines; henceforth his religious and sexual obsessions stimulated each other. He was still capable of rational speech and smart repartee, when he asserted the sovereignty of the legislative power or the existence of precedents for tacking; but the assault on the Protestant convert de Luzancy by a French Jesuit stimulated his incipient paranoia. ‘He saw strange faces about the town’, and on 15 Nov. he was guilty of an even greater ‘extravagancy’, when he sought to bring in a bill to legalize bigamy, no doubt to enable the King to beget a legitimate heir, though he ‘pretended it was for peopling the nation and preventing the promiscuous use of women’. Balked in this well-meant measure by Waller, who called it ‘abominable’, and others, he turned his attention to the heir-presumptive. On 1 Dec. he
came to the Queen’s drawing room to show he can be as mad elsewhere as in the Parliament House, and there bawled out aloud to his royal highness, quite across the circle when the room was full, ‘Monsieur le Duc, il faut laisser l’idolatrie, il faut faire Dieu votre ami; il vous servira mieux que le roi de France, ce que je maintiendrai’; which he was so pleased with that he said it over twice; and afterwards, being persuaded out of the Queen’s presence, uttered twenty other follies in the privy chamber. Notwithstanding all which he was neither sent to Bedlam as a madman nor to the porter’s lodge to be treated like a saucy impertinent fool or knave. God send we have no real reasons to regret this excess of clemency and mildness.5
When Parliament was reconvened in 1677 Daniel Finch could assume that his father, even on the Olympian heights of the woolsack, would be acquainted with Malet’s ‘fame’. He was appointed to the committees for the bills to prevent illegal exactions and to recall British subjects from the French service, a matter which deeply concerned him, since he believed that ‘the French sword is guided by Antichrist’. All intercourse with France, he thought, was harmful, for ‘they fetch away our horses and our men, and we have nothing from them but wine and women’. He strongly opposed, both in debate and division, the Lords’ bill to entrust to the bishops responsibility for educating the children of the royal family as Protestants, complaining that ‘it sets up nine mitres above the crown’. He took the chair for the bill to abolish the punishment of burning for heresy. On 14 Apr. he was teller for agreeing to a Lords’ amendment on a supply bill. In the debate on alliances of 23 May he declared: ‘I wish the King would put away our strange women, for as long as they are here I cannot expect a blessing upon anything’. He regretted the committal of ‘such wise and understanding lords’ to the Tower for asserting that Parliament had been automatically dissolved by the long prorogation. Shaftesbury naturally marked him ‘thrice worthy’, and chose him as counsel to make his formal application for habeas corpus after the adjournment. In February 1678 he repeatedly urged caution in granting supply until the King’s foreign policy was made clear, and condemned the ‘ambiguous’ debates:
If the war be to suppress the power of France, Popery, and idolatry, I would give such a sum as was never named in this House before. But that not being named, I advise moderate things for the present.
Waller condemned him for sowing mistrust of the King. He was concerned that commissions in the newly raised forces were to be given to the ‘popishly affected’, and he was the first Member to seize on the more substantial point that they were being used to reward and strengthen the court party in the Commons. ‘You have countenanced an army within doors’, he said. ‘Why do they not go to their charges?’ If the militia were kept up and exercised, and a good fleet maintained, ‘we need neither fear the French abroad or French counsellors at home’. He helped to draw up reasons for a conference on the danger from Popery, and when it became clear that peace was inevitable, he found it sad news, going on to demand total disarmament, though he hastily modified this to exclude the militia and the forces raised before the resolution of 3 Nov. 1673, which he falsely stated declared them ‘a grievance and terror to the nation’. For an attack on the universally respected Henry Coventry he was rebuked by no less an opposition stalwart than John Birch. Nevertheless he was again appointed to consider a bill to hinder Papists from sitting in Parliament, and on 18 June he opened the debate on the speech from the throne:
Here are gracious expressions in his Majesty’s speech, and if it fall out in the event as well as in the expression, it will be very well. I see we have peace, etc., and in some measure from counsels here. ... We may give good thanks for the gracious expressions in his Majesty’s speech.
This unexpected motion was gratefully taken up by (Sir) Joseph Williamson, which prompted Cavendish to suggest in ridicule that proposer and seconder should carry the address together. Despite Malet’s increasing unpredictability he was voted into the chair for a short Lords’ bill to secure creditors against the fraudulent disposal of assets by executors and administrators.6
The end of the session in July 1678 proved to be the effective end of Malet’s political career. He had an interest in Berkshire through his wife, and at the by-election for that county in August he vigorously campaigned against the court candidate, Lord Stirling. It was reported that ‘poor, maggot-headed Mr Malet uttered some words ... which are said to reflect very greatly upon his Majesty’s honour, in so much that he was taken into custody’. Actually ‘the mad, extravagant words’ were that the King was as much a rogue as Lord Stirling, ‘which confirms the idea that he is mad’. His apologies were not accepted, and he was sent to the Tower. This incident occurred while the House of Commons was in recess, and in the opinion of the lord chancellor Malet could not claim parliamentary privilege. Sir William Jones was more cautious, advising the King to inform the House before committing the offender. Nevertheless he was lodged in the Tower, and when he was produced before the House on the first day of the next session they agreed to remit him to the law; but he was never brought to trial. Frustration at his confinement during the excitement of the Popish Plot probably finally overturned his reason. On 13 Dec. he was released on parole on grounds of ill health. He seems to have been alive in 1683 when he was mentioned as a petitioner in the records of the Middle Temple, but nothing further is known of him or his family.7
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: Irene Cassidy / Basil Duke Henning
- 1. A. Malet, Malet Fam. 59; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 306-7.
- 2. CJ, viii. 213.
- 3. Aubrey, Brief Lives, i. 290; Bowman diary, ff. 4v, 24v, 60v, 135.
- 4. CJ, viii. 252, 301, 507, 626, 637, 659, 668, 689, 690; ix. 87; Milward, 80.
- 5. Grey, ii. 143, 153-4, 227; iii. 149, 285, 348, 542; iv. 5, 9-10, 384; Dering, 149; Bulstrode Pprs. 318, 325.
- 6. Finch diary; Grey, iii. 336; iv. 194, 286, 320, 367; v. 98-99, 149, 154, 165, 232; vi. 29, 71, 95; CJ, ix. 407, 510; Eg. 3345, f. 63; Savile Corresp. (Cam. Soc. lxxi), 62; CSP Dom. 1677-8, pp. 361, 687; HMC Ormonde, n.s. iv. 435.
- 7. HMC Ormonde, n.s. iv. 448; Bodl. Carte 103, f. 225; HMC 13th Rep. VI, 9, 10; CSP Dom. 1678, pp. 377, 380, 570-1; Add. 32095, f. 118; CJ, ix. 517; Grey, vi. 116, 124; M. Temple Recs. 1358.