Adam Moleyns, Bishop and administrator

MOLYNEUX, MOLEYNS, or MOLINS, ADAM de (d. 1450), bishop of Chichester, and keeper of the privy seal, was second son of Sir Richard Molyneux of Sefton, Lancashire, by his wife Ellen, daughter of Sir T. Ursewick, and brother of Sir Richard Molyneux (d. 1439), whose son, Sir Richard (d. 1459), is separately noticed. The family traced its descent from William de Molines,one of the Norman invaders, whose name is derived from a town in the Bourbonnais, and stands eighteenth on the Battle Abbey Roll. William de Molines obtained from Roger of Poitiers the grant of Sefton, where the family have since been seated, its present representative being William Philip, fourth earl of Sefton. Adam’s grandfather, William Molyneux, was made a knight-banneret after the battle of Navarret, in 1367, by the Black Prince, with whom he served in the French and Spanish wars. From 1436 to 1441 Adam was clerk of the council to Henry VI (Proceedings of the Privy Council, v. Pref. viii). Immediately before the election of Albert II as king of the Romans in 1438 he was ordered to go with a knight of Rhodes to Aix-la-Ohapelle and Cologne to congratulate the new ‘ emperor ‘ (ib. pp. 89, 91). In 1440 he was made archdeacon of Taunton (Le Neve, Fasti, i. 167), a prebendary of St. Paul’s, London (ib. ii. 448), and archdeacon of Salisbury (ib. p. 624). He successfully petitioned the king in 1441 to confer on him the living of Cottingham, Yorkshire, and being then dean of St. Buryan’s College, Cornwall, was elected dean of Salisbury (ib. p. 616). In that year he was sent on the king’s business to Frankfort, whence he proceeded to Rome with letters from Henry to Pope Eugenius IV, requesting the canonisation of Osmund, bishop of Sarum, and King Alfred. In October he exhibited articles before the commissioners for the trial of Eleanor Cobham, duchess of Gloucester [see under Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester], for sorcery (English Chronicle, p. 59). By the spring of 1442 he had resigned his place as clerk, and become a member of the privy council (Proceedings, v. 157, 173). He attached himself to the Beaufort party, and to the leadership of William de la Pole (1397-1450) [q. v.], earl, and afterwards duke of Suffolk, and was in February 1443 sent to John Beaufort (d. 1444), earl, and in that year duke, of Somerset [q. v.], to whom he would be an acceptable messenger, with a flattering message from the king with reference to the earl’s new command as captain-general of Guienne, and to inquire specially as to his intentions with respect to the war (ib. p. 226 postea). He received a present of a hundred marks from the king for his services, and was commissioned to treat with envoys from Holland and Zealand concerning the complaints of their merchants (ib. p. 307). On 11 Feb. 1444 Moleyns was appointed keeper of the privy seal, in succession to Thomas Beckington [q. v.], bishop of Bath and Wells, and on the same day was commissioned with Suffolk and Sir Robert Roos as ambassador to conclude a peace or a truce with France (Fœdera, xi. 53, 58, 60). In May the ambassadors succeeded in arranging a truce, and obtained the betrothal of Margaret of Anjou [q. v.] to King Henry (ib. pp. 61, 74). Moleyns was prominent at the reception of, and in the negotiations with, the French ambassadors who came to London in July 1445, when the truce was prolonged (Stevenson, French Wars, i. 101 sq.) He was rewarded with the see of Chichester, to which he was, after papal provision, consecrated on 6 Feb. 1446 (Le Neve, Fasti, i. 247). He received a grant of exemption of all the coast within his lands from the jurisdiction of the court of admiralty (Stephens), and he held the living of Harrietsham, Kent, in commendam. As Henry had not fulfilled his engagement to surrender Le Mans, Moleyns was sent to Charles VII of France to request an extension of time (Fœdera, xi. 138 ; Proceedings of the Privy Council, vi. 51).

As keeper of the privy seal Moleyns must in 1447 have sealed the warrant for the arrest of Suffolk’s great rival, the Duke of Gloucester, who died a few days afterwards (Stubbs, Constitutional History, iii. 137, where it is remarked that there is nothing in the history of Moleyns to give probability to a charge of connivance at the murder of the duke). He received a patent from the king for the exportation of wool, which Henry bought back from him for 1,OOOZ. (Ramsay, Lancaster and York, ii. 79), and also had license to ‘impark’ twelve thousand acres, and to fortify twelve manor-houses (Stephens). Le Mans being threatened by the French, Moleyns and Roos were commissioned in January 1448 to negotiate for peace or a truce, and went to France to do the best they could for the town and its garrison (Ramsay, ii. 84 ; Fœdera, xi. 196, 216). They obtained an extension of the truce, and made terms for the surrender of the town. Other difficulties having arisen between England and France, Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset (d. 1455) [q. v.], then lieutenant of France, requested Charles VII to lay the matters before Moleyns and Roos, as more acquainted than he was with the arrangements between the two courts. By the time that his letter arrived the English ambassadors had left the French court and gone into Brittany, where the duke had cause of complaint against the English (Ramsay, ii. 85, 86). Early in 1449 Moleyns was engaged in negotiations with the Scots. The surrender of Maine and Anjou and the failure of Suffolk’s policy caused general dissatisfaction in England, which was increased by the loss of a great part of Normandy. Moleyns was regarded as, next to Suffolk, responsible for the surrender of Maine, and was accordingly the object of popular hatred. On 9 Dec. he resigned the privy seal, and received the king’s permission to travel on either side of the Channel (Fœdera, xi. 255). He went down to Portsmouth, where a force was gathered for the relief of Normandy, to pay the men their wages, and lodged in the hospital called God’s House. The men were out of control, and were committing all manner of excesses. A dispute arose about the payment of the sailors. Moleyns was accused of docking their wages, and is said to have spoken haughtily. The sailors cried out that he was a traitor, and had sold Normandy to the French, fell upon him, and ill-used him so severely that he died on 9 Jan. 1450. When attacked he is reported to have said something that was held to seriously reflect on Suffolk, who when on his trial laid the blame of the actual delivery of Le Mans on the murdered bishop (Ramsay, ii. 118 ; Rolls of Parl. v. 176, 180).

Some declared that Moleyns owed his death to his covetousness, others ascribed it, though without ground, to the procurement of the Duke of York (Gregory, p. 189; Stow, Annals, p. 387), and Æneas Sylvius believed that his head was cut off (Æneas Sylvius, Opp. p. 443). He bequeathed some handsome church, ornaments to his cathedral (Stephens). Moleyns seems to have been a capable and diligent politician of the second rank, a useful agent for carrying out the designs of greater men. The charge that he in any way betrayed the interests of England is untrue. Suffolk’s policy, of which after his elevation he was doubtless something more than the agent, proved unsuccessful, and its failure excited popular indignation against him. This indignation is recorded in a contemporary poem (Political Songs, ii. 234, where the editor wrongly attributes the reference to Robert, lord Molines, and Hungerford [q. v.] ; cf. Sir F. Madden in Archæologia} vol. xxix.) He was greedy of gain, though probably to no greater degree than most other politicians of his time. He evidently had a share in the revival of letters, and was a man of learning and culture ; for he was a friend of ‘Vincent Clement’ (Beckington, Correspondence, ii. 115), and corresponded with and was esteemed by Æneas Sylvius, who commended his literary style (Æneas Sylvius, Epp. 80, 186 : De Europa, p. 443). An epitaph written for him commemorates his prudence in affairs and his desire for peace (Chronicon Henrici VI, p. 38).

[Proc. of Privy Council, vols. v. vi. passim, ed. Nicolas ; Rymer’s Fcedera, xi. 53, 58, 60, 61, 74, 138, 160, 196, 216, 255, ed. 1710; Rolls of Parliament, v. 176, 180; Le Neve’s Fasti, i. 167, 247, ii. 448, 616, 624, ed. Hardy; Stevenson’s Wars in France, with W. Worcester, i. 101-21, 204, 207, ii. 583, 717, 764, 766, 771 (Rolls Ser.); Engl. Chron. ed. Davies, pp. 59, 61, 64 (Camden Soc.) ; Chron. Hen. VI, pp. 37, 38, ed. Giles ; Three Fifteenth-Cent, Chrons. pp. 64, 101, 151 (Camden Soc.); Collections of London Citizen (Gregory), pp. 187, 189 (Camden Soc.); Beckington’s Correspondence, i. 115, 117, 119 (Rolls Ser.) ; Stow’s Annals, p. 387 ; Polit. Poems, ii. 234 (Rolls Ser.) ; Archseologia, vol. xxix. ; Æneas Sylvius (Pius II), Opp. pp. 443, 563, 755, d. 1571 ; Stephens’s South Saxon See, pp. 149, 150; Ramsay’s Lane, and York, ii. 59, 79, 84-6, 118; Stubbs’s Const. Hist. iii. 137, 143, 146; Gisborne Molineux’s Memoir of the Molineux Family. For the pedigree cf. authorities under Molyneux, Sir Richard (d. 1459).]

Leave a Reply