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

Background Information

Number of voters:

several hundred


29 Jan. 1624JOHN MOSTYN

Main Article

A low-lying, though comparatively sparsely populated island off the north coast of Wales, Anglesey was commended by the Beaumaris-born merchant Lewes Roberts as ‘having plenty of all food and other provision necessary to preserve the life of man, out of which is yearly sent 3,000 head of cattle to supply the wants of other countries adjoining, together with a good quantity of corn, butter, cheese’.1 From the government’s viewpoint, the island’s strategic significance considerably outweighed its economic importance: it had been the base for Edward I’s conquest of Gwynedd,2 and in 1625 the bishop of Bangor suspected that plans for an invasion from Ireland were being abetted by the local Catholics. These fears were taken seriously by the Privy Council, which exempted the island from contributing to the levies for the Irish army, and arranged for the trained bands of north Wales to be mustered there in the event of an invasion scare.3

The parliamentary representation of the island’s county and borough seats was dominated by the Bulkeley family of Baron Hill from the time of the 1543 Act of Union. Sir Richard Bulkeley, an Elizabethan courtier and the greatest landowner on the island, obtained the return of relatives and friends at every election from 1584. It is just possible that Richard Williams, the only Member returned under the early Stuarts who lacked a London address, was paid expenses by his constituents, which would explain why his successor, John Mostyn, was urged to attend the next assize following his return to ‘give the gentlemen of that country thanks … and remit the mise’.4 The islanders did not initiate any legislation during the period, but on 7 May 1604 Sir Richard Bulkeley was among those named to give evidence regarding local abuses of purveyance, and in 1606 he was probably the sponsor of a proviso which exempted Anglesey from a bill which would have entailed the destruction of most of the county’s watermills.5

In 1604 Bulkeley sought election for the first time since 1563, probably in order to demonstrate his loyalty to the new monarch. He was re-elected in 1614, and although nearly 80 years old he was presumably intending to stand again in 1621. However, he was taken seriously ill a few days before the election, and a substitute was hastily provided in the person of Richard Williams, a minor landowner married to one of his nieces.6 After Bulkeley’s death on 28 June 1621, three factions among his descendants began fighting for their share of the spoils, and in 1622 the family’s Anglesey estates were sequestrated by order of the Court of Wards until a permanent settlement could be arranged.7 Bulkeley’s grandson and designated heir, another Richard Bulkeley, then well under age, did not stand for election during the inheritance dispute, although he re-established the family’s hold on the county seat in 1626, when only 19 years old.8

With the Bulkeley interest temporarily in abeyance, other contenders quickly emerged in 1624: Rowland Whyte of Friars apparently began canvassing by New Year’s Day, and Sir Sackville Trevor was also said to be considering his chances.9 Arrangements proceeded at a leisurely pace, probably because the islanders had become accustomed to seeking a lead from Baron Hill. Thus John Mostyn, who had been denied a seat in Flintshire by the gentry’s early agreement on candidates for both shire and borough seats, was able to begin canvassing for the Anglesey seat before a local candidate had been agreed upon. Sir Roger Mostyn*, resolving to ‘rest wholly upon my cousin Richard Bulkeley’s power’ wrote to Baron Hill on his son’s behalf, though he emphasized that ‘if it may not be had without any contesting with any country gentleman, I hold it not worth the having’. While this recommendation was at best lukewarm, the bearer of this letter, Sir Roger’s brother-in-law Owen Wynn, had grandiose plans to ‘carry the day wholly in North Wales’. Wynn, as one of the administrators of Bulkeley’s sequestrated estates,10 encountered no problems in securing the latter’s support for Mostyn, and it was Bulkeley who suggested canvassing the gentry at the funeral of David Owen Theodor of Penmynydd.11 Though those canvassed expressed concern, ‘lest Sir Sackville Trevor being now above forth should move for it, who dwelling in the country, and one of them, must be preferred before a stranger’, Wynn secured the support of the previous Member, Richard Williams. He also recruited Bulkeley’s uncle Sir Thomas Holland†, who advised that Wynn’s brother-in-law Sir John Bodvel could campaign at the Epiphany sessions, and that a letter of nomination from Sir James Whitelocke*, chief justice of the Chester circuit and father-in-law of Mostyn’s elder brother, ‘would strike it dead’. Meanwhile, Robert Whyte, archdeacon of Anglesey, also present at the funeral, detected the groundswell of support for Mostyn, and persuaded his brother to step down.12

Though Mostyn was almost certainly returned for Anglesey unopposed, his local standing was diminished by his father’s refusal to let him attend the summer assizes at Beaumaris to thank the gentry for his election and waive any claim to parliamentary wages, on the dubious grounds ‘that they chose him when they had none other to supply the place’.13 Intending to seek re-election in 1625, Mostyn secured the backing of his patron Lord Keeper Williams, who wrote letters of recommendation to some of the gentry. Among his erstwhile opponents, Rowland Whyte, although ‘somewhat offended … that Jack Mostyn should gain the knightship of the Parliament from him’, did not put his name forward, but Sir Sackville Trevor was ‘resolved to stand for it against all men’, and quickly secured the written support of the local justices.14 While Trevor had learned from his previous mistakes, Mostyn’s campaign undoubtedly suffered from the absence of Owen Wynn, who was in London on legal business. In Wynn’s stead, Sir Roger Mostyn, realizing that his son’s only chance lay in weaning a faction among the gentry from their undertaking to Trevor, made an ill-advised attempt to lobby the bishop of Bangor, who, being married to Trevor’s step-daughter, did his best to persuade the Mostyns that they stood no chance of victory.15 It is unlikely that Mostyn allowed his son to stand in the face of almost certain defeat.

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. L. Roberts, The Merchants Mappe of Commerce (1638/9), pp. 219-20; Welsh Port Books, 1550-1603 (Cymmrodorion Soc. rec. ser. xii), pp. xix-xxxviii; Agrarian. Hist. Eng. and Wales ed. H.P.R. Finberg, iv. 129-30.
  • 2. R.R. Davies, Age of Conquest, 334, 351-2.
  • 3. SP16/11/37; APC, 1580-1, pp. 140, 364; 1595-6, p. 449; 1597-8, p. 223; 1626, pp. 89, 100.
  • 4. NLW, 9059E/1242.
  • 5. CJ, i. 202a; SR, iv. 1126.
  • 6. STAC 8/76/3, ff. 4, 5; J.E. Griffith Peds. Anglesey and Caern. Fams. 114.
  • 7. NLW, 9058E/1050.
  • 8. NLW, Carreglwyd III/10.
  • 9. NLW, 9059E/1172; 9060E/1276.
  • 10. NLW, 9058E/1050; 9059E/1172 (should be dated 2 Jan. 1623/4), 1186.
  • 11. Owen’s distant kinship with the royal Tudor line gave him a social significance which outweighed his economic standing. We owe this point to Prof. Antony Carr.
  • 12. NLW, 9059E/1172; 9060E/1276.
  • 13. NLW, 9059E/1242; 9060E/1276.
  • 14. Procs. 1625, p. 684; NLW, 9059E/1198; 9060E/1324.
  • 15. NLW, 9060E/1294, 1324, 1335; DWB (Lewis Bayly).