In Appendix A of Volume II.
SIR REYNOLD DE MOHUN, a younger son of Sir John de Mohun of Dunster, the third of that name, by Ada Tibetot his wife, seems to have been born at the end of the thirteenth century or the beginning of the fourteenth. The earliest notice of him is in 1323, when he received royal pardon for his share in the rebellion of the Earl of Lancaster and Roger Mortimer.2 In the two following years he was in Guienne on the King's service.3 He went abroad again in 1344, in the company of Henry of Lancaster, Earl of Derby.4 From his father he received the manor of Ugborough in Devonshire, but only for the term of his life.5
There is a story of very doubtful origin that Sir Reynold de Mohun, coming into Fowey harbour with soldiers bound for Ireland, let fly a hawk at some game which came down in the garden at Hall, and that he thus first met the daughter of the owner, Elizabeth Fitzwilliam, whom he afterwards made his wife.6 The circumstances connected with their marriage are so singular as to justify an attempt to unravel a very complicated story out of legal and episcopal records of the time.
In the first place it is clear that Elizabeth Fitzwilliam was a considerable heiress, and that Sir John Daunay, a powerful neighbour, had designs upon her property. In July 1333, the Bishop of the diocese directed Master Richard of Wideslade, Treasurer of Exeter, and Master John of Stoke, Canon of Glasney, to proceed with a suit, partly heard, for a divorce between Dame Elizabeth "of Bodenneke" and Sir Reynold de Mohun. The lady so styled was certainly Elizabeth Fitzwilliam, but it is not clear whether she herself took any active part in the business. When her husband obtained a royal writ of supersedeas against Stoke, Wideslade was ordered to proceed alone if necessary. In the following January, however, a fresh commission was issued to Henry Bloyou, Canon of Exeter, and Bartholomew de Castro, rector of St. lves. The former, it may be observed, had recently been rector of Cornwood, a living in the gift of Sir John Daunay. Under his influence perhaps, these two churchmen pronounced a decree of divorce, on the canonical ground that the lady had been previously contracted to Thomas de Mohun, a brother of Reynold.7 From them the husband appealed to the court of the Archbishop of Canterbury, whence a further appeal was carried to the Roman Court. The Bishop of Bath and Wells and the Abbot of Glastonbury, being appointed the papal delegates in the case, referred it to the Abbots of Buckland and Tavistock, who eventually re-affirmed the original decree of divorce.
At this stage of the proceedings, the lady seems to have fallen into the power of Sir John Daunay, who is stated to have 'eloigned' her from Mohun. He seems furthermore to have got her married to a certain Henry Deneys. According to Daunay, Mohun quit-claimed to him all his right in Arworthal and several other Cornish manors, in February 1336, and Elizabeth "daughter of Sir John Fitzwilliam" did the like seven months later. His statements as to this were, however, flatly contradicted. There is clear evidence that, in May 1337, a fine was levied in the King's court, by which Bodennek and another manor were settled on Henry Deneys and Elizabeth his wife, for the term of her life only, with remainder to Sir John Daunay.
It may be presumed that, after this, Mohun made a successful appeal to the Pope, for, in February 1346, he and Elizabeth his wife, now re-united to him, brought a suit against Daunay, Deneys and others, to recover lands of her inheritance of which they had been deprived. At the trial, Deneys, although living, did not put in an appearance, but the proceedings were stopped by the death of the principal defendant. The Mohuns had therefore to bring a fresh suit against Lady Daunay and others. Eventually they recovered enormous damages from two parsons who had been the accomplices or tools of Sir John Daunay.8 Half a century later, Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon, as grandson and heir of Sir John Daunay, made an attempt to wrest from the Mohun family the property of which the reversion had been settled on him by the fine of 1337.9
Sir Reynold de Mohun was succeeded by a son named JOHN, who is stated by the Heralds to have married Joan St. Aubyn. Legal proceedings of the year 1397 show that he left a widow named Isabel who married Sir Henry Ivelcombe, and a son named Thomas, who was then under age.10
This THOMAS MOHUN was in possession of some of the Fitzwilliam inheritance in 1428.11 In the church of Lanteglos by Fowey there is a low altar-tomb under an obtuse arch, with the effigy in brass of a man in plate-armour and the following inscription: — "Hic jacent Thomas de Mohun ac Johannes pater ejus filius et heres Reginaldi di Mohun militis et Elizabethe uroris sue, filie et heredis Johannis Fitzwilliam militis, qui [quidem Reginadlus fuit] secundus frater Johannis ultimi Domini de Mohun. Et predictus Thomas obiit ... die mensis ... anno Domini millesimo CCCC.... Quoram animabus propicietur Deus. Amen."
The feet of the figures rest upon a lion, beneath which there is the following verse:—
"Pervideant cuncti sic transit gloria mundi".
The brass must have been executed during the lifetime of Thomas Mohun, whose relations did not take the trouble to supply the exact date of his death in the middle of the fifteenth century. With regard to the inscription, it should be observed that Sir Reynold de Mohun was not the brother, but the uncle, of the last Mohun of Dunster, and that, according to the contemporary chronicler at Newenham, he was the fourth son, not the second. Thomas Mohun, the subject of the brass, is stated by the Heralds to have married Elizabeth daughter and heiress of Richard Hayre, whose surname in this form is probably a phonetic rendering of Eyr.12
WILLIAM MOHUN, son and heir of Thomas, is stated by the Heralds to have married Joan Cavell. Some legal proceedings taken by him, in 1442, against the relict and the heir of Nicholas Cavell of Bokelly are not inconsistent with a theory that his wife was a daughter of this Nicholas.13
WILLIAM MOHUN the second, stated to have been son of William and Joan, married Isabel daughter of Sir Hugh Courtenay of Boconnoc, eventually one of the coheiresses of her brother, Edward, Earl of Devon.14 They left issue John and Thomas.
JOHN MOHUN, son of William and Isabel, married Anne daughter of Richard Coode of Morval. They both died of the sweating sickness in September 1508. In the church of Lanteglos there is a brass showing the effigies of John Mohun in armour, but without a helmet, Anne his wife, their five sons and their four daughters. It bears the following inscription:—
Hic jacent tumulata corpora Johannis Mohun armigeri et Anne uroris ejus filie Ricardi Code armigeri et qui quidem Johannes fuit filius et heres Willelmi Mohun armigeri ac Florencie uroris ejus unius sororum Edwardi Courtney Comitis Devonie et qui quidem Johannes et Anna obierunt mense Septembris infra viginti quatuor horas er infirmitate vocata Sudore, anno Domini mdviij, quorum animabus propitietur Deus.15
The brass is not believed to be quite contemporary, and the name of John Mohun's mother is incorrectly given.16 Of the nine children represented the names of six are known:—
REYNOLD MOHUN, fourth son of John and Anne, succeeded his brother John in 1516, being then eight or nine years of age.20 He was one of the esquires of the body to Edward the Sixth. In 1552 and again in 1559 he served the office of Sheriff of Cornwall.21 In 1566, he bought Boconnoc, which became the principal residence of the family.22 He died on the 22nd of April 1567, possessed of considerable property in the two western counties.23 By Joan his wife, daughter of Sir William Trevanian, he had issue four sons and as many daughters:—
WILLIAM MOHUN, son and heir of Reynold, was Sheriff of Cornwall in 1571 and 1577.24 He was knighted in 1583.25 He died on the 6th of April 1588.26 Elizabeth his first wife, daughter and heiress of Sir John Horsey, had borne him two sons and a daughter:-
By a second wife, Anne, daughter of William Reskimer and relict of John Trelawny of Menheniot, Sir William Mohun had issue three sons and two daughters:—
REYNOLD MOHUN, eldest son of Sir William, was more than twenty-three years of age at the time of his father's death. He was knighted on the 25th of March 1599, and created a baronet on the 25th of November 1611, a few months after the institution of that order. In 1614, he was returned to the House of Commons for East Looe and in 1625 for Lostwithiel.27 The communion table in the church at Boconnoc bears an inscription:— "Made by me Sir Raynold Mohun, 1621." Sir Reynold Mohun married firstly, in 1589, Mary daughter of Sir Henry Killigrew. By her he had issue an only son:—
By a second wife, Philippa daughter of Sir John Hele of Wembury, Sir Reynold Mohun had issue:—
By a third wife, Dorothy daughter of John Chudleigh of Ashton, he had issue three sons and four daughters:—
Sir Reynold Mohun died on the 26th of December 1639.32 At Boconnoc there are portraits of him and one of his wives attributed to Cornelius Jannsen.
JOHN MOHUN, the eldest surviving son of Sir Reynold, matriculated at Exeter College in 1605, being then thirteen years of age. He presented a bowl in the following year, and took the degree of B.A. in 1608. Two years later, he was admitted a student of the Middle Temple. In the Parliaments of 1624. and 1625, he sat for Grampound and, through the influence of the Duke of Buckingham, he was appointed Vice-Warden of the Stannaries.
Sir James Bagg, who styled himself that minister's "perpetuall slave," importuned him for months to obtain a peerage for John Mohun. On the 1st of November 1627, he wrote:— "Mohun in a Lordlike way will best be your servant."
On the 17th of March following, he was more explicit:— "Mr. Mohun is soe your servant as in life and fortune...... Inable him by honor to be fitt for you; soe in the Upper House or in the countrey will he be the more advantagious to you. He is honest, and I am pawne for his constancie. He desires to retain the name of Mohun and to be Baron either of Polrode, Launceston, Bodmin, Lostwithiell or Boconnoke."
Again only two days later:— "Let me mynde and pray you to take care of Mohun." On the 23rd he wrote:— "I am not more an enymie to vice then an affectionate servant to vertue, and therfore I am inforst to assure you of the great worth of your servant Mohun."
Once more, on the 8th of April:— "The service that Mohun will doe you will crowne your favour to him; make me gladd as long as he continues an honest man, and give me resolution to cutt his throate when he shall approve other to my Lord the Duke."33
By this time the matter was practically settled, and on the 15th of April 1628, John Mohun was raised to the peerage with the title of Baron Mohun of Okehampton. His motto 'Generis revocamus honores' may allude either to the Mohuns of Dunster or the Courtenays of Okehampton. One curious result of his new creation was that he obtained precedence of his own father, still living and only a baronet. It is interesting to note that Mohun afterwards quarrelled with Bagg, whom he charged with defrauding the King of 20,000l.34
The first Lord Mohun married Cordeliadaughter of Sir John Stanhope and relict of Sir Roger Aston. She was buried at St. Martin's in tlie Fields on the 2nd of October 1639. By her he had issue:—
John, Lord Mohun died on the 28th of March 1641.37 There are portraits of him and his wife at Boconnoc.
WARWICK MOHUN, second Baron of Okehampton, was born on the 25th of May 1620, and was consequently within a few weeks of his majority at the date of his father's death.38 When the quarrel between the King and the Parliament became serious, he withdrew from Westminster to his house in Cornwall.39 After some hesitation, he definitely took up arms on behalf of the former in September 1642, and raised a regiment of foot in his own neighbourhood, although he was not popular there. A year later, he resigned his commission. The disputes about the amount to be paid by him to the victorious party by way of penalty lasted a long time.40 He died between April and July 1665. By Catherine his wife, daughter of — Welles of Brember in Hampshire, he had issue two sons and three daughters:—
Catherine, Lady Mohun being a Roman Catholic, the King in Council made order, in 1668, that she should give security to bring up her children in the Protestant religion.42 She died in April 1692.43
CHARLES MOHUN, third Baron of 0kehampton, was under age at the date of his father's death. In November 1672, he proposed to Arthur, Earl of Anglesey, for the hand of his daughter Philippa, "with great civility." A few days later, the young lady's father notes in his diary:—
"My Lord Mohun continued his addresses with more civility, desiring only my daughter, and leaving all things else to myself, whether I give anything or nothing."
The marriage, however, did not turn out well. In September 1674, Lord Anglesey records that Lord and Lady Mohun were "desperately out again." In his opinion, both parties were to blame, but he vented most of his wrath on his daughter:—
"If she had not been married, I had beat her. I did call her 'impudent baggage.'"
Some three months later, he effected a reconciliation.44 Lord Mohun considered that his dignity was seriously impugned when somebody said that he was "good for nothing but to sit in ladies' chambers and thread their needles."45 A newsletter of the 5th of October 1676, gives the following account of a brawl in which he was concerned:—
"Two Exchange women (to whom Lady Mohun owed a bill, and to whom payment was promised with Michaelmas rents, with which they seemed satisfied) after drinking brandy, came with four braves to my Lord's lodgings. The women went up, spit in my Lady's face, etc. The men staid below and cried 'Where is my Lord?' etc. My Lord at this alarm went upstairs, took his sword and pistol, and one of his men the like, and after some passes shot, missed the man, but shot through his hat; that not doing, shot again, but the pistol would not go off. The hubbub increasing, they retreated, my Lord having received a slight wound on the hand. They were three Irish, and one Lifeguardsman."46
While acting as second to Lord Cavendish in a duel in November 1676, Lord Mohun was run through the stomach, and he lay between life and death for a considerable time.47 Dying on the 29th of September 1677, he was buried at St. Martin's in the Fields three weeks later.
Lady Mohun, the widow, caused some sensation in the aristocratic circles of London by her proceedings in connexion with another brawl in the following year. Going to play cards with a friend who was in lodgings near the New Exchange, she encountered the landlady, to whom her husband had owed money. Some high words passed, and one of Lady Mohun's footmen pricked the landlady with his sword, while another spat in her daughter's face. The landlady retaliated by throwing a candlestick at one of them, which hit their mistress on the knee. Lady Mohun thereupon, claiming the privilege of a peeress, petitioned the House of Lords to summon and punish her assailant. The Lords, however, very wisely left the parties to settle their quarrel by course of ordinary law. The King was vastly amused, and gallantly declared that he was willing to determine by inspection whether Lady Mohun's knee was injured.48 William Coward, serjeant-at-law, was so fascinated by the widow that he paid her debts amounting to 1,500l. before obtaining her hand in second marriage. Nevertheless she steadily refused to let him touch any of her money.49 Surviving him by some years, she was buried at Lee in Kent in March 1715.50 By this lady, Lord Mohun had left issue two children:—
She died in July 1710.51
CHARLES MOHUN, fourth and last Baron of Okehampton, appears to have been born in 1674.52 It is not possible here to attempt a detailed biography of a nobleman who was constantly before the public during the last twenty years of his comparatively short career.53 The Jacobite Hearne sums up his character in describing him as "the greatest debauchee and bully of the age."54
In 1692, when Lord Mohun was about eighteen years old, but already "exceeding dissolute," he had a drunken quarrel with Lord Kennedy, and the King himself failed to prevent a duel in which both parties were wounded.55
This was on the 7th of December. Only two nights later, Lord Mohun was concerned in an attempt made by Captain Richard Hill to kidnap Mrs. Bracegirdle, the popular actress. He was still with Hill when the latter, a mere boy, waylaid William Mountfort, the most graceful actor of the period and brutally murdered him in Howard Street, Strand.56 The grand jury of Middlesex found a true bill against both, and, although the principal culprit managed to escape, his noble associate was eventually committed to the Tower of London. As Lord Mohun had to be tried by his peers, extraordinary preparations were made. Westminster Hall was fitted up with scaffolding, boxes being provided for the foreign ministers, and special seats for the peeresses and their daughters. Eight tickets of admission were also allotted to every peer, including the prisoner, who was not yet a member of the House of Lords. A Lord High Steward was appointed to regulate the proceedings, and every peer living within twenty miles ot London was required to attend. Carts and drays were forbidden to move between Charing Cross and Old Palace Yard between six o'clock in the morning and nine o'clock in the evening of the day fixed for the opening of the trial.57
On the 31st of January 1693, the Lieutenant of the Tower conveyed his prisoner to Westminster, preceded by a porter carrying a bare axe. The formal, though minute, record of the proceedings does not of course mention the fact that the King was one of the spectators until three o'clock.58 Speeches by counsel, the examination of witnesses, and a consultation with the judges necessitated several adjournments, but on the 4th of February the Lords gave their opinions one by one, sixty-nine voting for an acquittal and fourteen for a conviction.59 The Lord High Steward, who had received prodigious remuneration for presiding on the occasion, then broke his staff, in token that his functions were ended. Lord Mohun's acquittal was largely due to "commiseration for his youth."60 According to the wits of the day, there was nothing fair about the trial except the bevy of fashionable ladies in the gallery.
The solemn proceedings in Westminster Hall did not sober Lord Mohun's unruly spirit. Under the date of Saturday the 6th of October 1694, we read :—
"On Sunday last, the Lord Mohun attempting to kill a coachman in the Pall Mall, and Mr. Scobell, a Cornish Member of Parliament, preventing him, his Lordship cutt Mr. Scobell over the head and after sent him a challenge."61
While serving in the army in Flanders, Lord Mohun presumably kept the peace with his brother officers, but under date of the 8th of April 1697 we read:—
"Wensday night, the Lord Mohun and Captain Bingham fought in St. James' Park: the former was wounded in the hand: they were parted by the centinells."62
Lord Mohun's next encounter, five months later, had more serious consequences. Under date of the l6th of September 1697 we read:—
"On Tuesday night, the Lord Mohun and several gentlemen drinking in the Rummer tavern at Charing Cross, some words arose between his Lordship and Captain Hill of the Foot Guards, who thereupon was stabbed by the former, and is since dead."63
The coroner's inquest found Lord Mohun guilty of manslaughter, but the grand jury of Middlesex found a bill against him for murder.64 On his petition to the House of Lords, he was removed from the King's Bench Prison to the Tower, where his behaviour was such that the Lieutenant was forced to put him in close confinement.65 Falling ill there, he was released on bail, and on the 2nd of July 1698 he obtained a formal pardon from the King. Two days later, he took his seat in the House of Lords.66
Once more, in 1699, was Lord Mohun committed to the Tower on a charge of murder, the victim this time being Captain Richard Coote. Another trial in Westminster Hall followed, and, although the proceedings had not the interest of novelty, the King and many other important personages attended.67 On this occasion, the prisoner was acquitted by a unanimous vote of his peers. His own words of acknowledgement have been recorded, ending: --
"I will endeavour to make it the business of the future part of my life so to behave myself in my conversation in the world as to avoid all things that may bring me under any such circumstances as may expose me to the giving your Lordships any trouble of this nature for the future."68
After this, there was considerable amendment. Lord Mohun took to politics, became a frequenter of the Kit Cat Club, and a prominent member of the Whig party in the House of Lords. Still the old reputation of a ferailleur stuck to him, and when the Duke of Marlborough, in May 1712, resolved to send a challenge to Earl Poulett, he chose Lord Mohun as his envoy.69 Less than six months afterwards, Lord Mohun himself was a principal in one of the most famous duels that have ever been fought in England. His adversary, the Duke of Hamilton, was a leading Tory, about to go to Paris as ambassador. There had been interminable litigation between them about the estate of the Earl of Macclesfield, and the fatal quarrel arose out of strong language used by Lord Mohun in the course of the proceedings.
The story in too long to be told here in detail.70 Suffice it to say that the duel took place in Hyde Park at seven o'clock on the morning of the 15th of November 1712, when the two noblemen fought "like enraged lions." Mohun was the first to fall, mortally wounded, but, according to the accepted version of the affair, he had sufficient strength to retaliate with a fatal thrust. The Tories preferred to believe that the Duke was killed by Mohun's second, who fled the country.71 There is a considerable amount of controversial literature on the subject. Lord Mohun's body was conveyed to his lodging in Marlborough Street, and he was buried at St. Martin's in the Fields ten days later. In him the main line of the Cornish Mohuns came to an end. Philippa, Lady Mohun had the perhaps unique experience of losing her husband and her son through duels. It is doubtful whether she grieved much for either.72
The last Lord Mohun was married twice. In the summer of 1691, when he was barely seventeen years of age, he took to wife Charlotte daughter and heiress of James Mainwaring and grand-daughter of the Earl of Macclesfield. According to tradition: --
"He had only one daughter, whom he never owned, and he lived several years separated from his wife. He had the good fortune, however, to get rid of her at last, she being drowned in a passage to Ireland with one of her gallants, about six or seven years before his own death."73
By a will dated the 23rd of March 1710, Lord Mohun left 100l. to Elizabeth, his "pretended daughter" by his first wife.74 The date of this daughter's birth is at present
unknown, but, as her parents were not divorced, she must assuredly be reckoned legitimate. In June 1717, she married Arthur St. Leger, afterwards Viscount Doneraile. That she herself was in no way ashamed of her birth is tolerably clear from the fact that her eldest son was baptized by the names of 'Arthur Mohun.'76
At some unknown date, Lord Mohun married secondly Elizabeth relict of Colonel Edward Griffith, and daughter of Thomas Lawrence, physician at the court of Queen Anne. To her he bequeathed almost all his property, real and personal. In 1717, she sold the Cornish estate, subject to some temporary charges, to Thomas Pitt, ex-governor of Madras, who had recently obtained a great price for his famous diamond. Paying 53,000l. for Boconnoc and all that went with it, he was considered to have made a very good bargain.77 About the same time, Lady Mohun married thirdly Charles Mordaunt, nephew of the Earl of Peterborough, a man much younger than herself. Her letters show her to have been a lady with some literary aspirations.78 She died in the spring of 1725.
A younger branch of the Mohuns of Boconnoc inherited the Trencreke estate in the parish of Creed in Cornwall, and resided at Luny in the parish of St. Ewe. William Mohun, probably son of Nathaniel Mohun mentioned above (p. 483: not in this online excerpt), married Dorothy daughter of Sir John Trelawny, bart.79 They had issue Warwick and Delia.
Warwick Mohun, son of William, was baptized at St. Ewe on the 8th of December 1668. In December 1704, he married Anne Addis at Stoke Damerel. She seems to have died in January 1714, he surviving until October 1733. Warwick and John Mohun, buried respectively in 1714 and 1719, may have been two of their children.80 Their eldest son William matriculated at Exeter College, Oxford, in 1723. In the church of St. Ewe there is a monument in memory of William Mohun, Esq. "the last of that ancient name and noble family," who died on the 2nd of December 1737, aged thirty-two. It was put up by his widow Sibella, sister of Thomas Trefusis of Penryn, and his only sister Elizabeth, widow of James Prowse of Keyford in Somerset.81 The former afterwards married John Derbyshire Birkhead.82 This William Mohun may have been the last male representative of the Cornish branch of the family, but, as has been seen above, Robert Mohun of Fleet in Dorset survived until 1758.
Various parish registers in Cornwall record the births, marriages and deaths of persons named Mohun or Moon, who may have been of legitimate origin, although of humble station.83
John Mohun of South Petherton, the owner of a tobacco plantation in Virginia in 1675, seems to have been in some way connected with the Cornish branch of the family, as his brother bore the uncommon name of Warwick.84
The Heralds' Visitation of Hertfordshire in 1572 professes to record four generations of a family named Mohun, then resident at Aldenham in that county. It begins with a certain Edmond Mohun "of Mohun (sic) in Cornwall."
The book I scanned has footnotes at the bottom of each page; I've gathered them together for better online presentation, but that means I've renumbered them as well. Click on the footnote to return to the related text.