Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Moels, Nicholas de

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MOELS or MOLIS, NICHOLAS de (fl. 1250), seneschal of Gascony, was perhaps a native of Hampshire. His parentage is unknown; but a Roger de Molis occurs in the reign of Stephen. Nicholas de Moels is first mentioned as being in the royal service in September 1215, and again in March 1217 (Cal. Rot. Claus. i. 229, 301). In January 1224 he is said to be going abroad on the royal service, and in the following year he was sent as a royal messenger to Cologne, in connection with the mission of Walter Mauclerk [q. v.] (ib. ii. 11; Shirley, i. 253, 259). In August 1226 Moels was despatched as messenger to the king's brother, Earl Richard, in Poitou, and in the following March is spoken of as being still in Gascony (Cal. Rot. Claus. ii. 133-4, 179 b). From 1228 to 1232 he was sheriif of Hampshire and custos of Winchester Castle. In May 1230 he was with the king in Brittany, and was sent by him on a mission to Hugh, count of Marche, and his wife, Queen Isabella, the king's mother. In 1234 Moels was again sheriff of Hampshire, and in the same year had charge of the Channel Islands. From 1239 to 1241 he was sheriff of Yorkshire, and in 1241 was guardian of the bishopric of Durham during a vacancy (Cal. Documents relating to Scotland, i. 1539). In 1242 Moels accompanied the king to Poitou, and was sent with Ralph FitzNicholas on an unsuccessful mission to Louis IX at Frontenay, for the purpose of arranging a truce. In the following year, about midsummer, Henry appointed Moels as seneschal of Gascony (Matt. Paris, iv. 244, 254; Fœdera, i. 253). Moels was in this capacity employed at the siege of Gramont, near Bidache, in August. Trouble was already impending with Thibaut, king of Navarre, who in the following year threatened Bayonne. Eventually, in the autumn of 1244, Moels de- feated the king (ib. i. 225; Shirley, ii. 41; Matt. Paris, iv. 396). The only other known incident of his seneschalship is a conflict with Amigot de Garro, a Gascon robber-lord, who had captured certain messengers whom Moels had sent to Thibaut. Amigot, whose castle was seized by Moels in punishment, was afterwards taken into favour by Simon de Montfort (Bémont, pp. 39, 305-6). Moels appears to have returned to England in the early part of 1245, and later in that year was employed in Wales as governor of Cardigan and Caermarthen Castles. On 22 Jan. 1251, on the complaint of the Gascons against Simon de Montfort, he was despatched with Drogo de Barentin to investigate the truth of the charges. The general tenor of their report was favourable to the earl (ib. pp. 45, 268-77). Moels was still in Gascony in June 1252, when he was appointed a conservator of the truce there in conjunction with Rocelin de Fos (Shirley, ii. 391). In 1254, when warden of Oxford Castle, Moels gave to Henry de Hanna, the provincial of the Carmelites, a house in Oxford, which was the first establishment of that order in the university (Wood, City of Oxford, ii. 415, Oxf. Hist. Soc.) In 1257 he was engaged in the Welsh war. In January 1258 he was made constable of Dover and warden of the Cinque ports, and in March sheriff of Kent, with the charge of the castles of Rochester and Canterbury. After the parliament of Oxford, Moels, as a supporter of the king, was removed from his office as warden, but retained the castles of Rochester and Canterbury (Annales Monastici, i. 453). In 1261 he had charge of Sherborne Castle, and in 1263 of Corfe Castle. Probably he died not much later. Matthew Paris (iv. 254) calls him 'miles strenuissimus et circumspectus.'

Moels married before 1231 Hawyse, daughter of James de Newmarch, in whose right he held Cadbury in Somerset, and Sapperton in Gloucestershire. He had two sons, Roger, and James who was educated with the king's son Edward. Roger de Moels fought in the Welsh wars of Edward I, and dying in 1285 was succeeded by his son John (1259–1310), who was summoned to parliament from 1293 to 1310. John was succeeded by three sons, Nicholas, Roger, and John, on the death of the last of whom, in 1338, the barony fell into abeyance between his two daughters.

[Matthew Paris; Shirley's Royal and Historical Letters of the Reign of Henry III (both in the Rolls Series); Gal. of Close Rolls (the Close Rolls include a number of references to Colinus as well as to Nicholas de Moels: it seems clear that the two are identical, cf. i. 599); Fœdera (Record edition); Bémont's Simon de Montfort; Dugdale's Baronage, i. 619-20; Coll. Top. et Gen. iv. 360-1; Balasque et Dulaurens' Etudes Historiques sur la ville de Bayonne, ii. 84-90.]

C. L. K.