Sir John Moleyns


  • Richest of the Rich position: 116
  • Birth/Death: died 1361
  • Origin of wealth: Land and crime
  • Wealth: £15,000
  • Net National Income: £2.7m
  • Net National Income Percent: 0.55%
  • In Today’s Money: £6.104 billion

The son of an MP, John Moleyns made his fortune in the early fourteenth century by debt collecting, bounty hunting and as a general hard man for Edward III. Unlike most of the aristocratic thugs, such as Folville and Coterell, who terrorised the English Midlands at the time, he was literate and saw where the main chance was, which was with the royals. He entered royal service in 1325, and did well until he was found out, which was difficult because royal servants had the protection of the king. To obtain the manor of Stoke Poges, he murdered his wife’s uncle, coerced her grandfather into handing over the manor and suborned the judges sent to investigate. The law caught up with him in 1340, but he was later pardoned and taken back into royal service where he became a one-man crime wave, committing offences of kidnap, chicanery, theft of land, abuse of office and forest offences. He was also steward of the queen’s household at the time.

In 1357, Moleyns was imprisoned for abuse of office and horse stealing and died in prison in 1361. His heirs inherited most of his empire, which ran to lands worth £800 a year and personal possession such as coin, jewels, armour and wine, which took royal agents several days to list. At his peak, he was worth £15,000, about 0.55% of net national income of £2.7m. In today’s money that would be £6.1bn.

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