William inherited the Barony of Curry Malet, Somerset from his father. He also had lands in much of the southern half of England, including elsewhere in Somerset, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Surrey and Wiltshire.
Marriages and Children
William married twice. The identity of his first wife is unknown (see below). Douglas Richardson lists four children:
William, who, before 1196, witnessed a charter of his grandfather Gilbert Malet, and who died before his father, whose heirs were William's three sisters: there may be a question-mark about this - see Research Notes below
In 1191 William was with Richard I on the Third Crusade. Four years later, in 1195, he was with Richard I in Normandy. The following year he paid the king £100 to enter into his inheritance.
From 1200 to 1203 William was in a legal dispute with his cousin and namesake William Malet of Enmore, Somerset: this related to land at Sutton Mallet, Somerset. In 1204 he was involved in another land dispute, this time with William de Evermue.
In December 1209 he was appointed Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset, a position he held until 1212.
William fell into substantial debt to the Crown by 1212. The debt stood at 2000 marks in 1214, when, in return for cancellation of the debt, he agreed to serve with King John in Poitou, bringing ten knights and twenty ordinary soldiers.
In 1215 William joined the group of Barons who rebelled against King John and subsequently became one of the Surety Barons for the Magna Carta. As a result he was excommunicated in December 1215.
William died very soon after his excommunication. His heirs were his daughters Helewise, Mabel and Bertha. William was probably buried in the parish church of Curry Mallet, Somerset.
His second wife Alice subsequently married John Bisset. She died in about 1263.
Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Biography
by Professor Nigel Saul
"William Malet (c. 1175-1215) was one of the sizeable group of rebel barons who were heavily indebted to King John, making the revolt of 1215 in some sense a debtors’ revolt.
"William, the lord of Curry Mallet in Somerset, was the descendant of Robert Malet (d. before 1156), first holder of the barony, and the son of Gilbert Malet, who died in 1194. In 1196 he paid Richard the Lionheart a fine and relief of £150 to enter into his inheritance.
"William’s early career, characteristically for someone of his background and upbringing, had been in royal service. He had accompanied Richard the Lionheart on crusade from 1190 and he had taken part in the siege of Acre in 1191. He was appointed sheriff of Somerset and Dorset by King John in 1209 after the two counties had petitioned to have someone local as their sheriff instead of the courtier William Brewer, and he served in the office until 1212. By this latter year he was running into financial difficulties, although the precise cause of his problems is not clear, and by 1214 he was owing the king as much as 2000 marks (about £1333). In 1214 he entered into an agreement to serve with the king in Poitou with ten knights and twenty other soldiers in return for the cancellation of his debt. In 1215 he went over to the barons, joining the confederacy at their muster at Stamford in Easter week, and in June was appointed to the Twenty Five.
"Malet appears to have died only months afterwards in December 1215, for by that time his estates were in the possession of his son-in-law, Hugh de Vivonia. He left three daughters between whom his estates were divided: Mabel, who married first Nicholas Avenel and then Hugh de Vivonia (d. 1249) of Chewton (Somerset); Helewise, who married first Hugh Pointz (d. 1220), an associate of Malet in the rebellion, and second Robert de Mucegros (d. 1254), a future servant of Henry III; and Bertha, who died unmarried before 1221."
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry for William postulates a birth date of about 1175. Douglas Richardson says he was of age in 1194.
Mother of his Daughters
Some sources give Alice Basset as mother of William's daughters. But Alice's heirs were not children by William Malet but children by her second marriage to John Biset. This strongly suggests that the daughters were children of William by a previous marriage, to someone whose name is unknown.
Douglas Richardson states that William had a son William who witnessed a charter of his grandfather Gilbert Malet in 1196, and who died before the William of this profile. If the latter may have been born as late as 1173, there is a question as to whether a son would have been old enough to witness a charter in 1196.
Other William Malets
There were a number of other William Malets in this period, and they can be easily confused. Those with profiles on WikiTree at 24 February 2020 are:
Richardson, Douglas. Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 4 vols, ed. Kimball G. Everingham. 2nd edition. Salt Lake City: the author, 2011. See also WikiTree's source page for ‘’Magna Carta Ancestry.’’
Richardson, Douglas. Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 5 vols, ed. Kimball G. Everingham. Salt Lake City: the author, 2013. See also WikiTree's source page for ‘’Royal Ancestry’’. Volume IV, page 2 - 3, #1, William Malet
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, entry for 'Malet, William (c. 1175–1215)', print and online 2004, revised online 2005, available online via some libraries
Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Vol. 35, pp. 421-422, entry for 'Malet, William (fl.1195-1215)', Wikisource
Weis, Frederick Lewis. The Magna Carta Sureties, 1215, 5th ed., Genealogical Publishing Company, 1999, p.75, line 57.1
Weis, Frederick Lewis. Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists, 8th ed., Genealogical Publishing Company, 2004, p. 178, line 189.1
See Malet-18 Descendants for profiles of his descendants that have been improved and categorized by the Magna Carta Project and are in a project-approved trail to a Gateway Ancestor. See this index for links to other surety barons and category pages for their descendants. See the project's Base Camp for more information about Magna Carta trails.