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Some Millett Myths Un-Masked

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(1)   The Millett Family are descended from the Malet de Graville Family of France



It has been claimed that the Millett Family are descended from the French Malet de Graville Family.  The genealogy shows Henri / Henry Malet / Milet (born London 1446, died Marazion 1521) as being the son of Jean VI Malet, Comte de Graville (1437-1483);  father of William Milet / Malet of Marazion (1514-1570);  and grandfather of William Militon / Milet / Millett (d. 1571), Sheriff of Cornwall and husband of Honor Godolphin (b. 1518) – from whom (it is claimed) were descended successively Peter Millett husband of Elizabeth;  Martin Millett husband of Ann Borlase;  and Leonard Millett (died 1670) husband of Jane Blewett.





(1)    Jean VI Malet, Comte de Graville (1420-1482) had 6 children:  Jean VII, Louis, Jeanne, Louise, Marie and Renée –  none were named Henri.  See (for example):


(2)    The father of William Militon (about 1515-18 March 1570/71), High Sheriff of Cornwall in 1566 and husband of Honor Godolphin (about 1518-23 September 1579) was Job Militon (about 1483-6 December 1549), not William Milet / Malet.  The Home Page of Dorothy Hosking and Dan Huntley’s Families at gives five generations of forebears of Militon (with various spellings).


(3)    William Militon and wife Honor had no surviving male issue, so no Militons or Milletts (however spelt) were descended from them (see next myth).


(4)    Peter Millett (died 8 June 1615), one of the 12 chief inhabitants of Marazion mentioned in the Charter of 1595 and husband of Elizabeth (buried 8 June 1615), was not the son of William Militon (Peter’s parents are unknown).  Their children were Henry, Leonard and Robert – not Martin.


(5)    Martin Millett (about 1630-6 January 1722/23), husband of Ann Borlase (24 May 1646-July 1729) was the son of Christopher Millett (buried 22 February 1699/1700) and Honour Angwin (buried 18 July 1719), not of Peter Millett and Elizabeth.  Martin and Ann had nine children, including Leonard (15 January 1681/82-6 July 1699) who died unmarried.


(6)    It is very likely that the Millett Family were originally of French origin, but if so, as far as I am aware the link has not been found.


(7)    It is known that John Mylet came to England from France in 1432 as an ambassador from John of Lancaster, First Duke of Bedford (1389-1435), son of King Henry IV and Regent of France for his nephew King Henry VI, who was technically also heir to the throne of France.  John Mylet was a Privy Councillor in 1435.  From his son Henry Myllet (died 5 February 1499/1500) were descended the Milletts of Perivale and of Hayes, Middlesex.





(2)   The Cornish Milletts are descended from William Millett, Sheriff of Cornwall 1566



Family tradition, and a number of sources, state that William Millett was Sheriff of Cornwall in 1566, and that the Cornish Milletts are descended from him.


See (for example):


·         Gay, Susan Elizabeth.  Old Falmouth: the story of the town from the days of the Killigrews to the earliest part of the 19th century.  London, Headley Bros, 1903, p. 197.

·         Gilbert, Clive Sandoe.  An historical survey of the County of Cornwall.  Plymouth-Dock, J. Congdon, 1820, vol. 2 p. 201.

·         Millett, George Bown.  Genealogy manuscript book (unpublished), p. 100.

·         Millett, Iain.  Millett of Penpol and Marazion.

·         Millett Roots: Cornwall.

·         Stinchfield, John Clark.  History of the town of Leeds, Androscoggin County, Maine, from its settlement, June 10, 1780.  Lewiston, Maine, Press of Lewiston Journal, 1901, p. 42.





(1)    According to several lists of sheriffs of Cornwall, William Milaton (or Militon or Mylliton) of Pengersick in Breage was High Sheriff of Cornwall in 1566 – see (for example):

·         List of sheriffs for England and Wales from the earliest times to A.D. 1831.  London, HMSO, 1898.  (Public Record Office. Lists and indexes, no. 9).


       (William’s father Job Milaton held this office in 1548). 


(2)    This is confirmed in other works – see (for example):

·         Baring-Gould, Sabine.  A book of Cornwall.  New edition.  London, Methuen, 1906, p. 290.

·         Polwhele, Richard.  The history of Cornwall, civil, military, religious ...  New edition.  London, Printed for Law and Whittaker, 1816, vol. 4, p. 107.  (Published in 1806 as The civil and military history of Cornwall).


(3)    William Militon (about 1515-18 March 1570/71) and wife Honor Godolphin (about 1518-23 September 1579) had nine children – eight girls and one boy.  The son, William, was born about 1554;  he died, unmarried, at sea on 31 May 1571 aged 17, and was buried on 1 June 1571 at Hartland, Devon.  William and Honor, therefore, had no surviving male issue, the Militon estate passing through the female line to the Godolphin and Buller Families.  See (for example):

·         Carew, Richard.  The survey of Cornwall.  London, 1602;  reissued Launceston, Cornwall, Tamar Books, 2004, p. 184.

·         Coulthard, H. R.  The story of an ancient parish, Breage with Germoe, with some account of its armigers, worthies and unworthies, smugglers and wreckers, its traditions and superstitions.  Camborne, Camborne Print, 1913, p. 128.

·         The Home Page of Dorothy Hosking and Dan Huntley’s Families.



Biographical notes:


William Militon (the surname is also spelt Meliton, Melton, Milaton, Mileton, Millaton, Milleton, Milliton, Milynton, Millyton and Myllyton) was the son of John (or Job) Myliton (or Myllyton) (about 1483-1549) and Alice (or Avice) Dennis (or Dennys) (about 1493- 1551).  William was born about 1515 in Breage, Cornwall.  He resided at Pengersick Castle, Breage.  He married Honor Godolphin (about 1518-1579) in 1535;  they had 9 children – 8 girls and 1 boy.  William was Captain of St Michael’s Mount, and High Sheriff of Cornwall in 1566.  He died on 18 March 1570/71 at Breage aged 56, and was buried there on 20 March 1570/71.





(3)   Robert Millett (born 1665) was Secretary to Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel



Family tradition, and some Cornish historians, have it that Robert Millett was Secretary to Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel, and drowned with him in the wreck of HMS Association on the Gilstone Ledges near Bishop and Clerks Rocks off the Isles of Scilly at 8.00 p.m. on 22 October 1707, along with 800 other men – one of the worst maritime disasters in British history.


See (for example):


·          An account of the families of Boase or Bowes, originally residing at Paul and Madron in Cornwall, & of other families connected with them by marriage.  Truro, Netherton and Worth for Charles William, George Clement and Frederic Boase, 1893, col. 110.

·         Boase, George Clement.  Collectanea Cornubiensia: a collection of biographical and topographical notes relating to the County of Cornwall.  Truro, Netherton and Worth, 1890, col. 568.

·         Davy, John.  Memoirs of the life of Sir Humphry Davy, Bart.  London, Longman, 1836, vol. 1 p. 4.

·         Gilbert, Clive Sandoe.  An historical survey of the County of Cornwall.  Plymouth-Dock, J. Congdon, 1820, vol. 2 p. 201.

·         North, Christine and Palmer, June (eds).  The Charter town of Marazion.  Marazion, Marazion Town Council, 1995, p. 27.





This tradition is almost certainly incorrect, for the following reasons:


(1)    It is unlikely (although possible) that a resident of the small country town of Marazion could have met, let alone been given the very responsible position of Secretary to, such an important figure as Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel.  It is also unlikely that Robert Millett would have had the education required for this position.


(2)    Robert Millett was Mayor of Marazion in 1694 (see Round, E., Mayors of Marazion, 1595-1886 ( – could he have held both positions simultaneously?


(3)    If this Robert Millett married Jane Hill, he must have died prior to 1707, as St Hilary Burials 1700-1709/10 ( states that her son Robert Millet “of the Town, son of Jane, widow” was buried on 3 March 1706/7.


(4)    Robert Millett is apparently not recorded in the lists of those who sailed on or were killed in the wreck of the Association.


(5)    In 1707 the Admiral’s Secretary was René Jontin:


“Among those who were lost on October 22nd were ... René Jontin (a Huguenot refugee, who was secretary successively to Edward Russell, George Rooke and finally Shovel in the Association)”.


Source:  Harris, Simon.  Sir Cloudesley Shovel: Stuart admiral.  Staplehurst, Kent, Spellmount, 2001, p. 362.



Biographical notes:


Robert Millett was the first son of Leonard Millett (d. 1686) and Wilmot Dunstan (or ? Willmott), who married in 1663.  Robert was born in 1665.  He married Margaret Oke (b. 1673) at Marazion;  between 1692 and 1703 they had 3 children, Leonard, Robert and Jane.  He may subsequently have married Jane Hill.  Robert was Master of the Prosperous, and Mayor of Marazion in 1694.





(4)   Edwin Ley Millett (1836-1902) reportedly died in 1863



The Cornish Telegraph (Penzance) for Wednesday 9 September 1863 carried the following report:


“Piracy, and murder of a British officer, on the Yang-tze-kiang River, in China, by his Chinese crew.


In our obituary of to-day is recorded the death of Mr. E. L. Millett, late of this town, and it is our painful and melancholy duty to record the brief particulars, received by the last China mail, respecting it.


It appears that he sailed from Shanghai, for Hankow, in the steamer Niemen, on the 26th of May last, and on his arrival at the latter port, took the command of a Lorcha, for Shanghai, with a valuable cargo of silk and tea.


Early in the following month the Lorcha was discovered by a Mr. Lawrence (formerly a brother officer of Mr. Millett’s in the Peninsular and Oriental Co.’s service) aground on a sand-bank in the River, about half way to Tientsin, with her sails all set;  and it being supposed by those on board the steamer, in which Mr. Lawrence was, that she had got on shore by accident, that gentleman put off in a boat to her assistance.


On boarding her he found her deserted by the Chinese crew, and stripped;  and, on entering her cabin, discovered the bodies of two Englishmen who had been murdered, one of whom he recognised as Mr. Millett, the other being unknown to him, – the foul act having apparently been committed by the crew about four hours previously.  The bodies were buried by Mr. Lawrence on shore.


No further particulars have yet been communicated to Mr. Millett’s friends, who have been thus suddenly plunged into the greatest affliction and distress.


Mr. Millett entered the service of the Peninsular and Oriental Company in 1852, and left them, as second officer (in China), in 1861, to join in the Mercantile service there, which promised then (on the opening of the Chinese Ports under the Treaty with Great Britain) to be one of much consequence and profit.  He was an officer of great personal resolution and daring, and had distinguished himself on several occasions by his prompt and valuable assistance to persons and property in times of extreme danger and difficulty.  He had gained the fullest estimation and confidence of his various employers, from whom he had received the most valuable testimonials.  A truly dutiful and affectionate son and brother has been thus untimely cut off, in the full vigour of manhood, from his sorrowing and afflicted family.


The Lorcha is supposed to have been the property of Chinese merchants, who prefer entrusting rich cargoes to European officers for transit;  and the second Englishman to have been the chief officer;  the crew, (River Pirates) to have shipped themselves as seamen, for the sole purpose of plunder, and who are wont to have recourse to murder if opposed in their designs, which sufficiently indicates that the service to the officers is of the most dangerous character.”


Death:  “On the Yang-tze-kiang river, in China, in June last, Edwin Ley, fourth son of John N. R. Millett, Esq., of Penrose-terrace, in this town, aged 27 years, deeply regretted, and universally esteemed.”





(1)    This report of Edwin Ley Millett’s death was more than a little premature, since he married in 1866 and had seven children before his death in Penzance on 29 December 1902.  The U.K. Census for 1881, 1891 and 1901 show him living at Bosavern, St Just-in-Penwith.  He was buried in St Mary’s Church, Penzance (see An index to the transcripts of monumental inscriptions in the burial ground at Penzance St Mary.  Truro, Cornwall Family History Society, 1996, p. 11).


(2)    I have so far been unable to find any retraction of this report in later issues of the Cornish Telegraph, or any information about who it was who was killed by his Chinese crew on the Yangtze River in June 1863.



Biographical notes:


Edwin Ley Millett was the 5th child of John Nicholas Richards Millett (1807-1885) and Mary Ley (about 1804-1888), who married on 15 May 1830 at St George’s, Hanover Square, London.  Edwin was born on 10 October 1836.  He married Blanch Collingwood (1838-1916) on 24 October 1866 at Rhyle, Flintshire, Wales; they had 7 children.  Edwin moved to New Zealand, and in August 1869 became a director of the Golden Crown Gold Mining Company in Puriri, Thames;  for 2 months in 1874 he was Collector for Waiotahi District Board in Grahamstown, Thames.   His occupation was recorded in the 1881 U.K. Census as master mariner.  He succeeded to Bosavern on the death of his father on 15 January 1885.  Edwin died on 29 December 1902 at Penzance, Cornwall aged 66, and was buried at St Just-in-Penwith.





Tony Millett


April 2013