Giles Mompesson

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Giles Mompesson (1583/1584 – 1663) was an English malefactor and, officially, "notorious criminal" whose career was one based on speculation and graft. He has come to be regarded as a synonym for graft and official corruption due to his use of nepotism to gain positions of licensing businesses and pocketing the fees. In the reaction against Charles I, Mompesson's name was invoked as a symbol of all that was wrong with aristocracy. Sir Giles Overreach, the anti-hero of Philip Massinger's 1625 play A New Way to Pay Old Debts, is based on Mompesson.

Licensing monopoly and graft

Mompesson was born in Wiltshire. He grew up into a small, swarthy individual with black hair. He entered Hart Hall, Oxford in 1600, but left without a degree the next year for Lincoln's Inn; he later departed there without becoming a lawyer. In 1606 or 1607, he married Katherine, the daughter of Sir John St. John, one of the most prominent men in Wiltshire. Through his father-in-law's influence, Mompesson became a Member of Parliament for Great Bedwyn in 1614. Another daughter of John St. John (and thus Mompesson's sister-in-law) married Edward Villiers, the half-brother of George Villiers, and Mompesson's connection to George Villiers was the key to his later despotism. George Villiers became James I's favourite (and alleged lover), rising to the rank of Duke of Buckingham by 1616, and Mompesson was quick to use his family connections. His infamous career was tied directly to that of...
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