William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester

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William Paulet
Marquess of Winchester
Earl of Wiltshire
Baron St. John
William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester from NPG.jpg
Sir William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester and Lord High Treasurer of England
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Capel


John Paulet, 2nd Marquess of Winchester
Noble family Paulet
Father Sir John Paulet
Mother Alice Paulet
Born c. 1485
Basing, Hampshire
Died 10 March 1572 (aged 86–87)
Basing House, Basing
Buried St. Mary's Church, Basing, Hampshire
51°16′17″N 1°02′48″W / 51.271389°N 1.046667°W / 51.271389; -1.046667

William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester KG (c. 1483/1485 – 10 March 1572), known as The Lord St John between 1539 and 1550 and as The Earl of Wiltshire between 1550 and 1551, was an English Secretary of State and statesman.

Family origins and early career in Hampshire[edit]

Paulet was the eldest son of Sir John Paulet (1460 – 5 January 1525) of Basing Castle at Old Basing, near Basingstoke, in Hampshire and Nunney Castle in Somerset. His mother was his father's cousin, Alice, the daughter of Sir William and Elizabeth (formerly Denebaud) Paulet. She survived her husband. William had six siblings, including Sir George Paulet of Crondall Manor in Hampshire and Eleanor Paulet (born 1479), wife of William Giffard of Itchell Manor at Ewshot, also in Hampshire.

There is some disagreement over his date of birth, with different authorities quoting 1483 or 1485.[1] A claim that he was ninety-seven at his death would place his birth in 1474 or 1475. There is also uncertainty about where he was born, but it may have been at Fisherton Delamere in Wiltshire, one of his father's manors.[2][3][4]

Arms of Sir William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester, KG: Sable, three swords pilewise points in base proper pomels and hilts or

His father, who had held a command against the Cornish rebels in 1497, was the head of a younger branch of an ancient Somerset family seated in the fourteenth century at Pawlett or Paulet and Road, close to Bridgwater, being the son of John Paulet and Elizabeth Roos. William's great-grandfather John Paulet acquired the Hampshire estates by his marriage with Constance Poynings, granddaughter and coheiress of Thomas Poynings, 5th Baron St John of Basing; his barony became abeyant upon his death in 1428/1429.

William Paulet was High Sheriff of Hampshire in 1512, 1519, 1523, and again in 1527. Knighted before the end of 1525, he was appointed Master of the King's Wards in November 1526 and appeared in the Privy Council in the same year.[5]

Marriages and issue[edit]

He married Elizabeth (d. 25 Dec 1558), daughter of Sir William Capel, Lord Mayor of London in 1503, and by her had four sons and four daughters:[6][7]

  • John Paulet, 2nd Marquess of Winchester
  • Thomas
  • Chidiok, Chediok,or Chidiock, governor of Southampton under Mary and Elizabeth
  • Giles
  • Alice, married Richard Stawell, of Cotherston, Somerset
  • Margaret, married Sir William Berkeley
  • Margery, married Sir Richard Waller, of Oldstoke, Hampshire
  • Eleanor (died 26 September 1558), married Sir Richard Pecksall of Beaurepaire, Hampshire, master of the buckhounds[5]

Career as a national statesman[edit]

During his long career Paulet held numerous offices which included:[6][8]

  • Sheriff of Hampshire 1511–12, 1518–19 and 1522–23
  • Joint Master of the King's Wards 1526–34 and sole Master of the King's Wards 1534–40
  • Master of the Court of Wards 1540–42
  • Master of the Courtof Wards and Liveries 1542–54
  • Member of Parliament for Hampshire 1529–36
  • Comptroller of the Household 1532–37
  • Keeper of Pamber Forest 1535/6
  • Master of the King's Woods 1541
  • Treasurer of the Household 1537-38/9
  • Privy Councillor 1542
  • Lord Chamberlain of the Household 1543–45
  • Lord Steward of the Household 1545-1549/50
  • Lord President of the Council 1546–49
  • Chief Justice in Eyre, South of Trent 1545-49/50
  • Joint Governor of King Edward VI
  • Lord Keeper of the Great Seal 1547
  • Keeper and Captain of St Andrew's Castle, Hamble 1547-71/2
  • Keeper of Alice Holt and Woolmer Forests 1548-71/2
  • Lord High Treasurer of England 1549/50-71/2
  • Lord High Steward of England for the trial of Lord Protector Somerset 1551
  • Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire 1552, 1553 and 1559
  • Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire and Middlesex 1569
  • Joint Lord Lieutenant of London 1569
  • Lieutenant of the forces in London 1558
  • Speaker of the House of Lords 1558 and 1566

Paulet's political career began in 1529, when he was elected knight of the shire for Hampshire.[8] In 1532, he accompanied King Henry VIII to Calais, France, and the following spring, he accompanied the Duke of Norfolk to join King Francis I of France in a proposed audience with the Pope, to discuss Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon. In 1536, he was granted the keepership of Pamber Forest, and on 9 March 1539 was created Baron St John.[8] He became steward of the bishopric of Winchester, and became a close associate of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and a friend of Thomas Cromwell. He was also Comptroller of the Royal Household, and held many other high positions.[8]

Portrait Miniature, c. 1555

In 1535 and 1536, he served as one of the judges for the trials of John Fisher, Sir Thomas More, and the alleged accomplices of Anne Boleyn; in 1535, he became Lord Chamberlain. He partially led the royal forces against the Pilgrimage of Grace, a rebellion that broke out in the autumn of 1536, and in 1538, he became Treasurer of the Household. In 1540, he became the master of Henry's Court of Wards and Liveries, a Knight of the Garter in 1543, and Governor of Portsmouth and Lord Steward of the Household in 1545. In 1546, he became Lord President of the Council, and in 1547, he was an executor of the will of King Henry VIII.[5]

He continued his political manoeuvres in 1549 by supporting the Earl of Warwick against the Duke of Somerset—in reward, on 19 January 1550 he was given the Earldom of Wiltshire and Somerset's position of Lord Treasurer.[8] When Warwick was created Duke of Northumberland on 11 October 1551, Paulet received the Marquessate of Winchester.[8] Six weeks later, he served as Lord High Steward in the Duke of Somerset's trial.

It was said that Northumberland and Winchester "ruled the court" of the minor King Edward VI. Mary I affirmed him in all of his positions. After her death, he remained Lord Treasurer and retained many of his other positions, and even at an advanced age (in 1559, he was over seventy years old), he showed no signs of declining—he was Speaker of the House of Lords in 1559 and 1566. He remained in good standing with the English monarchs—Queen Elizabeth once joked, "for, by my troth, if my lord treasurer were but a young man, I could find it in my heart to have him for a husband before any man in England." Late in life, he opposed any military support of Continental Protestantism, as he feared it would cause a breach with strongly Catholic Spain.

Paulet enjoyed a remarkably long career during the English Reformation. Starting out as a Catholic, he was quickly persuaded to see things Henry's way once the breach with Rome had been decided on. He was rewarded with former Church properties following the dissolution of the monasteries. Under Edward VI he became an evangelical Protestant and persecuted Roman Catholics and Henrician Conservatives alike. On the accession of the Catholic Mary he announced his reconversion and commenced persecuting his former Protestant co-religionists, even denouncing Bishop Bonner for "laxity in prosecuting the heretics." On Elizabeth's succession, he once again shifted his sails and became an advocate of middle road Anglicanism. All in all, he professed five changes in religious course. Once, when asked how he managed to survive so many storms, not only unhurt, but rising all the while, Paulet answered: "By being a willow, not an oak."


Paulet was still in office when he died, a very old man, at Basing House on 10 March 1572, a house that he held to rebuild and fortify. His tomb is on the south side of the chancel of Basing church.[5]


  1. ^ Cokayne VIII 1898, pp. 171–173.
  2. ^ Pincombe 2009: Broughton says Paulet was born at Fisherton Delamere
  3. ^ Alsop & Loades 1987, pp. 333–342: "So when, and where, was William Paulet born? The family tradition that the event took place at Fisherton de la Mere in Wiltshire..."
  4. ^ Bryson 2008: "Winchester may have been born at Fisherton-Delamare in Wiltshire..."
  5. ^ a b c d Tait 1895.
  6. ^ a b "Winchester, Marquess of (E, 1551). Cracroft's Peerage". Cracroftspeerage.co.uk. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  7. ^ "William Paulet, Marquess of Winchester, Family Search: Community Trees. British Isles. Peerage, Baronetage, and Landed Gentry Families with Extended Lineage". Histfam.familysearch.org. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Davidson 1982.


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Sir Henry Guilford
Comptroller of the Household
Succeeded by
Sir John Russell
Preceded by
The Lord Sandys
Lord Chamberlain
Succeeded by
The Lord Wentworth
Preceded by
Sir William Fitzwilliam
Treasurer of the Household
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Cheney
Preceded by
The Duke of Suffolk
Lord Steward
Succeeded by
The Duke of Northumberland
Lord President of the Council
Preceded by
The Earl of Southampton
(Lord Chancellor)
Keeper of the Great Seal
Succeeded by
Richard Rich
(Lord Chancellor)
Preceded by
The Duke of Somerset
Lord High Treasurer
Succeeded by
The Lord Burghley
Legal offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Suffolk
Justice in Eyre
south of the Trent

1545–bef. 1550
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Dorset
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Custos Rotulorum of Hampshire
bef. 1544 – aft. 1558
Succeeded by
Earl of Wiltshire
Preceded by
Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire
Succeeded by
Peerage of England
New title Marquess of Winchester
Succeeded by
John Paulet
Earl of Wiltshire
Baron St John of Basing
(descended by acceleration)