William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester

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The Marquess of Winchester
William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester from NPG.jpg
Paulet, holding the white staff of the office of Lord High Treasurer
Lord High Steward
for the trial of the Duke of Somerset
In office
October 1551 November 1551
Preceded by Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset
Succeeded by William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley
Spouse Elizabeth Capel
  • Sir John Paulet (father)
  • Alice Paulet (mother)
Residence(s) Basing House, Basing
AwardsKnight of the Order of the Garter
Several Hereditary peerages
1st Marquess of Winchester
Coat of arms of Sir William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester, KG.png
Arms of William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester, KG: Sable, three swords pilewise points in base proper pomels and hilts or
Tenure11 October 1551 - 10 March 1572
PredecessorNone (titles created)
Successor John Paulet, 2nd Marquess of Winchester
Other titles1st Earl of Wiltshire
1st Baron St John of Basing
Arms of William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester, KG, circumscribed by the Garter, Mapperton Church, Dorset Arms William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester, KG MappertonChurch Dorset.png
Arms of William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester, KG, circumscribed by the Garter, Mapperton Church, Dorset

William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester KG PC (c. 1483/1485 – 10 March 1572), styled Lord St John between 1539 and 1550 and Earl of Wiltshire between 1550 and 1551, was an English Lord High Treasurer, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, and statesman.


Family origins and early career in Hampshire

Paulet was the eldest son of Sir John Paulet (1460 – 5 January 1525) of Basing Castle in the parish of Old Basing, near Basingstoke in Hampshire, and of Nunney Castle in Somerset (inherited from the Delamere family in 1415), a cadet branch of Paulet of Hinton St George in Somerset. His mother Alice Paulet was his father's cousin, the daughter of Sir William Paulet by his wife Elizabeth Denebaud. 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.

The family originated at the manor of Paulet (now Pawlett), near Bridgwater in Somerset. [1] The senior branch of the Paulet/Powlet/Poulett family was seated at Hinton St George in Somerset, and had lived in that county since the early thirteenth century; the first Member of Parliament from that line represented Devon in 1385. [2]

There is some disagreement over his date of birth, with different authorities quoting 1483 or 1485. [3] 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. [4] [5] [6]

His father, who had held a command against the Cornish rebels in 1497, was the head of the branch seated at 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. [7]

Marriage and issue

He married Elizabeth (d. 25 December 1558), daughter of Sir William Capel, Lord Mayor of London in 1503, and by her had four sons and four daughters: [8] [9]

Career as a national statesman

During his long career Paulet held numerous offices, which included: [8] [11]

Paulet's political career began in 1529, when he was elected knight of the shire for Hampshire. [11] 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. [11] 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. [11]

Portrait miniature, c. 1555 Sir William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester by Circle of Hans Eworth.jpg
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. [7]

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. [11] In the following month Warwick took over the post of Lord President of the Council. When Warwick was created Duke of Northumberland on 11 October 1551, Paulet received the Marquessate of Winchester. [11] 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 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." His wife also found favour with Mary. On Tuesday 21 August 1554, when Mary went into Westminster Abbey her train was carried by Elizabeth, Marchioness of Winchester and Anne of Cleves. [12]

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". [13]

Sir William Paulet, detail of portrait William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester (1485-1572), oil on panel, detail of 17 x 13 inch portrait.png
Sir William Paulet, detail of portrait


Paulet was still in office when he died on 10 March 1572, a very old man, at Basing House, which he held to rebuild and fortify. His tomb is on the south side of the chancel of Basing church. [7]

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  1. Collinson, History of Somerset, Vol.2, 1791, p.166
  2. Savidson, Alan. "POULETT (PAULET), John (1586-1649), of Hinton St. George, Som. and Clerkenwell, Mdx". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 6 July 2022.
  3. Cokayne 1898, pp. 171–173.
  4. Pincombe 2009: Broughton says Paulet was born at Fisherton Delamere
  5. 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..."
  6. Bryson 2008: "Winchester may have been born at Fisherton-Delamare in Wiltshire..."
  7. 1 2 3 4 Tait 1895.
  8. 1 2 "Winchester, Marquess of (E, 1551)". Cracroft's Peerage. Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  9. "William Paulet, Marquess of Winchester". Family Search: Community Trees. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 14 November 2013.
  10. "Notes to the diary: 1558 Pages 362-369 The Diary of Henry Machyn, Citizen and Merchant-Taylor of London, 1550-1563. O". British History Online. Camden Society, 1848. Retrieved 11 December 2022.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Davidson 1982.
  12. llustrations of Ancient State and Chivalry from MSS in the Ashmolean Museum (London, 1840), pp. 64-5: Patrick Fraser Tytler, England Under the Reigns of Edward VI and Mary, vol. 2 (London, 1839), pp. 433-4.
  13. Fragmenta Regalia by Sir Robert Naunton. Cassell, 1892. Via Project Gutenberg.


Political offices
Preceded by Comptroller of the Household
Succeeded by
Preceded by Lord Chamberlain
Succeeded by
Preceded by Treasurer of the Household
Succeeded by
Preceded by Lord Steward
Succeeded by
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 Lord High Treasurer
Succeeded by
Legal offices
Preceded by Justice in Eyre
south of the Trent

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