PAULET, Amias (c.1533-88), of Hinton St. George, Som. and Sampford Peverell, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1533, 1st s. of Sir Hugh Paulet by his 1st w. Philippa, da. of Sir Lewis Pollard of King’s Nympton, Devon. m. Margaret, da. and h. of Anthony Harvey of Columbjohn, Devon, 3s. 3da. suc. fa. 1573. Kntd. Oct. 1575.

Offices Held

Lt. gov. Jersey Apr. 1559, jt. (with his fa.) gov. Nov. 1571, sole 1572; j.p. Devon from 1569, Som. from c.1573; custos rot. Som. c.1577; ambassador to France Sept. 1576-Nov. 1579; PC 1585; guardian of Mary Queen of Scots 1585; chancellor of the order of the Garter Feb. 1587-early 1588; commr. in the Netherlands Feb. 1588.1


Paulet was a considerable landowner in south-west England. In spite of his frequent absences in the Channel Islands and elsewhere, he was regularly included in the commission of the peace for Devon and Somerset from 1573 until his death, although the Devon list for 1575 adds the comment ‘abiding in Jersey’ beside his name. When in England he was active in local affairs. He served under his father in Jersey for some time before being officially appointed lieutenant governor, and he resided there regularly until 1571, except for a period early in 1567. Protestantism was strong among the islanders, and until 1587 the Paulets found little trouble in governing them. During his first period of active control (1559-71) he appointed a Huguenot minister from Anjou to the most important benefice in Jersey. He also obtained the Queen’s permission for the form of service used by the French protestants in London to be introduced at St. Helier, afterwards extending it unofficially to the other churches on the island. He welcomed Huguenot refugees to the Channel Islands in 1568, although his father (whose religious views were less pronounced than his own) advised him to limit their numbers, and he took care to see that Jersey was fortified against a possible French attack.2

Paulet returned to England in time to head the poll in a contested election for Somerset in 1571. His father was one of those who had been instructed by the Privy Council to see that suitable men were chosen, and it is interesting to see that he waited until 1572 before standing himself. Paulet’s fellow knight of the shire, George Rogers, was a personal friend. Paulet’s only known activity in the 1571 Commons was his appointment to the subsidy committee 7 Apr.3

Paulet’s copy-book illuminates his embassy to France. He saw no hope for the Huguenots unless they received help from abroad, yet in the face of his own puritanism he tried to forward the Alençon marriage scheme. Always the courtier, in November 1577 he sent the Queen satin for two gowns, writing that although the silk was not ‘of so good price as I would wish’, the French Queen had very recently worn a gown of similar material. In November 1579, after many appeals to be recalled, Paulet left France, having written to Walsingham:

I am Jack out of office, I thank God for it; yet I cannot forbear my wonted course, to write somewhat to Sir Francis Walsingham.

He told Burghley that he did not regret his period in France, saddened though he was by the death of his eldest son and another child. To friends who commiserated with him about his expenses he replied that he had lived ‘as good cheap’ in France as in England, and ‘could live here long time before it should pinch me’.4

For the next few years Paulet divided his time between England and Jersey. He intended to spend the winter of 1582-3 in London, but finding ‘the sickness’ there returned to Devon. Later in 1583 he was in Jersey, where at the beginning of 1585 he received a summons to become guardian of Mary Stuart at Tutbury. Several months before this the Queen had been intending to make him a Privy Councillor, and he was sworn on his return to England, which was delayed by his ill-health. His letters from 1576 onwards refer frequently to bouts of sickness, and to his fear of developing gall-stones. He arrived at Tutbury in April 1585, remaining as Mary’s custodian there, and later at Chartley and Fotheringay, until her death. A harsh gaoler, he was congratulated by Elizabeth on his vigilance, but to William Davison’s suggestion that he should connive at Mary’s murder, Paulet replied:

My goods and my life are at her Majesty’s disposition, but God forbid I should make so foul a shipwreck of my conscience, or leave so great a blot on my poor posterity.

He was rewarded after Mary’s execution with the chancellorship of the Garter.5

Some months before his death he was included among the commissioners to treat for peace in the Netherlands, against opposition from the Catholics that the ‘gaoler to the Holy Queen and Martyress’ was a bad choice. In a list drawn up by Burghley in this year, headed ‘knights of great possessions suitable to be created barons’, Paulet’s name was included. He died on 26 Sept. 1588, and was buried at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. His will, which had been made nearly three years earlier, has a puritan preamble followed by a number of charitable bequests. His daughter Sara, who was under 15, was to have £2,000 on her marriage, or two years after her father’s death. Paulet’s other children also received large legacies. The overseers to help his son Anthony, the sole executor, were the attorney-general, John Popham, and ‘my trusty and well-beloved friend John Col(l)es’. His inquisition post mortem, taken in January 1589, lists 14 manors in Somerset, four in Devon, and a large house with an acre of land in Clerkenwell.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


This biography is largely based upon Copy-book of letters written during [Paulet’s] embassy to France (Roxburghe Club, 1866) and Letterbooks of Sir Amias Paulet, ed. Morris.

  • 1. Collinson, Som. ii. 167; Vis. Devon, ed. Colby, 168; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 200; Add. 1547-65, p. 490; Add. 1580-1625, p. 242; G. R. Balleine, Biog. Dict. Jersey, 652 seq.; SP12/121, f. 29; CSP For, 1575-7, p. 385; 1579-80, p. 98; 1587, p. 473; CSP Scot. 1585-6; 1586-8, passim; Ashmole, Order of the Garter, 1672, p. 521.
  • 2. Wards 7/23/56, 40/82; CPR, 1563-6, p. 196; Trans. Devon Assoc. lix. 260; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 515; Add. 1547-65, p. 490; Add. 1566-79, p. 29 et passim; St. Ch. 5/P1/27; A. J. Eagleston, Channel Islands under Tudor Govt. 90; HMC Hatfield, i. 274, 342.
  • 3. Add. 48018, f. 294; PCC 40 Tirwhite; Som. RO Phelips mss; CJ, i. 83.
  • 4. CSP For. 1577-80, pp. 93, 403; 1578-9, p. 485; 1579-80, p. 96.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1581-90, pp. 73, 200; CSP For. 1577-8, p. 621; CSP Scot. 1584-5, p. 558 et passim; 1585-6, p. 657; 1586-8, pp. 288, 292.
  • 6. CSP Dom. Add. 1580-1625, p. 242; Lansd. 104, ff. 51 seq.; Som. Arch. Soc. Proc. lxxiv (plate vi); PCC 27 Leicester; C142/167/78.