PAULET, Sir William (c.1532-98), of Hooke Court, Dorset.

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.1552, 1st s. of John, end Mq. of Winchester by his 1st w. Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Robert, 2nd Lord Willoughby de Broke. educ. I. Temple 1546. m. by 1548, Agnes or Anne (d.1601), 1st da. of William, 1st Baron Howard of Effingham, 1s. 3da. At least 4s. illegit. KB 1553; summ. to Lords in his fa’s. barony as Lord St. John 5 May 1572; suc. fa. as 3rd Mq. of Winchester 4 Nov. 1576.

Offices Held

J.p. Hants from c.1559, Dorset from 1564; sheriff, Hants 1560-1; commr. musters, Dorset 1569; high steward, Dorchester by 1570; jt. ld. lt. Dorset 1569, Hants 1585; commr. trial of Mary Queen of Scots 1586; ld. high steward 1589, 1597; ld. lt. Dorset 1586; commr. eccles. causes, diocese of Winchester 1597.1


After an unsuccessful attempt at a by-election for Hampshire in 1566, when the sheriff declared him ineligible to sit by reason of his non-residence in the county, Paulet sat once as knight of the shire for Dorset before being called to the Lords. He was one of those asked by the Privy Council in 1571 to ensure the return of well-affected MPs. His Commons committees in 1571 concerned the subsidy (7 Apr.), church attendance (5 May) and corrupt presentations (25 May).2

Paulet was involved in a long series of public and private disputes. Already in 1570 he had been reprimanded for failing to appear before the Privy Council in connexion with a quarrel with John Young I. It was on this occasion that his relative, the 2nd Earl of Bedford, recognising that the Earl of Leicester would be unfriendly towards Paulet, wrote a letter in his favour to Burghley. Bedford later supported Paulet when, after his succession to the title, his marriage broke down. (Sir) Amias Paulet, however, another courtier, took Lady Winchester’s part. Her fault ‘consisted only in some points of wilfulness and disobedience’, and Sir Amias advised a reconciliation:

that you shall hereby purchase the profit and assured friendship of many great personages, and I cannot tell how the greatest in the world can live in credit without the favour of the court.

There was also a reference to ‘your Lordship’s continued abode in the country’, meaning Jane Lambert, by whom he had at least four illegitimate sons. Despite the scandal of his private life, and a growing list of lawsuits and other quarrels, including one with the bishop of Winchester, the Marquess did not suffer the eclipse predicted by Sir Amias, and, as high steward, bore the sword before Elizabeth at her entry into London for the Armada thanksgiving.3

In the later years of his life, Paulet was involved in a series of Star Chamber suits, and a number of cases in the common pleas—eventually settled by Act of Parliament—relating to lands he owned jointly with Lord Mountjoy. His death, on 24 Nov. 1598, was the signal for his family to close in on Jane Lambert. Their Chancery action listed her misdeeds, making him ‘a stranger and enemy to gentlemen of account and his nearest kinsmen’; ‘procuring a preacher to write a book justifying the said lord marquess’ in leaving his wife and marrying Mistress Lambert; opposing the marriage of Paulet’s son to the daughter of Thomas Cecil; ‘planting her own brothers and her friends in all principal places about him that might fill his ears full of their conceits’; ‘not suffering his own kinsmen or well willers to have access’ and so on. The family believed that ‘when he grew near his death he lay in extreme torment’, and that he accused himself of being ‘the notablest beast that ever lived’. He repented, they thought, of his sins, declared that he had left his heir a poor house, ‘and in these passions died’, 24 Nov. 1598, appointing three of the Lamberts executors and principal beneficiaries of his will, which his own family then successfully contested.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler


  • 1. Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 651; St. Ch. 5/7/9; 2/5; E. K. Chambers, Eliz. Stage, i. 35; E. M. Tenison, Eliz. Eng. vii. 391; J. Coker, Surv. Dorset, 60, 61.
  • 2. St. Ch. 4/7/18; Add. 48018, f. 294; Cath. Rec. Soc. xiii. 89; xxii. 59; Cam. Misc. ix(3), pp. 55, 56; CJ, i. 83, 88, 92, 93; D’Ewes, 159, 181, 188, 189.
  • 3. APC, vii. 404-5; viii. 12; xv. 40-2, 273; xvi. 174-5; xvii. 169; HMC Hatfield, i. 477; D’Ewes, 272; Bodl. Add. C82, ff. 85, 137; Dugdale, Baronetage, ii. 375; SP12/148/18; Lansd. 72, ff. 1, 5; CSP Dom. 1581-90, pp. 406, 458, 497-8, 567. Some of these and the succeding references are taken from Roberts thesis.
  • 4. St. Ch. 5/W11/35, W19/19, W20/34, P10/2; C. Monro, Acta Canc. 717; HMC Hatfield, xi. 410-11; Bodl. Rawl. D1346, Tanner 115, f. 3; PCC 46 Hayes; Harl. 4713, f. 272.