The Duke of Bolton was a title in the Peerage of Great Britain which was held in the Paulet family between the years 1689 and 1794.
The first Duke of Bolton was Charles Paulet who became the 6th Marquess of Winchester on his father's death in 1675. The 5th Marquess had been a Roman Catholic and an ardent Royalist who was consequently arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London and charged with treason whilst his estates were confiscated. The Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 also brought about the restoration of the family estates, but Charles Paulet, unlike his father was a Protestant and much opposed to the Roman Catholic James II. He therefore supported the claim of William and Mary to the English throne in 1688 for which he was rewarded by being created Duke of Bolton on the 9th April 1689.
Charles' choice of Bolton as the designation of his title was decided by his marriage to Mary Scrope, daughter of Emmanuel Scrope, Earl of Sunderland and the 11th Baron Scrope of Bolton. Although Mary was illegitimate, she was nonetheless an heiress, as her father had died without legitimate issue in 1630, and thus Charles obtained possession of the Scrope ancestral seat of Bolton Castle at Bolton in Wensleydale. It is therefore this Bolton that he was Duke of, rather than the Bolton in Lancashire. As it happens the 1st Duke was a decidedly eccentric individual who lived an entirely nocturnal life, sleeping during the day whilst holding Bacchanalian orgies at night and hunting with hounds by torchlight. There is however a suspicion that much of this activity was designed purely to convince James II that he was mad, and thus avoid any undue attention to his political beliefs.
Mad or not the 1st Duke died on the 27th February 1699, and was succeeded by his elder son, Charles. Described as "a great booby" by Jonathan Swift, the 2nd Duke was nonethless a keen supporter of William III and the later Hanoverian succession and thus held a series of public offices; holding the odd county Lieutenantcy as well as being a Commissioner for the Union with Scotland in 1706, serving as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland and was even created a Knight of the Garter on the 16th October 1714. He died on the 21st January 1722 and was succeeded by his son Charles, the 3rd Duke who despite being described as "weak and whimsical" was appointed to many of the public offices which had been held by his father. He was however deprived of all these offices in 1733 as a result of his opposition to Robert Walpole. He later managed to return to favour and recovered many of his official appointments and later became a Lieutenant-General in the army when he raised an infantry regiment to oppose the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.
He was followed after his death by his son Charles who, before succeeding to the dukedom, had been granted his own peeerage title when he was created Baron Pawlett of Basing on 12th April 1717. The creation was however, entirely accidental as the intention was simply to call Charles to the House of Lords by a writ of acceleration in the name of his father's barony of St. John of Basing. The secretary made an error by substituting 'Pawlett' for 'St.John' and thus inadvertently created a new barony.
The 3rd Duke was twice married. He had no children by his first wife, Anne Vaughan, daughter of John Vaughan, 3rd Earl of Carbery, which was not particularly suprising as the Duke was far more devoted to his long-term mistress Lavinia Fenton. After the death of his first wife on the 20th September 1751 he married Lavinia but although she bore him three sons, their birth predated the marriage and were thus illegitimate in the eyes of the law. Hence when the 3rd Duke died on the 26th August 1754, he died without legitimate heirs and the dukedom duly passed to his younger brother Harry.
Harry the 4th Duke, who had been a member of parliament for Hampshire since 1722, held the title until his death some five years later on the 9th October 1759, when it passed to his eldest son Charles, who is primarily notable for the fact that he later committed suicide when he shot himself on the 5th July 1765. Charles the 5th Duke was unmarried (although he did have an illegitimate daughter named Jean Mary, who became important sometime later) and so the title passed to his brother Harry who had embarked on a naval career and succeeded in becoming "an admiral of undistinguished services". Described by Horace Walpole as "a silly, brutal, proud man", the 6th Duke was married twice but had to be content with three daughters, only one of whom survived him. This was unfortunate as Henry was the last surviving male descendant of the 1st Duke and so his death on Christmas Day 1794 rendered the title of Duke of Bolton extinct.
There was however, a George Paulet who was a great-grandson of Henry Paulet second son of William, the 4th Marquess of Winchester. This George therefore became the 12th Marquess of Winchester, and his descendants continue to hold this title to the present day.
The dignity of Bolton was revived shortly after the death of the last duke, only in the form of a barony granted in 1797 to Thomas Orde-Powlett who had married the aforementioned Jean Mary Paulet, daughter of the suicidal 5th Duke. As it happens, in accordance with the terms of the 5th Duke's will, most of the Paulet fortune went to Jean Mary and therefore passed to the Barons Bolton.
THE DUKES OF BOLTON
- The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for BOLTON, DUKES OF.
- Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)
- A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at www.thepeerage.com
- Stirnet Genealogy at
- The Peerages of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom at http://www.angeltowns.com/town/peerage/Peers.htm