The Marquess of Winchester is a title in the Peerage of England created in favour of the Paulet family in 1551, the dignity having previously existed as an earldom, intermittently held between the years 1207 and 1500.
The first Paulet Marquesses
The Paulets were an old West Country family based at their seat of Hinton St George, near Crewkerne in Somerset, but one offshoot of the family had married one of the heiresses of a Thomas Poynings, the last Baron St. John of Basing who had died in 1428 and thus established themselves at Basing, near Basingstoke in Hampshire. William Paulet, who was probably born sometime around the year 1484, was one of these Basing Paulets, being the eldest son of a Sir John Paulet of Basing, who turned out to be one of the most remarkable political survivors of the Tudor age who contrived to prosper through the reign of four very different monarchs.
Having first risen to prominence under Thomas Cromwell, William survived Cromwell's fall from grace and remained in Henry VIII's favour and was appointed as one of the King's executors to his will. During the reign of Edward VI he contrived to win the confidence of both Somerset and his successor Northumberland. Whilst acquiescing in the latter's plan to ensure that the succession passed to his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey, he nevertheless succeeded in transferring his loyalty to Mary at the most opportune moment. Having been appointed Lord Treasurer of England in 1551, he continued to hold that office throughout the reigns of both Mary I and her successor Elizabeth I and eventually died of old age on the 10th of March 1572. Described as "a man who passed through many dangers and always contrived to keep, or to improve, his places" along the way he managed to acquire the titles of Baron St. John, Earl of Wiltshire and Marquess of Winchester.
After his death in 1572 William was briefly succeeded by his eldest son John Paulet, 2nd Marquess who died on the 4th November 1576 and was followed by his son William Paulet. Unlike his grandfather the 3rd Marquess appears to have been singularly unambitious, despite being the most senior peer of his age; there being no dukes or other marquesses extant at the time. His sole public act appears to have been to serve as one of the judges who condemned Mary, Queen of Scots. Perhaps fittingly he was remembered as the author of a book entitled The Lord Marquesses's Idleness which apparently "contains a Latin acrostic of extreme ingenuity on the words Regina nostra Angliae".
The 3rd Marquess married Agnes Howard, a grand-daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and died on the 24th November 1598. Their son William succeeded as the 4th Marquess and appears to be principally remembered for the debts that he built up prior to his death on the 4th February 1628.
His son and the 5th Marquess of Winchester, John Paulet was a Roman Catholic and committed royalist and with the outbreak of the Civil War, John declared for the king, fortified his residence at Basing House and successfully resisted Parliamentarian efforts to dislodge him. In consequence, on the 18th August 1643 Parliament held John Paulet guilty of treason and confiscated his estates. It was not however until October 1645 when a certain Oliver Cromwell turned up with a brigade of the New Model Army, that Basing House finally fell to the Parliamentary forces. The Marquess was taken away to the Tower of London, but eventually allowed to 'escape' into exile in France in return for allowing his eldest son and heir to be raised as a good Protestant. With the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 he returned to England and retired to his wife's property at Englefield House in Berkshire where he died on the 5th March 1675.
The Dukes of Bolton
He was succeeded by his eldest son, Charles Paulet as 6th Marquess, who had been raised, for the reasons noted above, as a Protestant and was thus at odds with the Roman Catholic James II. He therefore emerged as a keen supporter of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, for which he was rewarded on the 9th of April 1689 by being created the Duke of Bolton. The history of the Paulet line therefore continues under the Duke of Bolton, during which time the title of Marquess of Winchester was used as a courtesy title by the eldest son and heir of the dukedom. This state of affairs persisted until the death of Harry Paulet, 6th Duke and 11th Marquess on the 25th December 1794. Harry was the last surviving male heir of the 1st Duke of Bolton and as he died without male issue, that particular title became extinct.
The Reborn Marquesses
Although the Bolton dukedom was now extinct, the Marquessate of Winchester was inherited by one George Paulet, the great-grandson of a Henry Paulet the second son of William, the 4th Marquess. However although George inherited his distant cousin's titles he did not get the money as the Paulet estates where inherited by an illegitimate daughter of the 5th Duke of Bolton. (Who married a Thomas Orde-Powlett, created Baron Bolton in 1797.)
George died on the 22nd April 1800 and was succeeded by his son Charles who adopted the surname of Burroughs-Paulet in 1839, setting a precedent that has since been ignored. On his death on the 29th November 1843, the title passed to his son John Paulet 14th Marquess, who was in turn succeeded, on the 4th July 1887, by his son, Augustus John. The 15th Marquess was an officer in the Guards and fought in the Boer War, being killed in action at the battle of Magersfontein on the 11th December 1899. Augustus John was unmarried and was therefore followed by his brother, Henry William who despite being educated at the Royal Navy Academy, abandoned any thoughts of a naval career in preference for shooting big game across the globe. He did however later serve as a major with the BEF during World War I and lived to the ripe old age of ninety-nine.
The 16th Marquess was very briefly married at the age of ninety to a Bapsybanoo Pavry, but left no issue and so at his death on the 28th June 1962 the title passed to a distant cousin named Richard Charles Paulet, who failed to live up to his predecessor's example and the 17th Marquess died unmarried on the 5th March 1968 at the age of only sixty-two.
The current and 18th Marquess of Winchester is Nigel George Paulet who also holds the titles of the Earl of Wiltshire and Baron St John, He is the Premier Marquess of England but resides in the Transvaal, South Africa and is on record as acting as the director of a number of mining companies.
Note that although the modern marquesses have adopted the variant Paulet, many of their predecessors preferred Powlett, and the family name also appears in the guise of 'Paulett', 'Pawlet', 'Pawlett', 'Poulett', or 'Powlet'. For the sake of consistency the Paulet variant has been adopted throughout.
THE MARQUESSES OF WINCHESTER
The 6th Marquess created Duke of Bolton in 1689
The title of Duke of Bolton became extinct in 1794
- The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for WINCHESTER, EARLS AND MARQUESSES 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