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Winchester, William Paulet, 1st marquis of

Winchester, William Paulet, 1st marquis of (c.1483–1572). ‘More of a willow than an oak’ was reported to have been Paulet's engaging assessment of himself and, indeed, anyone who could negotiate the vicissitudes of Tudor politics and hold high office in four reigns needed to be pliant. The son of Sir John Paulet, who held land in Somerset and Hampshire, William Paulet probably had legal training and built up a powerful local position. For many years he was associated with the profitable control of wardships—first as joint master and master of the wards 1526–40, then as master of the Court of Wards 1540–2, then as master of wards and liveries 1542–7. In the Parliament of 1529 he sat for Hampshire. From 1537 to 1539 he was treasurer of the household for Henry VIII, created baron St John in 1539, and given the Garter in 1543. From 1543 to 1545 he was lord chamberlain, lord steward 1545–50, lord president of the council 1545–50, and lord high treasurer 1550–72. Clearly he was a more than useful work-horse. In Edward VI's reign, he backed Northumberland against Somerset, was created earl of Wiltshire in 1550, and marquis of Winchester 1551. The only time when his footwork faltered was in supporting Lady Jane Grey in 1553, but he abandoned her quickly enough to retain Mary's confidence, and continued in office under Elizabeth. He remained an influential figure well into his eighties, entertaining Elizabeth grandly at Basing, which he had rebuilt.

J. A. Cannon

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