John Paulet, Marquis of Winchester, c.1598-1675

Wealthy Catholic nobleman who defended his family seat of Basing House in Hampshire against three sieges during the English Civil War.

Portrait of John Paulet, Marquis of WinchesterJohn Paulet was born into a Roman Catholic family around 1598, probably at his family seat of Basing House in Hampshire. John was the eldest surviving son of William Paulet, the fourth Marquis of Winchester, and of Lucy Cecil, daughter of the first Earl of Exeter. He succeeded his father as fifth Marquis of Winchester in 1629. In 1622, he had married Jane Savage, daughter of another Catholic nobleman, Thomas, Viscount Savage. Jane died in 1631 after giving birth to a son, Charles (1631-99). Two years later, Winchester married Honora de Burgh, daughter of the first Earl of Clanricarde, with whom he had another four sons and three daughters.

Although he was one of the wealthiest landowners in Hampshire, Winchester's Catholicism prevented his advancement in public life. He lived quietly at Basing House during the 1630s and concentrated on clearing the debts incurred by his father.

During the first year of the English Civil War, Basing came to the attention of Parliament after complaints were made that Winchester had given shelter and refreshment to Royalist soldiers. Winchester appealed to the King for protection during July 1643, and a company of musketeers sent from Oxford arrived to find the Marquis and his retainers fending off an attack by local Parliamentarians. Basing was subsequently garrisoned by Colonel Marmaduke Rawdon's regiment. Rawdon supervised the construction of an extensive system of earthwork defences that transformed Basing House into a formidable fortress commanding the main road from London to the west.

Winchester remained at Basing throughout the three sieges it endured during 1643-45. It became known among Royalists as Loyalty House after Winchester had the motto Aymez Loyaulté — "Love Loyalty" — engraved with a diamond on every window pane. The first siege, conducted by Sir William Waller in November 1643, was thwarted by bad weather, mutiny amongst the besieging troops and the advance of Lord Hopton's army from the west. In the spring of 1644, Winchester's youngest brother Lord Edward Paulet became involved in a plot to betray Basing. The plot was discovered and Paulet was court-martialled. His life was spared, but he was banished from Basing. Colonel Rawdon maintained a stalwart defence during the second siege, which lasted from June to November 1644 and was notable for a gallant relief expedition from Oxford led by Colonel Gage. By early 1645, Basing had become notorious to Puritans as a refuge for Catholics. Winchester even insisted that all Protestants should leave the garrison. Colonel Rawdon marched away in May 1645, leaving only 300 troops to defend the house. The third siege began in August 1645, initially under the direction of Colonel Dalbier. In October, a detachment of the New Model Army arrived under the command of Lieutenant-General Cromwell, and Basing fell to an overwhelming and brutal assault. The house was plundered and burned; Parliament ordered that the ruins should be razed to the ground.

Winchester was taken prisoner during the storming of Basing and incarcerated in the Tower of London, where he was joined by the Marchioness in January 1646. His estates were confiscated and he remained a prisoner until the early 1650s. Even after his release, he remained heavily in debt and was obliged to petition the Protectorate government for relief in 1656.

At the Restoration, Winchester regained his estates. Despite a resolution by the Cavalier Parliament, however, he was never compensated for losses incurred in the King's service. He lived quietly at Englefield House in Berkshire, where his main interests were in agricultural improvement and literature. No attempt was made to rebuild Basing House. Honora died in 1662, and Winchester married Isabella Howard, daughter of William Howard, first Viscount Stafford, in 1669. His later years were marred by a bitter quarrel with his son and heir Charles Paulet, who opposed him both in politics and religion. Winchester died in 1675 and was buried at Englefield, with an epitaph written by John Dryden. He was succeeded as sixth Marquis of Winchester by Charles, who became a prominent Whig politician and was created first Duke of Bolton under William and Mary.


Gordon Goodwin, John Paulet, fifth Marquis of Winchester, DNB, 1895

Ronald Hutton, John Paulet, fifth marquess of Winchester, Oxford DNB, 2004

G. Ridsdill Smith & M. Toynbee, Leaders of the Civil Wars 1642-48 (Kineton 1977)


Basing House website

Marquess of Winchester's Regiment ECW re-enactment group