Sir William Paget

WilliamPagetWilliam Paget is typical of Tudor administrators.  He rose not because of his bloodline but because of his ability.  He was educated at Cambridge.  His tutor was Stephen Gardiner (I told you they were all related and now I’ll add that they all know each other!)  After Paget completed his studies Gardiner, who would become Bishop of Winchester and by the end of Henry VIII’s reign  conservative scion of Catholicism, found Paget a role in his own household.

Somewhat ironically then Paget first makes his appearance on the political stage in 1529 in Henry VIII’s so-called Reformation Parliament- for his parliamentary biography double click on the image which accompanies this post. He continued working for Gardiner until it became apparent that Cromwell was the horse to back.  Inevitably his letters to Cromwell at this time can be found in Henry VIII’s letters and papers.  He appears again as Jane Seymour’s secretary which naturally enough brought him into close contact with Jane’s brothers Sir Edward Seymour and Sir Thomas Seymour.

Increasingly Paget became associated with the so-called Protestant faction of Henry VIII’s privy council even though he was also secretary to Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard. He also served for a time as Ambassador in France – diplomacy, spying etc.

The removal of Thomas Cromwell in 1540 left Henry VIII without a single capable man of all business.  The privy council resumed some of its former importance and men such as Paget who had proved themselves solidly reliable were able to garner more power to themselves now that it wasn’t all focused on one individual.



Paget tends to be identified as one of the key figures in the transition of power from Henry VIII to Sir Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford when Edward VI ascended the throne. Seymour shortly afterwards became Duke of Somerset followed by becoming Lord Protector.  Henry VIII’s will envisaged the sixteen strong privy council sharing responsibility for guiding the young king and governing during his minority rather than investing power in the hands of one man.  It says something for Paget’s powers of persuasiveness. Inevitably when Somerset fell from power Paget, who’d gained a title by then as well as a substantial estate including land belonging to Burton Abbey in Staffordshire, also found himself under a cloud…in the Tower.  He’d regained his position by 1552 (so a man with essential survival skills).

Those survival skills are demonstrated but the fact that he continued in office during the reign of Queen Mary rising to the role of Lord Privy Seal.  Although he was keen on Mary’s marriage to Philip of Spain he was less enthusiastic about the idea of executing Princess Elizabeth – which was probably just as well.  In 1558 when Mary died he chose to retire from public life but he acted as an advisor, on occasion, during Elizabeth’s reign – making him the most unusual of Tudor administrators – a man who kept his head and served not one but four of the Tudors. And what makes it even more amazing is that he had agreed to bypass Mary and place Lady Jane Grey on the throne. He died in 1563 at the age of fifty-eight.

In addition to manoeuvring his way through the snakes and ladders of Tudor politics Sir William found time to marry and father ten children. Three of his four sons survived to adulthood.  I have posted about them elsewhere on the History Jar  as the youngest son, Charles, turned out to be anything but loyal to the Tudor crown.  He was a catholic conspirator against Elizabeth.  There is an irony in this because one of Paget’s roles during the reign of Henry VIII was counter-intelligence.


5 thoughts on “Sir William Paget

  1. All Paget lands and homes vanished not long after Mary ruled. Nicola Paget actress is the only Paget I know. usually in life i have come across so many named families from history. At school no less than 12. Few had land and houses going back that far save for little Mike Edgerton who had then Tatton Park in Cheshire as his seat.Now even that stolen off him by National Trust a quango Government drepartment. Good article on Paget though had little fact before you mentioned him.

    • But then you mix in much more elevated circles than me – I forget that the names of history have descendants struggling with taxes, death duties and the joys of the modern world.

  2. I love these posts. I’ve been a genealogist for 20 years and found that many of these characters are in my family tree! You bring so much meaning and deep understanding of them. Thank you.

    I am connecting the dots to American history. My colonial ancestors (who were Quakers, originally border reivers, Nixons going way back) immigrated to America in the earliest days and settled near Hertford, North Carolina. Quakers, persecuted by the Puritans who ironically were also escaping religious persecution, were the first to say that they didn’t need to go to a church or an official to ask for their needs to be met by God but could pray directly and witness to each other, in friendship instead.

    I think it’s interesting that Henry the VIII by separating from the Catholic church, with all the horrors that ensued actually cracked the door open to religious freedom. Imagine what the world might be like if that didn’t happen. Consider all the religions that came about afterwards when the printing press made it possible for people to read books and make their own interpretations.

    With much gratitude and respect, Jean


    • Thank you so much. It’s always lovely to receive such positive feedback. Your family tree is rather more impressive than mine even though I am currently struggling with the idea of a border family turning Quaker. Having said that I must have realised they did because of the importance of Alston as a Quaker centre and the northern Quaker record. How exciting to communicate with someone who has been able to trace such a fascinating family voyage in terms of geography and belief.

  3. A descendant of mine on my paternal grandmothers fathers bloodline. It certainly is interesting reading your article. Thankyou for the insight on an ancestor.

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