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Amias Paulet

Arms of Poulett: Sable, three swords pilewise points in base proper pomels and hilts or

Sir Amias Paulet (1532 – 26 September 1588) of Governor of Jersey, and the gaoler for a period of Mary, Queen of Scots.


  • Origins 1
  • Career 2
  • Death & burial 3
  • Works 4
  • Family 5
  • References 6
  • Sources 7
  • External links 8


He was the son of Lewis Pollard (c.1465-1540), Justice of the Common Pleas, of King's Nympton, Devon.


Paulet went to Jersey in 1550 when his father was made Governor and immediately acted as his assistant. The following year he was sent by his father to complain to the Privy Council that officials in Normandy were refusing to hand over six thieves who had escaped from Jersey. He was sent to Paris with a letter for the Constable of France, and thence to Normandy, returning ultimately to Jersey with his prisoners.

In 1556 he was formally appointed Lieutenant-Governor[1] and by the end of the decade he was effectively running the island in his father's absence. He kept this post until 1573. His father Hugh died that year, and Paulet was made Governor, a post he held until his death.There was much concern at this time about invasion by the French and Paulet went on a spying mission to the Brittany coast to discover for himself whether ships and troops were being gathered. Nothing happened because the death of the French king brought a temporary cessation to threats against the Channel Islands. However, relations with nearby Normandy were not good, as shown by a letter from Amias to his father:

"Mr St Aubin has been arrested by Mons Boisrougier of Coutances, and after fourteen days imprisonment dismissed with the loss of a goshwak and 20 ells of canvas. I wrote to this Monsieur for redress, but he answered he was sorry he had dismissed his prisoner, and that his stock was not better, advising me to look to myself, as he hoped to pluck me out of my house, as he had the Captain of Alderney. If I had the Queen's leave, I would ask no aid but the retinue of this Castle to pluck him out of his house".

Amias continued his father's work on strengthening Mont Orguiel Castle, despite the lack of funds available from Elizabeth. He wrote in 1557: "Though I have husbanded Her Majesty's money well I have been constrained to employ more than I received, and our walls want a third part yet". And in 1563: "I am much deceived, considering the depth of the foundation, the height and thickness of the walls, if a greater piece of work hath ever been done for the like sum". And again in 1573: "A strong piece of work, begun four or five years ago, lacks completion of one third. Four hundred pounds will be needed this year and four hundred next."

Like his father, Amias was strongly anti-Catholic, although more Calvinist than Protestant. When the first Huguenot refugees poured into Jersey in 1558 he appointed some of the priests among them as Rectors and ignored his father's wishes, and to an extent those of Queen Elizabeth, over which prayer book should be used in island churches. His appointment to the Town Church of Guillaume Morise, a Huguenot minister from Anjou, led to the establishment of what Chroniques de Jersey described as the first "real Reformed Church in Jersey".

There was a second influx of Huguenots in 1568 and they, too, were welcomed by Amias, although his father had reservations and wrote: "I approve my son's zeal in receiving these strangers, but I cannot like their continued abode in the isle. They should be passed on." But father and son got on well, despite these occasional disagreements, and in 1571 Amias was made joint-Governor, becoming sole Governor on his father's death, probably in 1578, although there are no records of the transition.

In 1576 Queen Elizabeth raised him to knighthood, appointed him Ambassador to Paris and at the same time put the young Francis Bacon under his charge.[1] Paulet was in this embassy until he was recalled November, 1579. In 1579, he took into his household, the young Jean Hotman, son of Francis Hotman, to tutor his two sons Anthony and George. When the family returned to England, the tutor and his two charges settled at Oxford.

His duties increasingly meant that Amias was absent from the island for long periods. He was appointed resident Ambassador in France for three years in 1576 and appointed Guillaume Lempriere, Seigneur of Trinity, his Lieutenant-Governor. He was clearly well trusted, because Queen Elizabeth's principal secretary Sir Francis Walsingham wrote: "Her Majesty wishes you in matters that concern her service to deal as you think fit, though you have no special direction, such trust she reposes in you." He was present in Jersey in 1583 for the swearing-in of his son Anthony as Lieutenant-Governor and his brother George as Bailiff, before leaving to join the Privy Council.

A fanatical Puritan with a harsh character, Paulet was appointed gaoler of Mary, Queen of Scots, by Elizabeth in January 1585, replacing the more tolerant Sir Ralph Sadler.[2] He remained her keeper until Mary's execution at Fotheringhay Castle on 8 February 1587.[3] He was present at her eventual execution in 1587. He was the appointed Chancellor of the Order of the Garter.

Death & burial

Paulet died in London on 26 September 1588 and was buried in the church of Diana, Princess of Wales. His name (as "Amyas le Poulet") was used by Mark Twain for a character in A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court.


  • Paulet, Amias (1874). Morris, John, ed. The letter-books of Sir Amias Poulet, keeper of Mary Queen of Scots. 


He married Margaret Harvey, by whom he had three sons and three daughters:

  • Hugh Paulet (b. 1558), the eldest son, who predeceased his father.[4]
  • Anthony Paulet (b. 1562), his father's heir,[1] who also succeeded his father as Governor of Jersey.
  • George Paulet (b. 1565), who married his distant cousin Elizabeth Paulet, daughter and heiress of Edward Paulet of Goathurst, in Somerset[1]
  • Joan Paulet, wife of Robert Haydon (1560-1626) of Bowood, Epford and Cadhay House in Devonshire.[1][5]
  • Sarah Paulet, wife of Sir Francis Vincent of Stoke D'Abernon, Surrey.[1]
  • Elizabeth Paulet, died unmarried.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Sir Amyas Paulet (1536?-1588)". Luminarium. Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  2. ^ Antonia Fraser, Mary, Queen of Scots, 'pp. 548-49
  3. ^ "Mary Queen of Scots 1542-1587". Artware Fine Art. Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  4. ^  Blakiston, Herbert Edward Douglas (1895). "Paulet, Hugh (DNB00)". In  
  5. ^ Vivian, Lt.Col. J.L., (Ed.) The Visitation of the County of Devon: Comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564 & 1620, Exeter, 1895, p.459, pedigree of Haydon of Cadhay


  • Jersey Through the Centuries: A Chronology, Leslie Sinel, Jersey, (1984)
  • Mary, Queen of Scots, Antonia Fraser, (1971), Dell Publishing Company, Inc., New York
  • Letter books of Amias Paulet, Morris, John, ed., (1874)
  • Copy-book of Sir Amias Poulet's letters, written during his embassy to France, Ogle, Octavius, ed., (1866), Roxburghe Club

External links

  • His portrait at the National Portrait Gallery
Political offices
Preceded by
Sir Hugh Paulet
Governor of Jersey
Succeeded by
Anthony Paulet
Preceded by
Sir Hugh Paulet
Custos Rotulorum of Somerset
bef. 1577–1588
Succeeded by
Sir John Popham
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