The Paulets

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This article by A C Sarre was first published in the 1958 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise. Please note that although the original article was titled 'The Poulets', the spelling throughout has been altered to Paulet, which was the spelling used by the family at the time, and was also used in the Royal Warrant below. The spelling Poulet was not adopted by the family until some time after the period they spent in Jersey.

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Sir Hugh Paulet

After our harty comendacons. Whereas it hath pleased the King's Majestie by our advise to sende presentlye to that his Majestie's Isle of Jernesey this bearer Sir Hughe Paulet instructed for the ordre of that Isle; Theis shall be to will and comande you on his Majties behalf not onelye to credite him in those things he hathe to saye but also to obeye and follow that he shall prescribe unto you without failling us ye tendre his Majestic's pleasure and will answere for the contrary at your peryll.

So fare you well from Weftminster the Vth of Novembre 1549.

Yr loving freend,

W Saint John.
J Warwyck
W Northe
F Shrewsbury
N Wotton
W Birbirt
Edward Northe

With this Warrant, signed by Members of the Council of State of Edward VI, did the first Poulet arrive in Jersey. But before we proceed to follow the family's history for the next 51 years, it would perhaps be advantageous to remind ourselves of the contemporary scene so that we may better appreciate some of their actions and thoughts.

16th century Jersey

In 1549 there were practically no all-stone houses in Jersey for dwelling purposes, only castles and fortifications were of all stone. The houses were of clay and wood with loam floors covered with rushes. The earliest dated stone we have found from a house in the Island is 1581.

Only the very rich had bed linen and most people slept on straw pallets with a log of wood as pillow. The Rev William Harrison, writing from Hampshire later on in 1577 says that" ... a good log serveth for the head. A pillow of chaff is for women in childbed only; the common people hath no sheet to cover them and the straw doth prick their hardened hides."

There were no harbours in Jersey, only a small, rough, stone jetty at which fishing boats could tie up and shelter. All large ships anchored under the lee of Noirmont Point, to shelter from the prevailing west and south-west winds, and St Aubin was far busier than St Helier.

Elie Brevint, in his Journal written in Sark describing conditions in Jersey of about 1565, says: un home en un hostellerie prend pour son dejeuner a un denier sterling-du pain; a un denier, de beurre ou d'ceufs ; a un denier, de biere ; 3 oeufs cuits a la braise coustent un denier.

The population of Jersey, I estimate, was about 9,000 in 1550, rising to about 11,5OO in 1600 when the Paulet period ends. The whole of England was about 4 millions.

The Paulets were an old Somersetshire family of some social standing. That Branch which sent members to Jersey were from the Manor of Hinton St George, near Crewkerne. Another branch became Marquises of Winchester and Dukes of Bolton.

Sir Amyas Poulet, father of the Sir Hugh who arrived in Jersey in 1549, had once placed Cardinal Wolsey, when a young priest, in the stocks in Somerset for disorderly behaviour after a fair. Many years later when Sir Amyas was Treasurer of the Middle Temple in London, and Wolsey had become the redoubtable Cardinal, Wolsey took his revenge by confining Paulet to his Chambers for several years. At this stage Helier de Carteret, the Bailiff of Jersey, was pleading justice from Wolsey against Governor Vaughan. Helier de Carteret's forthright demands of Wolsey in the Star Chamber have been graphically described many times since, and there could perhaps be little doubt that de Carteret and Paulet met in London at the time and found a common bond of sympathy in their sufferings at the hands of Wolsey. Suffice it to say, that when Sir Amyas's son, Sir Hugh, arrived in Jersey in 1549, he presented the Warrant we have first quoted to Helier de Carteret who was still Bailiff.

These incidents may well have had a profound influence on events in the Island for the next 50 years for, as will be seen, three generations of Paulets entered very closely into Island life generally, and with the de Carterets of St Ouen in particular.


Sir Hugh arrived in Jersey accompanied by his brother John, a cleric, and his two sons, Amyas (18) and George (16).

Sir Hugh had been Knighted in 1537; was a fine soldier and had won distinction at the battle of Boulogne. His first concern in Jersey was the strengthening of the fortifications, which were mainly at Mont Orgueil. He brought over some lead from the destroyed roof of Glastonbury Abbey to use at Mont Orgueil.

The gun which is at present at the bottom of Beaumont Hill was, almost certainly, made to his order by Owen in 1551, and is a priceless relic of the period.

Edward VI granted him the Seigneurie of Fief St Germain to take effect after the death of Bailiff Helier de Carteret.


Sir Hugh was often absent from the Island, for he was sent to Wales, Alderney and Le Havre at the end of the siege there. The plague was brought back from Le Havre into Jersey at this time. One can perhaps mention that Erasmus, the philosopher and theologian, writing some few years earlier on the subject of plague, said " ... although there are often costly hangings on the walls of fine houses, new rushes are strewn on top of old on the floors until there is an accumulation of filth of years, which bringeth the plague".

In 1556 Sir Hugh's son, Sir Amyas, then 24 years old, was sworn in as Lieut-Governor owing to his father's absences.

Dean Paulet's seal

Dean Paulet

Sir Hugh's brother John, a Roman Catholic Priest, had arrived in the Island with the others and he was appointed Rector of St Martin and subsequently Dean of the Island.

Dean John Paulet had a very chequered career during the continually changing religious situation at the time, and it would require much more than a short paper to even outline it. The rest of the Paulet family were strong Protestants and John seems to have retained much of his freedom of thought and action, owing to a vacillating policy and also to a spirit of tolerance which prevailed in religious matters in the Island, helped, possibly, by the rural nature of existence. Such was not the case in neighbouring Normandy, especially in towns like Rouen, where frightful outrages were committed. Man must be in the mass to cause mischief!

The fact that his brother and nephew were Governor and Lieut-Governor respectively may, of course, have helped him. He tried very hard to retain the rights of the Ecclesiastical Court under his leadership but the tide of Protestantism was too strong for him. French refugees (Huguenots) were coming into Jersey in numbers, and in 1558, upon the death of Queen Mary, his name disappears from the Act Book of the Ecclesiastical Court, although he was still performing some clerical duties in 1568, for he is recorded as having been "collecting dues from the parishes".

In 1576 all duties of a Dean were transferred to the Calvinistic Colloquy and John Paulet had no more authority in that office. He had apparently gradually tempered his religious views of 1550 to the pressure of events around him for we find him always treated with respect and nominally called 'Dean' until his death in 1580. He was at one time Bursar and the 'person responsible' for the schools of Saint Mannelier and St Anastase. He brought the family into closer relation with Jersey by marrying, late in life, the daughter of Jean Lempriere the Seigneur of Trinity. By her he had a son, Hugh, who later became Attorney-General of Jersey; and a daughter, Ann, who married Carteret la Cloche, the Seigneur of Longueville.

This portrait of Sir Amyas Paulet is at Government House

Amyas Paulet

Reverting to Amyas, who had been appointed Lieutenant-Governor in 1556: He had come to Jersey when 18 and several incidents in his career rather seem to suggest that he at once made friends with a young man of his own age - Helier de Carteret, later the Seigneur of St Ouen. Huguenot refugees were pouring into Jersey from persecution in France and Amyas Poulet supported the Islanders in their desire to use the French Protestant (Calvinistic) Prayer Book instead of the English Version. It was this Helier de Carteret who persuaded the Privy Council in London to allow this to be done in the two Town Churches of St Helier and St Peter Port.

Amyas supported the Huguenots in every way. He had appointed a Huguenot Minister from Anjou, one Guillaume Morise, to the Town Church, and at the first celebration of the Lord's Supper there under the Rules of the Reformed Church in 1562, we find that Amyas Paulet, Helier de Carteret and many other notables were present.

That Amyas was a highly-principled and capable man seems evident for he encouraged the French refugee Ministers who were men of high education and learning and therefore of great value to the Island. He also appointed Arthur Wake, who had been Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, to be Chaplain of Mont Orgueil, where he remained for 18 years.

He also kept a guiding hand on the economics of the Island for its welfare, since we fijd that on 12 December 1559 he wrote to the Council asking for an Order that unless the Jersey merchants sold more tin, cloth etc, to France, they were not to be allowed to bring in so much wine to drink - as it is lamentable that so much money passes from the Island in such unprofitable wares."

Ambassador in Paris

Amyas was Knighted in 1573, and in 1576 was appointed by Queen Elizabeth to be her Ambassador to France. The Queen was anxious to make friends with France, for she had a strong enemy in Spain and did not wish to have both countries against her at once. Her choice of Sir Amyas seems to have been carefully made, for he was a strong Protestant, had been in Jersey for nearly 26 years where he had spoken French all the time with the Jersey people, and had also made contact with many highly-connected French Protestants.

He does not seem to have been very happy in Paris, however, and rather homesick, for a letter written by him on 20 April 1578 to Sir Thomas Leighton, Governor of Guernsey reads:

"My good neighbour, Your letter of the tenth of the last is written so heartily as I finde myself no less comforted to reade it than if I did talk to you face to face. Surely you cannot bestow this kind of writing uppon any gentleman in England that shall love you better or make more account of your friendship.
"I trust to be so happy to see England at Michaelmas and then your wishing to see me in your Isle shall take effect shortly after by the Grace of God; and I can now tell you by experience that it is a blessed life to live in those little Isles. When I consider the course of things in this worlde I persuade myself that God loveth those Isles and careth for them."

Mary Queen of Scots

His eldest son Hugh was killed in a street accident in Paris and Sir Amyas returned to Jersey in 1581. In 1583 he appointed his second son Anthony to be his Lieut-Governor. In 1585 Sir Amyas was called from Jersey to become gaoler of Mary, Queen of Scots. It will not serve our purpose to recall details of that unfortunate woman's life. Elizabeth wished her exterminated and could not bring it upon herself to give the necessary order. When a suggestion was made to Sir Amyas that he should get the deed done, he refused, saying that "never would he make so foul a shipwreck of conscience".

He was one of the Commissioners at Mary's trial and escorted her to the scaffold.

She turned to him and said: "Thanks, Sir Amyas, this will be the last trouble I shall give you." She also asked him to implore the Queen that her wishes in her last Will and Testament should be carried out for the benefit of her servants; this was done and the Estate was valued at 17,000 Crowns.

Sir Amyas died in London in the year of the Armada, 1588, and is now buried in the family mausoleum in Somerset.

It may be recalled that Amyas's brother George had arrived with him at the age of 16. He was to perform about 60 years of useful public service to the Island - 36 of them as Bailiff, and also many times acting as Lieut-Governor. This is a remarkable record and shows to what extent the Paulets entered into Island life. He also concerned himself with the state of the fortifications, the two grammar schools, and was an Elder of the Reformed Church. He also on occasion was one of the Commissioners appointed for various purposes in both Jersey and Guernsey by the Council, one of their most important tasks being to review the Laws of Jersey and render them in more concise form in 1609.

He had inherited the Seigneurie of the Fief St Germain and at one time lived in the manor house at Handois. He married several times, and from his second wife, who had been a Perrin of the Seigneurs of Rosel, and who was the widow of the late Bailiff Hostes Nicolle, he had a daughter Rachel. This daughter Rachel brought the Poulets still closer into Island life for she married Philippe de Carteret, the eldest son of Helier de Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen, who had been granted Letters Patent for the Island of Sark by Elizabeth in 1565, and who had been a close friend of the two Paulet boys Amyas and George for many years.

The other son of this Helier, and brother to Philippe de Carteret, was Amyas, so named because Sir Amyas Paulet was his godfather. Amyas de Carteret went to Winchester School and Cambridge University, and later on was Bailiff and Lieut-Governor of Guernsey for some 31 years. Helier de Carteret was the only son of Edward de Carteret, Seigneur, and Mary Sarre, his wife.

We have many contracts in our Société Jersiaise archives signed by Bailiff George Poulet, and in State Papers (Domestic) we find a letter dated 10 April 1614 from the King to Governor Sir John Peyton: "We are well pleased that our old servant George Paulet shall now retire to his private ease ... and because you have displaced Paulet from his Lieutenancy after 50 years of service, it is our pleasure that you allow him £20 a year during life." He died in 1621 and was buried in St Saviour's Church. The Seigneury of St Germain passed to his daughter Rachel, wife of Philip de Carteret, and the Seigneurie remains in the de Carteret family's hands today.

Sir Anthony Paulet, 1597

Anthony Paulet

Sir Anthony Paulet whose portrait was purchased by the Société last year, born in 1562, was sworn in as Lieut-Governor at the same time as his uncle George was made Bailiif. The Dictionary of National Biography says that he was severe and autocratic in his office, an opinion engendered by remarks of our legal commentator Le Geyt (1635-1714).

Whilst Le Geyt deals very strictly with the legal aspect of two cases concerning Sir Anthony - the de Carteret and Poingdestre affairs - I venture to think that subsequent readers have not recognised sufficiently the sociological changes that were taking place in the period, to be able to present a true appraisal of Sir Anthony's character. The trouble commenced during a court case before the Bailiff George Paulet, when one Dumaresq insulted the Bailiff. High words followed, and two other Jurats supported Dumaresq. Sir Anthony, the Lieut-Governor, stepped in and ordered the three offending Jurats to Mont Orgueil for a day or two until tempers cooled. This was constitutionally wrong, for the Governor could only imprison for military reasons. Of the three, Jean de Carteret never forgave this indignity, but the other two withdrew from the matter.

Whatever de Carteret charged Sir Anthony with over the years following was proved unfounded, and de Carteret was twice sent to prison in the Marshalsea in London for making false accusations. Eventually two Commissioners, Payne and Napper, were sent to the Island to make full investigation, and their findings completely exonerated both Sir Anthony and Bailiff George Paulet.

Poingdestre affair

Another case which influenced some section of public opinion against Sir Anthony was the 'Poingdestre affair'. An old man so-named had been gathering vraic on the beach near the town and an altercation started between him and a soldier called Robins. Some blows were struck and the soldier slipped on the seaweed and died from internal injuries some days later. Poingdestre was imprisoned and a long series of appeals commenced on his behalf from some of the Islanders.

It would appear that much of the criticism came from fractious elements of the people, for Sir Anthony was enforcing stern measures to suppress the licence and loose living that was rife at the time. Standards of measure and weight were officially introduced in his time, to ensure fair trading. Improving social conditions for the masses, increasing trade and more freedom of expression which sprang from a new religion that came out into the open from monastic seclusion, led many in their haste for social advancement, to chafe and chide at restrictions and laws which they thought impeded their personal progress.

Perhaps Sir Anthony did not adapt himself quite fast enough to meet this new outlook, but his fairness is shown by the following letter which he sent to Lord Burghley on 1 October 1593:

"With reference to Poingdestre, I rather wish his conversion than his overthrow. I do not think he has had the injustice that he informed of. I do not seek his blood and should be glad if the Queen would pardon him, provided that his wilfulness were bridled."

A further instance of Sir Anthony's concern for the Islanders is contained in the journal of Edouard Payn, the Constable of St Martin, in an entry dated 10 June 1590:

"Paid to Benjamin la Cloche by order of Monsieur le Capitaine (Anthony Paulet) the sum of 5 ecus sol for having been appointed to go before the English Army to request them not to trouble the Island on their way to Brittany."

If this army of about 4,000 men had used Jersey as a base, the effect on the populace would have been disastrous both from a food and moral point of view. We did entertain the sick and wounded, however, for a further entry on 10 September 1590 reads:

"Paid for the sustenance of the poor English soldiers returned here sick from Brittany 18 Reales."

It seems that the Governors always had difficulty in getting the Islanders to contribute money towards the defences for Sir Hugh Poulet in 1561 was complaining to the Council that he could not collect the dues, and in March 1590 Sir Anthony writes to the Council asking them to issue a Warrant "to make the Islanders pay £80 out of the £400 that they had promised to pay towards the defences". One may expect criticism if one is always asking for money.

It was during the last few years of Sir Anthony's life that Elizabeth Castle was built under the supervision of the Engineer Paul Ivy. Sir Anthony proceeded to London in 1595 to be granted his Knighthood when he was 33 years of age, but in 1597 we find him writing from Jersey to Secretary Cecil asking leave to return to England for a time as he is ill and requires a physician "which this place does not afford". He died in July 1600, and is buried alongside his wife, Lady Katherine Norris (Norreys) in the Paulet mausoleum at Hinton St George, Somerset.

Conditions in Jersey

It is impossible in this short article to give more than a very faint sketch of living conditions in Jersey during the Paulet period. Our Court Rolls (commenced in 1505) make fascinating reading: In 1584 a young man having robbed his master of a small sum and it being his first offence, is sentenced to be "whipped from the Court doors to the cemetery and back till it draws blood and to have his ear pierced". The new religion is trying to stamp out some superstition for in 1580 Noel Briard is fined 10s for having in Court "called on the Devils to come and take him". Also in 1591, one Jean Bichard is condemned to be placed in the stocks on Sunday for having called in a sorcerer to cure his bad leg "this being expressly forbidden by the Law of God and the Ordinances of Justice".

One had not to criticise the lawyers, for on 17 June 1569, we read that "Bastien Ficquet is condemned for having said that Edouard Messervy, Avocat, had had his pocket 'greased' (oingtz la poche). Fined 10s."

It is significant that during the 50 years of Paulet Governorship there were only 32 executions for all offences such as larceny, rape, piracy, murder and witchcraft. This is remarkable in view of the crudity of the times and the outrages in the name of religion (often falsely) going on elsewhere.

Jersey undoubtedly gained inestimable benefit through having the Paulet family at the head of affairs. They brought culture and dignity with them from a stately home in the West Country of England where outlooks were mainly rural, similar to our own. They were able to help Jersey in countless ways through their relatives. The Marquis of Winchester was a Paulet, with his seat at Netley, and timber was often sent from the forests of Hampshire to Jersey for building purposes, and the soldiers who manned Mont Orgueil were from the trained bands of Hampshire. Jersey gained much wealth through shipping trade to and from the Port of Southampton.

Popinjay's 1563 map of Jersey

Popinjay, who drew a map of Jersey in 1563, was without doubt sent over through Sir Hugh Paulet, for Popinjay was Surveyor of Portsmouth, and the Captain of all the Defences of Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight was William Paulet a cousin of Sir Hugh.

The sociological changes taking place during that time were immense: Europe was gradually emerging from Medievalism towards a wider life for the individual; geographical discovery was leading to increased trade and wealth; men's minds were throwing aside the oppressions of feudalism and the individual found the way open to him for social advancement.

Sir Anthony Paulet had as contemporaries Shakespeare, Sir Walter Ralegh (who succeeded him as Governor), Sir Francis Drake and many other notabilities. The Paulet family motto is Gard la Foi and their Arms "Sable three swords in pile silver, points meeting in base, hilts and pommels gold."

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