During the last years of Henry VIII the experienced diplomat, Sir William Paget, served as the king’s Principal Secretary, at the same time that John Dudley, Viscount Lisle rose to be a great Lord Admiral. In the summer of 1546 the two men sailed to France and negotiated the Peace of Camp with Francis I. Paget – “no seaman” in his colleague’s opinion1 – by skilled diplomacy and Lisle by daring manoeuvres. When Dudley suspected a renewal of hostilities on the part of his French counterpart, Admiral Claude d’Annebault, he suddenly put to sea and made a show of English strength before returning to the negotiating table. Paget was annoyed by this unforseen interruption of proceedings, but King Henry was very pleased and the snubbed secretary had to accept that the Lord Admiral now effectively took the lead.2 On the personal level relations remained cordial, though, Paget and Dudley enjoying red deer and delicious puddings, the latter being especially to the admiral’s taste. Paget may have overindulged, as he became sick; when he was better, Dudley wrote: “I am glad you have taken the purge. The ladies and all the rest … long for your return”. Paget returned to England, however, and Lisle asked him to communicate the following to his own better half:3
As I lack leisure to write to my wife, I shall desire you to make her my recommendations; and where she wrote for some goldsmith’s work from Paris, I pray God I may have enough to bring home myself. I assure you this journey hath been extremely chargeable, after such sort as I think I shall be fain to hide myself in a corner for seven years after. I have borrowed here in Paris almost £500 and all little enough.
William Paget, known as the “master of practices”, also engineered the smooth installation of Lord Protector Somerset in January 1547, following the accession of Edward VI. The most important of Somerset’s advisors, Paget nevertheless became seriously disillusioned at the protector’s aloofness, his frequent warnings going unheeded (“I was a Cassandra, I told your grace the truthe and was not beleved”4). Despite his close association with Somerset, he escaped unscathed from the coup d’etat of October 1549 – his long conferences with John Dudley surely contributing to the fact. On 26 November 1549 Paget was once again found “in deep private conversation” at Dudley’s residence; the next week he was Baron Paget of Beaudesert.5
Lord Paget attended government business only sporadically, having too many issues with Dudley’s policies. At the same time he was probably too intelligent to engage in any of Somerset’s plots for the removal of Dudley, although according to one allegation the governing clique was to be dispatched at a banquet to be held in Paget’s house. When the ex-protector and his closest allies were finally dealt with in the winter of 1551/1552, Paget was placed into the Tower on a pretext wholly unrelated to Somerset. It quickly transpired that his life was not in danger. After a couple of months Lady Paget received back all her husband’s confiscated property and was allowed to visit him regularly; his confinement was quite relaxed, he was allowed to walk the Tower gardens and pace up and down the palace gallery. Still, Paget had to stomach the terrible slur to his honour of losing his Garter on the grounds that “he was no gentlemen either of his father’s side nor mother’s side”.6
Finally, in June 1552, he was charged with peculation in office and allowed his freedom against a fine of £5,000. At first he was to go to the country, alas Lady Paget’s “stitch in her side” required the attentions of her London doctor and so the couple received permission to stay in their suburban house. In October 1552 the fine was reduced and the case was settled in the following months by the payment of a total £1,774 – before it had been due, the government being relieved at this unexpected influx of cash. In early March 1553 Lord Paget was admitted to the royal presence and allowed to kiss Edward’s hand as a sure sign of his restoration to favour.7 His coat of arms was also restored, though not his Garter, the vacancy having been filled by Sir Andrew Dudley, Northumberland’s brother.
Dudley and Paget, Part II
1 Gammon 1973 p. 170. Paget was known to get always seasick.
2 Loades 1996 pp. 77 – 78
3 Beer 1973 pp. 34 – 36
4 Hoak 1976 p. 182
5 Gammon 1973 pp. 167 – 168
6 Gammon 1973 pp. 177 – 181
7 Gammon 1973 pp. 181 – 184
Beer, B. L. (1973): Northumberland: The Political Career of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland. The Kent State University Press.
Gammon, S. R. (1973): Statesman and Schemer: William, First Lord Paget. Tudor Minister. David & Charles.
Hoak, Dale (1976): The King’s Council in the Reign of Edward VI. Cambridge University Press.
Loades, David (1996): John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland 1504–1553. Clarendon Press.