Eleanor PASTON

(C. Rutland)


Born: BEF 1496, Wiverton, Nottinghamshire, England

Died: BET 1550/55 / 12 Oct 1559, Holywell, Shoreditch, England

Buried: St Leonard's, Shoreditch, England

Father: William PASTON (Sir)

Mother: Bridget HEYDON

Married: Thomas MANNERS (1° E. Rutland) BEF 1523


1. Gertrude MANNERS (C. Shrewsbury)

2. Henry MANNERS (2° E. Rutland)

3. Anne MANNERS (C. Westmoreland)

4. Frances MANNERS (B. Abergavenny)

5. Elizabeth MANNERS

6. John MANNERS (Sir Knight)

7. Roger MANNERS of Uffington (Esq.)

8. Isabel MANNERS (d. young)

9. Thomas MANNERS (Sir Knight)

10. Oliver MANNERS (Esq.)

11. Catherine MANNERS

Paston,Eleonor(C.Rutland).jpg (60543 bytes)

Detail of the effigie of Eleanor Paston at Bottesford

(she is interred in St. Margaret's, Shoreditch, Middlesex)

Eleanor Paston was the daughter of Sir William Paston and Bridget Heydon. Eleanor was by birth a Paston, whose family's fortunes were inevitably linked with the house of Howard. By her mother she was a relative of Anne Boleyn. Eleanor was sister of Sir Clement Paston.

She married Thomas Manners, Earl of Rutland, as his second wife before 1523. Their children were Gertrude, Henry, Anne, Elizabeth, Sir John, Frances, Roger, Sir Thomas, Catherine, Oliver, and Isabel. In between giving birth she was a lady of the privy chamber to Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, and Catherine Howard.

About 1533 Lady Rutland wrote a letter expressing her dislike of the Holy Maid of Kent. In 1536, the Rutlands’ London house at Holywell in Shoreditch was the scene of a triple wedding uniting Henry Manners, age ten, with Lady Margaret Neville, Anne Manners with Lord Henry Neville, and Dorothy Neville with John De Vere, Lord Bulbeck.

Although she had a child in Jan 1537, she returned to court by spring and remained for much of the summer and fall. In Jul 1537, Lady Rutland was quarantined at Enfield after a member of her household came down with the dreaded "sweat", but she was back at court in Aug.

Residence at court and in London or its vicinity opened a rich social life to Lady Rutland. She developed friendships with other members of the queen's Privy Chamber, particularly Margaret Dymoke, Lady Coffin; Mary Arundell, Countess of Sussex; Anne Stanhope, Lady Beauchamp; and the Duchess of Suffolk. Lady Rutland also became friends with such women as Honor Grenville, Lady Lisle, who came to court occasionally but did not hold offices there.

On 12 Nov 1537 Eleanor was in the first Chariot at Queen Jane’s Funeral Procession, with Mary Arundell, Countess of Sussex; Frances Brandon, Marchioness of Dorset; Mabel Clifford, Countess of Southampton; Cecily Daubeney, Countess of Bath; Lady Margaret Douglas and Elizabeth Scrope, Countess of Oxford.

Catherine Bassett, stepdaughter of Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle, was in competition with her younger sister, Anne Bassett, for one opening among Jane Seymour’s maids of honor. Queen Jane was stricy in what she requires of her ladies. John Husee, agent of Lisle, in a letter to Lady Lisle, a written on 9 May 1537, mentions lady Rutland's thanks for a heart of gold, which furnishes the date of the present letter:

“Madam, In my right hearty manner I recommend me unto you, and even so glad I am to hear that you be in good health, which I pray God long to continue. Madam, I do most heartily thank you for your cherries and peascods which you have sent unto me by this bearer, and for many other gifts that you have sent unto me heretofore; and sorry I am that I can do you no pleasure, but, God willing, I shall deserve your kindness if I can, And where you send to know whether I did receive a heart of gold from you, truth is it came unto me bụt of late, which heart I do send unto you here inclosed by your said servant. And for news I have none, but that the king's highness and the queen's grace is in good health and merry, thanks be unto Almighty God. I pray you to have me recommended unto my lord your bedfellow. And thus I beseech Almighty God have you in his blessed tuition.
Written at Hampton Court, the 10th day of June,
By your loving friend,


In mid-Jul 1537, Jane, then six months pregnant, was eating quails for dinner. The quails had been sent by Lady Lisle, and the Countesses of Rutland and Sussex, who were serving the Queen, took advantage of the fact. They reminded her of Lady Lisle's suit for her daughters by her previous marriage, Anne and Catherine Basset, to be taken into the Queen's service. The birds were delicious and the Queen was disposed to be gracious. But not too much. Let both girls be sent for, she decreed, and she would take her pick of one of them. When Anne was chosen instead, Catherine joined the household of the Countess of Rutland. There was some talk of placing her with Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, or Anne Stanhope, Countess of Hertford, but Catherine apparently preferred Lady Rutland. Efforts continued to be made to win a position for her as a maid of honor but it was not until Anne of Cleves was no longer queen that Catherine was placed in her household in Aug 1540.

On 28 Apr 1539 her daughter Gertrude married George Talbot, heir of the Earl of Shrewsbury. The Earl of Rutland paid 3,000 marks for the marriage. Only a week after the wedding, she wrote Lady Lisle that she was "so big with child" that she would soon depart for Belvoir Castle. In the event, she did not leave until mid-Jun, about a month before she gave birth her younger daughter Catherine. She named her Catherine for the Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, who visited Belvoir Castle at least once. Lady Coffin sent a gift after the child's birth. Some years later, Lady Coffin married the countess’s brother-in-law, Sir Richard Manners, as her third husband.

At the household of Anne of Cleves, three surviving ladies from Cleves were naturally closest to the Queen, but three Englishwomen, despite linguistic difficulties, became very much part of her domestic circle — Lady Rutland, wife of her Chamberlain, and two widows, Lady Rochford and Lady Edgecombe. Lady Rochford, widow of George Boleyn, who had been dismissed from her post in Anne Boleyn's Bed-chamber, had regained favour under Jane Seymour soon after her husband's execution; while Catherine Edgecombe had recently lost her second husband, the Devonshire Sir Piers Edgecombe. The last attendant of note was Mistress Lowe, from Cleves, mother of the maids of honour, a matronly confidante, whose influence extended throughout the Queen's apartments.

The Queen's forthright English ladies-in-waiting became impatient at the delay in her conceiving. Jane, Lady Rochford, believed that directness was the only remedy and one day told her: 'I think your grace is still a maid'. After an embarrassed silence, Anne replied, naively: 'How can I be a maid... and sleep every night with the king?' and described her innocent bedtime ritual: 'When he comes to bed, he kisses me and takes me by the hand and bids me, "Goodnight sweetheart," and in the morning, kisses me and bids me, "Farewell darling." Is this not enough?'. Lady Eleanor Rutland told her pointedly: 'Madam, there must be more than this, or it will be long ere we have a Duke of York, which this realm most desires'.

Eleanor exercised a sway over the ladies of the Queen's Household for almost a decade. She was a grande dame of the old school, being kindly, level-headed and generous. She was also catholic in her friendships and mainstream in her religion. But she took advantage of her husband's death to retire from the Court and she was replaced as the dominant force in the Queen Catherine Parr's Household by her sister, Anne Herbert, who became Chief Lady of the Queen's Privy Chamber.

Four letters are preserved from Eleanor to her father, Sir William Paston. The third, wrote before 1536, was full of news of the court, which she described as "merry", and of the ongoing negotiations to arrange marriages for her children. She expected the queen to visit Enfield, one of Rutland's Middlesex mansions, the following week and asked Sir William to send her fish if it was convenient, "for here is small store". She also told her that her sister Elizabeth was still with her, and indicated that she was fulfilling her commitment to help him with his five sisters, as she had promised in a previous letter. Another sister, Margaret, and her brother John lived with her in 1539 and 1540. Margaret and Elizabeth will later marry John and Francis Leke, sons of Sir John Leke and Jane Foljambe, who will be important allies of Lord Rutland. Bridget Paston, John's daughter, will be the wife of Sir Edward Coke. Other sister, Mary, married Sir John Chaworth, and was the mother of George and Bridget.

The Countess paid some of her children's expenses included unusual items such as her eldest son's dancing lessons, a "physic” to cure the children's worms, and a bow and arrows for Anne. In addition, she assumed responsibility for payments to her husband's brothers and married sisters. Although these occasionally involved largest sums, such as the final installments of the dowries of two of her sisters-in-law.

The only surviving letter from Sir William Paston to his daughter Eleanor was wrote in Sep 1543, when her husband was very sick. He assured Eleanor that he and her mother would come to her as fast as they could and explained that the delay was caused by the fact that his horse was ill and could not make the journey. But he assured her, 'I shall make the best shift I can to come with all the haste possible’. In a postscript, he wamed her against giving way to grief and anxiety in the crisis. 'For God’s love, remember if you should fully cast away yourself, you should not only displease God, but also hinder my lord and your children and many other'.

In his last will, dated 16 Aug 1543 (printed in "Testamenta Vetusta" ii. 719), the Earl of Rutland confirms to the lady Eleanor, Countess of Rutland, for her life, several manors, consisting of Belvoir, Woolsthorp, and many others, to the yearly value of £410 15s. 4 ¾ d.; with the addition of Croxton and others, of the yearly value of £280 9s. 11 ¾ d.; “all which have been already assigned to the faid lady Eleanor my wife, for her jointure and dower, of myn intention, and for other considerations and sure promises made by the said countess to me the said Earl, to be loving, benevolent, and favourable to my children. And constitutes his executors, Eleanor, Countess of Rutland, his wife; Sir Richard Manners, his brother; Sir John Chaworth, knight, his brother in law; Augustine Porter, Henry Digby, and Robert Thurston, esquires; and to each of them gives £40.

Acting as principal executor, she pushed for as speedy a probate as possible. Writing from Belvoir, she asked her father to prompt Digby to act quickly. The Countess committed everything to her father's ‘good discretion’ and told him to keep her up to date on how things were going. She also wanted him to help one Bridget Huggard, probably one of her servants, whom she had sent to London to be cured of an unspedfied disease, assuring him that she would repay him for any costs he incurred.

After the reign of Edward VI, the prominence of Eleanor Paston, Countess of Rutland, at the court of Queen Mary, may account for the appointment of Roger Manners as an Esquire of the Body and serving both Mary and Elizabeth. The same prominence should be influenced to achieve the marriage of her daughter, Lady Frances, with Henry Neville, fourth Baron Abergavenny.

There is a monument to Eleanor and three other women in St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, erected in 1591. It says she was buried there in 1551. There is no death date on her husband's tomb at Bottesford, since that monument was erected during her lifetime, but M. St. Clare Byrne gives her death date as 12 Oct 1559.


Childs, Jessie: Henry VIII´s Last Victim: The life and times of Herny Howard, Earl of Surrey -

Daybell, James and Gordon, Andrew (eds):  Women & Epistolary Agency in Early Modern Culture, 1450–1690 (London: Routledge, 2016)

Green, Nina: The Fall of the House of Oxford - Originally published in Brief Chronicles Vol. 1 (2009), pages 41–95 https://shakespeareoxfordfellowship.org/fall-house-oxford/

Harris, Barbara J. : English Aristocratic Women, 1450-1550 (2002) Oxford University Press

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