Paulet, Sir George (d. 1608), governor of Derry, was son of Sir George Paulet, brother of the 1st marquis of Winchester, and Elizabeth, daughter of William Windsor, 2nd Baron Windsor. He attended King's College, Cambridge in the early 1570s, served as justice of the peace in Hampshire, 1593–1601, and as co-colonel of the musters in that county in 1600. He was appointed governor of Derry by king's letter on 23 July 1606 as a result of a private arrangement with his predecessor, Sir Henry Docwra (qv), who was disgruntled and anxious to leave Ireland.
Paulet agreed to buy Docwra's extensive property in Derry in May 1606 and procured royal instructions to the lord lieutenant, Mountjoy (qv), that he was to be appointed governor, given command of Docwra's foot company, and issued with a patent for the lands that he had bought. Mountjoy already knew Paulet through the 2nd marquis of Westminister, with whom he had served as joint lord lieutenant of Hampshire, and had tried to dissuade him from proceeding on the grounds that there was no longer need for a man of war in Ulster. Arrogant and abrasive, Paulet soon proved to be a poor choice of governor for so sensitive an area. By February 1607, shortly after his arrival in Derry, Lord Deputy Chichester (qv) had already concluded that he was a poor exchange for Docwra, and reported to the English privy council that he was unfit for command and had caused ‘many dissensions’ since his arrival. A month later the new bishop of Derry, George Montgomery (qv), complained that Paulet was claiming episcopal lands as part of the property bought from Docwra and had calumniated him. On 26 June 1607, nonetheless, Paulet was knighted.
The flight of the earls in September 1607 generated an atmosphere of suspicion and apprehension in which Paulet's unfamiliarity with the intricate politics of the region precipitated a crisis. Receiving notice, early in November, that Sir Cahir O'Doherty (qv) of Inishowen, whose knighthood and position as an alderman of Derry were testimonies to Docwra's confidence in his loyalty, had gone to Tory Island to await a Spanish army, Paulet set out immediately to seize O'Doherty. O'Doherty was away from home and Paulet was unable to make an arrest, but he remained convinced of O'Doherty's guilt and informed him that should they meet in the field he would make his ‘proud spirit know the difference between a good subject and a disloyal false-hearted traitor’ (CSPI, 1606–8, 316). Paulet's hand was strengthened when O'Doherty's protest to the lord deputy in Dublin resulted in his being imprisoned for some days and required to enter into recognizances early in December. When O'Doherty and Paulet encountered one another again, in early April 1608, at a meeting in Derry where O'Doherty had gone to discuss a sale of land, they quarrelled. Paulet, according to the Four Masters, ‘not only offered him insult and abuse by word, but also inflicted chastisement on his body’ (AFM, vi, 2359–61).
O'Doherty returned to Inishowen where he decided that he had no recourse but reprisal. On the evening of 18 April 1608 the fort of Culmore was tricked into opening its gates and the garrison was overcome by O'Doherty's forces. Having armed themselves from the fort, they attacked Derry and took and burnt it after some resistance. Paulet defended himself but was killed either by a member of the O'Doherty family or (according to another report) by Phelim Reagh MacDavitt, one of O'Doherty's foster-brothers. His purpose achieved, O'Doherty withdrew. The dead amounted to a dozen or so, equally divided. Paulet's wife, Jane (a daughter of Richard Kyme of Lewes, Sussex, with whom he had a son and a daughter), was briefly held captive by the O'Dohertys and subsequently surrendered the Derry property for inclusion in the plantation for the sum of £1,400. She was still alive in 1617.
There is no evidence to support the view that O'Doherty was acting on behalf of the exiled earls. His own explanation, that Paulet was his declared enemy and that he feared for his life, is entirely credible, though Chichester's handling of his complaint in 1607 was certainly a contributory cause. Chichester, who later admitted that everybody believed O'Doherty had been wronged in the November incident, attributed O'Doherty's success to Paulet's carelessness in failing to heed warnings that he should establish regular nightly watches, adding that the governor was hated both by his own soldiers and by the inhabitants of Derry and that it was likely that some mischief would soon have befallen him if he had escaped the rebels. For their part, the English privy councillors, though they believed that Chichester's policies were partly responsible, reserved their main condemnation for Paulet. Accusing him of cowardice, they asserted that he would have been executed by the state if he not been killed by the rebels.