Robert Paston, 1st Earl of Yarmouth

The Earl of Yarmouth, by Burnet Reading

Robert Paston, 1st Earl of Yarmouth, FRS (29 May 1631 – 8 March 1683) was an English scientist and politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1660 and 1673 when he was created Viscount Yarmouth. He was created Earl of Yarmouth in 1679.


Paston was the son of Sir William Paston, 1st Baronet of Oxnead and his first wife Lady Katherine Bertie, daughter of Robert Bertie, 1st Earl of Lindsey. He was educated at Westminster School and was a student of Trinity College, Cambridge in 1646. He travelled abroad in France. In 1660 he was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Thetford in the Convention Parliament. He was knighted on 27 May 1660.[1]

In 1661 Paston was elected MP for Castle Rising and sat until 1673, when he had to relinquish his seat on being raised to the peerage as Viscount Yarmouth. He had inherited the baronetcy on the death of his father in 1663. He was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk on 6 March 1676, retaining the office until his death. He was created the 1st Earl of Yarmouth in 1679.[1]

Following the creation of the Royal Society in 1660, he was accepted as an Original Fellow on 20 May 1663. With another Fellow, Thomas Henshaw, he attempted to discover a formula for the fabled "red elixir", another name for the philosopher's stone which alchemists believed could transmute base metals into gold.[2] In a letter to Sir Thomas Browne he informed the Norwich physician-philosopher of his alchemical experiments -

I have at Oxnead seen this salt change black as ink, I must, at the lowest, have an excellent aurum potable, and if the signs we are to judge in Sendivogius’ description be true, I have the key which answers to what he says, that if a man has that which will disolve gold as warm water doth ice, you have that which gold was first made in the earth.[3]

Paston lived at Richmond. In May 1666, he wrote a letter to his wife mentioning "a game of criquett (sic) on Richmond Green" which is the first reference to cricket at Richmond Green, a popular venue for important matches during the 17th and 18th centuries.[4]

There is a painting in the Norwich Castle Museum, of Robert Paston and his father William's artefact collection known as The Paston Treasure.[5]


Paston married Rebecca Clayton daughter of Sir Jasper Clayton, Haberdasher, of London on 15 June 1650. They had six sons and three daughters. Rebecca died on 16 February 1694. His son William married an illegitimate daughter of Charles II.[1] Both Robert and his son were in high favour with the Stuarts.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 History of Parliament Online - Paston, Robert
  2. Notes and Records of the Royal Society,Volume 51, Number 1, pp57-76
  3. Correspondence dated September 10th 1674 in Vol. 3 Collected works of Sir Thomas Browne ed. Simon Wilkins Pickering and Co. 1834
  4. Leach, John (2007). "From Lads to Lord's – Richmond Green". Stumpsite. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  5. The Paston Treasure Retrieved 30 Mar 2011
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Robert Steward
William Stene
Member of Parliament for Thetford
with Sir Philip Wodehouse, Bt

Succeeded by
Sir Allen Apsley
William Gawdy
Preceded by
Sir John Holland, Bt
John Spelman
Member of Parliament for Castle Rising
with Robert Steward 1661–1673
Sir John Trevor 1673

Succeeded by
Sir John Trevor
Samuel Pepys
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Viscount Townshend
Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk
Succeeded by
Earl of Arundel and Surrey
Vice-Admiral of Norfolk
Title next held by
Sir Henry Hobart
Peerage of England
New creation Earl of Yarmouth
Succeeded by
William Paston
Viscount Yarmouth
Baronetage of England
Preceded by
William Paston
(of Paston and Oxnead, Norfolk)
Succeeded by
William Paston
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