On April 15, 1631, Lady Jane Paulet, wife of Lord John Paulet, fifth Marquis of Winchester and daughter of Thomas, first Viscount Savage of Rock Savage, Cheshire, died giving birth to her second son. She was twenty-three years old (about the same age as Milton), just one month short of her twenty-fourth birthday. According to sources close to the family, her son was born dead, and the difficult stillbirth was complicated by a fever and the lancing of an “impostume” on her cheek. She was delivered of her dead son before she died. As Parker notes, the story seems to have touched a number of people, for Lady Jane was mourned in verse by at least six poets whose poems survive; these include elegies by Ben Jonson, William Davenant, an obscure Catholic poet named Walter Colman, and two even more obscure young men: a Mr. John Eliot, about whom almost nothing is known, and, of course, John Milton. There is also a short, anonymous Latin epitaph in William Camden's Remaines Concerning Britaine.
The poem that Milton contributed to this set, “An Epitaph on the Marchioness of Winchester” (hereafter “An Epitaph”), is not a poem that has attracted the full attention of Miltonists over the years – it has rarely occasioned more than a paragraph or a passing aside.