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Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon: Wikis


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Lord Hunsdon

Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon of Hunsdon (4 March 1526 – 23 July 1596) was an English nobleman.

He was the son of Mary Boleyn -- the sister of Anne Boleyn and also mistress to King Henry VIII of England. Historians differ as to whether he was the biological child of Henry VIII, or of Boleyn's husband, Sir William Carey, Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and Esquire of the Body to King Henry VIII.


A Royal Bastard?

Henry's mother, Lady Mary Carey (born Mary Boleyn), was mistress to King Henry VIII, beginning sometime in 1520[1]. The exact dates of when the affair started and when it ended are unknown, although the affair is believed to have ended by the time Henry Carey was born in March 1526.[2]

Contemporary rumours stated that Henry was an illegitimate child of Henry VIII. Some 10 years after the child was born, John Hales, vicar of Isleworth, remarked that he had met a "young Master Carey," whom some monks believed to be the king's bastard. The idea that Carey was Henry VIII's secret son has spawned several Tudor legends, even becoming a central part of modern fiction, such as the recent novel The Other Boleyn Girl (based on the life of Mary Boleyn).

Early life

William Carey, Henry's legal father, died suddenly from the sweating sickness on 23 June 1528 when Henry was only two. Carey and his elder sister Catherine came under the wardship of their maternal aunt Anne Boleyn, who was engaged to Henry VIII at the time. The children still had active contact with their mother, who remained on good terms with her sister, until Mary's secret elopement with a soldier, William Stafford (later Lord of Chebsey) in 1535.

Anne Boleyn acted as her nephew's patron and provided him with a top-quality education in a prestigious Cistercian monastery. He was also tutored at some point by French poet Nicholas Bourbon, whose life had been saved from the French Inquisition after Queen Anne's intervention.

Henry's royal aunt was beheaded in May 1536, when he was only ten years old. His mother died seven years later in 1543 on her estate in Essex and he was returned to his family.

On 21 May 1545 he married Anne Morgan, daughter of Sir Thomas Morgan, of Arkestone, Herefordshire, and Anne Whitney.

Political career

Entering politics at the young age of 21, Henry Carey served twice as Member of Parliament, representing Buckingham during 1547–1552, 1554–1555. He was knighted in November 1558 and created Baron by his first cousin Elizabeth I of England on 13 January 1559. His sister, Catherine, was one of Elizabeth's favourite ladies-in-waiting and the Queen was very generous to her Boleyn relatives.

His Baronial estate consisted of the manors of Hunsdon and Eastwick, Hertfordshire and possessions in Kent. He was also granted an annual pension of £400. On 31 October 1560, Henry was appointed Master of the Queen's Hawks. On 20 April 1561 Henry also became a Knight of the Garter.

Henry seems to have gained some favour with his cousin as she appointed him Captain of the Gentleman Pensioners in 1564; a position making him effectively her personal bodyguard. He seems to have served for four years. On 25 August 1568 Henry was appointed Governor of Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland and Lord Warden of the Eastern March.

The year 1569 was the beginning of the Rising of the North (November 1569 - February 1570), a major uprising was instigated by Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmorland and Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland. The rebellion was expecting the support of Roman Catholic Pope Pius V.

Henry was appointed Lieutenant General of the forces loyal to the Queen. His February victory over Sir Leonard Dacre was instrumental in crushing the rebellion. Nearly three thousand rebels ambushed Henry Carey's party of half that size, but Carey was nonetheless victorious in fending off the assault. A number of the rebels crossed the borders to Scotland but were there targeted by the forces of the Scottish Regent. Henry could still appreciate the courage of Dacre's soldiers, in his letter to the Queen detailing the victory made mention of the rebel charge "the bravest charge that ever I saw!".

The victorious Henry was appointed Warden of the East Marches and represented the Queen in signing a treaty with the Regent on 23 October 1571. On 31 July 1574 Henry became Keeper of Somerset House, the property of the Queen before ascending the throne. He was then named Privy Counsellor in 1577.

16 January 1581 found Henry appointed Captain-General of the forces responsible for the safety of English borders. He was appointed Lord Chamberlain of the Household in July, 1585 and would hold this position until his death.

This did not prevent Elizabeth from appointing him Lord Chamberlain Lieutenant, Principal Captain and Governor of the army "for the defence and surety of our own Royal Person". The appointment occurred on 20 July 1588 in Tilbury.

Henry was a blunt, plain-spoken man with little tact, which often worked to his disadvantage at Court. However, his character and reputation as a successful military leader gained him the respect — and often the affection — of the soldiers who served under him.

Henry also served as Chief Justice in Eyre, south of the River Trent between 1589 and his death. He was Joined Commissioner of the Office Earl Marshal and High Steward of Ipswich and Doncaster. He served as Chief Justice of the Royal Forces between 20 December 1591 and his death. On 2 March 1592 Henry was appointed High Steward of Oxford for life.

Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, as Lord Chamberlain became the first patron of The Lord Chamberlain's Men, William Shakespeare's company, in 1594.

Henry Carey died at Somerset House, Strand on 23 July and was buried on 12 August 1596 at Westminster Abbey. On his deathbed his cousin Elizabeth I offered to create him Earl of Wiltshire; however, he refused, saying:

Madam, as you did not count me worthy of this honour in life, then I shall account myself not worthy of it in death.

Two of his sons, George, and John, successively followed him as Baron Hunsdon.


Henry Carey and Ann Morgan's marriage resulted in the birth of twelve children.

In addition, Henry had several illegitimate children, including Valentine Carey, who eventually served in the military under his father and achieved fairly high rank.


  1. ^ Weir , p. 216
  2. ^ Letters & Papers' viii.567


  • Weir, Alison. The Six Wives of Henry VIII. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991. googlebooks Retrieved May 17, 2009
  • Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. New York: Macmillan, 1903. (p. 203) googlebooks Retrieved June 25, 2008
  • Nicolas, Nicholas Harris. A Synopsis of the Peerage of England; Exhibiting, Under Alphabetical Arrangement, the Date of Creation, Descent and Present State of Every Title of Peerage Which Has Existed in This Country Since the Conquest. London: Printed by J. Nichols and Son, 1825. (p. 338) googlebooks Retrieved June 25, 2008

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Sussex
Captain of the Gentlemen Pensioners
Succeeded by
The Lord Hunsdon
Lord Chamberlain
Succeeded by
The Lord Cobham
Preceded by
Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk
Title next held by
The Earl of Northampton
Title last held by
The Earl of Sussex
Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk
Title next held by
The Earl of Suffolk
Legal offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Leicester
Justice in Eyre
south of the Trent

Succeeded by
The Lord Howard of Effingham
Peerage of England
New creation Baron Hunsdon
Succeeded by
George Carey


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