Friend, Cousin, Brother? Part II

Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon Part II

Personal relationships and ties of kinship meant a lot to Elizabeth Regina.  Although Lord Hunsdon was not politically prominent, as Elizabeth’s cousin he “had been able to assume unofficially an ad-hoc role as an adviser prior to his formal appointment to the council in 1577” (Doran Elizabethan World 62). When Elizabeth was ill with small pox** in October 1562 and she was sure she was dying Lord Hunsdon was singled to be commended “to the Council’s kindness” (Jenkins 89).

Lord Hunsdon’s daughter Catherine Howard, Countess of Nottingham was a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth and it was her death in February 1603 that sent Elizabeth into a spiral of ill-health that she never recovered.  One of Hunsdon’s sons, Robert, visited Elizabeth in March of 1603 and left the account of her final illness.  Other relatives (from his father’s side) came to hold positions at Court also.  Lettice Knollys, Hunsdon’s niece, married as her second husband Elizabeth’s long-time favorite Robert Dudley, Lord Leicester and was the mother of Elizabeth’s other favorite Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex by her first husband.

k of nottingham      Lettice_Knollys1
Catherine Howard                                    Lettice Knollys 

Was Elizabeth simply following the practice of her father?  Despite the taint of association with Anne Bolyen, Henry appointed Catherine Carey, Mary’s daughter, to the household of Anne of Cleves.  Many courtiers placed heavy significance on the fact that Elizabeth granted Henry Carey the title of Lord Hunsdon with the estate long associated with the royal Tudor children.  Elizabeth, Edward (who was painted with the hall in the background) and Mary spent much time at Hunsdon and it is speculated that so did Henry Carey—as an offspring of the king?

huntsdon 001     download
Hunsdon from the portrait of Edward VI

Regardless, Lord Hunsdon performed many tasks for the Queen in varied offices. As a military commander, Henry proved very capable.  In 1569 he was appointed as Lieutenant General of the Queen’s forces having been Captain of the Pensioners and Governor of Berwick, becoming “an important figure in Anglo-Scottish relations in 1568” as he had responsibility for the borders and was sent on diplomatic missions to Scotland.  He was given charge to subdue the Northern Rebellion in 1570 (Wagner 52). Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmoreland and Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland, the ring-leaders, were driven into Scotland. After the eventual capture of Northumberland, Hunsdon sent him to York to be executed.  Hunsdon’s shining moment came against Sir Leonard Dacre. Sent, during the rebellion, to bring Leonard Dacres to Court from his stronghold at Naworth Castle to question him on his actions, Hunsdon and his troops although outnumbered, “gained a brilliant and decisive victory” (Neal 193).  “They killed four hundred of the enemy and took nearly three hundred prisoner…” (Somerset 240). “If Hunsdon had not shown such resolution, and if his tired, cold army who had been marching all night had not been so courageous, the Northern Rebellion could have flared up again” (Wilson 102).

Elizabeth wrote a glowing, rare letter of thanks to Henry, “I doubt not, my Harry, whether that the victory were given me more joyed me, or that you were by God appointed the instrument of my glory; and I assure you that for my country’s good the first might suffice, but for my heart’s contentation the second more pleased me” (Marcus 126).

ThomasHoward4HerzogvonNorfolk                  Thomas_Percy_Earl_of_Northumberland_1566
Thomas Howard                                            Thomas Percy  

At Tilbury in 1588, the year of the Spanish Armada, Hunsdon was granted the title of Lieutenant, Principal Captain and Governor of the Army for the Defense of the Royal Person. In other words, he was in charge of protecting the queen in the cap at Tilbury and the command of the army for that purpose.  When Elizabeth rode amongst her troops, she was “mounted behind Lord Chamberlain Hunsdon” (MacCaffrey 239).

Elizabeth at Tilbury

Hunsdon undertook many tasks, some less strenuous than others.  As Lord Chamberlain one of Hunsdon’s jobs was to provide the court entertainment.  Luckily, he shared Elizabeth’s keen interest in “theatrical performances as without royal interest and prominent courtiers’ direct involvement, there may not have been any actors or theatres to perform the works” (Brimacombe 165).  Because of his patronage the company of actors, “that included Richard Burbage and William Shakespeare” that was formed in 1594 became known at The Lord Chamberlain’s Men (Wagner 52).

thater copany        PTDC0003
Elizabethan Theatre                                 Globe Theatre

Examples of other varied assignments included being the English courtier who showed his Scottish counterpart, James Melville, into the chamber while Elizabeth was playing the virginal.  This stage-managed scene was done all so that Melville could exclaim at how talented the Queen was compared to Mary, Queen of Scots.  A less enviable mission was “explaining to James VI of Scotland why his mother’s execution was necessary” (Wagner 53).

Detail of Queen Elizabeth’s virginal, now located in the Victoria & Albert Museum

Henry was sent on several diplomatic missions including traveling to France with the Order of the Garter for the boy-king, Charles IX.  While in Paris Henry wrote a letter to William Cecil complaining about the quality of the garter and its accompanying chains wishing “it had been better considered of” (Jenkins 102).  Hunsdon’s frustration at Elizabeth’s parsimony and her preference shown to Robert Dudley, Lord Leicester was evident when he added that had “I such as my Lord Robert hath, ʼa should have one of mine” (Jenkins 102).  Hunsdon was not thrilled about the cheese-sparing measures taken by his sovereign over this presentation.

Lord Hunsdon, with a large family to provide for and expenses with his many official positions, died in debt.  When offered the Lord Chamberlain position, it was commented that the attraction of the post lay in “continual presence about her Majesty, to take any advantage of time and occasion for having of suits” (Somerset 344). Being able to apply for funds was not a sure thing of receiving them.

“Lord Hunsdon having delayed proceeding to Berwick after he was commanded to repair thither, in consequence of his wanting a loan of money for which he had applied in vain to the queen, was threatened by her majesty with the loss of the office, and even imprisonment. It has been described as his “dispute with the queen over the untimely payment of his salary and official expenses” (Wagner 52).   This seems counter to the promises given to Henry by the Queen in her letter of thanks for his victory in the Northern Rebellion.  That letter ended with the promise, “I intend to make this journey somewhat to increase your livelihood, that you may not say to yourself, ‘perditur quod factum est ingrate [it (my service) is lost because it was done for an ingrate].  Your loving kinswoman, Elizabeth Regina” (Marcus 126).

Hunsdon eventually wrote to the Lord Treasurer Burghley over the Berwick commission, requesting that he would “obtain permission for him to resign, and ‘for any imprisonment’ says he, ‘she can use to me, it shall rebound to her dishonor, because I neither have nor will deserve it, and therefore it shall not trouble me.’ He wrote little less to the queen herself” (Naunton 103).

Elizabethan walls and ramparts surrounding Berwick.

His outspokenness was part and parcel of his personality.  “He was a fast man to his prince, and firme to his friends and servants; and though he might speake big, and therein would be borne out, yet was he not the more dreadfull, but lesse harmfull…, for he was downe-right” (Naunton 101).

When her second cousin, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk placed Elizabeth’s life in danger, Hunsdon expressed in no uncertain terms what he thought of her hesitancy to execute the Duke.  “How much more needful is it for her Majesty to take heed, upon whose life depends a whole commonwealth, the utter ruin of the whole country and the utter subversion of religion.  And if by negligence or womanish pity these things happen, what she hath to answer for to God, she herself knows” (Neale 202).  Hunsdon exclaimed “It is small policy, not worthy to be termed mercy, to be so careless of weighty matters that touch the quick so near” (Somerset 259).

henrycarey1 (1)
Lord Hunsdon, Henry Carey

Others, it was reported, “say merrily of him, that his Lattin and dissimulation were alike; and that his custome of swearing, and obscenitie in speaking, made him seeme a worse Christian than he was, and a better knight of the carpet than he should be.  As he lived in a ruffling time, so he loved sword and buckler men, and such as our fathers were wont to call men of their hands; of which sort he had many brave gentlemen that followed him, and yet was he not taken for popular and dangerous person.  And this is one that stood amongst the togati, of an honest stout heart, and such a one as upon occasion would have fought for his prince and country; for he had the charge of the queene’s person, both in the court, and in the camp at Tilbury” (Naunton 102).

Below is a list of Offices held at one time or another by Lord Hunsdon:

Master of the Queen’s Hawks 1560
Captain of the Gentlemen Pensioners 1564
Governor of Berwick-upon-Tweed 1568
Warden of the Eastern March  1570
Keeper of Somerset House 1574
Captain-General of the Borders 1581
Lord Chamberlain 1585
Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk 1585
Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk 1585
Justice in Eyre south of the Trent 1589
Earl Marshal and High Steward of Ipswich and Doncaster 1589
Chief Justice of the Royal Forces 1591
High Steward of Oxford 1592

Courtyard of Somerset House, date unknown 

Henry Carey died 23 July 1596 in London at Somerset House, a royal residence the queen allowed him to use.  On his deathbed Elizabeth I offered to create him Earl of Wiltshire which he refused. “He was three times in election to be Earl of Wiltshire, a title which in some sore belonged unto him, in right of Mary his mother, but still some intervening accident retarded it” (Naunton 103). “When he lay on his death-bed, the queen gave him a gracious visit, causing his patent for the said earldom to be drawn, his robes to be made, and both to be laid down upon his bed” (Fuller 47).  Hunsdon was not a man to prevaricate and he responded, “Madam, seeing you counted me not worthy of this honour, while I was living, I count myself unworthy of it, now I am dying!” (Burke 110).

Lord Hunsdon monument, lower part, Westminster Abbey
Tomb of Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon in a chapel at Westminster Abbey

Hunsdon was buried 12 August 1596 in St. John the Baptist’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey.  The official Westminster Abbey website states that the “monument was erected before 1603 by his widow and his son.” It is assumed, since Henry died in debt and the Queen paid for all of the funeral expenses, that the money for the monument came from either the gift of £400 by the Queen to Anne at the time of her widowhood, the pension of £200 per annum granted to the widow, or by funds directly from the Queen.

henry carey monument
Soaring monument to Lord Hunsdon and his family 

Lord Hunsdon’s monument is the tallest, soaring to 36 feet, in the Abbey.  The inscription on the tomb reads Sepulturae Familiae de Hunsdon, Consecratum.  Some sources have commented on the fact that the “Hunsdon” was used rather than “Carey”.  It is believed that this is further proof that Henry was associated with the estate of Hunsdon, royal property, and thus the natural son of Henry VIII.  Perhaps it is simply the preferred association with a noble title rather than the more humble origins of the surname.   According to the Westminster Abbey website, the heraldry included the Carey arms, the shields of 47 families whom he must have been related, and an extensive Latin inscription.  A partial translation is below:

“Consecrated for the burial of the Hunsdon family.  Here sleeps in the Lord Henry Carey, Baron Hunsdon, one-time Governor of the town of Berwick, Warden of the east marches towards Scotland, Captain of the gentleman-pensioners, Chief Justice of the Forests south of the Trent, Knight of the Order of the Garter, Lord Chamberlain of the lady Queen Elizabeth, sworn of the Privy Council, and first cousin to the aforesaid Queen… (“Henry Carey”).

**Lord Hunsdon was the one who supposedly convinced Doctor Burcot to continue treatment of the Queen. The physician famously had her wrapped in red flannel, placed by the fire and given a specially concocted medicine (Weir The Life of Elizabeth I 135).


1st Lord Hunsdon Henry Carey. Our Family Genealogical Pages, 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 20 Jun. 2013.

Brimacombe, Peter. All The Queen’s Men:  The World of Elizabeth I.  Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing.  2000. Print.

Burke, John. A General and heraldic dictionary of the peerages of England, Ireland, and Scotland, extinct, dormant, and in abeyance.   London:  Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, 1831. Google Books. Web. 21 Jun. 2013.

Doran, Susan and Norman Jones. The Elizabethan World. London: Routledge, 2011. Print.

Doran, Susan.  The Tudor Chronicles 1485-1603.  New York:  Metro Books, 2008. Print.

Friedmann, Paul.  Anne Boleyn: A Chapter of English History 1527-1536. London: Macmillian and Co., 1884. Internet Archive. Web. 21 Jun 2013.

Fuller, Thomas.  The History of the Worthies of England. Vol II. London: Thomas Tegg, 1840.  Google Books. Web. 25 Jun. 2013.

Gregory, Philippa. “Philippa Gregory Talk at Libertyville High School.” Libertyville High School, Libertyville, IL. 16 Feb. 2010.

“Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon & Family.” Our History.  The Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey, N. d. Web. 19 Jun. 2013.

Hoskins, Anthony.  Genealogists’ Magazine, Vol. 25, No. 9. March 1997, Mary Boleyn’s Carey Children: Offspring of King Henry VIII?. 28 Jun. 2007. Web. 19 Jun. 2013.

Jenkins, Elizabeth. Elizabeth & Leicester. London: Phoenix Press, 2002. Print.

MacCaffrey, Wallace. Elizabeth I. London: E. Arnold. 1993. Print.

Marcus, Leah S. et al., eds. Elizabeth I: The Collected Works. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. Print.

Naunton, Robert. Fragmenta Regalia:Memoris of Elizabeth, Her Court and Favourites. London: Charles Baldwyn,1824. Google Books. Web. 25 June 2013.

Neale, J. E. Queen Elizabeth I. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957. Print.

Plowden, Alison.  The Other Boleyn Girl.  BBC History Online, 17 Feb. 2011. Web, 22 Jun. 2013.

Somerset, Anne. Elizabeth I.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991. Print.

Wagner, John A. Historical dictionary of the Elizabethan World: Britain, Ireland, Europe, and America.  New York: Checkmark Books, 2002. Print.

Warnicke, Retha.  The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1989.  Print.

Weir, Alison.  The Lady in the Tower:  The Fall of Anne Boleyn.  London:  Jonathan Cape, 2009.  Print.

Weir, Alison.  The Life of Elizabeth I.  New York: Ballatine Books, 1998. Print.

Wilson, A. N.  The Elizabethans.  London: Hutchinson, 2011. Print.


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