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Portrait of Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon by Henry Bone, after Gheeraerts

Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon (1524?-1596)

HENRY CAREY, first Lord Hunsdon (1524?-1596), governor of Berwick and chamberlain of Queen Elizabeth's household, born about 1524, was only son of William Carey, esquire of the body to Henry VIII, by his wife Mary, sister or Anne Boleyn and daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn. Through his mother he was first cousin to Queen Elizabeth. His father died of the sweating sickness in 1528, and his mother remarried Sir William Stafford, who died 19 July 1543.

Carey first comes into notice as member of parliament for Buckingham at the end of 1547; he was re-elected for the same constituency to the parliaments of April and November 1554, and of October 1555. In 1549 Edward VI granted him the manors of Little Brickhill and Burton in Buckinghamshire. He was knighted by his relative Queen Elizabeth soon after her accession, and was created Baron Hunsdon on 13 Jan. 1558-1559, receiving on 20 March following a grant of the honour of Hunsdon and manor of Eastwick in Hertfordshire, together with other lands in Kent.

Hunsdon was prominent in all the court tournaments and jousts of 1559 and 1560. With Leicester he held the lists against all comers in a tournament at Greenwich 8 Nov. 1559. On 18 May 1561 he was installed a knight of the Garter and was sworn of the privy council about the same time. He also became captain of the gentlemen-pensioners. On 28 May 1564 he went to France to present the order of the Garter to the young French king Charles IX, and on 5 Aug., while in attendance on Elizabeth at Cambridge, he was created MA. The queen lost no opportunity of testifying to her affection for her cousin. When on what she imagined to be her deathbed in 1562, she specially commended Hunsdon to the care of the council.

In August 1568 Hunsdon became warden of the east marches towards Scotland, and governor of Berwick. In September 1569 he went to Scotland to discuss the possibility of sending Mary Stuart back to her own country while excluding her from the throne. Later in the same year the outbreak of the northern rebellion threw on him a heavy responsibility. He was entrusted with the duty of protecting not only Berwick but Newcastle and the rest of Northumberland. He moved rapidly first to Doncaster (20 Nov.), thence to Hull (23 Nov.), and subsequently to York (24 Nov.), where he joined the Earl of Sussex, the commander-in-chief of the government forces. Hunsdon resisted an order (22 Jan. 1569-70) of the government to reduce the garrisons on the Scotch frontiers, whichwas issued while the rebellion in the more southerly counties was unsuppressed. On 20 Feb. 1569-70, with an army of fifteen hundred men, he defeated, near Carlisle, a rebel army of twice the number of men under Leonard Dacres. He despatched a spirited account of the engagement to Sir William Cecil on the same night, and received a letter of thanks from the queen, part of which, written in her own hand, was couched in the most affectionate terms. Hunsdon was a member of the commission appointed to try the rebel leaders of the counties of York, Durham, and Cumberland, early in 1570. In the following year the queen paid him many attentions. She visited him at Hunsdon House in September; allowed him new and extensive privileges as lord of the manor of Sevenoaks, a portion of his property in Kent; and granted him further lands in Yorkshire and Derbyshire.

Meanwhile, Scotch affairs occupied him in the north, and he was directed to grant all assistance in his power to James against the supporters of his dethroned mother. In May 1572 he prayed Lord Burghley to procure his recall from Berwick, on the ground that his salary was unpaid, and that his private resources could not endure the constant calls which his office made on them. In the following month the Scots handed over to him Thomas Percy, earl of Northumberland, who had escaped from England while charges of treason were pending against him. Hunsdon was directed to bring the earl to York and there to have him executed, but he declined to convey him beyond Alnwick, the boundary of his jurisdiction. He wrote to Burghley urging the lord treasurer to obtain the earl a pardon, but he was compelled finally to surrender the earl to Sir John Forster, who hanged him at York on 22 Aug. 1572.

Hunsdon rigorously suppressed marauding on the borders, and according to popular report he took as much delight in hanging Scotch thieves as most men take in hawking or hunting. On 24 May 1580 he was appointed a commissioner Tor the redress of grievances on the border; six months later he became captain-general of the forces on the border, and was at Newcastle in January 1580-1. He wrote to Walsingham at the time that he declined to interfere further in Scotch affairs, since his advice was systematically neglected. He desired permission to visit the queen and to look after his private affairs.

Hunsdon, still on good terms with Elizabeth, gave her every new year very valuable presents. He favoured her projected marriage with the Duc d'Anjou, and was present at the consultations respecting it held in October 1579. He escorted the duke to Antwerp in February 1581-2. About June 1583 Elizabeth showed her respect for him by making him lord chamberlain of her household in succession to Lord Howard of Effingham. But his neglect of his office in the north and frequent absence from Berwick angered Elizabeth next year. His son Robert reported to his father that in a torrent of passion she threatened 'to set him by his feet' and send another in his place. Hunsdon once again explained to Lord Burghley (8 June, 1584) that his salary was in arrear, that his soldiers and servants were in want of food and clothing, and that he had done his duty as well as man could under such disheartening conditions.

This storm soon blew over, and on 14 Aug. of the same year Hunsdon received the Earl of Arran at Berwick, with a view to renewing the old league between England and Scotland. A little later he resisted the order to put some exiled Scottish noblemen — who declined to recognise James VI's authority — in possession of the island of Lindisfarne. Hunsdon argued that the disaffected noblemen would prove dangerous neighbours for England, and be likely to imperil Elizabeth's amicable relations with James VI. The Scottish king made similar representations; Walsingham finally acknowledged the justice of Hunsdon's arguments, and permitted him to evade the order. Hunsdon attended the meeting of the Star-chamber on 23 June 1585, when the treasons of Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland, who had shot himself in the Tower, were formally published. In October 1586 he was at Fotheringay as one of the commissioners for the trial of Mary Queen of Scots.

The execution of Queen Mary nearly precipitated a breach with the king of Scotland, and in April 1589 Hunsdon was deputed to proceed to Scotland on the delicate mission of placing the relations between James and Elizabeth on a friendly footing. James talked freely to the English ambassador of the tempting offers made him by Spain if he would declare against the English alliance, but he readily consented to reject them in Elizabeth's favour. Hunsdon was not, however, well impressed by James or by James's court. He wrote to Elizabeth from Berwick 24 Oct. 1587 that the king was quite capable of deceiving her, and that the company about him were ' maliciously bent against your highness.' Full powers were given Hunsdon to maintain 'the good intelligence' between the two realms, and in December 1587 James sent Sir John Carmichael to Berwick to renew proffers of friendship. Elizabeth rewarded Hunsdon's successful diplomacy with the office of lord warden-general of the marches of England towards Scotland, and keeper of Tinsdale (31 Aug. 1589). A grant of a part of the temporalities of the see of Durham followed, and a rumour was abroad that Hunsdon was about to be created count palatine.

The need of preparing to resist the Spanish Armada brought Hunsdon to the south, and a force of 36,000, formed to act as the queen's body-guard, was placed under his command at Tilbury Fort. In 1590 he, with Lord Burghley and Lord Howard of Effingham was appointed commissioner for executing the office of earl marshal, and in 1591, with Lord Howard of Effingham and Lord Buckhurst, negotiated an alliance with France. Many other duties were placed upon him during the last years of his life. He was commissioner for the trials of William Parry, D.D., 20 Feb. 1584-6; of Philip, earl of Arundel, 14 April 1589; of Sir John Perrot (for treasonable correspondence with Spain), 20 March 1591-2; and of Patrick O'Cullen (for the like offence), 21 Feb. 1593-4. He also held the office of chief justice of the forests south of the Trent, and master of the game of Hyde Park; he was elected recorder of Cambridge 25 April 1590, high steward of Ipswich 11 Sept. following, and high steward of Doncaster in October.

Hunsdon died on 23 July 1596 at Somerset House, the use of which the queen had granted him. Fuller reports the story that his death was caused by disappointment at not being created earl of Wiltshire, the title borne by his maternal grandfather, Sir Thomas Boleyn. It is said that the queen visited him during his last illness and presented him with the patent of the new title and the robes of an earl, but that Hunsdon declined both on the ground that honours of which the queen deemed him unworthy in his lifetime were not worthy of his acceptance on his deathbed. He was buried in Westminster Abbey on 12 Aug. at the queen's expense. His wife and heir erected above his tomb an elaborate monument to his memory.

Although Hunsdon's achievements are few, and his office in the north did not allow him to reside regularly at court, he contrived to be present at most of the state ceremonies of the time, and his position as chamberlain and his intimacy with the queen gave him much influence when in attendance on his sovereign. Straightforward and rough in speech and conduct, he held himself aloof from the factions which divided the noblemen and statesmen of the day; professional courtiers feared him, but soldiers respected and loved him. He lacked most of the literary culture of his class, but according to Gerard he took a deep interest in botany. The British Museum possesses a copy of 'Froissart' (Paris, 1518), which contains a few manuscript notes in Carey's handwriting together with entries of the dates of most of his children's births.

Hunsdon married Anne, daughter of Sir Thomas Morgan, knight, of Arkestone, Herefordshire, by whom he had seven sons and three daughters. His eldest son, George, became second Lord Hunsdon. His second son, John, became third lord. Of his younger sons, two named Thomas, and a fifth, William, died young. Edmund, the sixth son, was knighted by Leicester in the Netherlands in 1587. The youngest son, Robert, was created earl of Monmouth. Hunsdon's eldest daughter, Catherine, married Charles Howard, earl of Nottingham; the second daughter became the wife of Thomas, lord Scrope, and the third of Sir Edward Hoby.

(Sidney Lee)



      Source:

      Dictionary of National Biography. Vol III.
      Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, Eds.
      New York: The Macmillan Co., 1908. 977-979.




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