Henry Carey (1526-1596)

Henry Carey was born on March 4, 1526 in Suffolk to William Carey, son of Thomas Carey, and his wife Mary Carey, née Mary Boleyn and the future Mary Stafford.[1]  As Mary’s affair with Henry VIII was ending around the time that her son was conceived, historians debate whether Henry is the son of William Carey or Henry VIII.  After William’s death in 1528, Henry and his sister Catherine became wards of their aunt Anne Boleyn, mistress and future queen of Henry VIII.  Henry was given a Catholic education at a Cistercian monastery and was tutored at some time by French poet Nicholas Bourbon.[2]

Henry married Anne Morgan in 1545 and would eventually have 16 children with her, in addition to his bastard children.[3]  He was a member of the royal household, a courtier, and an administrator.  His career began as a military captain and an MP before his cousin Queen Elizabeth I made him the first Baron Hunsdon in 1559.  Hunsdon would serve her faithfully throughout his career.  The Queen was similarly generous to his sister Katherine Knollys, wife of fellow politician Sir Francis Knollys, in making her a lady of the Queen’s bedchamber.  In 1564, Hunsdon was appointed Captain of the Gentleman Pensioners and granted an MA at Cambridge when he accompanied the Queen on her visit there.[4]  Elizabeth I appointed Baron Hunsdon the governor of Berwick, which bordered Scotland, in 1568, just before the northern uprising that he helped to put down, in part with a victory at Naworth.  Hunsdon became warden of the east marches in 1571.  In 1574, Elizabeth I appointed him keeper of Somerset House.[5]

Baron Hunsdon began operating in the center of England’s power center in 1577 when Elizabeth appointed him to the privy council.  This became the focus of his career, though he still maintained his duties at the Scottish border.  In 1585, he became Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk and Suffolk and Lord Chamberlain of the Queen’s household, whose duties include arranging court entertainment.  His remaining career as a statesman included many appointments, including Chief Justice in Eyre starting in 1589, Joined Commissioner of the Office Earl Marshal and High Steward of Ipswich and Doncaster, Chief Justice of the Royal Forces starting in 1591, and High Steward of Oxford for life starting in 1592.[6]

Baron Hunsdon is also known for his affair with poet Aemilia Lanyer beginning in 1587.  He supplied the 18-year-old, 45 years his junior, with 40 pounds per year, and married her off when she became pregnant with his child in 1592.[7]  A well-known patron of the arts and theater, Hunsdon intermittently had a company of players between the mid-1560s and 1590.  In 1585, his company became the Lord Chamberlain’s Men when he became Lord Chamberlain.  The company was reconstituted in 1594 to include some of Lord Strange’s Men, likely including Shakespeare.[8]  After Baron Hunsdon’s death in 1596, its patronage passed to his son George Carey, the second Baron Hunsdon, until King James I ascended the throne and became the patron of Shakespeare’s company in 1603.[9]

Henry Carey, First Baron Hunsdon, died in London at Somerset House on July 23, 1596.  Elizabeth I paid for his burial in Westminster Abbey, and his wife had a grand monument put up over his tomb.[10]

  1. MacCaffrey, Wallace T. “Carey, Henry, first Baron Hunsdon (1526–1596);” “Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon.” Geni.
  2. “Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon.” Wikipedia.
  3. MacCaffrey, Wallace T. “Carey, Henry, first Baron Hunsdon (1526–1596);” “Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon.” Wikipedia.
  4. MacCaffrey, Wallace T. “Carey, Henry, first Baron Hunsdon (1526–1596).”
  5. MacCaffrey, Wallace T. “Carey, Henry, first Baron Hunsdon (1526–1596).”
  6. “Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon.” Wikipedia.
  7. “Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon.” Wikipedia.
  8. MacCaffrey, Wallace T. “Carey, Henry, first Baron Hunsdon (1526–1596).”
  9. “Lord Chamberlain’s Men.” Wikipedia.
  10. MacCaffrey, Wallace T. “Carey, Henry, first Baron Hunsdon (1526–1596).”


Allison Wheatley