Henry Carey was born on 4th March 1526 to William Carey and Mary Boleyn.
His father died when he was just two years old. With the death her husband Mary found herself in financial difficulty. As Mary’s husband was a close courtier of Henry VIII and herself the King’s former mistress she wrote to the King for help. Henry did what he could and ensured that Mary received financial support from her father and helped further by granting her sister, Anne, wardship of her son Henry. Anne was chosen as she was in a position of financial security that she could help her struggling sister. Anne provided her nephew with the best education with him studying under Nicholas Bourbon, a renowned French poet and a fellow reformer. Anne was beheaded when Carey was only 10 years old.
Henry Carey received many royal appointments during adulthood. It began at the age of 21, in 1547, when he became a Member of Parliament for Buckinghamshire a role he repeated in 1554. Carey was highly honoured when his cousin, Elizabeth, ascended the throne. Elizabeth treated her Boleyn relatives well with Carey’s sister, Catherine, as one of Elizabeth’s closest ladies-in-waiting.
In 1558 Elizabeth created Carey Baron Hundson and he was granted properties in Herfordshire as well as Kent. In 1560 she appointed Carey to the role of Master of the Queen’s Hawks followed a year later by his induction to the Knights of the Garter.
In 1564 Elizabeth appointed Carey Captain of the Gentlemen Pensioners, which essentially meant that the four years that he spent in this role he was the Queen’s personal bodyguard. A role that helped his next appointment in 1568, when he was appointed Governor of Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland. The role of Governor was not an easy one as less than a year in the position the nobles in the North were preparing to rise up against the crown. In February 1560 Carey defeated Lord Dacre, an event that helped bring an end to the rebellion.
As reward for his success Carey was awarded more prestigious positions on 31st July 1574 he became the Keeper of Somerset House, London, Elizabeth’s former residence. In 1577 he became a member of the Privy Council, advising Elizabeth on the politics and running of the country.
In 1585 Carey was granted the role of Lord Chamberlain of the Household, the most senior office in the Royal household. Whilst in this role he became the patron of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the acting company that was the home of William Shakespeare.
Henry Carey died at Somerset House on 23rd July 1596 and was buried in Westminster Abbey on the 12th August. Upon his death he left his family with debt that was acquired at the expense of serving the Queen. Due to this and the love she showed her relatives Elizabeth covered the costs of Carey’s funeral and granted his widow a one off payment along with a yearly pension from her Exchequer along with the keepership of Somerset House for the remainder of her life.
Henry Carey had a life having honours bestowed upon him by his cousin. His life has always been highly talked about from the moment he was born with constant rumours that his father was not William Carey but in fact Henry VIII’s illegitimate son with Mary Boleyn. It is known that Mary was the King’s mistress before he married her sister; Henry had to get a papal dispensation to marry Anne due to his previous relationship with Mary. Historians continue to argue for each side about the paternity of the Carey children. What do you think? Is Henry and his sister Catherine the children of Henry VIII or are they the children of a loving marriage between Mary and her husband William? Comment below with your thoughts.