On this day in 1539 – Nicolas Carew executed

Nicolas Carew was beheaded on 8th March 1539 on Tower Hill, London for his alleged involvement in the Exeter Conspiracy.

Nicolas Carew grew up in the company and shared education with the future Henry VIII when they were children so it comes as no surprise that when Henry became king, Carew was knighted and rewarded for his loyalty. He held the role of Master of the Horse and was a leading figure within Henry’s court.

Carew was highly regarded by Henry VIII and was always close by. Carew was one of many that Cardinal Wolsey believed had too much influence over Henry and so engineered his dismissal from court in 1526. His dismissal only lasted a couple of years and by 1528 he was inducted into the Privy Council on recommendation of Francis I of France.

Nicolas Carew

Carew, like many others at the court during Henry’s divorce proceedings, began to disapprove of Anne Boleyn and the influence she held over Henry. Carew revealed to the Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, his sympathy and support for Katherine of Aragon and the Princess Mary. This outburst only made his downfall easier to engineer.

In 1538, two years after Anne Boleyn’s execution, Thomas Cromwell began to turn against those who helped him bring down the former Queen. Cromwell presented letters to Henry that allegedly came from Nicolas Carew that contained words of treason. Henry became convinced that his close friend Carew was involved in a plot to depose him and in his place crown a Yorkist claimant to the throne, most likely Reginald Pole, the last strong Plantagenet claim.

Carew was arrested and stood trial on 14th February 1539 where he was found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death. Carew was beheaded on 8th March at Tower Hill.

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