Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, by Steven van Herwijck
Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, by Steven van Herwijck

On 23 July 1596, Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, Privy Councillor and Lord Chamberlain, died at Somerset House in London. It is said that on his deathbed, Elizabeth I offered to give him the title Earl of Wiltshire, a title once held by his grandfather, Thomas Boleyn, but Hunsdon refused Elizabeth’s offer, saying “Madam, as you did not count me worthy of this honour in life, then I shall account myself not worthy of it in death.”

Hunsdon was buried at Westminster Abbey on 12th August 1596 in St John the Baptist’s Chapel, at Elizabeth I’s expense. His tomb is the tallest in the Abbey, standing at 36 feet high (approximately 11 metres). You can see a photo of it and find out more about it at www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/people/henry-carey

Hunsdon was the son of Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn, and her first husband William Carey. Mary slept with Henry VIII at some point and some people believe it is possible that Hunsdon was actually fathered by the King. Both Carey children, Hunsdon and his older sister Catherine, were, however, born during Mary’s marriage to Carey so it is impossible to say.

You can read more about Henry Carey and the arguments for and against him being the King’s son in my article Mary Boleyn Part Two – The King’s Children?

Trivia: Henry Carey became Anne Boleyn’s ward in 1528, following the death of his father William Carey from sweating sickness. It was his aunt Anne Boleyn who ensured that the boy received a top notch education under the famous French poet, Nicholas Bourbon. This education helped Henry become an important and influential courtier.

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9 thoughts on “23 July 1596 – The Death of Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, son of Mary Boleyn”
    1. Hi Theresa,
      It is not known what killed him. He was 70 years old, so had lived to a good age, and Wallace MacCaffrey (his biographer in the Oxford Dictionary of National biography) points out that he’d attended Privy Council meetings late in the previous month so was obviously not too ill at that point. It appears that he was suddenly taken ill.

  1. Hi Claire,
    You mention that he died at Somerset House in London. Was that on the site of the current Sommerset House off the Strand? Is there anything left of the original Somerset House?
    It would be interesting to see an article about London real estate…e.g.. Jane Seymour was housed in Chelsea at one point, Thomas More lived…where…? etc
    Thanks for another interesting article!

    1. I agree …it would be interesting to have an article and map pics etc… re London real estate .So many babies were born during times when they could have been fathered by various men .Somehow I think they all watched each other like hawks and many of these uncertain fathers might have been known by a few …just not made public …it obviously was safer that way …no one wanted to lose their head!

  2. It seems he had sixteen children with his wife!! plus a few illegitimate one too. No fertility probs there then, certainly made up for his ‘Dad’s’ woes in that department, if you believe he was Henry’s illegitimate son, another debate I can’t make my mind up on…

  3. There is a story that when Elizabeth was ill, she was told that she need not worry about the succession as her cousin Henry Lord Hudson would become King; she soon recovered her full health. I don’t know the source of the story; just something I heard; just wondered if it is borne out. I could well imagine Elizabeth rising from her sick bed as soon as she heard this however; I could just imagine the look on her face. LOL

  4. Hello, would anyone be aware of any connection of the descendants of Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon and the Carey families of Northern Ireland in the 1800s? One, Thomas Henry Carey, born 1846 Lurgan, County Armagh immigrated to Australia where he married my great-grandmother’s sister, Julia Isabella Smyth at Brisbane, Colony of Queensland in 1869. She was born in Belfast before immigrating to Brisbane. They had several children before Julia died. Thomas married two more times and outlived all his wives and several of his children and passed away in 1933 at North Rockhampton, Queensland. Story has it that his ancestors were William and Mary Carey (nee Boleyn). Thanks

  5. Interesting the size of the monument. I think when interpreting history so important to look not on what they say but what they do. Elizabeth did not at any time honor her own fathers wishes for a grand tomb and I have read that is because she was pre occupied not enough enough money all sorts of things but clearly she considered monuments to those she loved appropriate. And she always wore a ring with her mothers picture in it

    1. Edward came after Henry, therefore it was up to him to provide the tomb, funeral, honor his wishes etc. It was not up to Elizabeth.
      Then because Mary executed Jane Grey it was up to her (Mary) to provide a tomb, funeral etc, for Edward & Jane Grey. When Mary died, it was up to Elizabeth to provide a tomb for Mary.

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