Henry Carey Lord HunsdonOn this day in 1526, Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, courtier and administrator, was born. He was the only son of William Carey, courtier and favourite of Henry VIII, and his wife, Mary (née Boleyn). There is controversy over his paternity due to Mary Boleyn having a sexual relationship with Henry VIII at some point, but the majority of historians believe that Henry was fathered by Carey.

In 1528, the two year old Henry Carey became Anne Boleyn’s ward after 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.
In 1547, he became a Member of Parliament, and when his cousin came to the throne in November 1558, he was knighted. He was one of Elizabeth I’s favourites, and his offices and titles included: 1st Baron Hunsdon, Master of the Queen’s Hawks, Knight of the Garter, Lieutenant General, Warden of the East Marches, Keeper of Somerset House, Privy Counsellor, Captain General, Lord Chamberlain of the Household, Lord Chamberlain Lieutenant, Principal Captain and Governor of the Army, Chief Justice in Eyre, High Steward of Ipswich and Doncaster, Chief Justice of the Royal Forces and High Steward of Oxford.

Henry Carey died on 23rd July 1596 at Somerset House, and it is said that Elizabeth I offered him the title of Earl of Wiltshire on his deathbed, but he refused, 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.” Like his sister, Catherine, he was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey.

Extract taken from “On This Day in History” by Claire Ridgway

Today is also Shrove Tuesday and you can read all about Shrove Tuesday and Lent in one of my previous articles – click here.

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11 thoughts on “4 March 1526 – Birth of Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, son of Mary Boleyn”
  1. I know I have said it before – but I firmly believe that Henry and Catherine were Henry VIII’s children and he only failed to recognise them in order to save Carey – who was a confidente – some face. After Carey died I suspect it would have seemed inappropriate.

    Henry fathered children – just failed to get many boys with his wives !

  2. H8 freely acknowledged Bessie Blount’s son as his. I suspect that Mary was having sex with both the king and William Carey within the same time span and so true paternity of her children could never be established.

  3. Pity that they can’t ascertain the dates of Henry’s affair with Mary Boleyn, but if it followed the pattern of the others, then the affair was over before she married. William Carey’s position means he could do well for himself accepting Henry’s cast-off mistress, just as the guy who married Bessie Blount did and as Sir Henry Norris was apparently ready to do with Madge Shelton. Also, if Henry had the slightest suspicion that Henry Carey was his son, I think he would have acknowledged him, simply because from the death of Henry Fitzroy to the birth of Edward, there were no Tudor males. Henry didn’t want either of his bastardized daughters to inherit (especially since the throne would go overwhelmingly to Mary) — and I doubt that he wanted any descendants of his sister Margaret on the throne, either.

  4. Another interesting thing about Lord Hunsdon is that he was patron of Richard Burbage’s company of players, thus he was a patron of Shakespeare. Their company was known as The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. After he died and James I became king, they were the King’s Men. He had a mistress from a family of Italian musicians named Emelia Bassano. I have read a couple of novels that posit that she was Shakespeare’s ‘Dark Lady.’

  5. I don’t see any resemblance to Henry VIII in Henry Carey’s portrait but I certainly see lots of Boleyn. I just compared it a portrait of William Carey and there is not much resemblance either though. I wonder if Henry Carey was a red head? Elizabeth was said to resemble her mother facially as well so who knows?

    1. I think that Henry Carey’s portrait might be as close as we’ll get to knowing what George Boleyn looked like — or at least, what he might have looked like if he’d been able to go on living a bit longer. And although I don’t believe that the Carey children belonged to anybody but Carey, I will say that this portrait of Catherine Carey Knollys (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Steven_van_der_Meulen_Catherine_Carey_Lady_Knollys.jpg) made me sit up the first time I saw it — she has reddish hair in that as well. (Although since it was painted during Elizabeth’s reign, the painter might have tweaked her features and colouring a bit to resemble her famous cousin’s).

  6. Thanks Sonetka. I have seen that portrait before. It’s unusual as it shows a woman who is quite heavily pregnant so I think her fuller face does bring Henry VIII to mind as well. I did another portrait of Henry Cary on line and he was indeed a ginger. I am going to recheck the portrait of William Cary to see if he was a redhead. Was Catherine Cary older than Henry?

  7. William Carey’s tomb in Westminster Abbey is the largest tomb in the Abbey – it is massive and adds fuel to the rumours of his paternity. Why would he have such a vast tomb unless he was of royal blood? It is certainly much more striking than his sister’s which you could easily miss unless you knew where to look. But it is more likely that it is because he was such a successful person during his cousin Elizabeth’s reign. Interestingly, the name Boleyn is spelt Bullen on the tomb

    1. I think you mean Henry Carey, but I know what you mean. Catherine Carey also have a very lavish and expensive funeral, but then Elizabeth I did look after her own and they were her cousins, the closest family she had and a very special link to her mother.

      See https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/boleyn-bullen-spelling-boleyn-myth-anne-boleyn-changed/ for a discussion on the spelling of Boleyn. On Thomas Boleyn’s tomb, it is spelled “Bullen”, yet on his son’s next to him it is spelled “Bullayen” and it is spelled numerous ways in the primary sources. There was no standardised spelling and I always find it amusing in primary sources when a name is spelled in different ways in the same sentence!

  8. If Henry was his Dad, Carey certainly didn’t have the same problems in the baby department, he had plenty of children, and sons in abundance, legitimate and illegitimate if what I have read is true…

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