July 23 – Mary Boleyn’s son, Henry Carey, dies

Jul23,2022 #Henry Carey #Mary Boleyn

On this day in Tudor history, 23rd July 1596, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, son of the late Mary Boleyn, died at Somerset House in London.

Hunsdon and his sister, Catherine, were close to their cousin, Elizabeth I, and he had served her as a privy councillor and Lord Chamberlain.

Find out more about Henry Carey’s background and his rise to prominence at Elizabeth I’s court, as well as details on his burial and tomb, in the video (or transcript) below…

You can find a photo of his tomb at www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/people/henry-carey


On this day in Tudor history, 23rd July 1596, Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, Privy Councillor and Lord Chamberlain, died at Somerset House in London.

Hundson was the second child and only son of Mary Boleyn, sister of Queen Anne Boleyn, and was born on 4th March 1526 during Mary’s marriage to her first husband, William Carey. Some historians and authors argue that Mary’s children were fathered by King Henry VIII as the king and Mary had a sexual relationship at one point, but we know nothing about their affair, how long it lasted or when it happened. It may even had been a one-night stand.

In 1528, following the death of William Carey from sweating sickness, Anne Boleyn was granted the wardship of her nephew, two-year-old Henry, to alleviate her sister Mary’s financial suffering. Anne ensured that little Henry received a top notch education under the famous French poet and scholar, Nicholas Bourbon. This education helped Henry become an important and influential courtier.

In 1547, Henry became a Member of Parliament, and when his cousin, Elizabeth, came to the throne in November 1558 as Queen Elizabeth I, 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.

He died on this day in 1596, at the age of 70. It is said that on his deathbed, his cousin the queen offered to give him the title Earl of Wiltshire, a title once held by his grandfather, Thomas Boleyn, but Henry refused the 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.”

Henry was buried at Westminster Abbey on 12th August 1596 in St John the Baptist’s Chapel at Queen Elizabeth’s expense. His lavish tomb, erected by his widow, Anne, Lady Hunsdon, is the tallest in the abbey, measuring thirty-six feet (nearly 11m) in height. Westminster Abbey website gives the following description of it:
“It is made of alabaster and marble with a considerable display of heraldry, which includes the Carey arms – argent, on a bend sable three roses of the field (i.e. a silver shield with a black bar diagonally across it from top left to bottom right with three silver roses on it). His crest is a swan and his motto “Comme je trouve” (as I find it).”

You can find out more about Hunsdon’s mother, Mary Boleyn, in our Mary Boleyn category of posts or in the playlist below:

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One thought on “July 23 – Mary Boleyn’s son, Henry Carey, dies”
  1. Henry Carey 1st Baron Hunsdon’s tomb is really magnificent resplendent in marble figures and heraldry and is the tallest monument in Westminster Abbey, proof of the high esteem his queen and cousin held him in, he outlived his sister Lady Catherine Knolley’s by over twenty five years Queen Elizabeth distraught at her death, must have been inconsolable when she lost Henry, now she had no more link to her mother Anne Boleyn although both Catherine and Henry had numerous children, the relationship was distant, he had been a favoured little boy from the start, although losing his father at a young age he was then under the ward ship of his aunt the queen and he had an excellent education, his career really flourished in the reign of Elizabeth and was granted numerous posts and very important offices, and Carey was loyal to his mistress, there is no evidence that he ever let her down like other favourites, the Earl of Leicester or the Earl of Essex for example, his widow Anne Morgan Lady Hunsdon died in 1603 and joined him in the family vault where later their son and heir Robert 11 Baron Hunsdon were to keep them company, and several other members of the family, on the tomb are engraved the names of their numerous offspring and the arms of other noble families connected with them are engraved also, the illustrious Carey Arms is shown on the highest point on the tomb and is apparent for all to see, the tomb also eclipse’s that of his sister Lady Catherine Knolley’s, often we hear the same old rumours about the parentage of this brother and sister but I feel they are unsubstantiated, and I have even read somewhere that there is proof that William Carey’s and Mary Boleyn’s marriage was non sexual, how can anyone know that? I feel the proof of their parentage is in their high levels of fertility- both had many children who themselves went on to have many children, and as we know, their descendants are living today the most prominent our present queen and her family, Henry V111 had poor fertility and his line died out so I do not believe that they had the Tudor monarchs genes in them, I love the remark Carey made to the queen on her deathbed, she visited him a nice homely trait of this iconic queen, she also visited her other favourite William Cecil on his deathbed and fed him broth, Carey was offered the Earldom of Wiltshire but he refused it, he was not offered it in life why then should he have it in death? An honest reply and Elizabeth must have felt rather humbled by it, why did she not bestow it on him years before, Elizabeth herself must have pondered on that he was after all the only grandson of Sir Thomas Boleyn Earl of Wiltshire and Ormonde, however she honoured him with the wonderful tomb she had raised in his memory, some restoration work was done in the 20th century when some of the paint had chipped and it was repaired, it really must amaze a lot of visitors every year for even those who have never heard of Henry Carey or his famous family, those who see it cannot fail to be overawed by its splendour and wonder about the important personage who is buried there.

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