CAREW, Sir George II (c.1560-1612), of The Strand and Tothill Street, Westminster.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



12 Oct. 1597

Family and Education

b. c.1560,1 2nd s. of Thomas Carew† (d.1564) of Antony, Cornw. and Elizabeth, da. of Sir Richard Edgcumbe† of Mount Edgcumbe, Cornw.; bro. of Richard†.2 educ. ?Broadgates Hall, Oxf. 1572; M. Temple 1577, called 1586; travelled abroad c.1580-1 (Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Italy).3 m. 1588, Thomasine (admon. 5 June 1649), da. of Sir Francis Godolphin† of Godolphin, Cornw., 2s. 4da.4 kntd. 23 July 1603.5 d. 13 Nov. 1612.6 sig. Geor[ge] Carew.

Offices Held

Sec. to Sir Christopher Hatton† c.1587-91, Sir John Puckering† 1592-6, Sir Thomas Egerton† 1596-at least 1598.7

Prothonotary, and clerk for letters patent of pardon and outlawry, Chancery 1593-d.,8 master in Chancery 1599-d.,9 commr. to hear Chancery causes 1602;10 master of the Wards June 1612-d.;11 commr. to improve Crown revenue Aug. 1612.12

Agent, Denmark, Sweden, Brunswick and Poland 1598;13 amb. France 1605-9.14

Assoc. bencher, M. Temple 1602.15

J.p. Mdx. by 1608,16 commr. sewers, Westminster 1611, annoyances, Surr. 1611, oyer and terminer, London and Mdx. 1611, gaol delivery, Newgate, London 1611.17


A junior branch of a family which traced its descent back to the Norman Conquest, the Carews of Antony had settled in Cornwall in the mid-fifteenth century and rose to local prominence under the later Tudors. However, several of their number enjoyed successful careers outside the county. Carew’s grandfather Sir Wymond† served three of Henry VIII’s queens, while his uncle Sir Matthew was a distinguished Elizabethan lawyer.18 Carew himself, as a younger son, understandably aspired to emulate their example. Following an education which included an extended foreign tour with Sir Henry Neville I* and Sir Henry Savile†, he became secretary to three successive lord chancellors. From 1593 he combined this role with the prothonotaryship of Chancery, in which capacity he handled much of the paperwork required for English diplomacy. Although his schemes for administrative reform petered out, and a mission to the Baltic region proved unfruitful, Carew secured a Chancery mastership in 1599. A talented author, he compiled three works at around this time: his observations on Poland, an important treatise on the duties of the Chancery masters, and an influential, albeit derivative, collection of reports on Chancery cases.19 One of the first government officials dispatched to Scotland following the accession of James I in March 1603, he was knighted four months later.20

At the 1604 general election Carew secured a seat at St. Germans for the fourth time through the influence of his wife’s brother-in-law, George Keckwich. In the records of the first session he is not always clearly distinguished from his distant cousin, Sir George Carew I, the soldier and courtier.21 He was certainly nominated to a general committee on grievances (23 Mar.) and bill committees concerned with extortion and conveyances (5 Apr. and 5 May), and was twice included in deputations to the king in connection with Goodwin’s Case (28 Mar. and 12 April). Carew also helped discuss the proposed Anglo-Scottish Union, being twice named to conferences with the Lords on this subject (14 and 27 April). On the second occasion he was given the specific task of outlining the implications for foreign diplomacy. He later claimed that he spoke in favour of the Union, arguing that it would benefit England both at home and abroad, but it is unclear whether he voiced this opinion during one of these conferences or on 18 Apr., when either he or his kinsman participated in a debate on the proposed adoption of the name ‘Great Britain’. Two other Union-related nominations may refer to either man (16 and 19 April).22 However, it was probably Carew who was appointed to bill committees concerned with letters patent and outlawries (16 Apr. and 17 May), since his official duties encompassed these topics. He may also have been named to three other legislative committees with a judicial theme (21 and 26 Apr., 27 June), and could have spoken in the justice bill debate on 20 April.23 By contrast, a report and two nominations concerned with parliamentary membership and procedure (13 and 16 Apr., 22 June) probably relate to his cousin, who sat on the committee for privileges. It was presumably the courtier rather than Carew who was sent on 28 June to commiserate with the king on his recent accident. It is unclear which of the two men spoke in the debate on the apparel bill on 24 Mar., and the content of the speech is lost.24

Carew missed the next two parliamentary sessions owing to his appointment as ambassador to France. Nominated for this post in the spring of 1605 by Salisbury (Robert Cecil†), he showed his gratitude by offering to make way at St. Germans for another of the earl’s clients. However, there was as yet no absolute rule that Members in his position had to vacate their seats, and although Carew proffered his resignation to the Speaker (Sir Edward Phelips) in the following September, the Commons overlooked it during the 1605-6 session. When his case was finally raised in the third session, the House voted on 22 Nov. 1606 to keep his place open.25

By this time, Carew had been in France for nearly a year. His arrival was delayed by a shortage of funds which obliged him to dip into his own pocket, but he finally reached Paris on 13 Dec. 1605.26 His pay remained periodically in arrears until at least May 1606. In many ways his embassy began inauspiciously. First, his predecessor, Sir Thomas Parry*, delayed his departure for two months, and insisted on personally concluding a treaty on Anglo-French trade. Then, Carew was obliged to address French doubts about his background and wealth. Meanwhile, Salisbury received complaints about him from both Sir Edward Clere, an English traveller, and Sir Thomas Edmondes*, ambassador to the Spanish Netherlands. These difficulties were all shortlived, but Carew was soon faced with major challenges which proved more intractable.27 For much of his time in Paris, the English and French governments were engaged in talks to safeguard the United Provinces against Spain. As the discussions were mostly held in the Low Countries, Carew was effectively sidelined, and had to content himself with seeking ratification of Parry’s treaty and requesting repayment of the large sums lent to Henri IV by Elizabeth I. Implementation of the trade agreement took until at least mid-1608, while the French blew hot and cold over the settlement of their debts, depending on how the wider international situation was developing.28 In September 1607 Carew found himself facing summary eviction from his Paris residence, and the host government’s refusal to help him brought his frustration to a head. However, his initial request to return home was ignored, and when he tried again in August 1608, arguing that his continued presence would hinder a resolution of the debt issue, he was told to wait until the autumn of 1609.29 Although Carew continued intermittently to seek some undertaking from the French about the debt, by May 1609 he was arguing that it was counter-productive to treat it as a single issue, and he made no substantive progress before returning to England in October.30

Although the French government’s parting gifts to Carew and his wife were valued at a disappointing 5,000 crowns, the ambassador had ostensibly retained the confidence of his masters, and with his range of international experience and skill in languages he now aspired to a secretary’s post in England. His highly regarded ‘Relation of the State of France’, written about this time, was probably intended to promote his credentials.31 Finding that the secretaryships remained beyond his grasp, however, Carew lobbied to return to France, abetted by his wife, who tried to influence events through her new role as a lady of the queen’s privy chamber. These efforts also ended in disappointment, as the government merely recruited him in April 1610 to advise at an Anglo-French conference about the debt issue.32

Carew finally resumed his Commons seat in February 1610, by which time his namesake had received a peerage. Despite his earlier absences he was now one of the longest serving Members in the House, and commented several times on procedural matters (14 Mar., 5 and 26 May). On 20 June he also carried nine bills up to the Lords, and on 5 June he was one of the first Members to take the oath of supremacy, another sign of seniority. On 27 Feb. he was appointed to help prepare for a joint conference about John Cowell’s potentially subversive legal dictionary, The Interpreter. He was also one of those named on 26 May to carry a petition against recusancy to the king.33 Not surprisingly, Carew took a firm line when discussing the Crown’s finances. He was named on 15 Feb. to the conference at which Salisbury outlined the government’s requirements, and spoke in support of the Great Contract on 28 February. Appointed to a select committee on certain aspects of the Contract (2 May), he again called for the king’s needs to be addressed during the heated debate on 13 June. He was also nominated on 24 May to help deliver the Commons’ petition to James about the ban on discussing impositions.34 As in 1604, Carew received several appointments to bill committees concerned with legal issues, which this time embraced rioting, treatment of prisoners, suits against magistrates, debt, private and episcopal contracts, and the confirmation of Magna Carta (19 and 22 Feb., 3 and 28 Mar., 19 and 25 Apr., and 16 May).35 His experience of handling trading disputes while in France helps to explain his nomination to the committees for several economic bills, whose subjects included shipping and wine imports, as well as Salisbury’s entrepreneurial venture, the New Exchange (28 Feb., 22 Mar., 23 June).36 Of his numerous appointments to bill committees concerned with private estates or naturalization, the measure to protect the lands of his close kinsman, John Arundell* of Trerice (27 Apr.) must have interested him. It is unclear whether he had a personal involvement in the Hugh Platt bill, for which he was a teller on 10 March.37 His other bill committee issues covered highways, bastardy and a West Country matter, Exeter’s weir (30 Mar., 16 and 19 May). No record survives of his activities in the Parliament’s fifth session.38

In the spring of 1611 Carew was at last rewarded for his services, when he was granted a £200 annuity, and the reversion for his family of the Chancery posts bestowed on him in 1593.39 Fresh employment, however, was slower to materialize. In January 1612 he was mooted as a potential ambassador to Savoy. In the following June, in the aftermath of Salisbury’s death, he finally secured a secretarial role, handling French correspondence on behalf of the king, but a bigger prize now beckoned. Almost simultaneously, in the face of intense competition, and possibly again with the assistance of his wife, he obtained the coveted mastership of the Court of Wards. Although viewed by some as a short-term appointee, he showed an immediate willingness to introduce reforms.40 However, these plans were cut short by his death on 13 Nov. 1612. He was buried at St. Margaret’s, Westminster. The text of his will, which was disputed, does not survive, but his estate was said to be worth £10,000. His eldest son Francis sat for Helston from 1624 to 1626.41

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Age calculated from date of admiss. to M. Temple.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 68.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.; R.B. Todd, ‘Henry and Thomas Savile in Italy’, Bibliotheque d’Humanisme et Renaissance, lviii. 440; A.L. Rowse, Ralegh and the Throckmortons, 90.
  • 4. F.E. Halliday, Richard Carew of Antony, 313; Vivian, 68; PROB 11/123, f. 125v; 11/208, f. 246v.
  • 5. Lansd. 678, f. 45.
  • 6. HMC Downshire, iii. 420.
  • 7. Halliday, 133; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 40.
  • 8. W.J. Jones, Eliz. Ct. of Chancery, 114-15; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 14.
  • 9. T.D. Hardy, Cat. of Ld. Chancellors, 88-9.
  • 10. C66/1592.
  • 11. C66/1965/16.
  • 12. Chamberlain Letters, i. 374.
  • 13. Jones, 113.
  • 14. SP78/52, f. 379; 78/55, f. 190.
  • 15. M. Temple Admiss.
  • 16. SP14/33, f. 42.
  • 17. C181/2, ff. 140v, 142, 155, 156v, 157v.
  • 18. Halliday, 15; HP Commons, 1509-58, i. 581-2; Jones, 113.
  • 19. Todd, 440; Jones, 114-16; HMC Hatfield, xiii. 490-1; Chamberlain Letters, i. 59.
  • 20. Chamberlain Letters, i. 189.
  • 21. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 339; Vivian, 68, 70.
  • 22. CJ, i. 151b, 157a, 166a, 169a, 172b, 188b, 199a, 947a, 950a, 951b; SP78/53, f. 90v.
  • 23. CJ, i. 172b, 179a, 180a, 185a, 213a, 247b.
  • 24. Two other disputed bill committee nominations related to the repeal of a private Act, and a Scot’s naturalization (24 Apr., 4 May). CJ, i. 170b, 172b, 184a, 198b, 244b, 248a, 935a.
  • 25. SP78/54, f. 141v; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 339, 380-1; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 233; CJ, i. 316a, 324a.
  • 26. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 380-1; Carleton to Chamberlain ed. M. Lee, 73; SP78/52, f. 372.
  • 27. SP78/53, ff. 5, 6v, 8, 27, 41, 92; HMC Hatfield, xviii. 9, 386-7.
  • 28. SP78/53, ff. 90v, 165, 199v, 222, 228, 232v, 253, 255v, 323, 349v; 78/54, ff. 51, 88r-v, 123v; HMC Hatfield, xix. 50.
  • 29. SP78/53, ff.333-7v; 78/54, ff. 141r-v, 150v.
  • 30. SP78/54, ff. 158v, 219, 225, 227; 78/55, ff. 79v-80, 88, 99, 138, 173v, 216.
  • 31. HMC Downshire, ii. 172, 187; SP78/54, f. 231; 78/55, f. 35; Acta Cancellariae, 30.
  • 32. HMC Downshire, ii. 194, 227, 279; Winwood’s Memorials ed. E. Sawyer, iii. 152; CUL, ms Dd. i. 33, f. 26; LC2/4/6, f. 25v (guidance on Anne of Denmark’s Household given by Dr. Helen Payne).
  • 33. CJ, i. 400b, 411a, 425a, 433b-4a, 442a; ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 15.
  • 34. CJ, i. 393b, 402a, 423b, 432a, 438a.
  • 35. Ibid. 396b, 398b, 404b, 415b, 419a, 421a, 429a.
  • 36. Ibid. 402a, 410a, 412a, 414a, 416b, 443a.
  • 37. Ibid. 394b, 397b-8a, 408b, 417a-b, 419a, 421b, 447a; Halliday, 312.
  • 38. CJ, i. 416b, 429a-b.
  • 39. C66/1867/8; 66/1917/11.
  • 40. Chamberlain Letters, i. 327, 354-5, 357-9; H.E. Bell, Ct. of Wards, 72, 103, 119, 133-4.
  • 41. Memorials of St. Margaret’s, Westminster ed. A.M. Burke, 498; PROB 11/123, f. 125v.