CAREW, George (by 1505-45), of Mohun's Ottery, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. by 1505, 1st s. of Sir William Carew of Mohun’s Ottery by Jane, da. of Sir William Courtenay of Powderham; bro. of Sir Peter. educ. M. Temple, adm. 2 Nov. 1519. m.(1) Thomasin (d. 18 Dec. 1539). da. of Sir Lewis Pollard of Kings Nympton, Devon; (2) by 1 Feb. 1541, Mary, da. of Henry Norris of Bray, Berks., s.p. Kntd. June/July 1536; suc. fa. 11 Aug. 1537.2

Offices Held

Sheriff, Devon 1536-7, 1542-3; j.p. 1538; commr. oyer and terminer, Cornw., Devon, Dorset, Hants, Som. and Wilts. 1538, Devon 1540, Calais 1541; capt. Rysbank Tower, Calais Jan. 1539-June 1543; steward, possessions of Henry Courtenay, late Marquess of Exeter Nov. 1542, Havering atte Bower, Essex Nov. 1544; 1t. pens July 1544; gent. privy chamber in 1544; v.-adm. 1545.3


It was perhaps envy of his younger brother’s presence at the battle of Pavia which led George Carew to join a friend of his, Edward Rogers, in persuading Andrew Flamank, whom they met in Exeter in 1526, to take them to Calais. The three embarked at Dartmouth but were driven by the wind to Le Conquet, whence they travelled first to Paris and then to Blois. There the Regent of France refused their offer of service unless they had a letter of commendation from Henry VIII or Wolsey, so that they were obliged to return to Paris. Flamank left his companions and continued to Calais, where he was examined by the deputy on behalf of the Privy Council. After an interval Carew and Rogers followed his example and eventually they received pardons, Carew’s being issued on 21 Nov. 1526.4

This escapade was an uncharacteristic beginning to a brief but meritorious career at home and abroad. On his first return to the Commons, at a by-election held on 4 Jan. 1536, Carew replaced his uncle Sir William Courtenay I as second knight of the shire for Devon. His choice may be thought to have owed something to Sir Thomas Denys, the senior knight, a friend of Courtenay’s and one of the overseers of his will, as well as perhaps to the sheriff Hugh Pollard, but the suggestion that it may have been a sign of opposition in the west is wide of the mark, for Carew was both favoured and trusted at court. It was probably in 1536—not, as has been supposed, in 1527—that he was knighted: he lacks that title on the election return in January but is given it when appointed to attend the Queen during the northern rebellion of the autumn. If, as is likely, he had been re-elected to the intervening Parliament, in accordance with the King’s general request for the return of the previous Members, he was probably knighted, as were several other Members, at the time of Cromwell’s elevation to the peerage on 9 July. He was later held in readiness to serve against the rebels, and in November he was pricked sheriff of Devon.5

During the summer of 1537 Carew had leave to go abroad and later he co-operated with Sir John Dudley in patrolling the Channel against pirates. When the captaincy of the Rysbank Tower at Calais fell vacant Carew was appointed: it was a post involving residence, and he arrived there on 4 Mar. 1539 even though the appointment was not formally made until 29 July and not enrolled until 23 Oct. While holding this office Carew was, according to John Foxe, one of the few on the deputy’s council sympathetic towards the Protestants of Calais. In April 1540 he obtained leave to return temporarily to England, and on 1 May he was one of the challengers at the tournament held at Durham Place before the King. He was still on leave when Lord Lisle, the deputy of Calais, was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower. Carew was taken there to confront Lisle and in the mistaken belief that he too was under arrest he fell into such a panic that several days passed before he was able to leave: his appointment shortly afterwards to a commissioner of oyer and terminer in Devon confirmed his safety. This unheroic display notwithstanding, on his return to Calais Carew won the confidence of Lisle’s successor as deputy, who reported that he would prove a very good man of war. It was perhaps in an effort to justify this prediction that during an engagement with the French at Landrecy early in November 1543 Carew showed himself ‘more forward than circumspect’ and was taken prisoner. Peter Carew tried but failed to get his brother exchanged, and it needed the King’s intervention to release him.6

Carew took part in the campaign crowned by the fall of Boulogne, and his services there, especially his handling of the transport, led to his appointment as vice-admiral. In the spring of 1545 he prepared the fleet and began to patrol the Channel in the Mary Rose. In June he was ordered to Portsmouth, and it was there that on 19 July he was dining with the King aboard the Great Harry when the French fleet entered the harbour. Henry immediately dispersed the company and after speaking privately with the admiral and Carew, ‘at his departure from him, took his chain from his neck, with a great whistle pendant to the same, and did put it about the neck of the said Sir George Carew, giving him also therewith many good and comfortable words’. Carew then returned to the Mary Rose which on hoisting her sails capsized, with the loss of 500 men, all but some 30 of her whole complement. Mary Carew watched the catastrophe by the side of the King, who himself attended her when she fainted.7

Carew had been returned on 20 Jan. 1545 as the senior knight for Devon to the Parliament originally summoned for the end of that month, but as its meeting was postponed until 23 Nov. he never attended it: no by-election is known to have replaced him. He appears not to have made a will, and he left no children: the inquisition held on 3 Apr. 1546 found that the heir was his brother Peter. Although Carew had parted with family property in Devon worth at least £30 a year, or one tenth of the total yield of the Carew estate, he had diminished the family fortune very little, if at all, as he had been granted considerable monastic property by the crown. His widow married Sir Arthur Champernon. Carew’s portrait was painted by Holbein between 1540 and 1543.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Authors: L. M. Kirk / A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/59/106. Vis. Devon. ed. Vivian. 136; Vis. Devon, ed. Colby 36; LP Hen. VIII, xiv. xvi.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xv, xvii-xix; Archaeologia xxviii, 110.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, iv; J. E. Kew, ‘Land market in Devon 1536-58’ (Exeter Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1967), 262.
  • 5. S. E. Lehmberg, Ref. Parl. 219; G. Mattingly, Catherine of Aragon, 288; C219/18A/1, 2; LP Hen. VIII, xi.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, xii, xiv, xv, xviii; PPC, vii. 313; Foxe, Acts and Mons. v. 520; Archaeologia xxviii. 107.
  • 7. Archaeologia xxviii. 110; LP Hen. VIII, xix, xx.
  • 8. C142/73/20; Kew, 264; Holbein Paintings, ed. Ganz, 255.