CAREW, Sir George (1555-1629), of Clopton, Warws.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 29 May 1555, 2nd s. of George Carew (d.1583), by Anne, da. of Sir Nicholas Harvey. educ. Broadgates Hall, Oxf. 1564-73, MA 1579. m. 31 May 1580, Joyce, 1st da. and coh. of William Clopton of Clopton, 1s. d.v.p. 1s. illegit. (Thomas Stafford). Kntd. 1586. cr. Baron Carew 1605; Earl of Totness 1626.2

Offices Held

Soldier in Ireland from 1574; lt. gov. Carlow and v.-constable of Leighlin castle 1576; sea captain under Sir Humphrey Gilbert 1578; capt. of ft. in Ireland 1579; gent. pens. 1583-1603; constable of Leighlin castle 30 May 1584-June 1602; keeper of Adare castle 1586; sheriff, co. Carlow 1583; master of the ordnance [I] 1 Feb. 1588-Aug. 1592; PC [I] 1590; lt. of the ordnance Jan. 1591, master 27 June 1608-29; ld. pres. Munster 27 Jan. 1600-4; v.-chamberlain and receiver-gen. to Queen Anne Oct. 1603-19; councillor to the Queen 9 Oct. 1604; councillor for Virginia 23 May 1609; gov. Guernsey Jan. 1610-Mar. 1621; PC 20 July 1616; member, council of war 20 July 1624, council in the north 19 Apr. 1625; treasurer and receiver-gen. to Queen Henrietta Maria 1626.

J.p. Kent, Mdx. from 1583, Devon from 1592; commr. musters, Mdx. 1596; keeper of Nonsuch House 1609; high steward, Stratford-on-Avon c.1610; commr. eccles. causes 1620.3


The Carew family, of which there were several branches in Devon and Cornwall, had Irish connexions dating from the thirteenth century. According to the family historian John Hooker, a Thomas Carew married a rich heiress in Cork, and his descendants lived there until the reign of Richard II. The family was strongly protestant and out of favour during Mary’s reign. In some autobiographical notes, Carew tells us that after he left Oxford he was ‘sent for into Ireland by old ’ Sir Peter Carew. Next he served at sea in Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s abortive expedition of 1578 to the West Indies, afterwards returning to Ireland and being knighted by Sir William Drury. He developed an undying hatred of that ‘miserable estate’, as the result of the death of his brother Peter in a skirmish against the rebels, telling Francis Walsingham that it would be

hard for any Englishman to dwell in this land, for there is no war amongst themselves but all upon us; nothing so hateful as the name and habit of an Englishman; no part of Ireland free from rebellion. The loss I have sustained by this wicked nation is too grievous to remember, if hope of revenge did not breed me comfort.

After killing one Owen O’Nasy in the streets of Dublin, on the strength of his alleged connexion with Peter Carew’s death—to the dismay of the English officials in Ireland and the Privy Council in London—he was sent to London in 1586 by Sir John Perrot to report the state of Ireland. He made a favourable impression on the Queen, and not only recovered the ‘good affection’ of Secretary Walsingham, but developed a friendship with the Cecils. In 1588 he was promoted to the office of master of the ordnance in Ireland, and, thanks to Thomas Heneage and Walter Ralegh, was in 1591 promoted to the lieutenancy of the ordnance in England.4

Meanwhile, probably in 1586, he was nominated as ambassador in France, but, in his own words, ‘I excused myself and Sir Edward Wotton was employed thither in my stead’. In 1594 he was chosen as ambassador to James VI, but again asked not to be sent. In August 1595 he was appointed, along with his friend Edward Hoby, to re-organise the records in the heralds’ office, while in November of that year he received a grant of the manor of Hadlow in Kent with part of the neighbouring manor of Tonbridge: their combined annual value was £30 10s. 5

In the summer of 1596 Carew went on the expedition to Cadiz, where he allegedly stole 44,000 ducats worth of gold from Cadiz castle. He protested to Cecil that he had ‘not one piece of coin, any jewel, or more than one piece of plate not worth 50s.’ A month later he repeated his denials and suspicion shifted to other members of the expedition. Still, when Carew, returning to his estate in Kent, was detained by toothache in Queenborough castle, Sir Edward Hoby told Cecil ‘It showeth what he deserveth if he had his right, and how your honour should use him, the heavens having concluded him worthy of a prison’. The following year Carew set off for the Azores with the Earl of Essex, but his ship was damaged in a gale, sought shelter at La Rochelle, and was forced to return to England. The Queen gave him permission to rejoin the fleet in another vessel with the admonition that she preferred his safety to that of his ship. He failed to locate the fleet, and arrived in England 3 Nov. 1597, just in time for the Parliament to which he had been returned for Queenborough, presumably through the influence of Hoby, recently appointed constable of the castle. The sheriff of Kent, Moyle Finch, had warned the borough that if it were ‘evil supplied’ the Privy Council would ‘have occasion to inquire and find out by whose default the same had happened’. Carew served on four committees concerning forestallers (16 Nov. 1597), lewd and wandering persons (20 Dec.), defence (12 Jan. 1598) and codifying statutes (14 Jan.). He had almost been returned to the 1593 Parliament for Camelford (see Richard Leeche) but the House refused to allow a substitution (8 Mar. 1593). In the spring of 1598 Carew accompanied Sir Robert Cecil on his embassy to France.6

The situation in Ireland deteriorated rapidly in 1599 when Essex failed to crush the rebellion, and Carew was appointed lord president of Munster early in 1600, landing in March. He pursued a ruthless policy towards the rebels, and unlike Essex, he enjoyed the confidence of the Privy Council. By March 1601 it was thought safe to withdraw some of his troops, and Sir Robert Cecil endeavoured to secure leave for his friend, writing to him on 19 Oct.: ‘I had kept a room for you in the Parliament, though I now despair of it. I will hold a room for you in my heart’.7

Carew was allowed to retire from his post in Ireland in May 1603—at the same time as his chief, Lord Mountjoy. Thereafter he became a courtier, and friend and patron of the antiquaries Robert Cotton, Thomas Bodley and William Camden. He died in the Savoy, London 27 Mar. 1629, and was buried at Stratford-on-Avon, near Clopton House, which he had acquired by marriage. His next-of-kin was Anne, sole daughter of his brother Sir Peter Carew.8

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: R.C.G.


  • 1. Did not serve for the duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. CP; Archaeologia, xii. 401-3; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 135.
  • 3. PRO, Index 6800; APC, xxv. 156; xxx. 33; VCH Warws. iii. 249, 262.
  • 4. Cal. Carew mss. i. pp. xiv, xvi-xxii, xxviii, xxix.
  • 5. PRO Index 6800; cf. E403/1693, ff. 33, 42, 50.
  • 6. HMC Hatfield, vi, 250, 326, 349, 356, 361, 435; vii. 380, 382-4, 465; APC, xxviii. 5; Arch. Cant. xxii. 182; D’Ewes, 494, 558, 575, 578, 580.
  • 7. APC, xxx. 33, 197 et passim; xxxi. 220; xxxii, passim; Letters of Sir Robert Cecil (Cam. Soc. lxxxviii), 96, 100 et passim.
  • 8. CP; DNB.