CAREY, Sir Robert (c.1560-1639), of Whitehall; Columbine Hall, Stowupland, Suff. and Leppington, Yorks.; later of Kenilworth Castle, Warws. and Moor Park, Rickmansworth, Herts.

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



1621 - 6 Feb. 1622

Family and Education

b. c.1560,1 10th but 4th surv. s. of Henry Carey†, 1st Bar. Hunsdon (d. 23 July 1596) of Buckingham, Bucks. and Hunsdon, Herts., and Anne, da. of Sir Thomas Morgan of Arkstone, Herefs.; bro. of Sir Edmund*, Sir George†, Henry†, John† and William†.2 educ. privately; embassy, Brussels 1577-8, Edinburgh 1583; travelled abroad (France) 1582.3 m. 20 Aug. 1593,4 his cos. Elizabeth, da. of Sir Hugh Trevanion of Caerhayes, Cornw., wid. of Sir Henry Widdrington of Widdrington, Northumb., 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da.5 kntd. c. Oct. 1591;6 cr. Bar. Carey of Leppington 6 Feb. 1622; 1st earl of Monmouth 5 Feb. 1626.7 d. 12 Apr. 1639.8

Offices Held

Vol. Low Countries 1585, Armada campaign 1588;9 capt. of ft., Normandy 1591;10 capt. of Norham Castle, Northumb. 1595-1603,11 Tynemouth Castle, Northumb. 1632-d.12

Amb. Edinburgh 1586, 1587, 1593;13 gent. of the bedchamber Mar.-May 1603, privy chamber May 1603-5;14 master of the Household to Prince Charles 1605-11, master of the robes 1611-17, gent of the bedchamber 1611-25, chamberlain 1617-25; gent. of the bedchamber to Charles I 1625-d.15

Dep. warden, West March 1593-4, East March 1595-6; warden, East March 1596-8, Middle March 1598-1603;16 j.p. Northumb. 1594-1604, co. Dur. 1597-1603, Suff. by 1604-d.;17 custos rot. Northumb. 1598-c.1604;18 member, Council in the North 1599-d.;19 member, High Commission, York prov. 1599,20 oyer and terminer, Northern circ. by 1602-4, the Verge 1617,21 sewers, Suff. 1619;22 freeman, Portsmouth 1624;23 ld. Lt. Staffs. 1627-9;24 commr. swans, Kent, Surr., Suss., Suff. and many other counties, c.1629, Suff. and Essex 1635.25

Member, Virg. Co. 1609.26


The youngest son of a large family, Carey was named after his godfather Sir Robert Dudley†, 1st earl of Leicester, and destined for the Court, where he lived well beyond his modest means. At the age of 32 he embarked on a second career in the ‘stirring world’ of the Scottish border, and his ten years as a northern man were probably the happiest of his life.27 With his brother George, 2nd Lord Hunsdon, serving as lord chamberlain, Carey continued to enjoy easy access to the Court, and was thus present during Queen Elizabeth’s last illness, of which he wrote a moving account. With his brother’s connivance he outpaced the messengers from the Privy Council to break the news to King James in Scotland.28 This famous exploit aroused such resentment in official circles that it almost wrecked his career. James’s gratitude was short-lived; in 1604 Carey’s pension of £100 was cut by a third, and he was obliged to part with Norham Castle to the earl of Dunbar for £6,000, which he seems to have invested in buying an estate at Leppington in the East Riding, and Eden castle, in county Durham.29

Before returning south to his Suffolk home, Columbine Hall, Carey visited Dunfermline to see the king’s second son, Prince Charles, who was brought to England in 1605 and created duke of York.30 As Carey later recalled ‘there were many great ladies suitors for the keeping of the duke; but when they did see how weak a child he was, and not likely to live, their hearts were down, and none of them was desirous to take charge of him’.31 Carey’s wife, whom he had married ‘more for her worth than her wealth’, was selected from the queen’s attendants for this apparently thankless task. She proved an excellent choice, rectifying the ‘wayward disposition’ of her charge, and successfully resisting drastic remedies proposed for his weak ankles and defective speech.32 Carey himself took charge of the infant duke’s household, and his stock began to rise again. Robert Cecil†, 1st earl of Salisbury, assured him: ‘I think your fortune is less than your merit’.33 He was appointed Charles’s master of the robes in 1611 on the recommendation of the 1st earl of Suffolk, who told the king that Carey ‘carried himself so as every honest man was glad of his company’ and that he ‘ever spent with the best, and ... exceeded in making choice of what he wore to be handsome and comely’.34 At the same time he was granted a reversion to the secretaryship of the Council in the North, but before it fell in two years later he sold it to Sir Arthur Ingram* for £5,100.35 When Charles, now heir-apparent, was created Prince of Wales in 1616, Carey became his chamberlain without leaving his post in the Bedchamber, which he valued above all others.36

Carey returned to the Commons in 1621 after an absence of 20 years, sitting for Grampound, where the duchy of Cornwall’s interest coincided with the influence of his nephew Charles Trevanion*, who lived six miles away at Caerhayes. Both of his sons, Sir Henry II and Thomas, were also returned. On 17 May 1621 Carey was the first Member named to consider a bill to reinstate the will of a London merchant which had been overturned in Chancery, and on 30 Nov., in the second sitting, he was given charge of the bill to confirm an exchange of lands between Prince Charles and Sir Lewis Watson*.37 In the debate of 15 Dec., during the midst of the quarrel between king and Commons over the right to debate the prince’s marriage, he moved the question ‘whether we shall proceed with bills or not?’; but any hope of passing the Prince’s bill was soon lost with the abrupt prorogation.38 He was raised to the peerage two days before the dissolution.

A strong Protestant and Armada veteran, Carey obviously disapproved of the Spanish marriage proposed for his master, but at the age of 63 he was summoned to Madrid whence Charles and the duke of Buckingham had gone to woo the Infanta in 1623.39 On his return, he attempted to draw up a schedule of his debts for testamentary purposes, but found that they were too many to remember. Once Charles had succeeded to the throne, Carey was compensated for loss of office with a pension of £500, which was punctually paid, and advanced to an earldom in the coronation honours.40 He also finally received the lease of Kenilworth Castle, which had been promised to him as early as 1618.41 He took up residence there to avoid the plague in London in 1625-6, and wrote his memoirs, a lucid, unpretentious account of an honourable career, which yet conveys the writer’s simple faith and his yearning for the spacious years of his Elizabethan youth. He acquired Moor Park, near Rickmansworth, which became his home for the rest of his life, in 1631.42 After the death of his younger son Thomas* he drew up his will on 3 Sept. 1635, later adding a codicil to care for three old servants.43 Carey died at Moor Park on 12 Apr. 1639. He would have preferred burial with his parents in Westminster Abbey ‘if conveniently it may be with no great pomp’; but on Middlesex’s advice his son (Sir Henry Carey II*) economized by interring him at Rickmansworth, at night, with ‘as much thrift as will stand with decency’.44 Carey left an estate worth £1,350 a year, with another £800 out in jointure to his widow, exclusive of her pension.45 A portrait of Carey and his family dating from around 1617 is held by the National Portrait Gallery.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Mems. of Robert Carey ed. F.H. Mares, xvi. 78.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 154-5.
  • 3. Mems. of Robert Carey, 3-6.
  • 4. Ibid. 25.
  • 5. Vivian, 155.
  • 6. Mems. of Robert Carey, 18.
  • 7. CP, iii. 22; ix. 58-9.
  • 8. Mems. of Robert Carey, 89; CSP Dom. 1639, p. 36.
  • 9. Mems. of Robert Carey, xx, 9-10.
  • 10. Lansd. 149, f. 49v.
  • 11. Mems. of Robert Carey, 84, 87.
  • 12. H.H.E. Craster, Hist. Northumb. viii. 179-80; CSP Dom. 1638-9, p. 15.
  • 13. Mems. of Robert Carey, 7-9, 23-4; Handlist of British Diplomatic Representatives comp. G.M. Bell, 248, 251.
  • 14. Mems. of Robert Carey, 65-6; Harl. 6166, f. 68v.
  • 15. Mems. of Robert Carey, 71-2, 75; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 258; SC6Jas.I/1680-7.
  • 16. Mems. of Robert Carey, xiii, 33, 42, 45-9, 57.
  • 17. C66/1421, 1549, 1620; C231/1, f. 28; C181/1, f. 60; SP16/405, f. 61v.
  • 18. C231/1, f. 51.
  • 19. R. Reid, Council in the North, 496.
  • 20. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 1, p. 224.
  • 21. C181/1, ff. 19, 96v; 181/2, f. 287.
  • 22. C181/2, f. 349v.
  • 23. R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 349.
  • 24. Sainty, Lords Lieutenants, 32.
  • 25. C181/3, f. 267v; 181/5, f. 28.
  • 26. A. Brown, Genesis of US, i. 212.
  • 27. S.J. Watts and S.J. Watts, From Border to Middle Shire, Northumb. 1586-1625, pp. 116-17, 125-8.
  • 28. Mems. of Robert Carey, 58-64; Chamberlain Letters, i. 189; Secret Hist. of Ct. of Jas. I ed. W. Scott, i. 314-15.
  • 29. Mems. of Robert Carey, 66-7; Surr. Hist. Cent., LM 1331/38; CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 35, 89; Surtees, Dur. i. 43.
  • 30. W. Copinger, Suff. Manors, vi. 231-4.
  • 31. Mems. of Robert Carey, 67.
  • 32. Mems. of Robert Carey, 25, 68-9; Scott, ii. 62.
  • 33. HMC Hatfield, xix. 215; xx. 291.
  • 34. Mems. of Robert Carey, 70.
  • 35. A.F. Upton, Sir Arthur Ingram, 65.
  • 36. Mems. of Robert Carey, 69-75.
  • 37. CJ, i. 623a, 652a.
  • 38. Ibid. 664b.
  • 39. Mems. of Robert Carey, 78; SP14/139/46, 111; Chamberlain Letters, ii. 495, 499.
  • 40. Mems. of Robert Carey, 79.
  • 41. Mems of Robert Carey, 80; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, ii. 80; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 149; C.R. Kyle, ‘Prince Charles in the Parls. of 1621 and 1624’, HJ, xli. 614, 616-17; VCH Warws. vi. 138-9.
  • 42. VCH Herts. ii. 377.
  • 43. PROB 11/180, ff. 243v-4.
  • 44. M. Prestwich, Cranfield, 510-11.
  • 45. Her. and Gen. iv. 136.