CARR (KERR), William.

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



Family and Education


of ?Whitehall, Westminster. illegit. nephew of Sir Robert Carr, 1st earl of Somerset.1 m. by 1623, Frances, 1da.2 d. aft. 26 Apr. 1631.3

Groom of the bedchamber, 1614-at least 1625.4


of Ancrum, Roxburghs. b. c.1605, 1st s. of Sir Robert Kerr (Carr)*, 1st earl of Ancram and Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Murray of Blackbarony.5 educ. Queens’, Camb. 1621; travelled abroad (France, Italy, Switzerland), 1624-5.6 m. 9 Dec. 1630, Anne (d. 26 Mar. 1667), da. of Sir Robert Kerr, 2nd earl of Lothian, 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 9da. (3 d.v.p.).7 kntd. 6 Mar. 1627;8 cr. 3rd earl of Lothian 31 Oct. 1631; suc. fa. (not as earl of Ancram) 1654.9 d. Oct. 1675.10

?Capt. ft., Île de Ré expedition 1627, La Rochelle expedition 1628, Netherlands 1629;11 officer, 1st and 2nd Bps.’ Wars 1639-40;12 gov. Newcastle 1640-1;13 lt.-gen. Scottish forces in Ire. 1642-at least 1645.14

Commr. highway repairs [S] 1633, prevention of plague 1637-8, subscription to Covenant 1638;15 j.p. Edinburgh 1634.16

Commr. Treasury [S] 1641; PC [S] from 1641;17 commr. privileges of Scots in France 1643; commr. [S] negotiations with Charles I 1647, Charles II 1650;18 sec. of state [S] 1649-51; commr. Union 1670.19

Offices Held


In the late 1620s, patronage at St. Mawes lay in the hands of two local gentlemen, Charles Trevanion* and (Sir) Francis Vyvyan*, and was employed periodically to benefit nominees of the lord chamberlain, the 3rd earl of Pembroke. Carr’s identity has not been definitively established, but the choice lies between two distant cousins connected with the king’s bedchamber, both of whom may have been allied to Pembroke. Both were also Scots naturalized in 1624. Whichever man sat in the 1626 Parliament, he left no mark on its proceedings.20

Nothing is known of the early life of the William Carr who was appointed a groom of the bedchamber in November 1614 beyond the fact that he was the illegitimate nephew of James I’s favourite, the earl of Somerset, a stigma which presumably explains his omission from the family’s pedigrees. Carr’s admission to the bedchamber was allegedly intended as a snub to Somerset’s emerging rival, George Villiers, the future duke of Buckingham.21 He survived his uncle’s fall from grace less than a year later, but Buckingham’s rise to power almost certainly reduced his opportunities for personal gain. Over the course of more than a decade at Court, he was rewarded with only two annuities worth a total of £700, payment of which sometimes proved uncertain, and the grant of some concealed Crown revenues, the cost of recovering which was to be met by Carr himself.22 Following the accession of Charles I, Carr seems to have been retained as a member of the bedchamber, though probably only in a supernumerary capacity. In 1626 his superior officer, lord chamberlain Pembroke, now Buckingham’s principal rival at Court, was reportedly responsible for finding parliamentary seats in Cornwall for two other Scottish members of the king’s Household, William Murray and Sir Francis Stewart, both of whom had been naturalized with Carr two years earlier. Given Pembroke’s tendency to use his Cornish patronage to promote Buckingham’s opponents, and Carr’s position at Court, there are strong grounds for suspecting that the William Carr elected at St. Mawes was the groom. He was still living in April 1631, but nothing else has been established about his final years.23

The alternative candidate, Sir William Kerr or Carr of Ancrum, would have secured election to Parliament through the influence of his father, Sir Robert Kerr, a bedchamber official to both Prince Henry and Prince Charles, who retained his post on the latter’s accession as king. On good terms with Somerset’s immediate family, in 1620 Sir Robert was accused of making unfavourable allusions to Buckingham, though his subsequent relations with the duke are uncertain. Following his schooling at Cambridge in the early 1620s and a ‘grand tour’ of France and Italy in 1624-5, Kerr may have entered Parliament in 1626, perhaps as a means of rounding off his education. However, nothing is known of his movements between late 1625, when he concluded his travels, and October 1627, when he was in Scotland preparing to join English forces at the Île de Ré. Evidence that Sir Robert might have approached Pembroke on his behalf in 1626 is also lacking.24

Kerr’s subsequent life was full of incident. A semi-professional soldier during the late 1620s, he subsequently settled in Scotland, where he acquired the earldom of Lothian in 1631 following marriage to its heiress. As a result of his ennoblement, the inheritance of his father’s earldom of Ancrum, created two years later, was assigned to his younger half-brother. In 1638 Kerr emerged as a leading Covenanter, fighting against Charles I in the Bishops’ Wars, and enduring six months’ imprisonment by the king in 1643. He appears not to have taken up his Irish command in the 1640s, but played a prominent role as a negotiator after Charles surrendered to the Scots in 1646. An opponent of the king’s policies rather than his person, Kerr was dispatched to London in 1648 to try to prevent the regicide, and as a Scottish secretary of state, he was a key figure in subsequent discussions with Charles II, though he opposed the disastrous invasion of England in 1651. Kerr’s exclusion from public life in Cromwellian Scotland was perpetuated after the Restoration by his refusal to sign the Abjuration oath rejecting the Covenant. The fine which he thereby incurred obliged him to sell his ancestral estates at Ancrum, and apart from his involvement in the 1670 Union discussions, he lived in retirement until his death five years later.25

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 559; Letters of Jas. I ed. G.P.V. Akrigg, 336.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 1; D. Lysons, Environs of London, iii. 298 n. 63.
  • 3. E407/125.
  • 4. LC5/50, p. 116; LC2/6, f. 37v.
  • 5. Corresp. of Earls of Ancram and Lothian ed. D. Laing, i. pp. xlv, cxv.
  • 6. Al. Cant.; Corresp. of Earls of Ancram and Lothian, i. pp. xlv-vii.
  • 7. Corresp. of Earls of Ancram and Lothian, i. pp. cvi-vii, cxvi, cxxix.
  • 8. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 191.
  • 9. CP sub Ancram.
  • 10. Corresp. of Earls of Ancram and Lothian, i. p. cx.
  • 11. Ibid. pp. 44-5, 47-50; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 164; Scots Brigade in Holland ed. J. Ferguson (Scot. Hist. Soc. xxxii) i. 400.
  • 12. Corresp. of Earls of Ancram and Lothian, i. pp. lviii, lxi.
  • 13. Ibid. pp. lxi-ii.
  • 14. Reg. PC Scot. 1638-43, p. 221; Corresp. of Earls of Ancram and Lothian, i. p. lxxiii.
  • 15. Reg. PC Scot. 1633-5, p. 14; 1635-7, p. 431; 1638-43, pp. 1, 76.
  • 16. Reg. PC Scot. 1633-5, pp. 378, 424.
  • 17. Reg. PC Scot. 1638-43, pp. xxii, 143.
  • 18. Ibid. 346; Corresp. of Earls of Ancram and Lothian, i. pp. lxvii, lxxvi, lxxxviii.
  • 19. Corresp. of Earls of Ancram and Lothian, i. p. lxxxiv; ii. 434; CSP Dom. 1670, p. 390.
  • 20. HLRO, O.A. 21 Jas.I, c. 51, 57.
  • 21. CP sub Somerset; Letters of Jas. I, 340; Chamberlain Letters, i. 559.
  • 22. C66/2077/6; 66/2306/16; CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 1; E403/1733, 4 Oct. 1623; Cent. Kent. Stud. U269/1/OE481, OE138, n. d.
  • 23. J.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Elections, 129-30; CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 23, 564; CSP Ven. 1625-6, p. 21; Eg. 2816.
  • 24. Corresp. of Earls of Ancram and Lothian, i. pp. ix, xii, xlv-vii, 44-5.
  • 25. Corresp. of Earls of Ancram and Lothian, i. pp. xxvii, xlviii, li, liv-xi, lxv, lxviii-ix, lxxiii-xxx, lxxxviii, xcix, ciii-v, cx.