Who Was … Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon?


Name: Henry Carey

Title/s: 1st Baron Hunsdon

Birth: 4 March 1526

Death: 23 July 1596

Burial: Westminster Abbey, London (England)

Spouse: Anne Morgan c.1529-1607

Children: Catherine Carey, Countess of Nottingham 1547-1602 / George Carey, 2nd Baron Hunsdon 1547-1603 / John Carey, 3rd Baron Hunsdon ?-1617 / Henry Carey / Thomas Carey / William Carey / Thomas Carey / Edmund Carey c.1558-1637 / Robert Carey, 1st Earl of Monmouth 1560-1639 / Margaret Hoby c.1567-1605 / Philadelphia Scrope, Baroness Scrope of Bolton c.1552-1627

Parents: Mary Boleyn c.1499-1543 & William Carey c.1500-1528

Siblings: Catherine Knollys c.1524-1569

Noble Connections: Henry’s mother, Mary Boleyn, was the mistress of Henry VIII. His aunt, Anne Boleyn, became the second wife of Henry VIII, and his cousin, Elizabeth I became queen. His grandfather was Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond and his great-uncle was Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk.

Controversy: It has been suggested that Henry Carey and his sister, Catherine, were actually the children of Henry VIII by his mistress, Mary Boleyn. This has never been proven and Henry never acknowledged either of them. It is now generally accepted that Henry was likely the son of William Carey, while Catherine is the one of the siblings more likely to have been the king’s, but we’ll probably never know. For a breakdown of the arguments see my previous blog post here.

Works of Fiction:

  • P.F. Chisholm – ‘A Famine of Horses’ (2016)

Portrayals on Screen:

  • None

Further Reading:

  • Kelly Hart – ‘The Mistresses of Henry VIII’ (2009)
  • Philippa Jones – ‘The Other Tudors: Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards’ (2009)
  • Amy Licence – ‘The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII’ (2014)
  • Alison Weir – ‘Mary Boleyn: The Great and Infamous Whore’ (2011)
  • Josephine Wilkinson – ‘Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress’ (2010)
  • Henry Carey, Baron Hunsdon, by Steven Van Herwijck c.1561-3.
  • Arms of Henry Carey 1st Baron Hunsdon

Author: Helene Harrison

I have an MA in History, with a thesis entitled 'The Many Faces of Anne Boleyn: Perceptions in History, Literature and Film'. I have an interest in the Tudors and the Wars of the Roses along with my love of reading and literature.

2 thoughts on “Who Was … Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon?”

  1. I recently discovered I am a descendant of Catherine Carey (12 great grandmother) through my West relations. I find her parentage fascinating. I do tend to lean toward Catherine being Henry VIIIs. I find it interesting that no historian I’ve read has mentioned the curiousity of William Carey/Mary Boleyn marrying in 1520 and yet producing no children for two years prior to the start of Mary’s affair in 1522. Then when the affair ended around 1525/6 until William’s death in 1528, there again were no children of the union (unless you believe that Henry Carey was William’s son). Her affair with Henry was roughly from 1522-1525/6 and she produced two children during that time. I’ve read historians say Henry had a low fertility but Henry proved he could produce children and yet William Carey produced none (maybe Henry Carey). Others argue against H8 paternity because Henry never acknowledge the Careys, but why ever would he? How did that benefit him? If anything, it would kill his dispensation request and the very argument he was using to divorce Katherine of Aragon. One other thing I also find fascinating that many historians do not bring up is Henry’s known narcissism and jealousy. Why would anyone think a king who views himself as omnipotent would be happy to share the sexual favors of his mistress even with her husband? William was compensated for Henry’s “use” of his wife in the manors, stewardships and other honors he received. Henry expected loyalty from his mistresses and it doesn’t seem in his nature to have been fine with sharing Mary.
    Alternatively, Henry brought Catherine Carey to court in 1539 at the age of 15 to be Anne of Cleves maid. The age for girls to serve was 16. Why would H8 want to help a girl with no major wealth or status to court and place her in a sought after position with his new wife? This was 3 years after he sent her aunt to the block. Why would he want to be reminded of Anne by bringing her niece to court? And, why would H8 submit 2-3 Acts of Parliament on Catherine and Francis’ behalf to ensure they were given ownership of the manor/estate of Rotherfield Greys? I only wish we could confirm the parentage. Thank you.

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    1. I think, of the two, Catherine is more likely to be Henry’s child. She and her daughter, Lettice did bear a striking resemblance to Elizabeth I, but there is absolutely no evidence and no way to prove it so we’ll never know. Perhaps that’s why it still fascinates historians so much; one of those unanswered mysteries!

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