Nicholas Carew (courtier)
The son of Richard Carew, the Captain of Calais, Nicholas was placed in Henry's household when he was six, and shared the King's education. In the early years of Henry's reign, he came to prominence at court through his skill at jousting, and was renowned for his fearlessness. By 1515, Carew's fame in the lists was such that the King provided him with his own tiltyard at Greenwich. He was knighted some time before 1517. He was a prominent member of the Court and held the position of Master of the Horse, as well as other prominent offices such as Master of the Forests, Lieutenant of Ruysbank (guarding Calais harbour) and Chief Esquire of the King. He was a close friend of the King and was made a Knight of the Garter.
Sir Nicholas was sent to France twice as part of a diplomatic mission, once in January 1521 and was reputedly well received by Francis I of France. His second mission to France took place in 1524, this time to have English presence at the peace talks between Francis and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.
Carew was popular with the King, who sought his company, but was known in his youth for being something of a rake. He was one of a number of Henry's companions whom Cardinal Wolsey believed had too much influence over the King. In 1518, Wolsey managed to have Carew sent away from court, replacing him with his own protégé Richard Pace. He soon returned, but was removed again, to Ruysbank Tower, Calais, in 1519, when he was also High Sheriff of Surrey and Sussex. In 1521 he was given reversion of constable of Wallingford Castle, together with the stewardship of Wallingford. Wolsey finally engineered Carew's dismissal from the Privy chamber as part of the Eltham ordinances of 1526.
Statesman and conspirator
In 1522, Carew succeeded Sir Henry Guildford as Master of the Horse, a post he held until his death. In the following years he was frequently sent on embassies to Paris. Francis I developed a high regard for Carew, and urged Henry to advance him; the self-avowed 'reprobate' was now a sober politician. In January 1528, to Wolsey's dismay, Sir Nicholas was restored to the Privy chamber, possibly through the influence of his relative, Anne Boleyn, related via a common ancestor, great grandfather, Lord Hoo. In 1529 he was elected as the junior knight of the shire for Surrey but was sent abroad to Bologna on a diplomatic mission and missed the first session.
However, Carew started to resent the way Anne used her position as the King's mistress, revealing his sympathy for Queen Katherine and the Princess Mary to the imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys. In 1531, angry at the way she had treated his friends, Guildford and the Duke of Suffolk, he began working against her. These manoeuvres culminated in 1536, when the reformist Thomas Cromwell made common cause with religious conservatives, such as Carew, to bring Queen Anne down. At this time, Henry chose Carew to fill a vacancy in the Order of the Garter, thus fulfilling a promise made to Francis I.
In late 1538, Cromwell moved against his former allies. Carew was already out of favour at court, having responded angrily to an insult made by the King. Chapuys thought that his championing of the Princess Mary had been the real cause of his downfall. When Cromwell presented apparently-treasonous letters written by him, Henry was persuaded that Carew had been involved in the Exeter Conspiracy, a plot to depose him and place Cardinal Reginald Pole on the throne in his stead. Sir Nicholas was arrested and stood trial on 14 February 1539 and he was found guilty of high treason.
"... charges that Sir Nic. Carewe of Bedyngton alias of Westminster, knowing the said Marquis to be a traitor, did, 20 Aug, 1537, at Westhorseley, Surr., and at other times, falsely abet the said Marquis, and, 24 Aug 1537, and at other times, had conversations with him about the change of the world, and also with his own hand wrote him divers letters, at Bedyngton, 4 Sept 1537 and at other times, and the said Marquis at that or other times sent divers traitorous letters to the said Carewe from Westhorseley which the said Carewe traitorously received, which letters they afterwards, to conceal their treason, traitorously burnt at Westhorseley and Bedyngton, 1 Sept, 1539 and at other times; and afterwards, knowing that the said Marquis was indicted as aforesaid, 29 Nov, 1539 the said Carewe at Bedyngton traitorously said these words in English, "I marvel greatly that the indictment against the lord Marquis was so secretly handled and for what purpose, for the like was never seen".
He was beheaded on 3 March 1539 at Tower Hill. According to a letter by John Butler the last words of Carew as he was led to execution, amounted to exhorting all to study the evangelical books, as he had fallen by hatred to the Gospel.
His manor of Beddington was granted after his execution to Walter Gorges, and then after his death to Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy of Chiche following which, Carew's son, Sir Francis Carew, managed to attain a reversal of his father's attainder but did not receive his estates, and purchased the manor from Lord Darcy. Beddington Park, reduced in area, continued to be owned by the Carew family into the 20th century; two female heirs in the lineage chose to adopt for their sons the name and arms of Carew.
His manor of Coulsdon was annexed to the honour (set of manors) of Hampton Court. Queen Mary in the first year of her reign granted the estate to Sir Nicholas Carew's only son, Sir Francis to be held in chief by the service of one-fortieth part of a knight's fee. In 1589 owing to the imminent default of male heirs, Elizabeth granted this manor to the nephew of Sir Francis Carew, Edward Darcy who was knighted in 1603.
Marriage and children
Nicholas Carew married Sir Francis Bryan's sister Elizabeth. Ironically, it was Carew's brother-in-law who was part of the committee that sat in the trial against him and pronounced him guilty, which left Bryan's sister impoverished. During the reign of Mary I, their son Sir Francis Carew was restored to Nicholas' estates, though he preferred to stay out of politics. Francis Carew's sister Anne married the diplomat Nicholas Throckmorton; their daughter Elizabeth married Sir Walter Raleigh.
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- Debrett's Peerage, 1968, Carew Baronets, p.155
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