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The Lord Chamberlian’s Men is known as “Shakespeare’s playing company” and was a group of actors for which Shakespeare wrote plays most of his career. By 1603, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men were so popular that James I himself chose to patronize the company making it The King’s Men. Today we are going to look at the life of Henry Carey, the man who made the company The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the First Lord Hunsdon, and the Lord Chamberlain who patronized The Lord Chamberlain’s Men when it was founded by Elizabeth I in 1594. This week we are delighted to welcome historian Stephanie Kline to the show to share with us the life and history of Henry Carey and his role in the career of William Shakespeare.  

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Stephanie Kline holds a Master of Studies degree in Modern British & European History from Mansfield College, University of Oxford. Since 2011, she has run the popular website, The Tudor Enthusiast, where she blogs about all things related to the Tudor dynasty. Her first historical biography, Edward VI: Henry VIII’s Overshadowed Son will be published by Pen & Sword Books this year. She lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband and two young children. 

I’ll be asking Stephanie Kline about:

  • How was Henry Carey related to Elizabeth I?  
  • Henry Carey served twice as a member of Parliament and was made a Baron by Elizabeth I as well as knighted and put in charge of Elizabeth’s hawks used for the sport of hawking. Stephanie, we know that knighthoods are granted as a result of one’s service. Can you explain for us what Henry Carey did to get knighted and besides later becoming Lord Chamberlain, what were Henry Carey’s other political appointments during his lifetime? 
  • There was an uprising in England in 1569 and Henry Carey was called upon to serve in the opposition to this rebellion. What was Henry Carey’s role in this event and was he successful? 
  • …and more!

Resources You Can Use to Learn More

Keep Scrolling for Some Extra History on Henry Carey

Henry Carey portrait

Portrait of Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon (1526-1596) |
circa 1561-1563, by Steven van Herwijck | Private collection on loan to the Globe Theatre | Public Domain
| Source

Henry Carey Might Have Been Elizabeth’s Brother

Henry Carey’s parents are known to be William Carey and Mary Boleyn, who was sister to Anne Boleyn, the second wife and Queen of Henry VIII of England. This relationship makes Henry Carey officially, Queen Elizabeth I’s first cousin. However, as Stephanie points out in this week’s episode, Henry Carey’s mother, Mary Boleyn, is known to have carried on an affair with Henry VIII around the time that Henry Carey was born. It is speculated that Henry Carey could have been an unacknowledged son of Henry VIII, but this lineage is unproven and entirely a theory based on proximity. Certainly neither Elizabeth I nor Henry VIII, or Anne Boleyn have left any indication that they believed this to be true of Henry Carey.

Mary Boleyn, Henry Carey's mother
Portrait of Mary Boleyn, painted by Remigius van Leemput (1607-1675) | Painted between between circa 1630 and circa 1670 | Part of the Royal Collection UK | Public Domain | Source

Henry Carey and the Northern Rebellion

There was an uprising in England in 1569 and Henry Carey was called upon to serve in the opposition to this rebellion. As Stephanie explains this week, this revolt was called by various names including “The Rising of the North, Revolt of the Northern Earls, Northern Rebellion”. It too kplace in November of 1569 and lasted until February of 1570. The entire uprising was ultimately an unsuccessful attempt to remove Elizabeth I from power in favor of appointing Mary Queen of Scots to the throne. The revolt was the brainchild of Thomas Howard, Charles Neville, and Thomas Percy.

“[Henry Carey] was Lieutenant General for Elizabeth… very successful, he was ambushed by an army twice his size and they managed to fend them off and claim victory to end the uprising. [Elizabeth I] was so happy with [Henry Carey] that she sent him a personal note which referred to him lovingly as “my Harry…an instrument of her glory.”

The Parting of Mary Stuart, a painting related to the Rising of the North Event
The Parting of Mary Stuart, by Leonardo Gasser in 1866 | Signature and date bottom right: L. Gasser 1866 | Public Domain | Source

Henry Carey Appointed as Lord Chamberlain

Henry Carey was appointed to many Royal stations during his lifetime, but perhaps the most prestigious was when he was appointed the Lord Chamberlain. As Stephanie explains this week, the position of Lord Chamberlain was one of the three most senior positions available in the Royal Household.

Henry Carey would have overseen many of the daily operations of the Royal Household, including the entertainment and the playing company that came to be known The Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

Henry Carey was easily situated to bring in shareholders and fund a playing company. There’s some evidence they came to be known as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, and it’s origins may have started in the 1560s, at this time, whatever group he was patronizing was called Hudson’s men, and later when he became Lord Chamberlain in the 1580s, and in 1594, we see the arrival of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. He cared very much about providing quality entertainment to the royal court and he saw this as one if his chief duties at Elizabeth’s court.

Anne Morgan, Henry Carey's wife
Portrait of Anne Morgan, Baroness Hunsdon, (c.1529-1607) | 16th century, unknown author | Public Domain | Source

Henry Carey and Emilia Lanier

The Lord Chamberlain’s Men playing company was founded in 1594, and one year prior, in 1593, Henry Carey concluded an affair with Emilia Lanier, with whom he became pregnant and subsequently married off to her cousin.

He had some illegitimate children, but a very successful marriage with Anne Morgan, with whom he had 16 children. He did begin an affair with Emilia Basano 1587—the cringeworthy detail here is she was 18. And he was 61. By contemporary accounts, this was a happy relationship for about 5 years, treated very well by Henry Carey, paid her 40pounds /year and gave her great gifts, and the queen even gave her gifts, too. She lived comfortably in his care. Both of her parents had died at this time, so he was a caretaker and sexual partner. IN 1592, she became pregnant with his child, and he very quickly wanted to end the relationship and marry her off so the child was legitimate. He didn’t want to marry her himself, but he married her to Alfonso Lanier. Emilia gave birth to the son and she became a successful poet on her own in London from there.  

Emilia Lanier, supposedly, Henry Carey's mistress
An Unknown Woman, c. 1590, by Nicholas Hilliard| “In 2014 it was suggested that this miniature of an unknown woman was a portrait of Emilia or Amelia Bassano [Amelia or Emilia Bassano, married to Alphonso Lanier]. See John Hudson ‘Shakespeare’s Dark Lady: Amelia Bassano Lanier the Woman Behind Shakespeare’s Plays?’ (2014). Another miniature by Nicholas Hilliard in the V&A’s collection (museum no. P.134-1910) has also been suggested as a portrait of Amelia or Emilia Bassano, married to Alphonso Lanier.” | Nicholas Hilliard – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN3936122202.| Public Domain | Source

Where Henry Carey is Buried

Henry Carey died on

“July 23 1596, 70 years old—very respectable age for a Tudor man. [He] died at Somserset House, died as he lived, in the Queen’s favor…and [The Queen] still cared for him at the time of his death. On his deathbed, Queen Elizabeth offered him the Earl of Wilcher, but apparently he replied to her, “mMadame, as you did not county me worthy of this honor in life, I will count myself not worthy in death.” He was buried St John the Baptist Chapel in Westminster Abbey, the tallest in the Abbey, 36 feet, grand and lavish, the queen paid for his funeral, decorated with his heraldry.”