George CAREW

(1st E. Totnes)

Born: 29 May 1555

Acceeded: 7 Feb 1625/6

Died: 27 Mar 1629, The Savoy, England

Buried: 2 May 1629, Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, England

Father: George CAREW (Sir)

Mother: Anne HARVEY

Married: Joyce CLOPTON 31 May 1580, Stratford on Avon, Warwickshire, England


1. Peter CAREW

Born on 29 May 1555. Second son of George Carew and Anne, daughter of Sir Nicholas Harvey, who was first archdeacon of Totnes, in Devon, next dean of Bristol and chief chanter in the cathedral of Salisbury, afterwards dean of the king's chapel and dean of Christ's Church, Oxford, lastly dean of Exeter and Windsor.

George was educated, like the father, at Broadgates Hall (afterwards Pembroke College), Oxford, where he stayed from 1564 to 1573, and was created M.A. at a later date, 17 Sep 1589. From an early age he devoted himself to military pursuits. In 1574 he entered the service of his 1st cousin, Sir Peter Carew, in Ireland. In 1575 he served as a volunteer in the army in Ireland under Sir Henry Sidney, and after filling the post of captain of the garrison in Leighlin for a few months in 1576, in the absence of his brother Peter, was appointed lieutenant-governor of the county of Carlow and vice-constable of Leighlin Castle in 1576.

In 1578 he held a captaincy in the royal navy, and made a voyage in the ship of Sir Humphrey Gilbert. In 1579 and 1580 he was at the head first of a regiment of Irish infantry and afterwards of a regiment of cavalry in Ireland. He was made constable of Leighlin-bridge Castle in 1580, on the death (in a skirmish, 25 Aug, with the Irish) of his brother Peter (State Papers, Ireland, lxxv. 83). Shortly afterwards Carew killed with his own hand several Irishmen suspected of slaying his brother, and was severely censured by the home government for him impetuosity. The Queen, however, showed much liking for him, and the Cecils were his friends. He became a gentleman-pensioner to Queen Elizabeth in 1582; sheriff of Carlow in 1583; and was knighted by his friend the lord deputy of Ireland, Sir John Perrot, on 24 Feb 1585-1586.

He served (1588–92) as Master of the Ordnance to Queen Elizabeth.

He took part in the naval expeditions to Cádiz (May 1596) and the Azores in 1597, when he was Member of Parliament for Queenborough. In May 1598 was for a short time an envoy to France, when his companion was Sir Robert Cecil.

He was appointed (27 Jan 1599/1600) lord president of Munster, presumably recommended by his friend Sir Walter Raleigh. At the time the whole of Ireland was convulsed by the great rebellion of Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone. Essex's attempt to crush it failed miserably, and Carew's relations with the Cecils did not make his advice congenial to Essex. When Lord Mountjoy was nominated Essex's successor, the powerful support that Carew lent Mountjoy chiefly enabled the latter to suppress the revolt. At Kinsale he did especial service, and the successful raids he made on neighboring castles effectually prevented the Spaniards from landing in the country after their ejection. Like all contemporary English officials in Ireland, he ruthlessly drove his victory home, and the Irish peasants of Munster were handled with his utmost vigour.

As soon as Ireland was pacified, Carew sought to return to England. His health was failing, and the anxieties of his office were endless, but while Elizabeth lived his request was overlooked. On Lord Mountjoy's resignation of the lord-deputyship in May 1603, Carew was allowed to retire, and Sir Henry Brouncker was promoted to the presidency of Munster.

James I on his accession treated him with marked attention. Early in Oct 1603 he became Queen Anne's vice-chamberlain, and a few days later (10 Oct) the receiver-general of her revenues. He was Member of Parliament for Hastings in the Parliament which met in 1604, and appointed councillor to the Queen on 9 Aug 1604.

On 4 Jun 1605 following he was created Baron Carew of Clopton House, near Stratford-on-Avon, the property of his wife Joyce, daughter of John Clopton, whom he married in 1580. On 26 Jun 1608 he was nominated master of ordnance, and held the post till 5 May 1617.

He was keeper of Nonsuch House and Park in 1609, of which he was reappointed keeper for life 22 May 1619, councillor of the colony of Virginia (23 May 1609), Governor of Guernsey (Feb 1609/10), commissioner to reform the army and revenue of Ireland (1611), a privy councillor (19 Jul 1616).

Carew visited Ireland in 1610 to report on the condition of the country, with a view to resettlement of Ulster, and described Ireland as improving rapidly and recovering from the disasters of the previous century.

In 1618 he pleaded with James I in behalf of Sir Walter Raleigh, with whom he had lived for more than thirty years on terms of great intimacy, and Lady Carew proved a kind friend to Raleigh's family after the execution.

In 1621 Carew received, jointly with the Duke of Buckingham and the Viscount Cranfield, a monopoly for the manufacture of gunpowder. At the funeral of James I in 1625 he was attacked with Palsy, which nearly proved fatal. But he recovered sufficiently to receive a few marks of favour from Charles I, to whose friend Buckingham he had attached himself. Member of the important council of war to consider the question of recovering the Palatinate (21 Apr 1624), and treasurer-general to Queen Henrietta Maria (1626).

Carew was created Earl of Totnes on 5 Feb 1625/6. In the following month the House of Commons, resenting the action of the council of war in levying money for the support of Mansfield's disastrous expedition, threatened to examine each of its members individually. Totnes expressed his readiness to undergo the indignity and even to suffer imprisonment in order to shelter the King, who was aimed at by the commons, but Charles proudly rejected Totnes's offer and prohibited any of the council from acceding to the commons' orders.

The Earl died on 27 Mar 1629 at his house in the Savoy, London, and was buried in the church of Stratford-on-Avon, near Clopton House. An elaborate monument was erected above his grave by his widow, with a long inscription detailing his military successes (Dugdale, Warwickshire, 1730, ii. 686-7). He left no children. Sir George had a son, named Peter Carew, who died young during his father's life.

Carew had antiquarian tastes, and was the friend of Camden, Sir Robert Cotton, and Sir Thomas Bodley. Camden thanked Carew in his 'Britannia' for the aid he had given him in Irish matters (ed. Gibson, 1772, ii. 338). He collected material on the history of Ireland, used later by his secretary, Sir Thomas Stafford, to prepare the important 'Pacata Hibernia; or, An Historie of the Late Warres of Ireland' (1633). Sir Thomas Stafford was probably, though the evidence is incomplete, a natural son of the Earl of Totnes. Stafford served under Carew, when president of Munster, as captain in the wars in Ireland during Elizabeth's reign.

When Carew died in 1629, it was intended that Stafford should be buried in the same tomb at Stratford-on-Avon, and an inscription (printed in Dugdale's Warwickshire, ii. 686) was engraved on it describing Stafford's career, leaving the date of death to be filled in. That was never done, and it is uncertain when Stafford died (he was alive in 1639) and whether he was buried in Carew's tomb.

Carew by his will, dated 30 Nov 1625 and proved on 29 May 1629, bequeathed to Stafford his vast collection of manuscripts relating to Ireland, the greater part of which, consisting of thirty-nine volumes. He spent much of his leisure in constructing pedigrees of Irish families, many of which in his own hand are still extant. From Stafford the manuscripts and books passed to Archbishop Laud. Sir George names in his will his great nephew, Peter Apsley.

From Burke's Extinct (London, Harrison, 1883) Sir George Carew, born in 1555, married Anne, daughter of Nicholas Harvey. He was Vice Chamberlain to the Queen, Lieutenant General of the Ordnance, Lord President of the Province of Munster, in Ireland, created Baron Carew of Clopton, co. Warwick, on 4 May 1605; and, in the first year of Charles I, on 7 Feb 1625, he was created Earl of Totnes, co. Devon. A great lover of historical antiquities, he collected charters and wrote an historical account of his time in Ireland.


The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Copyright © 2002 Columbia University Press

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