Sir Gawen CAREW

Born: AFT 1484

Died: BET 11 Oct 1582 - 20 Jun 1585 (Will dated/proved)

Father: Edmund CAREW (Sir)

Mother: Catherine HUDDESFIELD

Married 1: Anne BRANDON AFT 28 Jan 1530/31 (marriage licence)

Married 2: Mary WOTTON (dau. of Sir Robert Wotton of Boughton Malherbe and Anne Belknap) (w. of Sir Henry Guildford)

Married 3: Elizabeth NORWICH (d. 1594) (dau. of Sir John Norwiche)

A sketch of Gawen Carew
by Hans Holbein the Younger

The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

Fourth son of Sir Edmund Carew of Mohun’s Ottery by Catherine, dau. and coh. of Sir William Huddesfield of Shillingford. Married first, lic. 28 Jan 1531, Anne, dau. of Sir William Brandon, sister of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, widow of Sir John Shilston of Wood, and Southwark, Surr., s.p.; secondly by Jul 1540, Mary (d.1558), dau. of Sir Robert Wotton of Boughton Place, Boughton Malherbe, Kent, wid. of Sir Henry Guildford, s.p.; and third, by Dec 1565, Elizabeth, dau. of Sir John Norwiche, lady in waiting of Princess Elizabeth, s.p. Kntd. bet. 29 Mar and 18 Oct 1545.

Keeper, Chittlehampton park, Devon 24 Oct. 1539, Tiverton and Ashley parks Jan. 1553; gent. pens. 1540-47/49; capt. Matthew Gonson 1545; chief steward, forfeited lands of Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter 19 Oct. 1545; commr. chantries, Cornw., Devon, and Exeter 1546, relief, Devon and Bristol 1550, goods of churches and fraternities, Devon 1553, for maritime causes 1578; j.p. Devon 1547-53, 1558/59-d.; sheriff 1547-8; master of henchmen 31 Dec. 1558; dep. lt. Cornw. and Devon 1569.

Gawen Carew’s father made special provision for his two younger sons in the will which he made shortly before his death in 1513. Both George and Gawen were placed in the custody of their elder brother Nicholas, a man of 30 at their father’s death, who appears to have attached them to the household of Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter, where they received a livery of cloth as household members in 1525. Their father also provided for their maintenance and left each of them £200 in cash to be paid at their marriage.

Widely connected in Devon by descent and his kinsmen’s marriages, Carew was to be a prominent figure there throughout his life, although his early career centred on the court and the capital. In Oct 1532 his brother-in-law the Duke of Suffolk recommended him to Cromwell as the next sheriff of Devon, but he was not to have the office for 15 years: instead he had to content himself with minor favours such as licences to import wine and timber in 1536 and to export bell metal in 1540, some grants of land and the lease of Launceston priory in 1540. In Apr 1538 he was imprisoned in the Compter after he and his servant had killed one adversary and seriously wounded the other in a sword fight, but by Jan 1540 he was sufficiently in favour to be one of those appointed to receive Anne of Cleves at Blackheath. By this time he married his second wife, Mary Wotton.

Mary Wotton

Hans Holbein the Younger 1527

St. Louis Art Museum

On the outbreak of the war with France, Carew was ordered to accompany the Duke of Norfolk to the Netherlands in 1543, bringing with him four horsemen and four footmen; in the following year he took part in the Boulogne campaign and in 1545 he captained the Matthew Gonson in naval engagements. It was presumably the last of these services which brought him the knighthood conferred on him in 1545: styled ‘armiger’ on the return of the knights of the shire for Devon dated 20 Jan 1545, by the time the Parliament opened on 23 Nov he was a knight. During 1542 he had testified against Queen Catherine Howard at her trial and in Jan 1547 he was to do so against the Earl of Surrey.

Carew may have first sat in Parliament in 1542: on the damaged return for Devon all that can be made of the second name is ‘Item[?] G ... r.[?] we’, and if the surname is Carew the absence of the suffix ‘miles’ points to Gawen Carew, who was yet to be knighted, rather than to his nephew George Carew, who had been dubbed in 1536. Two years later uncle and nephew were to be elected together for the shire but before the delayed opening of the Parliament Sir George Carew was to perish in the capsizing of the Mary Rose. This Parliament was to be dissolved by the death of King Henry VIII in Jan 1547, and in the following autumn Gawen Carew was again returned for Devon to the first Parliament of Edward VI, this time as the senior knight. It was a tribute to his local ascendancy, to his powerful connexions at court and perhaps to his Protestantism: in Apr 1543 he had been among those summoned before the Privy Council to defend their eating of flesh during Lent and reproved for alleging a royal licence to do so. He must have welcomed the new trend in religious policy but the only reference to him in the Journal does not concern reform: on 16 Nov 1549 he and his fellow-knight, Sir John Chichester, were absent from the House when a Devon clothiers’ bill was committed to Carew’s nephew, Sir Peter Carew, then one of the Members for Dartmouth. The ‘answer’ to the bill was to be made when the knights of that shire should return to the House.

Gawen Carew

circa 1565

Between the second and third sessions of this Parliament there occurred the western rebellion of Jun 1549. Carew, who was in London when the first reports of the rebellion arrived, was sent down to Devon by the Lord Protector the Duke of Somerset, with Sir Peter Carew to help the sheriff, Sir Thomas Denys, restore order by conciliation and without violence, but an attempt to negotiate with the embattled rebels at Crediton ended in a skirmish during which barns were fired and several people died. Although the result was not to appease but to intensify the rebellion Carew still believed a peaceful settlement possible, and with his nephew Denys and Sir Hugh Pollard he approached the rebels a second time at Clyst St. Mary only to be disillusioned by their belligerence. By the time Sir John Russell, Baron Russell, arrived to take command of the situation with an army composed mainly of German and Italian mercenaries, he had become an advocate of suppression, and it was he who spurred Russell into attacking the rebels at Fenny Bridges in an attempt to relieve the siege of Exeter. During this successful if pyrrhic action Carew was wounded in the arm by an arrow, but this did not prevent him from taking a leading part in the eventual restoration of order. At about this time Carew and his nephew Peter were appointed to the council in the west but, as Carew wrote to John Thynne on 10 Aug., they were instructed by the Protector to absent themselves from it because the followers of Sir William Herbert ‘would find themselves much offended if they should not be the like’. For his efforts Russell rewarded him more practically with the forfeited lands of Humphrey Arundell of Lanherne, a grant confirmed by King Edward VI on 5 Mar 1550, and with the tenure of Tiverton castle. Later in 1550 he shared with Russell, his nephew Peter, and Richard Duke the valuable licence to mine iron and coal on Exmoor and Dartmoor.

Carew did not sit in the Parliament of Mar 1553 and in the succession crisis which followed he probably sided with his nephew, Sir Peter, who proclaimed Queen Mary in Devon.

Within a few months, however, Sir Peter Carew was conspiring against the Queen’s marriage with King Felipe, and his uncle, Sir Thomas Dennis, and others were soon drawn into the plan to support Sir Thomas Wyatt by raising Devon under the leadership of Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon. Nothing came of this beyond the assembly of a tiny force at Mohun’s Ottery, and as soon as the government acted Sir Peter Carew fled abroad and his fellow conspirators were arrested. Gawen Carew was not put on trial: after spending a month in Exeter gaol he was brought on 3 Mar to the Tower where he remained for another ten. In Sep a true bill was found against him at Exeter, but on 17 Jan 1555 he was released on surety of £500; on 22 May he obtained an order staying proceedings against him in the King’s bench, two weeks later he was allowed a short visit to Devon to set his affairs in order, and in Jul he was pardoned. He was not to play any further part in public life until the accession of Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Norwich was the daughter of John Norwich, possibly the one who was married first to Anne Cobham and then to Alice Froude, and was a member of Elizabeth Tudor’s household before she became queen. When Elizabeth Sandes was dismissed from her service in Jun 1554, the Lady Elizabeth suggested that Elizabeth Norwich replace her. Elizabeth Norwich probably served Elizabeth from 1548 until her arrest in 1554 and again from Oct 1554. She continued to be part of the Queen’s household after she took the throne and, as the third wife of Sir Gawen Carew, was the Lady Carew listed as one of Ladies of the Bedchamber in 1587. John Harington's poem to six of Princess Elizabeth's gentlewomen begins one stanza with the words "To Norwyche good and grave" and talks about her "knowledge in foresight of suche thinges yet to come".

Carew lived to be over 80. By the will which he made on 11 Oct. 1582 he asked to be buried in Exeter cathedral (where a monument was later erected) and appointed Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford, overseer. He left his lands, after the death of his widow and executrix, to his kinsman George Carew of Laughline, Ireland. The will was proved on 30 Jun 1585.

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