Sir George CAREW

(Vice Admiral)

Born: ABT 1504

Died: 20 Jun 1545, England

Father: William CAREW (Sir)

Mother: Joan COURTENAY

Married 1: Thomasine POLLARD (dau. of Sir Lewis Pollard) ABT 1529, Mohun Ottery, Devonshire, England

Married 2: Mary NORREYS

Sir George Carew

sketch by Hans Holbein the Younger

English soldier, admiral and adventurer during the reign of King Henry VIII who died in the sinking of the English Navy flagship Mary Rose at the Battle of the Solent during an attempted French invasion during the Italian War of 1542-1546. Scion of a controversial and dramatic family, George had a wild youth and explored widely, being arrested several times of associating with rebellious vassals of the King. Carew successfully tamed this nature in his later years during which he became a trusted advisor and military officer in the King's service.

The exact date of George Carew's birth is unknown, but it is though to have occurred between 1497 and 1504, the son of landowner Sir William Carew. Carew was initially raised at Mohun's Ottery near Luppitt in Devon, before George and his brother Peter Carew were sent to be educated in the household of Henry Courtenay, 1st Marquess of Exeter. There they learned from adventurous relatives like their uncle Gawen Carew and kinsman Nicholas Carew, the latter of whom was later arrested and executed for treason.

Carew initially applied to train in the law, but swiftly became bored and in 1526 was in Blois, seeking service with Louise of Savoy, the French Regent. This attempt came to nothing, and was pardoned by King Henry in Nov of the same year, the King also overlooking youthful indescretions with the followers of Elizabeth Barton and encouraging responsible beahaviour in the young man. Carew became interested in politics in the early 1530s and briefly sat as a Member of Parliament as a knight from the shire of Devon and then later became the High Sheriff of Devon, during which period he was officially knighted. Carew was also married for the first time during the 1530s, to Thomasine, daughter of Sir Lewis Pollard.

In 1537, Carew was given his first sea commission, serving in the English Channel under Sir John Dudley during operations against pirates. The following year he inherited his father's estates and returned to Devon to take up a position as a Justice of the Peace. In 1539 however, Carew's wife died and he again entered the King's service, taking over the strategically vital fort of Rysbank in the Calais Pale. The fort's previous commander, Carew's kinsman Nicholas Carew had paid with his life for machinations against the King. George Carew was disgusted with poor state of readiness and repair he found the fort to be in and set about repairing it whilst becoming involved in the politics of Calais under the Deputy of Calais Arthur Plantagenet, 1st Viscount Lisle.

Carew took pains during this period to distance himself from the Roman Catholic upbringing he had with the Maquess of Exeter and openly supported Protestant groups who had fled to Calais after persecution elsewhere in Europe. His stance on this issue brough admiration from several contemporaries, including John Foxe. Carew was with the deputation which met Anne of Cleves in December 1539 and the following year he was briefly arrested and questioned in relation to a plan to hand Rysbank over to the French, a plot in which Lisle was implicated but Carew apparently was not. In the late autumn of 1540, Carew remarried, to Mary Norris of Berkshire, daughter of Sir Henry Norreys, and the couple settled at Polslo Priory near Exeter. Carew had taken his position seriously, and was rewarded with a second term as sheriff in 1542 and the job of Steward of Exeter's possessions, a role carrying an annual salary of £30. Two years later he was made lieutenant of Gentleman Pensioners and was awarded the huge salary of £365 a year.

Apparently bored with Rysbank and political life, in the summer of 1543, Carew applied to join the army of Sir John Wallop in Flanders as a lieutenant general of horse. Although Carew was an accomplished jouster, he was tactically inexperienced and learned the military arts through his position on Wallop's army council. Along with his brother Peter, Carew saw action in skirmishes outside the French held towns of Thérouanne and Landrecis during Wallop's campaigns against the towns. At Landrecis, Carew twice came close to disaster, almost being killed by a sniper's bullet during the summer and in Nov actually being captured after pursuing a fleeing band of French cavalry too far and finding himself isolated. He was soon freed however by the express request of Henry VIII and returned to the English army. In 1544, Carew brought 20 soldiers to join Wallop's campaign against Boulogne and he was also given a subordinate naval command under Dudley in the English Channel.

In Jul 1545, with a French invasion expected, Carew was called to King Henry VIII's council of war aboard his flagship Great Harry in Portsmouth. There Carew was appointed Vice-Admiral in charge of the fleet in Portsmouth and presented with a golden whistle as a symbol of his office. The French fleet landed on the Isle of Wight the same day and shortly afterwards sailed for Portsmouth. The French force greatly outnumbered the English, mustering 175 ships including 25 great galleys. Carew, commanding the flagship of the British carrack fleet, the huge Mary Rose sailed to meet them and as he did so, disaster struck.

It will never be known exactly why the Mary Rose sank in the entrance to Portsmouth harbour on 19 Jul 1545, but it is thought that Carew's despairing last words, called to his uncle Gawen aboard the Matthew Gonson that he "he had a sort of knaves he could not rule", indicate command and discipline problems. Carew too had only taken command of the ship that day and his authority was far from assured. He would also have been completely unaware of the dangerous combination of winds and tides which makes the Solent a particulaly dangerous body of water. Modern studies have also indicated that the 700-ton warship was dangerously overloaded with nealy 500 men aboard, including many fully armed and armoured soldiers.

Regardless of the cause, the Mary Rose heeled over and sank within sight of the French, shortly after battle had been joined. Of the 500 aboard less than 25 survived and Carew was not amongst them. His body was never recovered. Despite the disaster, the French fleet failed to effectively engage the English and turned to perform minor raids elsewhere on the coast, returning to France in Aug. Carew's widow was given a job in the King's household as a lady in waiting to Henry's daughters Mary and Elizabeth and later married Sir Arthur Champernowne, dying in 1570. When the Mary Rose was raised nearly 450 years later, pewter plates stamped with "G.C.", Carew's inititals, were amongst the artefacts recovered.

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