Thursday, April 23, 2009

Question from Michelle - Further evidence on Henry VIII and the Carey children

I'm hoping to find more information about the claim that Henry and/or Catherine Carey were the natural children of Henry VIII. I've searched this site and have seen some good information, but I'm hoping for more specific details/evidence. From what I've read, I know that KB has some particularly good insight and I'm hoping to find out more. Specifically:

1) Aside from the gifts/potential marriages/land Henry granted to the Carey children, is there any further evidence of Henry being their father? If so, are there some good books/articles I can read?

2) Is there any new historical work being done on this?

3) From what I understand, Elizabeth I favored her Carey 'cousins' - is there any evidence, or thought that EI knew and/or suspected the Careys were in fact her father's children?

I appreciate any insight as well as direction toward primary and secondary sources. Thanks!


Luv said...

While some historian believe that Mary Boleyn's kids wasn't father by Henry VIII (Re:E. Ives, among others) other historians believe they were (RE:Joanna Denny) . I agree with Denny. When deciding if rather or not the Carey kids are Henry VIII most historian site that the relationship was over when Mary married William Carey, but since no one knows exactly when Mary relationship with Henry VIII started, nor when it had ended, than it's really all up for speculation. Since it's not unlikely for Henry VIII to married off a single women in order to cover up a affair/or pregnancy . A lot of people wonder if Henry Carey was the child of Henry VIII,(I do not think Henry VIII would ever publicly acknowledge in bastard daughter he might have had) than why Henry VIII didn't publicly acknowledge him in the way he did Henry FitzRoy? Well Elizabeth Blunt was single when she became pregnant. It was Henry VIII first son, and he was probably excited. While as Mary was married by the time Henry Carey was born, it would have been in best taste to publicly acknowledge him, plus if you go with Eric Ive belief that Henry VIII was seeking to make Anne his mistress when she was being courted by Henry Percy. So Henry VIII would not have acknowledge him if he was seeking the courtship of her sister Anne. Plus, Henry already had one bastard son, he didn't need another one. Since neither could inherit the crown. Henry VIII wanted a legitimate heir.

I have one question that I hoping someone can answered.
" How much involved in Henry Carey's life was William Carey's parents, after William Carey died?

There are two new books coming out that feature Mary Boleyn.

The Mistresses of Henry VIII by Kelly Hart

Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII's Mistress by Josephine Wilkinson

Mary Boleyn book is out now, but I haven't been able to buy a copy. If anyone have already read this book, could they please give us a little review .

Foose said...

Anne Boleyn took over young Master Carey's wardship when she came to power - a standard practice in that the most powerful member of a family usually assumed the wardships of junior members, thus setting them on the path to promotion and fortune. However, there is a tantalizing note in Letters & Papers from April 1535, when John Hale, Vicar of Isleworth, declared to the Privy Council:

"Moreover, Mr. Skydmore dyd show to me yongge Master Care [Carey], saying that he was our suffren [sovereign] Lord the Kynge's son by our suffren [sovereign] Lady the Qwyen's syster, whom the Qwyen's grace myght not suffer to be yn the Cowrt..."

Skydmore and Hale appear to be malcontents who upheld the legitimacy of the king's marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

I don't know how Skydmore pointed out young Carey to Hale, unless he was in the Court, but maybe they saw him somewhere else. If it was in the court, it isn't conclusive evidence of his paternity; Henry may have wanted him there, but his being the ward of Queen Anne may have also justified his presence. Hale's comments on Anne's attitude may be conjectured rather than actual fact; Anne may have "not suffered him to be in the court" because she personally disliked him; or because she had had one (or two) miscarriages and the child's presence was a reminder of her inability to have a son; or (as Hale suggests) because he was the son of her sister and her husband, and thus both an unpleasant reproach to her infertility and a reminder of a family scandal.

kb is definitely your subject matter expert on this. I did look at Carey's portrait on the Internet and it really doesn't reveal anything -- if it is correctly attributed, he seems to have looked like his cousin Elizabeth, but they both may have resembled the Boleyn connection.

It's all annoyingly ambiguous to me.

kb said...

Michelle -

In answer to your first question, the most convincing article I know of is Hoskins, "Mary Boleyn's Carey children and offspring of Henry VIII", Genealogists' Magazine 25 (1997) 345-52.

Sally Varlow discusses it briefly in her book "Lady Penelope", although she and I have remarkably similar lines of argument.

I am unfamiliar with the Wilkinson book Luv mentions although I notice that it is not yet available on Amazon .

I am not planning on publishing an article on the paternity of the Carey children myself. I am not actively looking for additional proof that Henry was their father. The gifts/potential marriages/land and other marks of favor are sufficient for me to extend the premise.

The interesting thing is that I am not sure it makes a difference whether their royal paternity is more firmly established or not. It would not, in my opinion substantially change the history.

This leads to your 3rd question. It was very much in everyone's best interest to assume that the Careys were next of kin to Elizabeth on her mother's side ONLY. If royal paternity was accepted, they would have become a threat to Elizabeth and the throne. This would have been a huge problem. It would have caused Elizabeth's right to the throne to come into question, their lives would have been in peril in the same way the royal cousins were threatened, imprisoned, or executed; and the Careys would have faced stiff competition for the throne by other more legitimate claimants.

I am also fairly certain that Robert Dudley earl of Leicester also believed the Careys were Henry's children but it was in everyone's best interest to maintain that they were not.

Kathy said...

Michelle, this isn't my area of expertise and I'm certainly not competent enough to evaluate this, but I did run across some evidence regarding the father of Mary Boleyn's children that doesn't seemed to have been mentioned here previously.

In The Lady Penelope, a biography of Penelope Devereux, Sally Varlow cites a document that purports to list the birthdates of the children of Katherine Carey's children, which if accurate casts doubt on the year of Katherine's birth.

A bit of geneaology first, so this will make some sense. Mary Boleyn had two children, Henry and Katherine supposedly by William Carey. Katherine Carey married Sir Francis Knollys. One of their children was Lettice Knollys who married Walter Devereux. Two of their children were Penelope Devereux and Robert Devereux. Robert Devereux became the Earl of Essex (yes, Elizabeth I's Essex to put the family into some perspective.)

According to Varlow, Sir Francis Knollys wrote out a list of his children with Katherine Carey and placed it in a Latin dictionary he owned where it was found in 2005. From the dates of children's births, she concludes that Katherine Carey herself had to have been born between March 1523 and April 1525, a time when Mary was known to be be having an affair with Henry VIII. Varlow thinks this is conclusive evidence that Henry was the father of Katherine Carey.

The document certainly exists -- there's a picture of in the book. But I don't know that it has conclusively been verified as being written by Francis Knollys or, if so, verified for accuracy. Nor am I qualified to comment on her deductions.

I don't think the issue of Mary's children is ever going to be resolved one way or the other until they start digging up bodies and analyzing DNA.

Luv said...


I agree. Actually I think both of Mary 's kids could have been Henry VIII. If Katherine Carey was Henry VIII kid, it not like he would claim her. Henry VIII have never claim any of his bastard daughters. At least not to my knowledge. I do not think the matter will ever be resolved, at least not without DNA testing.

Foose said...

I've started reading Kelly Hart's The Mistresses of Henry VIII and it's a pretty solid piece of work. The question of the Carey children's paternity is gone into in some detail, nearly a whole chapter, and well worth reading.

Kathy said...

I hate to cast aspersions on Mary Boleyn's character (enough people have done that already), but there is always the possibility she didn't know who the father of her children was. In which case, we are never going to know without conclusive DNA results.

kb said...

Regarding Sir Francis Knollys' Latin Dictionary which is the document that includes a list of his children and their birth order/dates:

The document exists. I have seen it and retain a copy of it. It is certainly Sir Francis Knollys' writing and his signature. It was found in the family seat of Rotherfield Greys.

Before I had seen this document, I had already worked out that the traditional birth date for Katherine Carey and her daughter Lettice Knollys were wrong as it would have meant that Katherine was 11 years old when she gave birth to Lettice.

Henry Carey's birth is calculated by his father's post mortem. William Carey’s inquisition post mortem of 22 June 1528 records Henry’s age as two years, fifteen weeks and five days. See J.Nichols, The Herald & Genealogist, vol. 4 (1867) p.34. For Henry Carey's birth calculate backwards.

Until the last couple years, it has been assumed that Katherine was born after her brother. That's not the case. She was the first born. This places her birth within the possible time frame of Mary Boleyn's affair with Henry.

The 1535 Hale remark Foose references, is just another piece of the circumstantial evidence although as Foose points out, there were other motives possibly behind the comment.

Luv - Henry Carey's birth date of 4 March 1526 complicates Ives reasoning slightly if only because Katherine Carey would have been on the scene in 1524. Making Anne his mistress would have been fine, but making Anne his wife would have severely complicated matters. An acknowledged bastard by Anne's sister brings the issue of consanguinity back into the discussion which is the same argument Henry was using to try to get out of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon.

Regarding William Carey's parents: my notes have his father Thomas Carey dying in 1500 which was also the year of William's birth. I don't have any facts on his mother Margaret Spencer Carey aside from her being the daughter of Sir Robert Spencer and Eleanor Beaufort. Again I have not verified that bit.

I find it very tricky to ascribe family resemblance based on portraits. The one similarity that is striking however is the resemblance between Lettice Knollys and Elizabeth I.

Denise said...

I find this very interesting because, if true, it makes the blood relationship of Lettice and Elizabeth I very close indeed. This is intriguing given the relationships of Lettice's husband (Robert Dudley) and son (Essex) with Elizabeth.

I had always assumed that Henry would have acknowledged all of his children like the Duke of Richmond, and his quest for a male heir. I see how messy this could have become after his relationship with Anne. But presumably these children would have been born BEFORE this? So what would have stopped him then?

kb said...

Denise - I agree it is all very intriguing. If the Careys were NOT Henry's children then the relationship between Elizabeth I and Lettice Knollys was first cousin once removed. If the Careys were Henry's children then Elizabeth I and Katherine Carey were half-sisters and Lettice would have been Elizabeth's half-niece.

Given this one can imagine that Elizabeth might have been justifiably jealous that Lettice could legitimately sleep with Dudley when Elizabeth couldn't. Even without the consanguinity, Lettice and Elizabeth had a close relationship in the early days which could have caused the same emotional result. For example, it is possible that Lettice stayed in Elizabeth's household during Mary's reign while her parents went into exile on the continent.

Dudley also set up Essex, his step-son and Elizabeth's cousin to take his place, most conspicuously when he arranged for Essex to take the post of Master of the Horse.

Henry Fitzroy did not die until after Elizabeth's birth. (I think?) One bastard son was enough when Henry was still hoping for a legitimate heir of Anne's body.

Lara said...

Fitzroy died in July 1536, so not only after Elizabeth's birth, but also after her mother's death. So Henry was still hoping for male heirs from Jane at that point. Close enough. :)

Denise said...

Actually Elizabeth & Katherine would be closer than half sisters since their mothers were sisters - more like 3/4 sisters. Makes me think of Oedipus and Antigone - since he married his mother his daughter was also his sister ;)

kb said...

Denise - 3/4 it is!

Michelle said...

Thanks to all for such great information!

Monica said...

According to The Mistresses of Henry VIII by Kelly Hart, Henry Fitzroy wasn't acknowledged until he was five or six, an age at which a child stood a reasonable chance of surviving to adulthood. By the time either of the Careys reached this age, it would have been around 1530 and would have been hugely detrimental to Henry's campaign to marry their aunt. The book on Penelope is convincing, but the whole 'hook' of the book is that it is about Henry VIII and Mary Boleyn's great-granddaughter - if the author argued against the rumours, then there would be less interest in a book on a reasonably obscure character, so I have to take it with a pinch of salt. No disrespect intended, however, it is well backed-up. I'm reading The Mistresses of Henry VIII now and it also argues that Henry was probably the father of the Careys, and this contains all the recent research into this area. The Other Boleyn Girl has certainly encouraged some solid research. I was convinced; it would be great to think that Henry VIII's bloodline continued, and that Elizabeth II is his descendant through her mother.

Jill said...

Is it true that Cardianl Wolsey was Henry Carey's godfather, and that Anne Boleyn was Catherine Carey's? That wasmentioned in a fictional Tudor book I read, so I'm curious to whether it's true.