Sunday, July 12, 2009

Question from tudor fanatic - Henry Carey and the Lord Chamberlain's men

I was looking in a book about Shakespeare, and I found a reference to Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon (presumably meaning Mary Boleyn's son, though they had his birthdate wrong by a couple of years). Apparently, he became Lord Chamberlain a few years before his death, and he helped to organise and fund the Chamberlain's Men, which was the early name for the company of players (actors) that Shakespeare belonged to and wrote his plays for. I was just wondering if anyone else knew anything about this, because I haven't seen a reference to it anywhere else.


kb said...

Henry Carey, baron Hunsdon, (1526-1596) was indeed Mary Boleyn Carey's son and a great favorite of Elizabeth's. He became Lord Chamberlain of her household in July 1585.This means he was chamberlain for 11 years. He was the patron of the Lord Chamberlain's men with license to play at court and in London with permission of the Master of the Revels.

His son-in-law Charles Howard was the Lord High Admiral and patron of the the other great acting company the Admiral's Men.

There is much historiographical debate over the origin and coalescence of the several acting companies including Lord Strange's men. Chambers' "The Elizabethan Stage" (1923) is considered the standard and still authoritative source.

Additionally there is a long term research project called the "Records of Early English Drama" (2004) edited by several people including John Elliott. This is a multi-volume opus of printed primary sources including financial records by county of payments to acting companies, arrests of actors not wearing recognized livery (and therefore suspected of being vagrants), etc. Fascinating stuff, but no narrative so you would have to be up for a research project.

Elizabeth's chamberlains were all relatives except one (and he didn't last long). William Howard her half granduncle 1558-1572, Thomas Radcliffe half first cousin once removed 1572-1583, Charles Howard, William Howard's son, half first cousin once removed and married to Henry Carey's daughter Katherine 1584-1585, Henry Carey her first cousin 1585-1596 followed by Henry Brooke briefly in 1596 (later married to a relative), then Henry's son George Carey also a first cousin once removed 1597-1603. He also took on patronage of his father's acting company. (Dates are for terms of service as chamberlain)

tudor fanatic said...

Thanks for the comment, kb. You really seem to know what you're talking about!

kb said...

thanks - I have a thing for the Careys

Gareth Russell said...

Out of interest, when did the website you're referring to suggest Henry Carey was born?

kb said...

Gareth - Is this question for me? I don't think I referenced a web site for Henry Carey's birth.

I calculate his birth based on Nichols, Herald & Genealogist, vol. 4, p.34 which cites William Carey's inquisition post mortem of 22 June 1528 and records Henry's age as 2 years, fifteen weeks and five days. Working backwards I get to 4 March 1526.

This makes him 32 at Elizabeth's accession, 59 when he became lord chamberlain, 62 at the defeat of the Armada when he had supervision of the queen's physical safety, and 70 years and 141 days when he died 23 Jun 1596.