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  • Kristin Bundesen, PhD

Elizabeth Treviannon Carey

Elizabeth Treviannon Carey, Baroness Carey of Leppington, Countess of Monmouth (?1563 - 1641)

Elizabeth Treviannon Carey and her family

In 1593, Elizabeth Treviannon married her second husband, Robert Carey, who claimed he married her more for her worth than her wealth.  Her worth proved valuable indeed. Elizabeth Treviannon was the daughter of Hugh Trevannion and Sybilla Morgan, sister to Anne Morgan Carey, Baroness Hunsdon.  She married first Henry Witthrington from an established Northumberland family who was knight-marshal of Berwick-upon Tweed.  His boss was Elizabeth’s uncle Henry Carey, baron Hunsdon. The marriage was childless and ended with his death in April 1593.  Within 5 months Elizabeth remarried Robert Carey, her first cousin, son of Baron Hunsdon. The queen, cousin to the Careys, was apparently furious with this marriage alliance although it is unclear why. Elizabeth’s second husband sent her to court to represent him in a few financial matters. When the queen died, Robert famously snuck out of the palace and rode through the night to be the first to tell King James VI of Scotland that he was now also king of Scotland.  He did this in hopes of royal appointment. His wife however was the one who lead her family’s rise through the Jacobean court. She first joined Queen Anne’s privy chamber and was put in charge of her sweet coffers. Then, in what some courtiers thought was a recipe for disaster, Elizabeth took charge of the young prince Charles who at the age of four was unable to walk on his own and had trouble talking. Believing Charles would die soon, the court thought that the Careys would be blamed and out of favor. The courtiers did not take into account Elizabeth’s strength of character and inestimable good sense.  Dame Carey battled the king over the care of his son and seems to have won each time. The king wanted to put iron boots on the prince to help him walk and cut the string under his tongue to address a speech impediment.  As the head of the young prince’s household, she procured her husband’s appointment as the head of the prince’s household. So they lived and worked together at court.  They also placed their daughter, Philadelphia, in the young Princess Elizabeth’s household. The young prince Charles seems to have thrived under Elizabeth’s care and the courtiers looked for other ways to sideline the Careys from their positions of influence. When the prince reached his eleventh year, his household was converted to an all male one. Elizabeth returned to service with Queen Anne and received a yearly pension for life of 400 pounds.  Shortly after Charles became king, he made The Careys the Earl and Countess of Monmouth as much a reward to Elizabeth as to her husband Robert. For further reading: Robert Carey Monmouth, The Memoirs of Robert Carey, ed. F. H Mares, Series of Studies in Tudor and Stuart Literature (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972).


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