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  • Kristin Bundesen, PhD

'So good a wife to me' - Anne Morgan Carey

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

In 1568, Anne Morgan Carey, baroness Hunsdon, travelled to the northern fortress of Berwick-upon-Tweed.  When she arrived, she took charge of managing the garrison including financing the food, supplies, and even the salaries of the senior officers, while her husband, Henry Carey, was out patrolling the Anglo-Scottish border.

16th century remains of Berwick-upon-Tweed castle. By Rosser1954 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Anne was the granddaughter of another capable woman, Princess Elizabeth’s childhood lady governess, Blanche Herbert of Troy, who had managed the royal households of Henry VIII’s children. As a result, Anne grew up with Elizabeth and her future husband. In 1545, Anne married Henry Carey, son of Mary Boleyn and Elizabeth’s cousin - possibly her half-brother – a bluff and rough soldier of unquestioned loyalty to the queen and questionable marital fidelity although Anne is not on record as complaining about his philandering. On the other hand, Anne referred to Henry as ‘wholly to be a husband for the Queen’s Majesty as any hath been these many years…’.  On his deathbed, Henry lamented that he could not leave Anne more money as she had been ‘so good a wife to me’.

Anne Morgan Carey, Baroness Hunsdon

Anne was granted livery for Elizabeth’s coronation and served as an unpaid lady-in-waiting throughout the reign. She appears regularly in the Elizabethan gift rolls indicating a friendly and familial relationship between her and the queen. Between 1568 and 1588, Anne traveled between Berwick and the court, often with sick children in tow. Her husband relied on her to manage not only Berwick but also their London business including, in 1569, pressing the queen for the grant of another northern fortress so he could ‘be better servant’ to her.

Within an 18-year span, Anne gave birth to 13 children, 11 living to maturity. All eight sons served militarily while six sons and three grandsons were members of Elizabethan parliaments. Her three daughters, ten granddaughters and even a great-granddaughter all served at Elizabeth’s court. This strong family presence, her own extensive experience of both Elizabeth and the court combined with her husband’s numerous offices ensured that the family was always at the center of politics. It was from their London house that Elizabeth started the procession celebrating the defeat of the Armada.

In 1595, the queen made Anne the Keeper of Somerset House. Her management skills having been proved in much harsher climes, this office, normally given only to men, was awarded to her partly as a pension plan in advance of her husband’s death. Despite Queen Elizabeth’s reputation for frugality, she rewarded Anne royally after Henry’s death with a one-time grant of 800£ followed by a life annuity of 200£.  She outlived the queen by five years.

Somerset House today.

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