Elizabeth Carew: Wife of Treason

Being raised at court, Elizabeth Bryan’s parents both held offices in the royal household – her mother, Margaret within the house of Katherine of Aragon and her father, Thomas as Vice Chamberlain.

Elizabeth Bryan and her future husband, Nicholas Carew, were members of Henry VIII’s inner circle. They performed in the masques and dances at court on a regular basis. It’s almost certain that Henry arranged the marriage between the two. Henry actually attended their wedding which was very rare for a monarch to do. As a gift, he gave the couple 50 marks worth of land. It was also said that the king showered Elizabeth with “beautiful diamonds and pearls and innumerable jewels.”


After the execution of her husband, Elizabeth and her family quickly petitioned Cromwell and the king to be provided with an adequate living for her and her children.

This letter was written by Elizabeth Carew to Lord Cromwell in 1539:

In the most humblest wise I beseech your lordship to be good lord to me and my poor children, to be a mediator unto the king’s grace for me, for my living and my children’s’ and that your lordship would speak to his grace, that I may enjoy that which his gave me, which is Bletchingly and Wallington, trusting that his grace will not give it from me. And I humbly desire your good lordship to speak a good word to his grace for me, that I may enjoy it according to his grace’s grant. And, to advertise your lordship, I have but twenty pounds more of my husband’s lands, which is a small jointure; and if he had not offended the king’s grace and his laws, I should have had an honest living, which should have been the third part of his lands; but now I cannot claim that, by reason that he is attained. I trust his grace will be good to me and my poor children, to reward me with some part of it. Also, I humbly pray your good lordship to speak to his grace to give me the lands in Sussex, which is in value six score pound and ten, to that I have by his grace and my husband, altogether amounteth a little above three hundred marks, the which I ensure your lordship I cannot live honestly under. All that I have had in my life hath been of his grace, and I trust that his grace will not see me lack; but whatsoever his grace or your lordship shall appoint me, I both must and will be content. I pray your lordship not to be miscontent with me for this my bold writing, to put your lordship to so great trouble and pains. And for your lordship’s aid, help and furtherance in this my suit, you bind me and my children to pray for your lordship and to have our poor hearts and services during our lives. And thus the Holy Ghost have you in his keeping, and send you long prosperous life.

Written at Wallington, the 11th day of March,

By your poor beadwoman,

Elizabeth Carew


Next we see part of a letter from Elizabeth’s mother, Lady Margaret Bryan giving thanks for Cromwell for his kindness:

My lord, I most humbly thank your good lordship for the great goodness you showed my poor daughter Carew, which bindeth me to owe you my true heart and faithful services while I live. She sends me word that it is the king’s pleasure she shall have lands in Sussex, which is to the value of six score pounds, and somewhat above, which I heartily thank his grace and your lordship for; but, good my lord, there is never a house on it that she can lie in. Wherefore, an it would please the king’s grace, of his most gracious and charitable goodness, to let her have that his grace hath appointed now, and Blechingly, which his grace gave her without desiring of her part, which grieveth her sore to forego it. And if it will please his grace to let her have those two, to her and to her heirs males, she shall be the most bound to his grace that ever was woman; for then I trust she shall be able to live and pray for the prosperous life of his grace and all his, and you, my good lord, and somewhat to comfort her poor children withal, which hath no succour but of the king’s grace and you, my lord, most tenderly beseeching your good lordship of your goodness now to comfort two troubled hearts; for, my lord, unfeignedly you have, and shall have our true prayers and hearty service during our lives. Alas! my lord, nothing have I to comfort her withal, as your lordship knoweth what case I am in, but only to sue to your lordship for her and hers, which I, being her mother, and she being so kind a child to me as she hath been, I cannot for pit do no less. My lord, next the king’s grace, in your lordship is all our trust, or else I durst not be so bold to troulbel you with these matter; beseeching you , my good lord, take no displeasure with me that I so do.

She goes on to say that she wished she could help her daughter but her current situation, as he knows, does not allow it. She also says that Elizabeth is a kind daughter and as a mother the least should could at least write on her behalf.

What happened to the lands that Elizabeth was asking for? Did she receive the lands she asked for?


Everett Green, Mary Anne; Letters of royal and illustrious ladies of Great Britain, Volume 3

Wagner, John A., Walters Schmid, Susan; ‘Encyclopedia of Tudor England, Volume 1’

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Elizabeth Carew History

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