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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Lady Margaret Bryan: Governess of Prince Edward


Lady Margaret Bryan is best known as Governess to Princess Mary, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Edward. She was given a very important charge – the care of three future monarchs. In this article we are looking at who Margaret Bryan was and letters from her time as Governess of Prince Edward.

Lady Margaret Bryan

Born Margaret Bourchier, about 1468, in Yorkshire, she was the daughter of Elizabeth Tilney and Sir Humphrey Bourchier who was killed at the Battle of Barnet. The Battle of Barnet took place in 1471 and was one of many battles during the Wars of the Roses.

Elizabeth Tilney served as a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth Woodville and later, Lady of the Bedchamber to Elizabeth of York.

Margaret was the middle child of her parent’s three children. She had an older brother, John who later became 2nd Baron Berners and a younger sister, Anne who later became Baroness Dacre when she married Thomas Fiennes, Baron Dacre.

After her father died in 1471, her mother, Elizabeth Tilney, married Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey. Because of this marriage Margaret Bourchier became the half-sister of Thomas Howard (future 3rd Duke of Norfolk) upon his birth in 1473 and Elizabeth Howard (mother of Anne Boleyn) when she was born in 1480, among other half-siblings.

Sometime before 1490, Margaret wed Sir Thomas Bryan and together they had two children that made it to adulthood: Sir Francis Bryan and Elizabeth Bryan (who married Nicholas Carew).

Both Margaret and her husband served Katherine of Aragon at court – Margaret as a lady-in-waiting and Thomas as vice-chamberlain.

Surrounded by nobles at court and within her family – Margaret would have been very familiar with  the customs, training and etiquette it would take to govern the young royals.

Prince Edward

As Governess of the future King of England Margaret was responsible for his person. She was to make sure that when visitors arrived that they saw the young prince in all his glory.

This letter is dated June 30, 1538 in Letters and Papers and discusses things the young prince would need and also updates Cromwell on his wellness:

My Lord,

After my most bounden duty I humbly recommend me unto your good lordship; and according to the king’s grace’s commandment and yours shall accomplish it to the best of my power with such things as here is to do it withal: which is but very bare for such a time. The best coat my lord prince’s grace hath is tinsel, and that he shall have on at that time; he hath never a good jewel to set on his cap; howbeit I shall order all things for my Lord’s honour the best I can, so as I trust the king’s grace shall be contended withal; and also Master Vice-Chamberlain and Master Cofferer I am sure will do the best diligence that lieth in them in all causes.

My lord, I thank Jesu my lord prince’s grace is in good health and merry, and his grace is in good health and merry, and his grace hath four teeth; three full out, and the fourth appeareth. And thus fare you well, my own good lord, with as much joy and honor as your noble heart can desire.

From Havering, with the hand of her that is your true beadwoman, and will be during her life,

Margaret Bryan


Here is a quote from Lord Chancellor Audley to Cromwell after his visit to the prince on the 8th of September 1538:

Posthumous portrait of Thomas Audley (c.1488–1544)
And I assure your lordship I never saw so goodly a child of his age – so merry, so pleasant, so good and loving countenance, and so earnest an eye, as it were a sage judgemental towards any person that repaireth to his grace; and as it seemeth to me, thanks be to our Lord, his grace increaseth well in the air that he is in, and albeit, a little his grace’s flesh decayeth (he is thinner), yet he shotyth out in length (has grown), and wexith firm and stiff, and can steadfastly stand, and would advance himself to move and go, if they would suffer him, but as me seemeth they do yet best, considering his grace is yet tender, that he should not strain himself, as his own courage would serve him, till he come above a year of age.

In the letter, Audley also states that he is glad to hear the King will remove Edward from Havering for the winter for the house will be very cold. The conditions at Havering are much better for the Prince’s health in the summer.

Later in March 1539, Lady Margaret Bryan wrote Cromwell again to tell him that Edward was in good health and merry and that she wished that he and the King had seen Edward the previous night. While the minstrels played young Edward “danced and played so wantonly that he could not stand still…”

Although Lady Bryan retained the title of lady mistress even after Edward’s succession in 1547, her last years were spent not at court but at her estate in Essex, where she enjoyed a generous annuity of Ł70 per year.

Margaret Bryan writes as a mother would – talking of accomplishments of her young son. I can imagine that for little Prince Edward that she was the closest thing to a mother that he could recall.

Lady Bryan died in 1552, living long enough to see Edward on the throne of England.

Through her daughter, Margaret was the great-grandmother of Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton, Lady Raleigh, wife to Walter Raleigh and chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I.


Loach, Jennifer; “Edward VI”

Wagner, John A., Walters Schmid, Susan; “Encyclopedia of Tudor England, Volume 1”

Everett Green, Mary Anne; “Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain: From the …, Volume 3”

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