CAREW, George (d.1612), of Antony, Cornw. and Tothill Street, Westminster.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

2nd s. of Thomas Carew of Antony by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Richard Edgecombe of Mount Edgecumbe, Cornw.; bro. of Richard. educ. ?Oxf.; M. Temple 1577, called 1586. m. Thomasine, da. of Sir Francis Godolphin of Godolphin, 2s. 3da.2 Kntd. 1603.3

Offices Held

J.p. Cornw. from 1580, Devon from 1594; prothonotary in Chancery and clerk for writing pardons of outlawry 1593; master in Chancery 1599; bencher, M. Temple 1602; master of requests 1602; served on embassy to Poland, Sweden, Brunswick and Denmark 1598; ambassador to France 1605-9; master of the wards 1612.4


Politician, diplomat, lawyer and man of letters, Carew’s position in south-west England and later connexions at court, explain his frequent appearances in Parliament. Returned at Saltash through his family’s local influence, he himself attributed his return for St. Germans to his brother-in-law George Kekewick, the portreeve.

After gathering ‘such fruit as the University, inns of court and foreign travel could yield him’, Carew entered court circles under the patronage of Sir Christopher Hatton, subsequently, and, it is said, on the Queen’s recommendation, being employed by Lord Keepers Puckering and Egerton. His appointment as prothonotary, an office that had lapsed during recent years and was primarily concerned with the enrolling of treaties, suggests that he was already interesting himself in the conduct of diplomacy. His suit for the post of clerk for writing pardons of outlawry, which was to provide remuneration for his unpaid duties as prothonotary, appears to have received the support of Lord Burghley. His behaviour in office shows him to have been no better—and no worse—than his contemporaries. Nearly every fee was enhanced and Carew or his clerks retained possession ‘of the greatest part of the records of the outlawries which have passed for almost these two years’, instead of filing them. In other words, anybody requiring an exemplification would have to pay Carew and his clerks for the search and copy, instead of the clerks at the rolls office. None the less, together with his son Francis, he was regranted the office in 1611.5

Apart from one committee which he may have attended in his capacity as burgess for Saltash, concerning salted fish and unsized bread on 5 Mar. 1593, no parliamentary activity is recorded for Carew until 1601. However, as the majority of the entries in the journals for 1601 refer only to a ‘Mr. Carew’ (or Carey), and as there were several Members with these names in Parliament at the time, the following speeches and committees cannot be attributed to George Carew with absolute certainty. His main parliamentary activity was in debate, although he served on committees concerning bail (4 Nov.) and the abbreviation of the Michaelmas term (11 Nov.). On 4 Nov. he spoke, supporting the commitment of the bill concerning bail, and also on the question of the return of Sir Andrew Nowell as knight for Rutland. Nowell apparently having returned himself for the seat, being sheriff of the county, Carew raised the question of a possible fine being levied against him. Speaking on the shilling fine bill on 20 Nov., Carew disliked justices of the peace meddling in ecclesiastical causes:

they have enough already to do ... I think it fit to be committed into the hands of the parson of the parish. For it is no policy that justices of the peace should have such power over their neighbours.

In the debate on the bill for the transportation of iron ordnance, Carew made an outspoken speech, criticizing interference from above:

When ... any great matter ... is here handled, we straight say it touched the prerogative and must not be meddled withal, and so we that come to do our country’s good, bereave them of that good help we may justly administer.

Carew spoke again on the same day on a matter of procedure in the Belgrave privilege case. His last speech was made on the afternoon of 10 Dec., when feeling was running high in the House about the order of business. Some Members were calling for the bill concerning the export of ordnance to be read in place of the bill for the continuation of statutes. Townshend records Carew’s intervention in the following way:

In the Roman senate, the consul always appointed what should be read, and what not. So may our Speaker ... If he err ... we may remove him, and there have been precedents for it. But to appoint what business should be handled, in my opinion we cannot. At which speech some hissed.6

As a master in Chancery he was associated with his uncle Sir Matthew Carew, LLD, one of the great characters of the Elizabethan legal scene, in a reorganization of the Chancery.7 His later career as law reporter, legal historian, diplomat and master of the wards lies outside the range of this biography. He died on 13 Nov. 1612, according to Chamberlain worth £10,000. He was buried at St. Margaret’s, Westminster.8

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: W.J.J.


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. DNB; Vis. Cornw. (Harl. Soc. ix), 28; C142/138/14; N. and Q. (ser. 2), vi. 395, 436.
  • 3. Lansd. 678, f. 45.
  • 4. PRO Index 6800; T. D. Hardy, Cat. Ld. Chancellors, 89; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 57; 1601-3, p. 221.
  • 5. HMC Hatfield, xiii. 490-1; xiv. 233, 304; xvii. 339; Carew’s Surv. Cornw. ed. Halliday, 133; C. Monro, Acta Canc. 29; Lansd. 163, f. 145; Parl. Pprs. 1830-1, viii. 23-4; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 14.
  • 6. D’Ewes, 487, 488, 625, 626, 635, 671, 673; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 186, 187, 229, 293, 297, 306.
  • 7. W. J. Jones, ‘The Treatise of the Masters in Chancery’, NLW Jnl. x. 403-4.
  • 8. Monro, 30; Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure, i. 392.