Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Carew, Peter
CAREW, Sir PETER (1514–1575), soldier, was the second son of Sir William Carew of Ottery Mohun or Mohuns Ottery, Devonshire, who was the son of Sir Edmund Carew [q. v.] His brothers were George, who served in several military commands in the reign of Henry VIII, and Philip, of whom nothing is known but that he was a knight of Malta. Sir Peter was born at Ottery Mohun in 1514. He was sent to the grammar school at Exeter, but can hardly be said to have been educated there; for a career of frequent truancy culminated in his climbing a turret on the city wall, and threatening to jump down if his master came after him. His father, being told of this escapade, had him led back to his house in a leash, like a dog, and for a punishment 'coupled him to one of his hounds, and so continued him for a time.' Soon after he was sent to St. Paul's School, but did no better there; and his father, in despair of making him a scholar, accepted the proposal of a French friend, who wanted the young Carew as his page. He was unlucky in this new position also, and was degraded to the place of muleteer, from which he was rescued by a relation, who heard his companions call him by name. This relation, a Carew of Haccombe, was going with Francis I, king of France, to the siege of Pavia, but died on the way, and the young Carew was taken up by the Marquis of Saluzzo, who was slain at the battle of Pavia in February 1526. Being again left masterless, he went over to the enemv's camp, and entered the service of Philibert de Châlons, prince of Orange, and, after his death at the siege of Florence in 1530, continued with his sister Claudia, wife of Henry of Nassau. He was now about sixteen years of age, and, being anxious to revisit his native country, was sent by the princess with letters to Henry VIII, who, struck by his proficiency in riding and other exercises, and by his knowledge of the French language, took him into his service, first as a henchman, and then as a gentleman of the privy chamber. The next few years of his life were chiefly passed in England at the court, with the exception of journeys in the king's service, such as attending on his royal master to Calais in 1532; on Lord William Howard, when he took the Garter to James V in 1535; and on the lord admiral when he went to fetch Anne of Cleves in 1539. About the following year (1540) he went abroad with his cousin, John Champernoun, and visited Constantinople, Venice, Milan, and Vienna, where Champernoun died of dysentery. While in the Turk's countries the travellers had disguised themselves as merchants in alum. Soon after Carew's return war broke out between England and France, and he served both by land and sea. In the campaign of 1544 he joined the king's army with one hundred foot, apparelled in black at his own expense, his elder brother, George, being lieutenant of the horse till he was taken prisoner at Landrecy. Sir George was not long in captivity, and in the following year was in command of the Mary Rose when she foundered going out of Portsmouth harbour to attack the French fleet. Carew crossed the Channel with the lord-admiral (Sir John Dudley), being one of the leaders of the assault of Tréport, for which he was knighted.
In the last year of Henry VIII's reign Carew was sheriff of Devonshire; but marrying a Lincolnshire lady, Margaret, daughter of Sir William Skipworth, widow of George, lord Tailboys de Kyme, he went to reside on his wife's estates, till he was recalled by the news of the insurrection of 1549, caused by the issuing of the reformed Book of Common Prayer. His action in this matter was energetic and in fact severe, and he did not escape reprimand for having exceeded his commission. On the death of Edward VI he opposed the attempt to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne, and proclaimed Mary as queen in the west; but as soon as her marriage with Philip of Spain was proposed, he conspired with some of his neighbours against it. The plot was discovered, and he only escaped to the continent just in time to avoid arrest. At Venice he was nearly murdered by bravoes hired by Peter Vannes, the English ambassador, and therefore travelled northward. Passing through Antwerp, Lord Paget had him and his companion, Sir John Cheke, arrested by the sheriff, and sent blindfolded to England in a fishing-boat. His destination was the Tower, where he was confined till December 1556, being released on the payment of some old-standing debt of his grandfather to the crown. The accession of Elizabeth again brought him into favour. In the second year of her reign, when the Duke of Norfolk and Lord Grey de Wilton were commanding an army against the French in Scotland, he was sent on the delicate mission of settling a difference between the two noblemen which was detrimental to the public service; and when the duke was tried and convicted of treason, in 1572, Carew acted as constable of the Tower. But before this latter date (about 1565 or 1566) he showed a quantity of old records to his biographer, Hooker, who on examination was convinced that Carew was entitled to many lands in Ireland which had belonged to his ancestors; and going to Ireland on Carew's behalf, his opinion was confirmed. Carew thereupon obtained leave from the queen to prosecute his title, and sailed from Ilfracombe in August 1568. The remainder of his life, with short exceptions, was spent in recovering what he believed to be his property in Ireland, in which was included a large portion of Munster, which had been granted by Henry II to Robert Fitz-Stephen, whose daughter married a Carew. He began with the lordship of Maston in Meath, which was occupied by Sir Christopher Chyvers. He then obtained a decree of the deputy and council adjudging to him the barony of Odrone in Carlow, which was held by the Kavanaghs, and was appointed captain of Leighlin Castle, which is in the centre of the barony (17 Feb. 1568–9). A few miles north lay the castle of Cloghgrenan, which was held by Sir Edmund Butler, brother of the Earl of Ormonde, having been taken from the Kavanaghs by their father. Butler, it is said, expecting to be dispossessed, made several attempts to attack Carew, but in vain; and the rebellion known as the Butler's wars breaking out shortly after, Carew stormed and took the castle. For this he incurred some blame from the queen, as being partly the cause of the insurrection, and was obliged to return to England to excuse himself, and obtain leave to prosecute his claims in Munster. While in this country the queen was anxious for him to resume the seat in parliament which he had held in the first year of her reign, but he refused. His petition being at length granted, he returned to Ireland (1574), and finding that Lord Courcy, Lord Barry Oge, the O'Mahons, and others were willing to acknowledge his claims and become his tenants, he ordered a house to be prepared at Cork, but was taken ill on his way thither, and died at Ross in Waterford on 27 Nov. 1575. He was buried on 15 Dec. in the church at Waterford, on the south side of the chancel, and his faithful servant and biographer erected a monument to his memory in Exeter Cathedral. There is an engraving of this in Sir John Maclean's ‘Life,’ and also of the well-known portrait at Hampton Court. Neither he nor his brother left any issue. His will, at Somerset House, is dated 4 July 1574, and was proved 20 Feb. 1575.
[We have a detailed contemporary account of Carew's romantic life, written by Richard Hooker, alias Vowell, the uncle of the author of the Ecclesiastical Polity, who was in Carew's service for some years. There is an account of this biography in Archæologia, vol. xxviii., and it has been printed by Sir John Maclean, and in the Calendar of the Carew Papers. Sir John Maclean's edition is illustrated with copious notes and appendices of documents and letters. See also Calendar of Irish Papers, vols. 1509–1573, 1574–85; Cal. of Carew MSS. 1515–74; Strype's Eccl. Mem. iii. i. 147, 515, iii. ii. 7; Strype's Annals, i. i. 468; Life of Cheke, 106–8; Foxe, vi. 413–14, viii. 257–607; Fuller's Church Hist. iv. 228; Fuller's Worthies, Devon, 272; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 243, 327, ii. 450; Polwhele's Devonshire, ii. 11, 19; Prince's Worthies of Devon, 199, 204; Leland's Itin. iii. 40; Tuckett's Devonshire Pedigrees.]