CAREY, Robert (c.1640-92)

CAREY, Robert (c.1640-92)

suc. cos. 26 May 1677 as 6th Bar. HUNSDON

First sat 28 May 1677; last sat 30 Nov. 1678

b. c.1640, o. s. of Sir Horatio Carey, of Sockburn, Yorks. and Petronilla, da. of Robert Harrington, of Durham. educ. unknown. m. c.1660 Margaret (bur. 14 Feb. 1698), da. of Sir Gervase Clifton, bt., of Clifton-on-Trent, Notts., wid. of (1) Sir John South (d. Nov. 1648) of Kelstern, Lincs. and (2) Sir William Whichcote (d. c.1657) of Dunstan, Lincs., s.p.; kt. bef. 31 Jan. 1671.1 d. bet. 29 May-6 June 1692. 2

Marshall, King’s Bench prison 1686-8;3 commr. inquiry into recusancy fines, City of London 1687-8;4 dep.-lt. Essex 18 June-Dec. 1688.5

Capt., Col. Fitzgerald’s Rgt. of Ft. 1672-7;6 lt.-col., ‘Holland’ Rgt. of Ft. 1685-8; col. 12th Rgt. of Ft., 30 Nov.-11 Dec. 1688.

At the death of John Carey, 2nd earl of Dover, in May 1677, the earldom of Dover became extinct, but his other peerage, the barony of Hunsdon, passed to Sir Robert Carey, the next male heir of Henry Carey, the first Baron Hunsdon. Sir Robert’s great-grandfather, Sir Edmund Carey, fought for the United Provinces and started his family’s long association with that country. Sir Edmund’s grandson Horatio returned to England in 1638-9 to fight for Charles I and his son Robert was born at or about this time.7 Through his parents, Robert had interests in Yorkshire and Durham, and in February 1671, as ‘Sir Robert Cary, son of Sir Horatio Cary’, he was granted a reversionary interest as customer of Newcastle, indicating that he had been knighted by that time.8 It is often difficult to distinguish him from another Sir Robert Cary, of Devonshire, but it is most likely that the future Baron Hunsdon was the ‘Sir Robert Cary’ commissioned in March 1672 as captain in Col. Fitzgerald’s infantry regiment based at Yarmouth. This Robert Carey later used his position in the East Anglian port to recruit soldiers for service in the United Provinces and in June 1684 Baron Hunsdon petitioned for a grant of Crown land near the corporation of Yarmouth.9

With his Dutch background it is difficult to account for Carey’s strong and firmly held Roman Catholicism. Anthony Ashley Cooper, earl of Shaftesbury, after noting in his analysis of peers the extinction of the earldom of Dover at the death on 26 May 1677 of the ‘worthy’ 2nd earl, described Hunsdon as ‘triply vile’ and a papist. Hunsdon first took his seat only two days after his cousin’s death, on 28 May 1677, when Parliament was adjourned. He dutifully attended the two days of adjournment in July and December 1677 before Parliament was resumed again for business on 28 Jan. 1678. He sat in all but five of the 60 meetings of the House in spring 1678 and was named to 18 select committees, just over three-quarters of the committees established in that session. On 4 Apr. 1678 he voted with the majority of the House in finding Philip Herbert, 7th earl of Pembroke, guilty of manslaughter.10 He sat in all but three of the meetings of the next session of May-July 1678, during which he was named to 16 select committees and subscribed to the protest of 20 June 1678 against the decision to address the king for leave to bring in a bill barring Robert Villiers from making any claim to the viscountcy of Purbeck. He also subscribed his approval to four entries in the Journal, including approbation of interlineated text in an order concerning Villiers. He diligently attended the beginning of the session of winter 1678 and initially came to all of its sittings. He was placed on the large committee to investigate the murder of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, but soon found the proceedings of this zealously anti-Catholic session alarming. He was opposed to the Test Bill and on 15 Nov. voted against the motion to place the declaration against transubstantiation under the same penalty as the oaths of allegiance and supremacy. Five days later he signed the protest against the passage of the Test Bill and absented himself from the House entirely after 30 Nov., the day the Test Act received the royal assent.

Hunsdon remained firm in his refusal to take the oath of supremacy, which barred him from the House, and at a call of the House on 9 May 1679 he was marked as a recusant. Yet according to the presence list he was somehow allowed entry to the House on 17 Oct. 1679, a day of prorogation when no business was done. In February 1680 he even risked indictment through his continuing resistance to the oath of supremacy, and on 30 Oct. 1680, when Parliament had finally convened again for business he was again marked as absent at a call of the House because of his recusancy.11 Hunsdon submitted a petition on 3 Nov. 1680 complaining of a breach of privilege of Parliament by the arrest of one of his menial servants. The House does not seem to have questioned his entitlement to privilege of Parliament for it ordered the offenders to attend and answer the complaint. No further proceedings have been traced. To add to his political ostracism Hunsdon had financial concerns, not aided by the paltry and heavily embarrassed estate he had inherited from Dover. In May 1680 he attempted to improve his condition by suing the lord chancellor, Heneage Finch, Baron Finch (later earl of Nottingham) and his sons for a Warwickshire estate which he claimed had been entailed by Elizabeth I to the first Baron and his heirs.12 This argument did not work, and throughout the 1680s he continued to be reliant on a government pension of £500 p.a. granted to him at his succession ‘for his support and in consideration of the loyalty of his family’.13

His military background and Catholicism led him to become a member of the circle of James Stuart, duke of York. In November 1680 in the midst of the Exclusion crisis it was reported that ‘Lord Hunsdon is like to be in some trouble for drinking (at the Devil Tavern) confusion to all that were for passing the Bill against the Duke of York’.14 In May 1682 he told Christopher Monck, 2nd duke of Albemarle, that he had personally attended the duke and duchess of York from Gravesend to Whitehall on their return from Scotland.15 He appears to have been closely connected with Albemarle and various petitioners asked Hunsdon to act as their intermediary and agent in dealing with the duke.16 By summer 1684 Hunsdon felt confident enough of the favour he was shown in court circles to request that, in lieu of the arrears of £3,000 that he claimed were due from his pension, he be provided with a grant of houses built on Crown land near Yarmouth, although the corporation claimed that the lands in question fell within its charter.17

Hunsdon’s star rose further once James came to the throne. The new king commissioned him lieutenant-colonel of the Holland regiment of foot in October 1685, perhaps as an appreciative reference to Hunsdon’s forebears and their military service in the Low Countries.18 Hunsdon was included in James’s lists of those to be dispensed from the requirements of the Test Act, and the king intended to grant him the marshalcy of King’s Bench prison in May 1686, but Hunsdon had to wait until November for a chancery decree confirming him in the office.19 By September 1686 Hunsdon was clearly enjoying the new-found prominence of Catholics in the king’s government and confidently told Sir John Reresby, that ‘he had sitten formerly in Parliament as a peer, and hoped to do it again this winter’.20 He was seen as one of James’s leading followers, belligerent in his cause, and in early 1687 observers and newsletter writers thought him a likely candidate to take over regiments whose commanders were either removed or resigned because of their opposition to the king’s policies.21 None of these rumours of 1687 came to fruition, but when James II was remodelling the counties’ administration late in 1688, he made Hunsdon a deputy-lieutenant in Essex, and on 30 Nov. 1688, with the crisis of William of Orange’s invasion fully upon him, the king promoted him to replace Edward Henry Lee, earl of Lichfield, as colonel of the 12th regiment of foot..22 Hunsdon’s new command was short-lived and he quickly dropped out of sight after the Revolution.

It is difficult to be certain of his whereabouts in the first months of 1689. He was probably in Ireland with James II, for he was initially included among those to be marked for attainder in the Commons’ Rebellion Act, for which he was named in a proclamation of 30 July granting him clemency if he surrendered himself by the end of September. On 19 Aug. 1689, the Lords deemed that they were unable to state definitely if he had continued in arms against William III in Ireland even though two witnesses claimed they had seen him there. His name was therefore dropped from the attainder bill.23 He did not take up the offer of pardon and in October was indicted for rebellion in Ireland along with a number of other prominent Jacobites such as William Herbert, marquess of Powis, and James Fitzjames, duke of Berwick, and like them was, presumably, liable to outlawry when he failed to appear to answer the charge.24 He remained with his king in exile, and continued to fight for his claim to the throne. He apparently died at, or after, the battle of La Hogue in early June 1692.25 Outlawry amounted to an attainder, but it may be that his death took place before the formalities could be completed as the title passed, apparently without trouble, to his first cousin and namesake, Robert Carey, 7th Baron Hunsdon.


  • 1 CTB, iii. 775.
  • 2 Herald and Genealogist ed. J.G. Nichols, iv. 32.
  • 3 CSP Dom. 1686-7, pp. 138, 143, 184.
  • 4 CTB, viii. 1695, 1803; Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. iv. 210-11.
  • 5 CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 216.
  • 6 CSP Dom. 1671-2, pp. 492, 558; 1672, pp. 85, 181; 1677-8, pp. 19, 74.
  • 7 Newman, Royalist Officers, 64; CSP Dom. 1639-40, p. 343; 1640-1, p. 432.
  • 8 CTB, iii. 775.
  • 9 Dalton, Army Lists, i. 119; CSP Dom. 1671-2, pp. 492, 558; 1672, pp. 85, 176, 181; 1676-7, pp. 567-8; 1684-5, p. 53; CTB, vii. 1166, 1223.
  • 10 PA, HL/PO/JO/5/1/19, 4 Apr. 1678.
  • 11 Add. 38856, f. 91; HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 276.
  • 12 HMC Finch, ii.75-76.
  • 13 CTB, v. 1429, 1452.
  • 14 HMC 7th Rep. 479.
  • 15 HMC Buccleuch, i. 337.
  • 16 CSP Dom. July-Sept 1683, p. 78; HMC Buccleuch, i. 345.
  • 17 CTB, vii. 1166, 1223.
  • 18 CSP Dom. 1685, pp. 369, 395.
  • 19 Ibid. 391; 1686-7, pp. 22-23, 67-68, 138, 143, 184; Morrice, iii. 157, 301.
  • 20 Add. 75360, Sir J. Reresby to Halifax, 6 Sept. 1686.
  • 21 Bath mss Thynne pprs. 42 ff. 115-116, 135-6.
  • 22 CSP Dom. 1687-9, pp. 216, 367.
  • 23 HMC Lords, n.s. ii. 228-31.
  • 24 Add. 28085, f. 218.
  • 25 Herald and Genealogist, iv. 32.