William Carey was a favored courtier of Henry VIII’s, and actually his third cousin (William’s grandmother Eleanor Beaufort was cousin to Henry’s grandmother Margaret Beaufort). William served as a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and as an Esquire of the Body – but his real claim to fame is the fact that he married Mary Boleyn in 1520.
Right around the time of their marriage, Mary became the mistress of Henry VIII and William couple received grants of manors and estates (probably as a consolation prize). Two children were born to the couple, Catherine Carey and Henry Carey, but many believe that Henry was the real father of one or both of these children.
Poor William loved to ride and hunt – and distinguished himself in jousting at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. He also was a noted art collector (they say he is the one who brought Lucas Horenbout, the wonderful painter of miniatures, to England in the mid-1520s). Still, he never really got the chance to enjoy life: he died before age 30 of the sweating sickness, that mysterious and contagious disease that struck England and Europe in a series of epidemics between 1485 and 1551. The onset of symptoms was sudden: a sense of apprehension; followed by cold shivers (sometimes very violent), exhaustion, and severe pains in the neck, shoulders, and limbs; then by intense sweating combined with headache, delirium, rapid pulse and intense thirst. Death often occurred within hours. William’s passing was consistent with this: we have a letter Thomas Heneage wrote to Wolsey on June 23rd noting that in the morning he received a request from William Carey asking that his sister, a nun in Wilton Abbey, be named prioress – and then a postscript to the letter that says “this night, as the King went to bed, word came of the death of William Carey.”
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