The Curious Case of Catherine Carey

Or, how to annoy the shit out of your friends

I recently went to Hershey Park with a few friends for my birthday.  One friend in particular told me that he was descended from Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr.  Apparently this isn’t the first time he’s told me this, but for some reason this is the first time I decided to look this guy up.  And it turns out my friend is regretting reminding me, because now I won’t leave him alone.

For the most part, Lord De La Warr was a relatively boring guy, at least as far as I care.  The Native American tribe, the state, and the river are all named after him.  He did a lot of lordly things that I don’t really care about.  What I do care about is that he was descended from Catherine Carey, daughter of Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn, second wife of crazy King Henry VIII.

Catherine Carey has a very interesting story.  Mary Boleyn first gained an infamous reputation by becoming the mistress of the king of France, Francis I.  He called her his English Mare, because he liked to ride her each evening (so kind of him).  Of course, Henry had to outdo his rival, so he had Mary brought to court and tried her out himself.  Mary was married to William Carey, with Henry a guest at the wedding.  Mary gave birth to two children, named Catherine and Henry.

If you’ve read/watched The Other Boleyn Girl, or seen The Tudors, or read any of the dozens and dozens of books that cover this topic, you know the rest of the story.  Henry tired of Mary and fell for Anne.  He divorced his wife, married Anne, and then beheaded her.  Mary was disowned by her family which was a blessing because the Boleyns were disgraced after the execution.  Mary escaped that drama and faded into obscurity with her children until Elizabeth became queen, at which point Catherine Carey became a prominent member of the court.

So, why is any of this important to me?

As I have mentioned on multiple occasions, I have a thing for John of Gaunt and his mistress/wife, Katherine Swynford.  I’ve drawn several charts showing how Henry VIII was descended from John and Katherine.  Some authors, including Alison Weir, argue that Catherine Carey was the daughter of Henry VIII, not William Carey.  If this were the case, the genealogical history of thousands of people would be rewritten.

Henry VIII married six times and officially had four children that reached adulthood.  Mary I, Henry Fitzroy, Elizabeth I, and Edward VI.  All four died before reproducing.  Henry was a genealogical dead end.  The British monarchy continued through his older sister, Margaret.  Descendants from his younger sister, Mary, also exist today.  But as for Henry, no descendants exist.

Except for Catherine Carey.  If Catherine was actually Henry’s bastard, then untold thousands of Henry’s descendants exist, including Lord De La Warr, and including my friend.

This would mean that Lord DLW and my friend are descended from John and Katherine.  It would also mean that they are descended from my other historical favorites, Llywelyn Fawr and Joan of England.  Henry VIII was related to John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset.  This John married Margaret Holland, granddaughter of Joan of Kent, a descendant of Llywelyn and Joan.

But what if Catherine Carey was actually the daughter of William Carey?  Good news!  William Carey was the grandson of Eleanor Beaufort, the granddaughter of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset and Margaret Holland.  Which means that regardless of whether Catherine was the daughter of Henry or William, she was still descended from John Beaufort and Margaret Holland.  My friend is still descended from Llywelyn, Joan, John of Gaunt, and Katherine Swynford.

Having proven that, I decided to do a little bit more digging.  In Henry VIII was a Narcissistic Sociopath, I found that Henry and Anne were 7th cousins once removed, being descended from Edward I.  I traced that line of descent through Anne’s mother and through the Dukes of Norfolk, seeing as how that was the noble side of her family.  Her father was a relative nobody in comparison.  Well, it turns out there was a closer line of descent through her father.

Anne and Henry (and therefore Mary Boleyn and Henry) were sixth cousins once removed through Richard FitzAlan, 10th Earl of Arundel.  The chart is kind of hard to read here, but Alice FitzAlan and Richard FitzAlan, 11th Earl, were siblings.

The FitzAlans were descendants of Llywelyn’s daughter, Gwladus Ddu.  She was either the daughter of his wife Joan, or his mistress Tangwystl Goch.  The great thing about Wales in the 11th and 12th centuries was that they really didn’t care about bastard or legitimate statuses.  Bastards inherited with the same rights and privileges as trueborn children.  So regardless of whom Gwladus’s mother was, she was given the same upbringing as her trueborn sister, Elen.  Joan of Kent was descended from Elen.

So, Thomas Boleyn, and therefore Mary Boleyn, was descended from Llywelyn through his potentially bastard daughter Gwyladus, and both William Carey and Henry VIII was descended from Llywelyn and his wife, Joan of England.

In the end, what does this all mean? It means I’ve found a great way to annoy the shit out of my friend. I’ve been harassing him to find the charts detailing his descent from Lord DLW.  Pretty sure he’s regretting telling me. Fun times for all!

Questions? Comments? Let me know below! I can also be reached on Twitter @Rhydnara.

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