Catherine Carey, Chief Lady of the Bedchamber

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Lady Catherine Knollys (Carey), Lady Knollys

Also Known As: "Katherine Carey", "Katherine Cary"
Birthplace: Chilton Folist, Wiltshire, England (United Kingdom)
Death: January 15, 1568 (43)
Hampton Palace, East Molesey, Surrey, England (United Kingdom)
Place of Burial: London, Middlesex, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Sir William Carey, Kt. and Mary Boleyn
Wife of Sir Francis Knollys
Mother of Mary Stalker; Sir Henry Knollys, MP; Lettice Knollys, Countess of Essex & Leicester; William Knollys, 1st Earl of Banbury; Thomas Knollys and 10 others
Sister of Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon; John Carey; George Carey and Robert Carey
Half sister of Edward Stafford and Anne Stafford

Occupation: Chief Lady of the Bedchamber to Elizabeth I (her first cousin); Maid of Honour to Ann of Cleves and Catherine Howard
Managed by: Anne Brannen
Last Updated:

About Catherine Carey, Chief Lady of the Bedchamber

some sources give her death year as 1569


Catherine Carey was born in about 1524, the daughter of Sir William Carey of Aldenham in Hertfordshire, Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and Esquire of the Body to Henry VIII, and his wife Mary Boleyn, who had once been a mistress of the king. She was Elizabeth I's first cousin. Some contemporaries also asserted that Catherine was an illegitimate child of the King and so was Elizabeth's half sister. This was never acknowledged by the King.

Katherine's mother, Mary Boleyn, was the sister of Anne Boleyn and a mistress of King Henry VIII of England.
Catherine was said to be a witness to the execution of her aunt, Anne Boleyn, in 1536. But according to the biographer of Mary Boleyn, Alison Weir, claims that a young Catherine stayed overnight to entertain and distract her aunt Anne in the Tower the morning before the execution originated in the Victorian era. Catherine went on to become Maid of Honour to both Queens Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard. On 26 April 1540 she married Sir Francis Knollys. Her husband was named a Knight of the Garter in 1593, although he had already been knighted in 1547. He was also Treasurer of the Royal Household. From the time of her marriage, Catherine became known as Mistress Knollys, and from 1547 as Lady Knollys. When not in London, the couple lived at Reading in Berkshire and Rotherfield Greys in Oxfordshire, although, as staunch Protestants, they fled to Germany during the reign of Queen Mary I. Princess Elizabeth wrote to her cousin there and Catherine was appointed Chief Lady of the Bedchamber after she became Queen Elizabeth I. For the first ten years of the reign, Lady Catherine combined the most senior post among the ladies-in-waiting with motherhood to more than a dozen children. Unsurprisingly, Elizabeth never recognized Catherine as her half-sister, and it was certainly not a relationship that Catherine or Sir Francis ever openly claimed. At court, Catherine was acknowledged as the queen's favourite among her first cousins, and Elizabeth's lack of other female relatives to whom she felt close may be adequate to explain this favoured position. She died on 15 January 1569 at Hampton Court Palace, being outlived by her husband and children, and was buried the following April in St Edmund's Chapel in Westminster Abbey. There is a small commemorative plaque in the abbey, although her chief monument is at Rotherfield Greys in Oxfordshire. Catherine's epitaph reads: The Right Honourable Lady Catherine Knollys, chief Lady of the Queen's Majesty's Bedchamber, and Wife to Sir Francis Knollys, Knight, Treasurer of Her Highnesses Houshold, departed this Life the Fifteenth of January, 1568, at Hampton-Court, and was honourably buried in the Floor of this Chapel. This Lady Knollys, and the Lord Hunsdon her Brother, were the Children of William Caree, Esq; and of the Lady Mary his Wife, one of the Daughters and Heirs to Thomas Bulleyne, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormonde; which Lady Mary was Sister to Anne Queen of England, Wife to K. Henry the Eighth, Father and Mother to Elizabeth Queen of England.




Citations / Sources:

[S2] Peter W. Hammond, editor, The Complete Peerage or a History of the House of Lords and All its Members From the Earliest Times, Volume XIV: Addenda & Corrigenda (Stroud, Gloucestershire, U.K.: Sutton Publishing, 1998), page 62. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage, Volume XIV.

[S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume I, page 400, volume IV, page 160. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.

[S16] #894 Cahiers de Saint-Louis (1976), Louis IX, Roi de France, (Angers: J. Saillot, 1976), FHL book 944 D22ds., vol. 11 p. 840.

[S20] Magna Carta Ancestry: A study in Colonial and Medieval Families, Richardson, Douglas, (Kimball G. Everingham, editor. 2nd edition, 2011), vol. 4 p. 67-68.

[S37] #93 [Book version] The Dictionary of National Biography: from the Earliest Times to 1900 (1885-1900, reprint 1993), Stephen, Leslie, (22 volumes. 1885-1900. Reprint, Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1993), FHL book 920.042 D561n., vol. 31 p. 278.

[S68] #673 The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (1846-), (Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1846-), FHL book 974 B2ne; CD-ROM No 33 Parts 1-9; See FHL., vol. 154 p. 85.

[S117] #227 The History and Antiquities of the County of Hertford (1815-1827), Clutterbuck, Robert, (3 volumes. London: Nichols, Son and Bentley, 1815-1827), FHL book Q 942.58 H2c; FHL microfilms 899,855-899,., vol. 3 p. 181.

[S126] #1853 [1558-1603] The House of Commons 1558-1603 (1981), Hasler, P. W ., (The History of Parliament [Series]. 3 volumes. London: H.M.S.O., 1981 NOTE: Online source has no page numbers, but individuals are in alphabetical order.), FHL book 942 D3hp., vol. 2 p. 409-415.

[S189] #243 [2nd ed. 1844, reprint 1977] A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies of England, Ireland, and Scotland (second edition, 1841, reprint 1977), Burke, John and John Bernard Burke, (Second edition, 1844. London: John Russell Smith, 4, Old Compton Street, Soho Square Reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1977), FHL book 942 D22bu 1977; FHL microfilm 994,038 ite., p. 132, 293.

"Sir Robert Knollys, knt. of Gray's Court, in the county of Oxford, grandson of Sir Francis Knollys, K.G. by Katherine, his wife, daughter of William Carey, esq. by Lady Mary Boleyne, his wife, sister of Queen Anne Boleyne."

[S207] #235 The History and Antiquities of the County of Buckingham (1847), Lipscomb, George, (Four volumes. London: J. & W. Robins, 1847), FHL book Q 942.575 H2Li; FHL microfilms 990,261-99., vol. 1 p. 528.

[S231] #238 The Herald and Genealogist (1862-1874), Nichols, John Gough, (8 volumes. London: J. G. Nichols and R. C. Nichols, 1862-1874), FHL book 942 B2h; FHL microfilms 990,090-990,093., vol. 7 p. 553-558, vol. 8 p. 289-303.

[S356] #1855 The History , Description and Antiquities of the Prebendal Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Thame, in the County and Diocese of Oxford, Including a Transcript of All the Monumental Inscriptions Remaining Therein: Extracts from the Reg, Lee, F. G. (Frederick George), (London: Mitchell and Hughes, 1883 Medieval Families bibliography #1855.), FHL book Q 942.57/T1 K2L; FHL microfilm 476649 ite., p. 593.

[S887] The royal descents of 600 immigrants to the American Colonies or the United States : who were themselves notable or left descendants notable in American history, Roberts, Gary Boyd, (Baltimore [Maryland] : Genealogical Pub. Co., c2004), 973 D2rrd., p. 154.

[S1911] #1853 [1509-1558] The House of Commons 1509-1558 (1982), Bindoff, S. T. (Stanley Thomas), (The History of Parliament [Series]. London: Secker & Warburg, 1982 NOTE: Online source does not give page numbers.), FHL book 942 D3hp., vol. 1 p. 103.

[S1924] #189 The Scots Peerage: Founded on Wood's Edition of Sir Robert Douglas's Peerage of Scotland, Containing an Historical and Genealogical Account of the Nobility of that Kingdom, with Armorial Illustrations (1904-1914), Paul , Sir James Balfour, (9 volumes. Edinburgh: D. Douglas, 1904-1914), FHL book 941 D22p; FHL microfilms104,157-104,161., vol. 3 p. 608.


Lady Catherine Carey Knollys was the Chief Lady of the Bedchamber for HM Queen Elizabeth I.

Mary and Francis were married on 26 April 1540.

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Catherine Carey, Chief Lady of the Bedchamber's Timeline

May 19, 1524
Chilton Folist, Wiltshire, England (United Kingdom)
Kingsbury, Warwickshire, England (United Kingdom)
November 8, 1543
Rotherfield Greys, Oxfordshire, England
March 3, 1544
Probably Grey's Court, Rotherfield Greys, Oxfordshire, England
Rotherfield, Gray's, Oxon, England