Mary Wotton (1499-17 September 1558) was the daughter of Sir Robert Wotton of Boughton Malherbe, Kent (1465-1524) and the heiress, Anne Belknap. By her sister, Mary was the great-aunt of Lady Jane Grey.
The Wotton family were merchants from London. The Wottons seemed to have suffered as a result of the War of the Roses, but seemed to survive and come out on top afterwards like the Howards, Carews, etc. At one time, Sir Robert was Controller of the Royal Household. He also received the Order of the Garter. Mary’s brother, Nicholas, was a diplomat and Ambassador to France to Queen Mary. Her nephew, Sir Henry, was also a diplomat and a poet. Her sister became Marchioness of Dorset and eventually Duchess of Suffolk.
Wotton may have been the Mistress Wotton who was a chamberer to Mary Tudor, queen of France, in 1513.
She married first, as his second wife, Sir Henry Guildford (1489-1532) and was his executrix. Guildford was long associated with Sir Nicholas Carew so that may explain how the eventually widowed Lady Guildford married secondly to a Carew.
Mary, as Lady Guildford is listed as being one of the ladies who performed in a masque at the elaborate banquet that took place after the signing of the Treaty of Universal Peace with the French Ambassadors. The entertainment was lead by the King himself and his sister, the French Queen. At that time, Mary, Lady Guildford, was listed as part of the household of Queen Katherine of Aragon. Other ladies listed are Lady Carew, Elizabeth (Bessie) Blount, and Lady St. Leger. Wotton appeared quite frequently at court and probably lived there.
According to Susan James, Lady Carew (previously Lady Guildford) was a veteran at court who had known Katherine’s mother, Lady Maud Parr. The family connections were strong as the Parrs were already connected to the Guildford family. Lord Guildford was the son of Joan Vaux, sister of Sir Nicholas Vaux. After the death of Lord Parr in 1483, the widowed Elizabeth, Lady Parr, remarried to Sir Nicholas Vaux. Vaux became stepfather to the future Queen Katherine’s father, Sir Thomas. As for the Carews, Sir Thomas and Maud were friends with them while they were at court during the reign of Queen Katherine of Aragon. Several of the Carew family members would be placed within the household of Queen Katherine Parr including Wymond Carew who became the Queen’s treasurer.
Apparently, along with her mother-in-law, Lady Jane Guildford, and her sister, the Marchioness of Dorset, she was one of the most prominent women at court in the 1530s.
After Guildford died, she continually wrote to King Henry to receive some sort of help, referring to herself as a “poor widow”. She received a release from all her obligations to the king on March 25, 1533 but was still deeply in debt in 1535 when she wrote to Lord Cromwell on the subject.
Her second husband, married in July 1540, was Sir Gawin Carew of Exeter and Wood, Devon (c.1503-1583). Mary was the second of his three wives. Gawin was the fourth and youngest son of Sir Edmund Carew. He was a Protestant and was devoted to the cause. When Anne of Cleves arrived, he was tasked with receiving her. We find that Sir Gawin was a Navy man and was in command of the ship Matthew Gonson during 1545. The ship was 500 tons and contained 300 men.
As Lady Carew, she lived at Wood Barton, but was obviously frequently at court as she went on to attend Queen Katherine Parr and was part of her inner circle. Perhaps Mary was even given apartments again.
The appearance of Mary is not described anywhere, but from the complaints of King Henry we can tell that Queen Katherine’s ladies were not much to look at. Perhaps their daily clothing did not help enhance their beauty; if they were beautiful. It was probably to the Queen’s credit that she kept her ladies in subdued colors and didn’t flaunt them like other consorts did. Queen Katherine had seen what happened to Henry’s other wives and probably didn’t want a repeat of what happened before she became Queen.
Along with Lady Herbert, Lady Lane, and Lady Tyrwhitt, Lady Carew was tasked with assisting the Queen on her first Maundy Thursday activities (1544), where the Queen performed her duty of washing the feet of poor women.
When Katherine published her book, Psalms or Prayers, Mary and the inner circle of the Queen were included as recipients of the book.
Lady Carew died on 17 September 1558. She is buried in the Church of Kentisbeare in the Whiting Chapel. Her effigy is not present, but can be seen on the monument of her husband, Sir Gawen Carew in the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene in Exeter Cathedral.
For more on her tomb and memorial, see here (Memorials of the West).
- Royal Collection – Lady Guildford
- NPG – Lady Guildford by Hollar
- NPG – Lady Guildford by Richardson
- The Met – Lady Guildford (Mary Wotton) after Holbein
- Barbara Harris. English Aristocratic Women, 1450-1550: Marriage and Family, Property and Careers. Google ebook.
- Susan James. Catherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Last Love.
- Mike Pincombe, Cathy Shrank. The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature: 1485-1603. Google eBook
- Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association. Google eBook