Carew, Sir George (1555–1629), earl of Totnes , general, and antiquarian, was born 29 May 1555, second son of George Carew, a clergyman from Cockington, Devon, England, and his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Nicholas Harvey. Admitted (c.1570–72) to Broadgates Hall (later Pembroke College), Oxford, he left university without a degree in 1573, although he later received an MA from Oxford (1589). He hoped to pursue a military career and benefited from his family's close links with leading members of the court of Queen Elizabeth I, acting as a personal servant to Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester and the queen's chief favourite.
Military apprenticeship in Ireland In 1574 he and his older brother Peter went to Ireland to serve their cousin Sir Peter Carew (qv), who was seeking to establish an English settlement in the barony of Idrone, Co. Carlow. He joined the royal army in Ireland in late 1575, and during 1576–7 deputised for his absent brother as governor of Co. Carlow and as constable of Leighlin Castle. About this time he fathered a child with an Irish woman married to a Capt. Stafford. Nearly fifty years later she related how he courted her by alternately reciting love poetry and threatening to hang some of her relatives unless she submitted to his advances. Mrs Stafford may have been trying to preserve her honour, but this combination of subtlety and ruthlessness proved characteristic of Carew.
In 1577 George Carew repelled a fierce assault upon Leighlin Bridge by Irish forces and was granted a royal pension in reward for his campaigns against the local rebels. The next year he went to England, where he was sworn a servant of the queen and became involved in aborted plans to establish an English colony in the Caribbean. In autumn 1579 he returned to Ireland as captain of a company raised to help crush the Desmond rebellion in Munster. Initially he was garrisoned at Adare, Co. Limerick, where he withstood a siege by rebel forces and took part in raids into Kerry. By April 1580 he was stationed at Askeaton.
The outbreak of rebellion in the Pale brought him to Leinster that summer. On 25 August he was present at the battle of Glenmalure, Co. Wicklow, where his brother Peter was among the dead after rebel forces routed the royal army. George would surely have perished also, had his uncle Jacques Wingfield not prevented him from joining the advance into the valley of Glenmalure. This traumatic loss undoubtedly contributed to his detestation of Irish people generally and his advocacy of harsh measures to subdue Ireland. That autumn he apparently hunted down and slew one of his brother's killers. Significantly, he normally sought to reduce the rebels in the Carlow region as much through intrigue as through military action. Carew's early experiences in Ireland taught him the inadvisability of fighting Irish forces on the difficult terrain that suited their informal, infantry-dominated mode of warfare. His response to the guerilla tactics of his foes was to rely on bribery, assassins, and informers.
He succeeded his brother as constable of Leighlin castle and inherited his land at Idrone, but this estate was encumbered with debts, and he spent much of the next decade in financial straits. In 1580 he married Joyce, daughter and coheir of William Clopton of Clopton, Warwickshire. They had one son, who predeceased them. He was busy fighting and negotiating with the Kavanaghs of Carlow during 1581. In 1582 he went to court, where he was assigned to accompany the duke of Anjou, brother to the king of France and then suitor for Queen Elizabeth's hand in marriage, to the Low Countries. Back in Ireland he served as sheriff of Carlow (1583), but his term of office was cut short. About 20 June 1583 he was in Dublin at the same time as Owen MacDonnell, a former rebel then under royal protection, who unwisely boasted of his involvement in the killing of Carew's brother. Soon after, Carew accosted him on the streets of Dublin and killed him with a dagger. This act of personal vengeance angered the Irish privy council, which pronounced him guilty of murder that day. He fled to England, but was pardoned for this crime on 26 November.
Statesman in Ireland and England: 1584–99 This incident did little to hinder his prospects, and after spending a year at the royal court he resumed his career in Ireland in 1585. That year, he sold his land at Idrone and his constableship of Leighlin Castle. Continued unrest had prevented him from developing his lands, and he concluded that investing in Ireland was unprofitable due to the hatred borne by the Irish towards the English. Despite a lengthy and influential public career in Ireland he did not thereafter seek to establish a permanent landed presence there. He became friendly with Sir John Perrot (qv), lord deputy of Ireland 1584–8, who knighted him on 24 February 1586. Later that year, he left Ireland for England but corresponded regularly with Perrot and defended his policies from criticism when he was at court. In January 1588, the queen appointed him master of the ordnance for Ireland in succession to his uncle Wingfield, and he was back in Dublin by July. In May 1590 he found himself caught in the middle of the rivalry between the new lord deputy, Sir William Fitzwilliam (qv), and Perrot. Carew enjoyed good relations with both antagonists and refused to sign a letter prepared by Fitzwilliam, accusing Perrot of treason. However, he was later persuaded to countenance his friend's downfall in order to win the favour of Lord Burghley, the powerful lord treasurer of England. That autumn he was sworn a member of the Irish privy council.
Carew was eager to leave Ireland and was finally granted licence to go to England (March 1591), where he appealed to the queen to spend more on the underfunded Irish military establishment. He assured Fitzwilliam he would soon return, but, with Burghley's assistance, his stay in England was prolonged indefinitely and he was appointed lieutenant-general of the royal ordnance in England in August 1592, resigning his post in Ireland at the same time. In England his career blossomed as he became one of the leading figures in the English government. His rise owed much to his own martial and administrative abilities, but he was also a canny politician and an accomplished courtier. The queen expected all her servants to be extraordinarily deferential to her, but Carew outdid most of his rivals in sycophancy and thereby gained her affection.
He formed a close friendship with Burleigh's son and political heir Sir Robert Cecil, with whom he shared a meticulous and cynical attitude both to war and politics. As a result, he became embroiled in the struggle between Cecil and Robert Devereux (qv), 2nd earl of Essex, for control of the royal government. Following the successful English naval attack of summer 1596 on Cadiz, in which Carew served as a captain, Essex accused him of stealing 44,000 ducats worth of plundered gold, but he successfully defended himself from this charge. In 1597 he was captain in a naval expedition to the Azores, but his ship was badly damaged in a storm and limped back to England. That year he sat as MP for Queenborough, Kent. He continued to clash with Essex, who in summer 1599 accused him of sabotaging his efforts to defeat a dangerous rebellion in Ireland.
Essex's ignominious failure in Ireland enabled Cecil to become the dominant figure in Elizabeth's government, but also meant Carew's expertise was urgently required in Ireland, where the rebels seemed poised for victory. He reluctantly agreed to serve as president of Munster in January 1600. Despite his trepidation, his prospects were favourable. Weakened and cowed by their defeat in the Desmond rebellion of 1579–83, the Munster Irish were less united, less committed, and less militarily skilled than those in the other provinces. Moreover, the existence in the interior of the province of a number of navigable waterways and of government-held towns left the main centres of rebel resistance exposed to a determined and well supported royal offensive. However, the Munster command also carried with it one large risk: Spain was known to be planning a military expedition to Ireland in support of the rebels, and Munster seemed its most likely destination.
Triumphant campaigns in Munster: 1600 He landed at Howth on 23 February 1600 accompanied by the newly appointed lord deputy of Ireland Charles Blount (qv), Lord Mountjoy. After assembling a force of 800 soldiers, he left Dublin for Munster on 7 April. En route, he met with Thomas Butler (qv), 10th earl of Ormond, at Kilkenny and accompanied him to a parley with local rebels on 10 April, during which Ormond was treacherously captured and Carew only narrowly avoided a similar fate. Ormond's capture threatened the stability of Co. Kilkenny, so Carew stationed about 600 men there until reinforcements had arrived from Dublin. He then proceeded to Cork city via Waterford city, reaching his provincial capital on 24 April.
Taking stock of his position, Carew found that he commanded about 3,000 foot and 250 horse, which, after deducting soldiers required for garrison duty, left him with a field army of about 1,700. Ranged against him were about 5–7,000 rebels, including about 2,500 mercenaries (bonnaghts) recruited mainly from Connacht. Given these circumstances, Carew resolved to rely on cunning and to avoid unnecessary risks. Indeed, he never fought a battle with an Irish army of any appreciable size, relying instead on superiority in resources, organisation, technology, and unity to achieve his military goals. On arriving, he devised a number of stratagems designed to undermine the rebels’ unity and morale. In doing so he was ably assisted by Patrick Crosby and Richard Boyle (qv), who had accumulated a multitude of contacts on the rebel side from their involvement in shady land-grabbing activities prior to the Munster uprising of 1598, and who now formed the nucleus of an impressive spy network conducted by Carew. Throughout his presidency he appears to have been in receipt of exceptionally timely and accurate intelligence of the rebels’ movements and intentions. Despite his ostentatious anti-Irishness, a significant portion, if not a majority, of the forces he commanded in Munster was Irish. Although never wholly reliable, his Irish allies were valuable for their local knowledge and skill at the small-scale raiding and skirmishing that largely characterised warfare in Ireland.
In Co. Waterford and east Co. Cork the leading lords were weak and vulnerable to royal power: most hastened to submit to Carew upon his arrival in Munster. The lords in west Munster were remote from the main royal strongholds, which made them potentially troublesome. Fortunately, most were equivocal in their support for the rebellion, so he resolved to temporise with them. By far the most important of these was Florence MacCarthy Reagh (qv), who had pledged his support to both sides and had assembled a large army of mercenaries and of his own followers. On 3 May Carew met Florence outside Cork city and secured a promise of neutrality from him.
Having secured south Munster, he could now turn his attention toward the centre of rebel resistance – Limerick and north Kerry. This area was roughly coterminous with the suppressed lordship of the Fitzgeralds of Desmond. Alienated by the plantation of their lands, the Fitzgeralds, led by James fitz Thomas Fitzgerald (qv), were committed to the rebellion. However, even here there were divisions: the Munster Irish disliked having to maintain the bonnaght forces, while many Fitzgeralds did not regard fitz Thomas as their legitimate leader. Carew determined to exploit this by securing the release from the Tower of London of James Fitzgerald (qv), heir to the last earl of Desmond, and believed that James's return to Munster and creation as earl of Desmond would undermine fitz Thomas. It would also further his attempts to persuade Dermot O'Connor (who was James Fitzgerald's brother-in-law and the bonnaght commander in Munster) to change sides.
He surprised fitz Thomas by suddenly marching in strength from Cork on 21 May towards Limerick city, which enabled him to capture a number of castles and devastate rebel centres in Limerick. Then, having come to an understanding with Carew, O'Connor seized fitz Thomas on 18 June in order to hand him over to the English, but the rebel leader was rescued by his supporters. Nonetheless, O'Connor's treachery had undermined the trust between the bonnaghts and the Munster rebels, and led to the bonnaghts’ departure from Munster, thus removing Carew's most formidable opponents. Earlier in the month Carew had sponsored a thwarted assassination attempt on fitz Thomas's brother John, which had the effect of further intimidating the rebel leaders. Carew's ruthlessness, the fickleness of many of the rebel captains, and rumours that the queen intended resurrecting the earldom of Desmond, all served to paralyse the rebels’ military opposition to Carew that summer.
After resuming his offensive in early July, he proceeded to overrun the remaining rebel strongholds in west Limerick and north Kerry with relative ease. Carew was able to campaign so successfully because he could use the Shannon and other waterways to supply and to transport his men and to transport cannon and other artillery, often catching the rebels off guard. Realising that their position was untenable, the rebels began destroying their castles in north Kerry. However, Carew's forces were able to take Lixnaw, Rathowen, and Tralee before they could do so, and installed his most able captain, Sir Charles Wilmot (qv), as commander of a Kerry garrison of about 600 men.
By the end of the summer Carew had ringed the rebel fastness of north Kerry and of the wood of Connello in Co. Limerick with royal garrisons. From these bases the soldiers could seize or destroy harvests, snatch livestock, and harry rebel forces. In early September the English garrison at Kilmallock defeated the remnants of fitz Thomas's forces, after which he effectively went into hiding. By December the rebels did not hold a single castle in Munster. Carew's only setback came when James Fitzgerald arrived in Munster in October and failed to attract much support due to his protestantism. In any case, Carew's military successes meant his presence was no longer needed, and he soon returned to London.
Political and military consolidation: 1600–01 Although the province was outwardly submissive, much of it was likely to relapse if the crown's position in Munster weakened or if Spanish reinforcements arrived. Nonetheless Carew readily accepted the submission of known malcontents in return for an immediate restoration of peace. Such leniency attracted criticism in London, but was acceptable to the queen, who was appalled at the cost of her war in Ireland. Most importantly, by showing that the government had regained control of Munster, he hoped to deter a Spanish landing. In November 1600 he held court sessions at Limerick, Clonmel, and Cashel in order to demonstrate that normality had been restored. During the early months of 1601 he pardoned about 4,000 former rebels in Munster, in return for which the leading lords and landowners had to hand over close relations as pledges for their future loyalty.
Having secured a measure of control over the province, Carew proceeded against the towns in Munster, being exasperated by their unhelpfulness and the manner in which their merchants sold goods and munitions to the rebels. For their part the towns disliked Carew's disruption of their trade and his quartering of royal soldiers on them. In autumn 1600 the Munster towns all elected catholic lawyers as mayors, who appear to have led a concerted campaign of political agitation against Carew's methods. Carew retaliated in November by fining and deposing the mayor of Limerick for arresting a royal soldier. Thereafter he overrode town charters by forcing the corporations to pay for the upkeep of his soldiers and for the improvement of their fortifications. He was also suspicious of the strong catholicism of the townsfolk, but recognised that many catholics did not support the rebellion and was careful not to antagonise unnecessarily catholic opinion.
Typically, English officers saw service in Ireland as an opportunity to engage in military profiteering, and the vast sums being lavished by the crown on the war effort in Munster provided Carew and his subordinates with every opportunity to do so. In September 1600 the queen began to question corruption in the Munster military establishment, principally the deliberate over-estimation of the army musters, which enabled the officers to pocket so-called ‘dead pays’. Finally the English privy council, while being careful not to blame him personally, bluntly told Carew in January 1601 that the latest army muster figures were not credible. A more lucrative and less transparent means of self-enrichment was the disposal of the property judged to be forfeit to the crown through rebellion. Carew distributed much of this land among loyalist or wavering Irish lords in order to strengthen them in their adherence to the crown. However, he also covertly arranged for property to be passed into his hands. Crosby and Boyle managed this process on Carew's behalf, acting as intermediaries between Cecil (who seems to have been unaware of Carew's self-aggrandisement), Carew, and the various suitors for forfeited land in Munster.
His main concern was now Florence MacCarthy Reagh; Carew's intelligence agents indicated that MacCarthy secretly supported the rebels, but he did not want to drive him into open rebellion and could not arrest him, as Florence refused to meet him without being granted a protection. This dilemma was resolved when, following his capture in the Knockmealdown mountains on 29 May 1601, fitz Thomas confirmed under interrogation that Florence had been the key figure in encouraging a Spanish expedition to Munster. Carew immediately summoned Florence to meet him and arrested him, believing he could justifiably violate his protection given the gravity of his treason. In anticipation of a Spanish invasion of Munster he concentrated his forces in Limerick and Cork and imprisoned a number of potentially troublesome lords in August.
The looming Spanish threat also compelled the English to set aside the ongoing factionalism between adherents of Cecil and of Essex that threatened to undermine the royal army's efforts in Ireland. Lord deputy Mountjoy, who was a follower of Essex, regarded Carew with suspicion and believed that Cecil prioritised the Munster forces in the distribution of money, men, provisions, and munitions. During 1600–01 Mountjoy became increasingly agitated at Carew's independence from his authority and by the manner in which he denied Mountjoy's repeated requests for reinforcements from Munster. Realising that greater cooperation would be required between the two men in the likely event of a Spanish intervention, Cecil exerted himself during the summer to reassure Mountjoy and to broker his reconciliation with Carew. Carew and Mountjoy arranged a meeting at Kilkenny in September, during which they resolved their differences.
Kinsale This rapprochement had not come a moment too soon, as a Spanish fleet landed at Kinsale, Co. Cork, on 22 September while they were still at Kilkenny. Both men realised it was imperative to oppose the Spanish in the field as soon as possible in order to prevent the defection of the local Irish. However, Mountjoy was concerned that he did not have sufficient supplies to accompany Carew into Munster in any strength. To Mountjoy's delight, Carew revealed that he had secretly preserved supplies for this very eventuality, enabling Mountjoy immediately to march on Kinsale, which now hosted about 4,000 Spanish soldiers. Contrary to expectation, there was no rising in support of the invaders in Munster, which was a testament to the success of Carew's preventive measures. By either arresting or banishing the chief rebels, by taking pledges from all the leading lords in Munster, and by his careful husbanding of army supplies, he ensured that the royal army was able to isolate the Spanish at Kinsale. Deprived of assistance, the Spanish remained in Kinsale, handing the military initiative to the English, who blockaded the town.
However, Carew should also shoulder much of the responsibility for the English army's lethargic prosecution of the ensuing siege. Given that Carew was acknowledged as the leading authority on siege warfare and cannonry in England, Mountjoy deferred to him on this occasion. Although Carew had an impressive record in conducting sieges of castles held by 100–200 Irish, taking a town defended by some 4,000 Spanish soldiers was another matter entirely. Instead of attempting a direct assault, the English sought to wear the defenders out in artillery bombardments and frequent skirmishing. However, to Carew's chagrin, the Spanish rarely ventured out to engage their besiegers; they also appear to have found good cover within the town and few were killed by artillery fire. In late October he supervised the siege of the Spanish held fort of Rincorran, which commanded Kinsale harbour. Disconcerted by the ferocity of the resistance mounted by its 150 defenders, he only induced their surrender on 1 November by offering to ship them back to Spain. Due to difficulties in securing supplies and their inexperience of large-scale siege warfare, Carew and Mountjoy were entitled to be cautious, but on balance they appear to have been excessively so.
On 5 November, with rebel forces from Ulster heading south to relieve their Spanish allies, Mountjoy dispatched Carew with 2,500 men, comprising much of the besieging army, to intercept and defeat them. As president of Munster, Carew was the obvious choice for this task, but this brief campaign exposed his limitations as a military leader. A 3,000-strong detachment of the northern rebel army entered Munster under Hugh O'Donnell (qv) and encamped in a strong position near Cashel. Intimidated by O'Donnell's formidable military reputation and by misleading reports of the size of the army facing him, Carew headed slowly and reluctantly north, having to be prodded onwards by Mountjoy who remained in contact by post. Unwilling to fight on O'Donnell's terms, Carew simply camped two miles (3.2 km) south, hoping to bar his passage to Kinsale. Given O'Donnell's widely known mastery of the quick march, this strategy had little chance of success, and so it proved. On the evening of 21 November O'Donnell broke camp and slipped past Carew by taking advantage of a sudden frost, which enabled him to cross the bogs on the Slieve Felim mountains. Carew could have continued his pursuit but instead sped back to Kinsale. His emphasis to Mountjoy on O'Donnell's allegedly astonishing night march protests too much.
Despite the onset of a bitterly cold winter, Mountjoy resolved to continue the siege of Kinsale. The English forces suffered terribly from exposure and became trapped between the Spanish and the relieving rebel forces before Mountjoy's crushing victory over the Irish outside Kinsale (24 December 1601) saved the day. Carew played no part in the battle, having been assigned by Mountjoy to supervise the siege. In time he came to resent the manner in which Mountjoy monopolised the acclaim for the victory at Kinsale. At first it was not in anyone's interest to portray Kinsale as anything other than a brilliant triumph. However, in autumn 1602, and at a time when his relationship with Mountjoy had become strained again, he referred pointedly in a letter to Cecil to the loss of 6,000 men outside Kinsale during the savage winter of 1601–2. The thoroughness with which he subsequently collected official correspondence relating to the war in Munster and to the siege and battle of Kinsale may stem from his desire to redress the balance.
The position of the Spanish in the town was now hopeless, and their commander Juan del Águila (qv) quickly negotiated his surrender. Both Cecil and Carew had long urged the queen to make peace with Spain and now seized the opportunity to advance this goal. With Cecil's encouragement, Carew and Mountjoy assured Águila of England's goodwill towards Spain and disparaged his Irish allies. Carew and Águila developed a rapport and the Spaniard would later send his English counterpart a gift of fruit and wine. In return, Carew dispatched a horse to Spain. This conviviality is reflected in Águila's decision to order the surrender of three castles held by Spanish forces in west Munster along with Kinsale.
The siege of Dunboy and final campaigns in Munster: 1602 The rebels had suffered a decisive blow, but the suppression of the rebellion was to prove bloody and laborious. Following the arrival of a detachment of Spanish troops from Águila's fleet in December, many lords in this region had rejoined the rebellion. Leadership of the Munster resistance devolved upon Sir Domhnall O'Sullivan Beare (qv), whose castle at Dunboy on the Beare peninsula was said to be impregnable and who was assisted by 1,500 bonnaghts. Moreover, this was the one region of Munster that posed serious logistical problems for the royal army, due to its remoteness and inaccessibility.
The need to supervise the departure of the Spanish troops from Kinsale delayed Carew's return to campaigning until 23 March, when he set out from Cork for Dunboy with some 4,000 men. The route into the Beare peninsula was impassable, being narrow, mountainous, and held by rebel forces. Instead, Carew arranged for his men to be shipped from Bantry to Bear Island, directly across the sea from Dunboy, on 31 May. On 6 June he deceived the rebels assembled on the beach to oppose his troops by feinting to land near the castle before sending half his army to a landing spot further down the coast. This gave his men time to land in sufficient numbers to drive off their adversaries.
The main rebel army withdrew, but a long siege of Dunboy appeared likely, as the terrain around the castle was considered too rocky for the use of artillery. However, Carew spotted a position which provided both cover from fire from the castle and a suitable platform for his cannon. The process of installing the ordnance was arduous, time-consuming, and dangerous, but was achieved without loss of life. Finally, on 17 June his artillery began bombarding Dunboy, soon opening a breach in the walls. The castle was taken by assault on 18/19 June despite obdurate resistance from its 143 defenders, all of whom were killed.
Carew had expected the rebel forces in Munster either to flee or capitulate following the fall of Dunboy. However, while the siege was underway, a Spanish ship had arrived nearby and distributed arms, provisions, and gold, which emboldened the rebels to fight on in the expectation of further aid. The prospect of another Spanish incursion into Munster forced him to withdraw from the west of the province and concentrate his forces once more in Limerick and Cork cities. He also arrested in August (on suspicion of conspiring with the Spanish) Sir Cormac mac Dermond MacCarthy (qv), whose lordship of Muskerry was of great strategic importance because it bordered Cork city. During September–October, royal soldiers seized MacCarthy's castles, quelled an uprising within Muskerry, and repulsed rebel incursions into the lordship. By October it was apparent that the Spanish would not come, enabling Carew to resume his offensive in west Munster. His attempts to organise these final campaigns were complicated by the queen's debasement of her Irish currency, which had paralysed the Munster economy by late 1602; trade with England ground to a halt as merchants refused to accept the new Irish coin. This crisis exacerbated the widespread immiseration brought to the province by war and worsened Carew's already poisonous relations with the local corporations.
Nonetheless, garrisons were established at Dunkerran, Kinsale, Bantry, and Baltimore with which to complete the reduction of south Kerry and west Cork. During the tough winter campaigning, O'Sullivan Beare's forces were reduced to desperate straits. In late December Carew assembled a force of about 3–4,000, comprised substantially of loyalist Irish, to complete the final mopping up of rebel resistance. He intended leading this final assault but was drawn out of the province to meet Mountjoy at Galway. In his absence, the royalist forces marched west and defeated O'Sullivan Beare's main army in a fierce battle at Glengariff, after which the remaining rebel heartlands were overrun by the royal forces.
Since 1601 Carew had been frantically trying to secure his recall to London, being anxious to be at the centre of power on the imminent death of the aged queen. At their meeting in Galway, Mountjoy agreed to drop his previous opposition to Carew's departure. Before taking his leave of Ireland, he rewarded Boyle by brokering the sale by Sir Walter Ralegh (qv) to Boyle – for a very cheap £1,500 – of his vast 42,000-acre estate in Munster. Boyle had served his master well in terms of acquiring forfeited land on his behalf. Not so Patrick Crosby, who was too greedy for his own gain and was sidelined by Carew at some point in 1602. Crosby's attempts in late 1602 to draw Cecil's attention to Carew's corruption were easily discredited. For his part, Carew soon sold his covertly acquired Irish property.
Royal courtier and Irish antiquarian In late January 1603 he left Munster for Dublin and sailed for England on 20 March, to arrive in London immediately prior to the queen's death, having won glory and profit from his service in Ireland. His friend Cecil maintained his position as chief royal minister by organising the peaceful succession to the throne of King James VI of Scotland, who now became King James I of England. The Cecil connection insured that he received a series of appointments and honours. He became a leading member of Queen Anne's household, being appointed her vice-chamberlain and receiver-general of her revenues in October 1603. Thereafter he became master of the ordnance (1608–29), keeper of Nonesuch House and its park in Surrey (1609), councillor of the colony of Virginia (1609), governor of Guernsey (1610), and a member of the English privy council (1616). He sat as MP for Hastings, Sussex, in 1604, before being created Baron Carew of Clopton on 4 May 1605. In summer 1611 he briefly returned to Ireland as part of a commission to report on the progress of the Ulster plantation and on the state of the royal administration. He made a series of recommendations for reforming the Irish government and raising royal revenues, but most of these were not implemented.
Nonetheless he had nothing like the influence he had enjoyed during Elizabeth's reign, and his post-1603 career was anti-climactic. King James appears to have concluded (probably mistakenly) that Carew was involved in the failed plots to prevent his succession to the English throne in 1603. Although Cecil would have vouched for his loyalty, the king harboured enough reservations about Carew to shunt him aside, placating him with positions of prestige and profit, but of no political substance. Particularly revealing was the reversal of his relationship with Boyle, who surpassed his former mentor to become the wealthiest landowner in Britain or Ireland. By the 1620s Carew was acting as Boyle's representative at the royal court.
This enforced idleness allowed him to attend to his antiquarian pursuits. On leaving Ireland in 1603, he had shown an interest in continuing the claim of his cousin Sir Peter Carew to the long-lost Carew estates in Munster. Nothing came of this, but his investigations into the history of his family and that of the other leading Munster families soon became an end in itself. Aided by the renowned antiquarian Robert Cotton, he assiduously collected official papers relating to sixteenth-century Ireland, with particular reference to his own career and the war in Munster from 1600 to 1603, and purchased rare medieval Irish annals and documents. Research, involving interviews in the Tower of London with his old adversary Florence MacCarthy, enabled him to outline genealogies of ancient Irish noble families. Carew appears to have been simultaneously repelled and fascinated by Irish culture and society.
Politically he enjoyed something of an Indian summer during the 1620s, thanks to the patronage of the chief royal favourite, George Villiers, duke of Buckingham. War in Europe and then conflict with Spain from 1625 meant his military experience was required, particularly regarding the defence of Ireland. From 1624 he sat on a number of important committees relating to Irish affairs and used this position to decry financial cuts to the Irish military establishment, enacted earlier in the decade. Reflecting this belated return to political prominence, he was created earl of Totnes on 7 February 1626.
He died 27 March 1629 at his house in Savoy, London, and was buried near his country residence of Clopton House in the church of Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, on 2 May. At his death, he held land in Warwickshire, Essex, Devon, and Cornwall as well as property in London. He bequeathed his monumental manuscript collection to his illegitimate son and only child, Sir Thomas Stafford (qv). The bulk of these manuscripts eventually found their way into the library at Lambeth Palace in the late seventeenth century. Smaller collections of Carew's papers are also held in the Bodleian and TCD libraries. The Carew documents in the Lambeth library were published in calendared form in the nineteenth century. In 1633 Stafford published Pacata Hibernica, an account of the war in Munster from 1598 to 1603, which is largely derived from Carew's collection of state papers. It is a spirited but futile attempt to rescue his father's reputation from Mountjoy's shadow. A portrait of Carew is prefixed to this work.