Sir Alexander Carew, 2nd Baronet

Sir Alexander Carew (30 August 1608 – 23 December 1644) was an English landowner, soldier and politician from Antony, Cornwall. Elected Member of Parliament for Cornwall in November 1640, he voted for the execution of the Earl of Strafford in May 1641, and supported the removal of bishops from the Church of England.

Sir Alexander Carew

Alexander Carew (cropped).jpg
Sir Alexander Carew
Governor of St Nicholas' Island, Plymouth
In office
1642 – August 1643
Member of Parliament
for Cornwall
In office
November 1640 – September 1643 (suspended)
Personal details
Born(1609-08-30)30 August 1609
Antony, Cornwall
Died23 December 1644(1644-12-23) (aged 35)
Tower Hill
Cause of deathExecuted for treason
Resting placeSt Augustine's, Hackney
Spouse(s)Jane Rolle (1606–1679)
RelationsJohn Carew; James Chudleigh;
ChildrenSir John Carew; Richard (1641-1691); Joan (?-1716); Mary; Bridget
ParentsBridget Chudleigh (ca 1584–1612); Sir Richard Carew (1580–1643)
OccupationLandowner, soldier and politician
Military service
Allegiance England
Battles/warsFirst English Civil War

When the First English Civil War began in August 1642, he was one of the relatively few members of the Cornish gentry who backed Parliament. In March 1643, he was appointed commander of St Nicholas' Island, a key defensive position for Plymouth. He was arrested in August, after attempting to switch sides, and taken to London.

In a demonstration of Parliament's commitment to winning the war, he was executed for treason in December 1644, followed in January by Sir John Hotham, his son John Hotham the younger, and Archbishop Laud. His half-brother, John Carew, was executed as a regicide in October 1660.


Alexander Carew was born on 30 August 1608,[1] the eldest surviving son of Sir Richard Carew, 1st Baronet (c. 1580–1643), and his first wife, Bridget Chudleigh (ca 1584–1612). In 1621, Sir Richard remarried, this time to Grace Rolle (1606–1655); their four sons included John Carew, who signed the death warrant for Charles I, and was executed for treason, in October 1660.[2]

In 1631, Alexander married Jane Rolle (1606–1679); they had five children who lived to adulthood, Bridget, Mary, Joan, John, and Richard.[3]


Trial of the Earl of Strafford, May 1641; Carew voted for his execution

Alexander attended the Middle Temple in 1628, although there is no record of which university he went to. Although a Puritan, his father was generally viewed as a moderate, more interested in education, inventions, and breeding cats; in August 1641, he purchased a baronetcy, a method used by Charles I to raise money for an army.[2]

Like his father and grandfather, Carew was elected Member of Parliament for Cornwall in 1640. He supported the removal of bishops from the Church of England, and voted for the execution of the Earl of Strafford in May 1641. He reportedly claimed "If I were sure to be the next man, that should suffer upon the same scaffold, with the same axe, I would give my consent."[1]

When the First English Civil War began in August 1642, as one of the relatively few members of the Cornish gentry who declared for Parliament, he was appointed to numerous Parliamentary committees. After succeeding his father in March 1643, he was made a member of the Cornish Sequestration Committee, and commander of St Nicholas' Island, a key defensive position for Plymouth. The summer of 1643 was the highpoint of Royalist success; by August, they controlled the entire West Country, with the exception of Plymouth and Exeter.[1]

At this point, Carew began negotiations to switch sides; many others did the same, including his cousin James Chudleigh, captured at Stratton in May. Suggestions he was betrayed by a "disloyal servant" appear incorrect; in August, as a Parliamentary warship was entering harbour, Carew ordered his men to open fire. They refused, and he allegedly only escaped lynching when the ship's captain intervened; he was accused of treason, and held in the Tower of London.[4]

Many went to war in 1642 expecting a single, decisive battle; by 1643, it was clear this was incorrect, and Parliamentarians like Carew whose estates lay in occupied territory faced financial ruin. A series of Royalist victories caused a wave of defections; in September, he was one of five MPs expelled from Parliament, while Denzil Holles was among those accused of seeking a negotiated settlement.[5]

As the war grew more bitter, both sides began using martial law to prosecute senior officers who defected. In August 1644, Parliament established a military tribunal to try those suspected of treachery; in November, Carew was sentenced to death, along with the former commander of Hull, Sir John Hotham, and his son. These sentences were supported by those like Oliver Cromwell, who felt the war risked being lost due to lack of commitment.[6]

His wife petitioned Parliament, who dismissed her claim that he was "in a kind of distracted condition and unfit to die", but gave him a month to arrange his affairs. He was executed on Tower Hill in December 1644, followed in January by the Hothams, and Archbishop Laud; held since 1641, it was widely believed he was put to death to please the Scots Covenanters.[7]

Carew was buried in the graveyard attached to St Augustine's, Hackney.[8] His social standing seemed unaffected either by his execution, or that of his half-brother in 1660; John inherited title and estates, and he and Richard both served as MPs. Of their three sisters, Mary married John Sparke (1636-1680), MP for Plymouth, Joan married Walter Kendall, MP for Lostwithiel.[9] Bridget's husband was John Pendarves of Roscrow; their son Alexander was an MP from 1689 to 1725.[10]


  1. ^ a b c Wright 2008.
  2. ^ a b Holford-Strevens 2004.
  3. ^ Cruikshank 2002.
  4. ^ Hopper 2012, p. 97.
  5. ^ Hopper 2012, p. 48.
  6. ^ Hopper 2012, p. 184.
  7. ^ Wedgwood 1958, pp. 376–378.
  8. ^ "Sir Alexander Carew". Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  9. ^ Cruikshank 1983.
  10. ^ Hayton 2002, p. 128.


External linksEdit

Parliament of England
Preceded by
William Godolphin
Richard Buller
Member of Parliament for Cornwall
With: Sir Bevil Grenville 1640–1642
Succeeded by
Seats vacant
Next Members
Hugh Boscawen
Nicholas Trefusis
Baronetage of England
Preceded by
Richard Carew
(of Antony)
Succeeded by
John Carew