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Carr, Robert, 1st Viscount Rochester, 1st earl of Somerset

(c. 1587—1645) favourite of James I.


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(c. 1587–1645).

Carr, a royal favourite, began his career as page to James VI of Scotland. He acquired political significance only after the death of James's chief minister Robert Cecil in 1612, acting as the king's secretary. His main alliance, with Henry Howard, the pro‐Spanish and pro‐catholic earl of Northampton, was reinforced when he fell in love with Northampton's relative Frances Howard, wife of the earl of Essex. James set up a tribunal which annulled the marriage, and in 1613 Frances married Carr, now earl of Somerset. Meanwhile Carr's former friend Sir Thomas Overbury, who had opposed the match, was removed from the scene when James sent him to the Tower, where he died, apparently of natural causes. Only in 1615 did James become aware that in fact Overbury had been poisoned by Frances. Carr and his wife were tried for murder, and although Carr protested his innocence, they were both found guilty. Saved from execution by James, after a few years' comfortable imprisonment they retired into private life.

Subjects: British History.


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