The son of Howel Carne of Nash and a descendant of the princes of Gwent. Educated at Oxford (where he graduated B.C.L. 1519, D.C.L. 1524), he became principal of Greek Hall in 1521. In 1530 he was attached in a legal capacity to the embassy of the earl of Wiltshire (Anne Boleyn's father) to explain to Charles V at Bologna the king's reasons for repudiating Catherine of Aragon; thence he accompanied Bonner to Rome on legal business concerning the ‘divorce’ (on which see S.P. Hen. VIII, vii, 269 n. and Harpsfield, More, in E.E.T.S., 1932, 223). On a later mission to Bologna (1534), he was charged with the appeal ‘from the Bishop of Rome ill-informed and in fear of the imperialists to the Bishop of Rome better informed and in more liberty.’ On his return he served as commissioner for dissolving monasteries (1538-9), purchasing Ewenny priory (which he had leased in 1536) on its dissolution (1545). In 1538-9 he was sent to the Netherlands in pursuance of the king's suit for Anne of Cleves, and in 1540 to France (probably with a knighthood) to announce the dissolution of this marriage, returning to the Netherlands on commercial mission in 1541. Henry rewarded him with the chancellorship of Salisbury and an English sinecure rectory, but disappointed him of a Welsh living in commendam; Pope Clement VII gratified him with a personal indulgence and one on behalf of the chapel of Holy Cross, Cowbridge, during Carne's lifetime; the tradition that he owed his knighthood to the emperor seems to be unfounded. Under the Act of Union he became first sheriff of Glamorgan (1542), and his name appears in the county muster for the Boulogne campaign in 1544, but he spent the entire period of the siege as resident ambassador in Brussels.
He was in retirement under Edward VI, save for membership of the Council of Wales (c. 1551) and occasional consultation on diplomatic issues. Under Mary he served a second term as sheriff (1554), and as M.P. for Glamorgan (1554) he provided the first known example of the committal of a Welsh bill to a Welsh member; he was also on the commission that declared the illegality of bishop Bonner's deposition by Cranmer (1553). Another mission to the emperor (1553) was followed by a complimentary errand, which turned into a permanent embassy, to Rome — our only independent representation abroad during the reign. Shortly before Mary's death he asked for his recall, but arrangements for his replacement by Thomas Goldwell, bishop of S. Asaph, were interrupted by the demise of the Crown. He repeated the request on Elizabeth's accession, but was instructed to stay at his post, without committing the Government, till a decision should be reached on relations with Rome. Till February 1559, when he was officially recalled, he was sending reports on the friendly dispositions of Rome and Spain and warnings against France. The pope refused passports for his return, and conferred on him the wardenship of the English Hospital, to which he appears to have been previously nominated by Mary, but which he later resigned to Goldwell. On his death in 1561 his friends Geoffrey (or Griffith) Vaughan and Thomas Freeman erected a monument to his memory at the church of SS. Andrew and Gregory in Rome (photograph, text, and commentary in Reports and Trans. Cardiff Naturalists’ Soc., lxxx, 12-15). This was defaced by the French in 1798 but restored through the good offices of the Rev. J. M. Traherne, chancellor of Llandaff, fifty years later. The inscription supports the suggestion (cf. Cal. S.P. Rome, i. 27, pp. 15, 16) that his detention in Rome was not unwelcome, since its ‘involuntary’ character saved his Glamorgan estates — swollen since 1537 by his marriage to the widow of Sir John Raglan — for his son THOMAS CARNE, who, although a recusant (as were many of the family till well on in the next cent.), was twice M.P. and thrice sheriff for his county.
Published date: 1959
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