25-28 March 2011


The History

In March 1603, Elizabeth I was on her deathbed and the future of the throne of England lay in the balance. The childless Queen had several possible heirs but had refused to name a successor. For a claimant to succeed he would have to move fast. Sir Robert Carey knew that his sister, Lady Scrope, who was one of the Queen’s Ladies-in-Waiting, had been given ‘a blue ring’ by King James VI of Scotland and had been asked to return it as proof of the Queen’s death. 

When the Queen died at Richmond Palace Lady Scrope threw the blue ring from a casement window to her brother. Carey, who had previously told King James that he would be the first man to bring the news, set off immediately for London and from there started his epic ride to Edinburgh. He completed the journey in less than three days, and on his way caused King James to be proclaimed by his brother (the governor) at Berwick upon Tweed, the strongest fortress on the road from Scotland. On arrival at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, he hailed  King James as King of England and Scotland.

Almost immediately Carey was appointed a Gentlemen of the Scottish Bedchamber but James later cancelled the appointment under pressure from an English Privy Council piqued and  infuriated by Carey’s unauthorised ride to Edinburgh. Carey had forced their hand and acted ‘contrary to all decency, good manners and respect’.Subsequently, Carey’s fortunes improved.  He became Master of the Robes and Lord Chamberlain to James I ’s son Prince Charles, was appointed Baron of Leppington in 1622 and during the reign of Charles I, Earl of Monmouth in 1625. The blue ring (probably a sapphire) cannot be traced with certainty, but  we will be given a blue ring to take from London to Edinburgh by one of Lady Scrope’s descendants. 


Memoirs of Robert Carey (BiblioLife)
The Stuart Tracts 1603/1693 by Charles Harding Frith
The Steel Bonnets – The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers by George MacDonald Fraser (HarperCollins)
After Elizabeth by Leanda de Lisle (HarperCollins)
The Nearest Guard – 500 years of Protecting the Sovereign  by David Edelsten ( Benefactum Publishing)
P F Chisholm's Historical thriller series based on Sir Robert Carey – A Famine of Horses, A Season of Knives, A Surfeit of Guns, A Plague of Angels , A Murder of Crows (Coronet) 
Forthcoming publication: Carey’s Ride by Mark Blackett-Ord

*Charles (Earl) Spencer - 'Blenheim, Battle for Europe', 'Prince Rupert - The Last Cavalier'

Juliet Gardiner - 'Penguin Book of British History', 'The Children's War', 'The Animals War' (forthcoming)


'A gloriously romantic gesture for a very good cause.'

Juliet Gardiner - historian


Ewen Cameron, Neil Cross and the portrait of 'The Carey Family'by Paul van Somer (1617). Robert Carey, later 1st Earl of Monmouth, is centre.

(National Portrait Gallery and National Trust, Montacute House).