Charles Brandon

Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk (1484 – 1545)

So the reason for me picking Charles Brandon is a short reason but to me a very good one. I picked him because of his true loyalty to Henry VIII. He was a true friend to Henry and always there for him and served him I think better than anyone else ever did. No one was more faithful to Henry in my eyes.

Charles Brandon was the son of Sir William Brandon and Elizabeth Bruyn. Through his third wife Mary Tudor he was brother-in-law to Henry VIII. His father was the standard-bearer of Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond (later King Henry VII) and was slain by Richard III in person at the battle of Bosworth Field. Suffolk died of unknown causes at Guildford.

Charles Brandon was brought up at the court of Henry VII. He is described by Dugdale as “a person comely of stature, high of courage and conformity of disposition to King Henry VIII, with whom he became a great favourite”. Brandon held a succession of offices in the royal household, becoming Master of the Horse in 1513, and received many valuable grants of land. On 15 May 1513, he was created Viscount Lisle, having entered into a marriage contract with his ward, Elizabeth Grey, suo jure Viscountess Lisle, who, however, refused to marry him when she came of age.

He distinguished himself at the sieges of Thérouanne and Tournai in the French campaign of 1513. One of the agents of Margaret of Savoy, governor of the Netherlands, writing from before Thérouanne, reminded her that Lord Lisle was a “second king” and advised her to write him a kind letter.

At this time, Henry VIII was secretly urging Margaret to marry Lisle, whom he created Duke of Suffolk, although he was careful to disclaim (on 4 March 1514) any complicity in the project to her father, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor.

After his marriage to Mary Tudor, Suffolk lived for some years in retirement, but he was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. In 1523 he was sent to Calais to command the English troops there. He invaded France in company with Floris d’Egmont, Count of Buren, who was at the head of the Flemish troops, and laid waste the north of France, but disbanded his troops at the approach of winter.

Unlike his wife, Suffolk was entirely in favour of Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and in spite of his obligations to Cardinal Wolsey he did not scruple to attack him when the latter’s fall was imminent, eventually remarking to the entire court in front of the King and Wolsey himself, “It was never merry in England while there were cardinals among us.” The Cardinal, who was acquainted with Suffolk’s private history, reminded him of his ingratitude: “If I, simple Cardinal, had not been, you should have had at this present no head upon your shoulders wherein you should have had a tongue to make any such report in despite of us.”

After Wolsey’s disgrace, Suffolk’s influence increased daily. He was sent with Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, to demand the Great Seal from Wolsey; the same noblemen conveyed the news of Anne Boleyn’s marriage to King Henry, after his divorce from Queen Catherine; and Suffolk acted as High Steward at the new Queen’s coronation. He was one of the commissioners appointed by Henry to dismiss Catherine’s household, a task he found distasteful.

His family had had a residence on the west side of Borough High Street, London, for at least half a century prior to his building of Suffolk Place at the site.

He supported Henry’s ecclesiastical policy, receiving a large share of the lands after the dissolution of the monasteries. In 1544, he was for the second time in command of an English army for the invasion of France. He died at Guildford, Surrey, on 24 August in the following year. At Henry VIII’s expense he was buried at Windsor in St George’s Chapel.

Suffolk took part in the jousts which celebrated the marriage of Mary Tudor, Henry’s sister, with Louis XII of France. He was accredited to negotiate various matters with Louis, and on Louis’ death was sent to congratulate the new King, Francis I, and to negotiate Mary’s return to England.

Love between Suffolk and the young Dowager Queen Mary had existed before her marriage, and Francis roundly charged him with an intention to marry her. Francis, perhaps in the hope of Queen Claude’s death, had himself been one of her suitors in the first week of her widowhood, and Mary asserted that she had given him her confidence to avoid his importunities.

Francis and Henry both professed a friendly attitude towards the marriage of the lovers, but Suffolk had many political enemies, and Mary feared that she might again be sacrificed to political considerations. The truth was that Henry was anxious to obtain from Francis the gold plate and jewels which had been given or promised to the Queen by Louis in addition to the reimbursement of the expenses of her marriage with the King; and he practically made his acquiescence in Suffolk’s suit dependent on his obtaining them. The pair cut short the difficulties by a private marriage, which Suffolk announced to Thomas Wolsey, who had been their fast friend, on 5 March 1515.

Suffolk was saved from Henry’s anger only by Wolsey, and the pair eventually agreed to pay to Henry £24,000 in yearly installments of £1000, and the whole of Mary’s dowry from Louis of £200,000, together with her plate and jewels. They were openly married at Greenwich Hall on 13 May. The Duke had been twice married already, to Margaret Neville (the widow of John Mortimer) and to Anne Browne, to whom he had been betrothed before his marriage with Margaret Mortimer. Anne Browne died in 1511, but Margaret Mortimer, from whom he had obtained a declaration of nullity on the ground of consanguinity, was still living. He secured in 1528 a bull from Pope Clement VII assuring the legitimacy of his marriage with Mary Tudor and of the daughters of Anne Browne, one of whom, Anne, was sent to the court of Margaret of Savoy.

Mary Tudor died on 25 June 1533 and in September of the same year Suffolk married his ward Catherine Willoughby (1520 – 1580), suo jure Baroness Willoughby de Eresby, then a girl of fourteen. She had been betrothed to his son Henry Brandon, Earl of Lincoln, but the boy was too young to marry and Suffolk did not wish to risk losing Catherine’s lands, so he married her himself.[2][3] By Catherine Willoughby he had two sons who showed great promise, Henry (1535 – 1551) and Charles (c. 1537 – 1551), Dukes of Suffolk. They died of the sweating sickness within an hour of one another.,_1st_Duke_of_Suffolk

Published on May 7, 2011 at 7:52 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Good positive overview of Charles Brandon, faithful friend and brother in law to Henry VIII. I agree that he was the most loyal of Henry’s friends and courtiers, and stood by Henry when many people tried to oppose him or promote themselves, but he was also lucky. Charles took risks as he did in France in 1523, and in his marriage to Mary. He was trusted by Henry and given roles and responsibilities that meant he had to take such risks and as Gunn states ‘trust to their mutual trust for the outcome’ and he was also honest with the king. He would rather argue with Henry openly, rather than plot behind his back and perhaps that was his secret. Henry knew were he stood with Charles and could open up to him, and Charles would not betray that trust. Unfortunately for Charles, that trust meant that some less pleasant tasks were given to him, such as going to Buckdon to attempt to move Queen Katherine. He confided to his mother in law, Maria de Willoughby that he hoped that some accident would befall him on the way as he did not want to go. He failed, and he may have been glad that he did. He was not entirely in favour of the divorce, although he did support Henry, as he also opposed Henry’s marriage to Anne. He may have supported Henry as first and then when he saw what he was doing, changed his mind. He conceded that he could not stop the marriage to Anne Boleyn and he then acted loyally to support Henry and at her coronation. He was used by Henry in battle, in the council, in dealing with Francis and the Emperor and in escorting Anne of Cleves to London. He had to be able to do many things and he had to be discrete as he also carried out many secret things for his king. He risked his own marriage, but unlike in the Tudors, he remained happily married to both Mary and later to Katherine de Willoughby and she even moved to Lincolnshire to be close to him during the rising in 1536. He moved to her home and expanded it to entertain the king in 1541 and she was at his side when he died in 1545. Henry paid him a great compliment: For as long as I knew Charles Brandon, he never took unfair advantage of an enemy, nor betrayed a friend. Which of you, my lords, can say the same? Henry paid for him to be buried in Windsor and his tomb is adjacent to that of the King. Close to his king in the next life, as well as this one. That is what I call friendship.

    Again, a great article. Thanks

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