Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk

Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, 1st Viscount Lisle, KG PC (c. 1484 – 22 August 1545) was an English military leader and courtier. Through his third wife, Mary Tudor, he was brother-in-law to King Henry VIII.

Master of the Brandon Portrait, Charles Brandon.jpg
Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, wearing the Collar of the Garter, c. 1530
Lord President of the Council
In office
MonarchHenry VIII
Succeeded byThe Lord St John
Lord Steward
In office
MonarchHenry VIII
Preceded byThe Earl of Shrewsbury
Succeeded byThe Lord St John
Personal details
Bornc. 1484
Died22 August 1545 (aged 60–61)
Guildford, Surrey, Kingdom of England
Resting placeSt. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
Spouse(s)Margaret Neville
Anne Browne
Mary Tudor, Queen of France
Katherine Willoughby
ChildrenAnne Brandon, Baroness Grey of Powys
Mary Brandon, Baroness Monteagle
Henry Brandon
Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk
Eleanor Brandon, Countess of Cumberland
Henry Brandon, 1st Earl of Lincoln
Henry Brandon, 2nd Duke of Suffolk
Charles Brandon, 3rd Duke of Suffolk
Parent(s)Sir William Brandon
Elizabeth Bruyn
Residence(s)Westhorpe Hall, Suffolk
OccupationCourtier, Military commander
Military service
Arms of Brandon: Barry of ten argent and gules, a lion rampant or ducally crowned per pale of the first and second
Quartered arms of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk


Charles Brandon was the second but only surviving son[1] of Sir William Brandon, Henry Tudor's standard-bearer at the Battle of Bosworth Field, where Richard III was slain. His mother, Elizabeth Bruyn (d. March 1494), was daughter and co-heiress of Sir Henry Bruyn (died 1461).[2][a]

Charles Brandon was brought up at the court of Henry VII, and became Henry VIII's closest friend. 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.[9] The contract was ended and the title was forfeited as a result of Brandon's marriage to Mary Tudor in 1515.

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 on 4 March 1514, although he was careful to disclaim any complicity in the project to her father, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor.[9] When Brandon was made Duke of Suffolk, he became only the third duke in the kingdom.

After his marriage to Mary, 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.[10]

Brandon was appointed Earl Marshal of England in 1524, a position previously held by Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. However, in 1533 he relinquished the office to Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, "whose auncesto[ur]s of longe tyme hadde the same until nowe of late."[11]

After Wolsey's disgrace, Suffolk's influence increased. He was sent with Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, to demand the Great Seal from Wolsey; 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.[10]

His family 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.[12]

Charles 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.[10] At Henry VIII's expense he was buried at Windsor in St George's Chapel. Brandon was perhaps the only person in England who successfully retained Henry VIII's affection for most of a period of forty years.[13]

Marriage to Mary TudorEdit

Charles Brandon took part in the jousts which celebrated the marriage of Mary Tudor, King Henry VIII's sister, with King Louis XII of France. Later, on King Louis XII's death in 1515, he was accredited to negotiate various matters with the King; and was sent to congratulate the new King, Francis I of France, as well as to negotiate Princess Mary's return to England. Love between Charles and the young Dowager Queen Mary had existed before her marriage, and King Francis I roundly charged him with an intention to marry her. King Francis, perhaps in the hope of his wife Queen Claude's death, had himself been one of Mary's suitors in the first week of her widowhood, in which Mary had asserted that she had given him her confidence in order to avoid his overtures.[10]

King Francis I and King Henry VIII both professed a friendly attitude towards the marriage of the lovers, but Charles had many political enemies, and Mary feared that she might again be sacrificed for political considerations. The King's Council, not wishing to see Charles Brandon gain further power at court, were opposed to the match. The truth was that King Henry was anxious to obtain from King Francis the gold plate and jewels which had been given or promised to his sister Mary by King Louis XII as well as the reimbursement of the expenses of her marriage with King Louis; and he practically made his acceptance in Charles's suit dependent on Charles obtaining them.[10] However, when Charles was sent to bring Mary back to England, King Henry VIII made him promise that he would not propose to her. Once in France though, Charles was persuaded by Mary to abandon this pledge. The couple wed in secret at the Hotel de Clugny on 3 March 1515 in the presence of just 10 people, among whom was King Francis I.[14] Charles announced their marriage to Thomas Wolsey who had been their fast friend.

Technically, this was treason as Charles Brandon had married a royal princess without King Henry's consent.[15] Thus, King Henry VIII was outraged, and the privy council urged that Charles should be imprisoned or executed. He was only saved from King Henry's anger by Wolsey and from the affection that the King had for both his sister and for him. Hence, the couple got off easily and were charged only with a heavy fine of £24,000 to be paid to the King in yearly instalments of £1000, as well as the whole of Mary's dowry from King Louis XII of £200,000, together with her plate and jewels. Nonetheless, the fine was later reduced by the King. They were then openly married at Greenwich Hall on 13 May 1515 in the presence of King Henry VIII and his courtiers. The Duke of Suffolk had been already twice married, to Margaret Neville (the widow of John Mortimer) and to Anne Browne, to whom he had been betrothed before his marriage with Margaret Neville. Anne Browne died in 1511, but Margaret Neville, 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 that assured the legitimacy of his marriage with Mary Tudor.[10]

Mary died on 25 June 1533, and in September of the same year, Charles married his ward, the 14-year-old Katherine Willoughby (1519–1580), suo jure Baroness Willoughby de Eresby. Katherine had been betrothed to his eldest surviving son, Henry, Earl of Lincoln, but the boy was too young to marry. Not desiring to risk losing Katherine's lands, Charles married her himself in the end.[16][17]

By Katherine Willoughby, he had his two youngest sons who showed great promise, Henry (1535–1551) and Charles (c. 1537–1551), who later became Dukes of Suffolk. However, they eventually died of the sweating sickness within an hour of each other.[10]

Between 1536–1543, Charles gave his London residence Suffolk Place, rebuilt by him in fine Renaissance style in 1522, to King Henry VIII in exchange for Norwich Place on the Strand, London. He also leased Hoxne manor at this time.[18]

Marriages and childrenEdit

Before 7 February 1507, Charles Brandon firstly married Margaret Neville (born 1466), widow of Sir John Mortimer (d. before 12 November 1504),[19][20][21] and daughter of John Neville, 1st Marquess of Montagu (slain at the Battle of Barnet) by Isabel Ingaldesthorpe (or Ingoldesthorpe), daughter and heiress of Sir Edmund Ingaldesthorpe (or Ingoldesthorpe) and his wife, Joanna Tiptoft. Charles and Margaret had no children. The marriage was declared void about 1507 by the Archdeaconry Court of London, and later by papal bull dated 12 May 1528.[19] Margaret subsequently married Robert Downes, gentleman.[5][22]

In early 1508, in a secret ceremony at Stepney, and later publicly at St Michael's, Cornhill,[5] Charles secondly married Anne Browne (the step-daughter of Margaret Neville's sister, Lucy Neville), daughter of Sir Anthony Browne (Standard Bearer of England in 1485), by his first wife, Eleanor Ughtred,[23] the daughter of Sir Robert Ughtred (c. 1428 – c. 1487) of Kexby, North Yorkshire[24] and Katherine Eure, daughter of Sir William Eure of Stokesley, Yorkshire. By Anne Browne, he had two daughters:[25]

Charles was then contracted to marry Elizabeth Grey, 5th Baroness Lisle (1505–1519), and was thus created 1st Viscount Lisle of the third creation in 1513, but the contract was annulled, and he surrendered the title either before 1519 or in 1523.[citation needed]

Wedding portrait of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon

In May 1515, Charles thirdly married Mary Tudor, Queen Dowager of France (18 March 1496 – 25 June 1533). After their marriage, Charles and Mary resided at Westhorpe Hall where they raised all their children. They had two sons who died young, and two daughters:

On 7 September 1533, Charles fourthly married Katherine Willoughby, 12th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby (22 March 1519 – 19 September 1580), the daughter and heiress of William Willoughby, 11th Baron Willoughby de Eresby, by his second wife, María de Salinas. He had two sons by her, both of whom died young of the sweating sickness:

After Charles Brandon's death in 1545, his widow, Katherine married Richard Bertie.[citation needed]

Charles also had a number of illegitimate children:

  • Sir Charles Brandon, who married Elizabeth Pigot, widow of Sir James Strangways.[26]
  • Frances Brandon, who married firstly William Sandon, and secondly Andrew Bilsby.[26]
  • Mary Brandon, who married Robert Ball of Scottow, Norfolk,[26] the uncle of Temperance Flowerdew and John Pory.

Fictional portrayalsEdit


  1. ^ Brandon's mother Elizabeth was a granddaughter of Sir Maurice Bruyn (d. 8 November 1466),[2] and[3] by Elizabeth Darcy (died c.1471),[3] daughter of Sir Robert Darcy of Maldon, Essex. Before her marriage to Sir William Brandon, Elizabeth (née Bruyn) had been the wife of Thomas Tyrrell (died c. 13 October 1473), esquire, son of Sir Thomas Tyrrell of Heron and Anne Marney.[4] After Sir William Brandon's death at Bosworth, Elizabeth (née Bruyn) married William Mallory, esquire.[5][3][6] Brandon had a brother, William, and two sisters, Anne, who married firstly Sir John Shilston, and secondly Sir Gawain Carew, and Elizabeth.[7][5][2][8]
  1. ^ Gunn 2004.
  2. ^ a b c Richardson II 2011, pp. 359–60.
  3. ^ a b c Richardson II 2011, p. 360.
  4. ^ Richardson I 2011, p. 14.
  5. ^ a b c d Richardson I 2011, p. 298.
  6. ^ Burke 1834, p. 205.
  7. ^ Gunn states that Elizabeth Brandon was Sir William Brandon's daughter by an unknown mistress, and that she married Nicholas Arrowsmith.
  8. ^ Gunn 1988, p. 46.
  9. ^ a b Chisholm 1911, p. 25.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Chisholm 1911, p. 26.
  11. ^ Gunn 2015, p. Ixix,xxv.
  12. ^ "Survey of London: vol. 25, St George's Fields: The parishes of St. George the Martyr Southwark and St. Mary Newington, Suffolk Place and the Mint, (1955), pp. 22-25". Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  13. ^ "Charles Brandon & Princess Mary Tudor - Biography & Facts". English History. 31 January 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  14. ^ Weir, Alison. Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy p. 152 London: Random House, 2011
  15. ^ Yonge, Charlotte Mary. The War of the Roses, p. 335 London: Macmillan and Company, 1877
  16. ^ "Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Vol. 6, 1069, Sept. 1533". Retrieved 16 September 2013. In a letter to Emperor Charles V, the Imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys wrote: 'On Sunday next the duke of Suffolk will be married to the daughter of a Spanish lady named lady Willoughby. She was promised to his son, but he is only ten years old...'
  17. ^ "...Lincoln was sickly [...] and Charles did not wish to gamble on his son's survival and risk losing Catherine's lands. So he married her himself." In: "Starkey, David (Hg): Rivals in Power: Lives and Letters of the Great Tudor Dynasties. Macmillan, London 1990, p. 178
  18. ^ "Site of Hoxne Hall". Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  19. ^ a b Cokayne 1953, p. 458.
  20. ^ The Picards or Pychards of Stradewy (now Tretower) Castle, and Scethrog, Brecknockshire, (London: Golding and Lawrence, 1878), p. 62 Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  21. ^ 'Parishes: Martley with Hillhampton', A History of the County of Worcester: volume 4 (1924), pp. 289-297 Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  22. ^ Richardson II 2011, p. 455.
  23. ^ Cokayne states that Anne Browne was the daughter of Sir Anthony Browne by his second wife, Lucy Neville; Cokayne 1953, p. 459.
  24. ^ "Family Search: Community Trees. British Isles. Peerage, Baronetage, and Landed Gentry families with extended lineage, Robert Ughtred, Lord Ughtred". Archived from the original on 25 September 2013. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  25. ^ Richardson II 2011, pp. 225–6, 340.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Gunn 1988, p. 94.
  27. ^ "BBC Two - Wolf Hall, Who are the royal subjects? - the Duke of Suffolk (Richard Dillane)".


Further readingEdit

Political offices
Preceded by Earl Marshal
Succeeded by
New office Lord President of the Council
Succeeded by
Preceded by Lord Steward
Legal offices
Preceded by Justice in Eyre
South of the Trent

Succeeded by
Peerage of England
New creation Duke of Suffolk
2nd creation
Succeeded by