Ten Things to Know About Charles Brandon ~ A guest post by Sarah Bryson

Master of the Brandon Portrait (Day 5)

I’m delighted to welcome Sarah Bryson to The Freelance History Writer blog to share an article.

Ten Things to Know About Charles Brandon

Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk was a fascinating man. Coming from relatively humble beginnings thanks to the early guidance of his Uncle Thomas and his own wits and skills, Brandon quickly rose through the Tudor court to become one of the most prominent members. He was known to be King Henry VIII’s beloved friend and for eighteen years he was even the King’s brother in law!

In his youth Brandon was one of the most dashing men of his age, some even said that he resembled the King so much that he could have been his bastard half-brother. He was one of the best jousters in Europe and excelled in other physical pursuits. He was also well known to women, notably marrying four times!

Throughout his life, Brandon also had a remarkable military and court career. He fought in a number of battles against the French, even leading the King’s army in 1544, just a year before his death. He was President of the Privy Council and one of the most well-liked men at court. Brandon used his wit and knowledge to further himself at court and to maintain his friendship with Henry VIII, a friendship that lasted until Brandon’s death.

Charles Brandon’s life is full of triumphs and tragedies, rewards and struggles. With a life so rich and complex it is difficult to detail the many accomplishments and events which happened throughout Brandon’s life in one article. Instead, I have picked out ten interesting facts that provide a brief overview of Charles Brandon’s life.

1) Charles Brandon was born to William Brandon and Elizabeth Bruyn sometime during 1484. The exact date is not known nor the location, although it is strongly believed that Brandon was born in France while his parents were in exile there with Henry Tudor.

2) Brandon married his first wife Anne Browne at Stepney church. He later left her after the birth of their first daughter to marry Margaret Neville, Dame Mortimer – a woman almost double his age! On 7 February 1507, Brandon had licence of Dame Margaret’s lands and began to sell them off in quick succession, profiting over £1000. After seeking to have his marriage to Dame Mortimer annulled Brandon returned to Anne Brown and married her in a public ceremony at St Michael Cornhill. The couple had a second daughter before Anne tragically died in 1510.

3) In 1513 Charles Brandon flirted with Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy causing a huge scandal by stealing a ring from her finger! Rumours spread that Brandon and the Duchess would marry which Henry VIII had to strongly deny.

4) On 23rd April 1513 Brandon was elected to the Order of the Garter. The Most Noble Order of the Garter is the oldest and highest British order of chivalry. The Patron Saint of the Order, St George, is the Patron Saint of Soldiers and of England. Members are only elected to the Order on the 23rd of April each year if a position is available.

5) On Candlemas Eve, 1st of February 1514, Charles Brandon, Viscount Lisle was formally invested as the Duke of Suffolk. The ceremony took place at Lambeth and was conducted by the King.

6) On the 1st January Mary Tudor’s husband, King Louis XII of France died after only three months of marriage. Charles Brandon was sent to France to bring Mary home. Before Brandon brought Mary back to England the couple married in secret. By marrying Mary, a Dowager Queen and English Princess, Brandon had committed treason as he had not first sought King Henry VIII’s permission to marry. After much stress and many letters back and forth across the Channel, the newly married couple were forgiven (after being required to return all of Mary’s dowry and pay an annual fine). They returned to Dover on the 2nd of May and are married again on the 13th of May at Greenwich in front of the King and Queen.

Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor (Day 5)

7) On the 7th September 1533, only three months after the death of his third wife Mary Tudor, Charles Brandon married Katherine Willoughby. Brandon was forty-nine and Katherine fourteen!

8) On October 1st 1536 The Pilgrimage of Grace began. Over the coming weeks, it was reported that the rebels had gathered 40 000 men to support their cause. On the 9th of October, the rebels dispatched their petition of grievances to the King. Charles Brandon was chosen by Henry VIII as his lieutenant to keep an eye on the rebels. Brandon arrived in Huntingdon on 9th October at 6am, then on the 15th of October Henry VIII wrote to Brandon again detailing that he should instruct the rebels to surrender their weapons and give all the information they can about how the rebellion started and if they do so they would be dismissed without any further problems. By early 1537 the Pilgrimage was finally subdued and the rebels dispersed.

9) In 1544 Brandon was appointed Lieutenant and Captain General of the army in the war against France. He was tasked with the taking of Boulogne. Over a period of six weeks, he oversaw around 100,000 gun stones fired into the town. In addition to this tunnels and trenches were dug in order to assault the outer layers of the city. Boulogne finally surrendered on the 14th September 1544 at 10 am and a treaty was organised between Brandon and Messire Jacques de Coucy, seigneur de Vervins, the Captain of Boulogne. Brandon rode into Boulogne on the 14th to signal the surrender of the city.

10) On August 22nd 1545 at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, Charles Brandon died at Guildford. He wished to be buried in the college church of Tattershall in Lincoln without any pomp or display. However on Henry VIII’s orders, on the 9th of September, Brandon was buried at St George’s Chapel in Windsor near the south door of the choir at the King’s expense.


Sarah Bryson is a researcher, writer and educator who has a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education with Honours. She currently works with children with disabilities. She is passionate about Tudor history and has a deep interest in Mary Boleyn, Charles Brandon, the reign of Henry VIII and the people of his court. Sarah’s visit to England in 2009 furthered her passion and when she returned home she started a website, Sarah Bryson – Author, and her Facebook page La Reine Blanche about Tudor history. Sarah lives in Australia, enjoys reading, writing and Tudor costume enactment.

Hutchinson, Robert 2011, Young Henry The Rise of Henry VIII, Orion Books, London.
Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, 1509-47, ed. J.S Brewer, James Gairdner and R.H Brodie, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1862-1932.
Lipscomb, Suzannah 2009, 1536 The Year that Changed Henry VIII, Lion Hudson plc, Oxford.
Loades, David 2012, Mary Rose, Amberley, Gloucestershire.
Richardson, Douglas 2011, Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study In Colonial And Medieval Families, 2nd Edition, CreateSpace, USA.
Sadlack, Erin 2001, The French Queen’s Letters, Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
Wilson, Derek 2009, A Brief History of Henry VIII, Constable and Robinson Ltd., London.

43 thoughts on “Ten Things to Know About Charles Brandon ~ A guest post by Sarah Bryson

  1. […] Daughter Margaret, born on November of 1489, would marry James IV, King of Scots. The next child would be the infamous Henry VIII, born in June of 1491. A daughter Elizabeth would live just over three years and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Mary, born in 1496, married King Louis XII of France. She was Queen of France for three months and once widowed, married the love of her life, her brother Henry’s best friend Charles Brandon. […]


  2. Charles Brandon is a very interesting character and I enjoyed the brief synopsis of his life. It’s amazing what he got away with, although it was clear he was very competent and useful to Henry VIII. How though was he able to leave his first wife Anne Browne – was the marriage questionable? And on what grounds was he able to get his second marriage to Margaret Neville annulled? Thank you for writing about this person.


  3. This book sounds very interesting. I don’t really know anything much about Charles Brandon than what we are told. It seems like this book really dives into his character and background. I’d love to more about his childhood and up bringing. I’d also love to know how he maintained such a great friendship to Henry VIII and managed to stay loyal throughout the years and events of Henry’s reign. I’m very much looking forward to reading this book!


  4. I always loved that picture of Mary and Charles. Where is it located? What happened to the first two daughters of Charles Brandon? Was the ring, that he stole, returned to Margaret of Austria?


    • His daughter Frances from Mary Tudor married Henry Grey (Duke of Suffolk). Her daughter was Jane Grey who became Queen of England for 9 days until Queen Mary 1st took the throne and had her executed by beheading.


  5. An interesting book filling in more detail about life under Henry VIII and how one persons fortune prospered and waned – would love to read in its entirety


  6. I am intrigued by this article of the Tudor era. Of all the things I have read about Henry the VIII I never read anything good about him. This article shows he was capable of a lasting friendship with Charles Brandon and with the death of Brandon he wanted to honor and keep him close with his burial at the south door of the church. It will be a learning and good read.


  7. After reading the ten things about Charles Brandon, I found him to be an overly-ambitious, opportunist, adventurous womanizer. Actually I find him similar to the same cut of cloth as his pal Henry. It would be intriguing to know how Ms Bryson viewed his character.


    • I am a blood relative to Charles Brandon we ran our family history all the way back to Charles and Mary hoping some day to go see it all and get more answers to William we are stumped to who his parents were. Very interested in my family history.


  8. After reading the ten things about Charles Brandon, I found him to be an overly-ambitious, opportunist, adventurous womanizer. Actually he is similar to the same cut of cloth as his pal Henry. I would find it intriguing to know how Ms Bryson viewed his character.


  9. Fortune seems to have come and gone for him. He plundered his second wife before returning to his first then he gained his third wife’s fortune and had to surrender it to keep his head. How was he rewarded for his services to the king and what state of wealth did he leave his family in upon his death? Did any of his fortune survive the later upheavals to support his children and later descendants?


  10. Thank you Susan. As always, you keep us all well informed with the details of our common interest. I would like to know more about Anne Browne and her marriage to Brandon.


  11. Ah, yes, Richard Todd & Glynis Johns in “The Sword & the Rose”! How much of that was true, I’d like to know.


  12. Such an interesting taster! I’d love to find out more about Charles position in Court and his relationship with the King.


  13. I’d love to know more about the early years of Charles’s life. Which household was he attached to, and how did he come to the King’s attention? Were they childhood friends? I too am a lover of most things Tudor.


  14. I would really love to know how he managed to stay in Henry VIII’s good graces for so long. A remarkable accomplishment, IMO. Thanks for the chance to read more about him.


  15. This article has certainly piqued my interest in this fascinating man. It seems that, apart from being a womaniser, he was adept in military and diplomatic matters. Where did he get such understanding? In particular, where did he gain his military knowledge, training and insights?


  16. Very interesting article!
    I’m really curious how Brandon was able to keep the king’s fridndship during his life. Other people did less and were killed… like who else dared to marry the king’s beloved sister without his permission? Brandon and Henry VIII seem to me like brothers and very good and close friends.
    I really want to read more about them.
    Thanks for the chance to win this book! 🙂


    • Charles Brandon’s father William was standard bearer for Henry VII and was killed at Bosworth Field by Richard III who was aiming to slay Henry. So Henry VIII owed the Brandons.

      There’s a later, less happy but no less fascinating, family involvement with Mary I and Elizabeth I.


      • I know all you wrote.
        But just think… Brandon was able to keep the king’s fridndship for decades. And we speak about a spoiled king of moods.

        Liked by 1 person

      • True, though it would have been nicer of Henry to drop the “King must approve all marriages” baloney, which, like the “buy back your own inheritance” lurk, is frankly just another indefensible revenue raiser by profligate monarchs.


  17. I would like to learn more about Charles Brandon. The Tudor era is one of my favorite areas of Medieval History. Interesting article.


  18. Charles Brandon sounds like a fascinating man. I would LOVE to win a copy of Sarah’s book. I have a fascination with all things Tudor, and would certainly enjoy learning everything there is to know about the Duke of Suffolk.


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