Spotlight – Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk

Name: Charles Brandon

Title/s: Duke of Suffolk / Viscount Lisle / Lord President of the Council / Knight of the Garter

Birth / Death: c.1484 – 22 August 1545

Spouse: Margaret Neville 1466-? (annulled 1507) / Anne Browne ?-1511 / Mary Tudor Queen Dowager of France 1496-1533 / Catherine Willoughby 12th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby 1520-1580

Children: Anne Grey, Baroness Grey 1507-1557 / Mary Stanley, Baroness Monteagle 1510-c.1542 (by Anne Browne) / Henry Brandon 1516-1522 / Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset 1517-1559 / Eleanor Clifford, Countess of Cumberland 1519-1547 / Henry Brandon, 1st Earl of Lincoln c.1523-1534 (by Mary Tudor) / Henry Brandon, 2nd Duke of Suffolk 1535-1551 / Charles Brandon, 3rd Duke of Suffolk 1537-1551 (by Catherine Willoughby)

Parents: Sir William Brandon ?-1485 & Elizabeth Bruyn ?-1494

Siblings: William Brandon / Anne Carew / Elizabeth Brandon

Noble Connections: Brandon is best-known for being the best friend of King Henry VIII. He seems to have been the only person to whom Henry was close for his whole life. Brandon married Henry VIII’s sister, the Dowager Queen of France and, together, they were grandparents to Lady Jane Grey, the nine day’s queen.

Events of their Lifetime: Death of Henry VII and accession of Henry VIII 1509 / Battle of the Spurs and Battle of Flodden Field 1513 / Field of the Cloth of Gold 1520 / Death of Cardinal Wolsey 1530 / Execution of Anne Boleyn 1536 / Execution of Thomas Cromwell 1540 / Execution of Katherine Howard 1542 / Siege of Boulogne 1544

Controversy: Probably the most controversial aspect of Suffolk’s life was his romantic encounters. His first marriage to Margaret Neville was annulled. He married, in secret, his first wife’s niece just a year later. He was contracted to marry Elizabeth Grey but this was also annulled. He then married in secret Henry VIII’s sister, Mary.

Works of Fiction:

  • Costain Haycraft, Mary, The Reluctant Queen (1962)
  • Major, Charles, When Knighthood was in Flower (1898)
  • Mantel, Hilary, Wolf Hall (2009)
  • Mantel, Hilary, Bring Up the Bodies (2012)
  • Merkle Riley, Judith, The Serpent Garden (1996)
  • Plaidy, Jean, The Lady in the Tower (1986)
  • Plaidy, Jean, The Shadow of the Pomegranate (1962)
  • Plaidy, Jean, Mary Queen of France (1964)

Portrayals on Screen:

  • Brian Blessed, Henry VIII and His Six Wives, 1972, directed by WarisHussain
  • Henry Cavill, The Tudors, 2007-2010, 38 episodes
  • TorstenColijn, A Royal Love, 2016, directed by Anthony Roemermann
  • Richard Dillane, Wolf Hall, 2015, 5 episodes
  • Forest Stanley, When Knighthood was in Flower, 1922, directed by Robert G. Vignola
  • Richard Todd, The Sword and the Rose, 1953, directed by Ken Annakin

Further Reading:

  • Bryson, Sarah, Charles Brandon: the King’s Man (2016)
  • Gunn, Steven, Charles Brandon: Henry VIII’s Closest Friend (2015)
  • Loades, David, Mary Rose: Tudor Princess, Queen of France, the Extraordinary Life of Henry VIII’s Sister (2014)
  • Perry, Maria, Sisters to the King: the Tumultuous Lives of Henry VIII’s Sisters Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France (2002)
  • Read, Evelyn, Catherine Duchess of Suffolk: a Portrait (1962)
  • Watkins, Sarah-Beth, The Tudor Brandons: Mary and Charles Henry VIII’s Nearest and Dearest (2016)


Arms of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk
Arms of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk


Charles Brandon 1st Duke of Suffolk c.1516 by Jan Gossaert
Arms of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk

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