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Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk

Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk (1483/4 - August 22, 1545) was a close companion of Henry VIII of England, and married the king's sister.

The Brandons were modest landowners in East Anglia. Charles' father William was Henry VII's standard-bearer at the Battle of Bosworth Field, and was killed at his master's side in the final confrontation of that battle with Richard III. A few years later William Brandon's young son Charles was taken into the royal household, as a companion to the new king's sons Arthur, Prince of Wales and Henry.

In the early years of Henry VIII's reign Brandon was given some important posts, and distinguished himself in the English campaign in France of 1513. The next year he was created Duke of Suffolk and given many of the estates that had belonged to the earlier de la Pole dukes. At that time England only had two other dukes (Norfolk and Buckingham).

Brandon married four times. He was first engaged to Anne Browne, and then spurned her in favor of her richer aunt, Margaret Neville. That marriage was annulled due to the earlier engagement, and he and Anne were then married. Anne died in 1512. Early in 1515 Brandon secretly married the king's younger sister Mary. The pair had known each other since childhood, and in fact had wanted to marry earlier, but for reasons of state Mary was obligated to marry Louis XII of France. When Louis died after a few months, Charles and Mary seized the opportunity before king Henry had a chance to marry her off again to some prince.

The marriage angered Henry, and might have been fatal, but in the end Henry forgave them, and Brandon remained in royal favor. Brandon served on the commission that convicted Anne Boleyn, and was one of the godfathers of Edward VI.

By Mary Tudor, Brandon had three children: Henry, Earl of Lincoln (1516 - 1534), Frances (1517 - 1539), and Eleanor (d. 1537). The descendants of the two daughters would figure into the royal succession in the years to come. In particular Frances' daughter, Lady Jane Grey would claim the throne in 1517.

Following Mary's death in 1533, Brandon married Catherine Willoughby, by whom he had two children: Henry (1534 - 1551), Duke of Suffolk, and Charles (1535 - 1551). When Brandon died he was given a great funeral at royal expense. When both his heirs died (at the same time), the dukedom became extinct, but was soon re-created for Frances' husband Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset.


Lady Jane Grey and the House of Suffolk by Alison Plowden, ISBN 0531150003

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