On the 22nd April 1515 Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk wrote a desperate letter to Henry VIII pledging his loyalty and service after his secret marriage to Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor. Brandon believed that the English Council was out to destroy him and metaphorically throws himself at Henry’s feet promising to endure any punishment that the king wished of him.

‘Most gracious Sovereign Lord, So it is that I am informed divers ways that all your whole council, my Lord of York excepted, with many other, are clearly determined to tympe your grace that I may either be put to death or put in prison, and so to be destroyed. Alas, Sir, I may say that I have a hard fortune, seeing that there was never none of them in trouble but I was glad to help them to my power, and that your grace knows best. And now that I am in this none little trouble and sorrow, now they are ready to help to destroy me. But, Sir, I can no more but God forgive them whatsoever comes to me; for I am determined. For, Sir, your grace is he that is my sovereign lord and master, and he that hath brought me up out of nought; and I am your subject and servant, and he that hath offended your grace in breaking my promise that I made your grace touching the queen your sister; for the which I, with most humble heart, will yield myself into your grace’s hands to do with my poor body your gracious pleasure, not fearing the malice of them; for I know your grace of such nature that it cannot lie in their powers to cause you to destroy me for their malice. But what punishment I have I shall thank God and your grace of it, and think that I have well deserved it, both to God and your grace; as knows our Lord, who send your grace your most honourable heart’s desire with long life, and me most sorrowful wretch your gracious favour, what sorrows soever I endure therefor. At Mottryll, the 22nd day of April, by your most humble subject and servant, CHARLES SUFFOLKE.’

Brandon had not have worried, the couple returned home ten days later landing at Dover on the 2nd of May. They were met by Henry VIII and a great retinue at nearby Birling House. The King warmly greeted the couple and accepted his younger sister’s explanation that it was her that was responsible for the marriage and not Brandon. Charles Brandon and Mary were married for a third time at Greenwich on the 13th of May in front of Henry VIII and Queen Katherine of Aragon, firmly back in the King’s favour.

Master of the Brandon Portrait

Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk


10 Facts about Mary Boleyn

1) Mary was the first child born to Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard. Thomas Boleyn, born in possibly 1466/1467 was a prominent member of King Henry VII’s court. Elizabeth Howard was the younger sister of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard married in approximately 1499 and according to Thomas Elizabeth brought him a child every year. It is believed that Mary was the oldest of these children born in 1500 at Blickling Hall, the family residence at the time.

2) Mary’s education ensured that she could read and write and it is presumed that she would have also been taught the skills needed of a lady at the time including sewing, embroidery, singing and dancing. We know that during New Year’s 1533 Mary gave the King a gift of a blackwork collar that she had made herself. She must therefore have had quite some skill at sewing. She may also have learned how to play the virginal and lute, taught appropriate table manners and raised in the Catholic faith.

3) In 1514 Mary was appointed as a Maid of Honour to Mary Tudor, younger sister of Henry VIII and travelled to France with the young Princess. Mary travelled with the Princess from Dover to France as part of Mary’s entourage and was most likely present when the English Princess married King Louis XII. It is believed that it was her father’s influence at court which helped Mary gain her position as part of Mary Tudor’s entourage.

4) On February 4th 1520, in the Chapel Royal at Greenwich, Mary Boleyn married Sir William Carey. William Carey was a handsome young man who had become a gentleman of the privy chamber and was also a distant relative of Henry VII. The King attended the wedding and gave the couple 6s and 8d as a wedding present.

William Cary

Sir William Carey

5) Mary was the mother of two children. Her first child, Catherine Carey was born in 1524 and her second child, a son was born in 1525. There is great debate over who was the father of Mary’s children as during the period of 1522 – 1525 Mary was the mistress of King Henry VIII as well as being married. There are strong arguments for Catherine and Henry being the illegitimate children of Henry VIII as well as reasons why they were not. Unfortunately without DNA testing we will never know who really was the father/s of Mary’s children. In 1533 it was reported by the Spanish Ambassador Eustace Chapuys that Mary was pregnant but there is no record of the birth of this child, or if it was born that it survived infancy.

6) Mary became the mistress of King Henry VIII in approximately 1522. During the Shrovetide Joust of 1522 Henry VIII rode out wearing on his horse the motto “elle mon Coeur a navera” which means “she has wounded my heart”. It has been suggested that this statement was referring to Mary Boleyn and gives us an approximate date as to when the affair began. The affair was conducted in secret and with great discretion and probably fizzled out on its own sometime around 1525 when Mary was pregnant with her second child.

7) Mary’s husband William Carey died of the sweating sickness on June 22nd 1528. Mary was left a widow with two young children to care for and little means to support herself without the income of her husband. The sweating sickness has first struck in the 15th century and appeared on and off, one of the worst times being in 1528. The symptoms appeared to be something like influenza or phenomena, with the patient having pains and aches all over the body, headaches, a great thirst and also breaking out in a horrible sweat. Many people that caught the sweat were death within twenty four hours. It is unknown where William Carey was buried.

8) Sometime during 1533/1534 Mary Boleyn left court and while she was away married a man named William Stafford. Stafford was a soldier in the garrison at Calais and later a gentleman usher to King Henry VIII. He was distantly related to Edward Stafford, the 3rd Duke of Buckingham whom had been beheaded for treason in 1521. By marrying William Stafford Mary Boleyn had caused quite a scandal! She had taken a husband without the knowledge or consent of her family, without seeking permission from her father or her sister whom was now Queen of England. In addition to this Mary had married a man who was far beneath her status and to further inflame her family she was pregnant by her new husband.

9) Due to her marriage to William Stafford and for not seeking permission from her father or sister, Queen Anne Boleyn, Mary and her new husband were banished from court. On the 19th of December 1534 Eustace Chapuys, Ambassador for Charles V wrote to his master stating: “The Lady’s sister [Mary] was also banished from Court three months ago, but it was necessary to do so, for besides that she had been found guilty of misconduct, it would not have been becoming to see her at court enceinte [pregnant].” (Wilkinson 2010, p. 148).

10) Little is known about the details surrounding Mary Boleyn’s death and not even the reason for her death is known. What is known is that she died in July 1543 (on either 19th July or 30th July) aged approximately forty three. She outlived her more famous brother and sister by seven years.


Mary Boleyn

Grimsthorpe Castle

Grimsthorpe Castle is located in Lincolnshire and was first thought to be built in the 13th century by Gilbert de Grant. However de Grant died in 1156 therefore the origins of the castle are much older and most likely date to around 1140. While called Grimsthorpe Castle the building is actually more of a large manor house than an actual castle. De Grant’s original building consisted of a square shape building built around a large courtyard with four varying size towers located on each corner of the building. The south east tower of the Castle is known as ‘King John’s Tower’ and this name may have led to the confusion that the castle was built during the reign of King John rather than a century earlier.

Upon Gilbert de Grant’s death much of his lands and estates went to Henry, 1st Lord Beaumont. Beaumont served Kings Edward I and II. Henry, 5th Lord Beaumont married Elizabeth Willoughby, daughter of William, 5th Bardon Willoughby de Eresby. Their grandson was William Willoughby, the 11th Baron Willoughby de Eresby who on the 5th of June 1516 married Maria de Salinas, maid of honour to Queen Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife. William was granted Grimsthorpe Castle by Henry VIII to celebrate the marriage.

William Willoughby died in October 1526 with only one living child, a daughter named Katherine. Katherine not only inherited her father’s title but also his vast estates and lands in Lincolnshire including Grimsthorpe Castle.

In March 1528 Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk bought the wardship of Katherine Willoughby from the King for a staggering £2,266 13s 4d. Brandon then married Katherine on 7th September 1533. With the marriage Brandon came into possession of Grimsthorpe Castle.

With the major rebellion in 1536 known as the Pilgrimage of Grace Henry VIII wanted to ensure that there was no further uprising in Lincolnshire. Sometime before May 26th the King ordered that Brandon permanently position himself within Lincolnshire to make the King’s presence known and to oversee the happenings in the county.

 Brandon used Grimsthorpe and set it up as his main residence in Lincolnshire. The Castle was built on a rise which affords a magnificent view of the surrounding area. Brandon began extensive work upon the Castle over the next few years creating a magnificent quadrangle building with a centre courtyard. The castle is made of warm grey stone and slate roofing. Also located by the castle was a large park perfect for hunting, one of Brandon’s favourite pass times. In 1541 Henry VIII honoured Brandon with a royal visit at Grimsthorpe Castle and the Duke spent the previous eighteen months frantically upgrading and extending the Castle using much of the materials of the dissolved Vaudey Abbey which was located nearby.

After Charles Brandon’s death on the 22nd of August 1545 Katherine married Richard Bertie, her gentleman usher. They had two children, a daughter name Susan and a son named Peregine. After Katherine’s death the Willoughby title and the castle of Grinsthorpe passed to her son. Grimsthorpe Castle has been in the hands of the Baron/Baronesses Willoughby de Ersey ever since.

By 1707 the north front of Grimsthorpe has been rebuilt in the classic style however in 1715 Robert Bertie, 16th Baron Willoughby de Eresby employed Sir John Vanbrugh to rebuilt the front of Grimsthorpe in the baroque style to celebrate Bertie’s elevation to the title of Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven. The front of Grimsthorpe was subsequently redesigned and there were plans to complete the other three facings of the castle in the same style however these were never carried out.

The south façade of the castle remains similar to that which Charles Brandon extended during his time at Grimsthorpe and which he would have been familiar with. The south west tower of Grimsthorpe Castle is known as the ‘Brandon Tower’.

Grimsthorpe Castle



Chilvers, A 2010, The Berties of Grimsthorpe Castle, Author House, Bloomington Indiana.

The Grimsthorpe & Drummond Castle Trust 2015, Grimsthorpe Castle, viewed 26th July 2015, <http://www.grimsthorpe.co.uk/&gt;.


Henry and Charles Brandon

On the 7th of September 1533 Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk married his fourth wife, fourteen year old Katherine Willoughby. Two years later on the 18th September 1535 Katherine gave birth to the couple’s first child, a boy named Henry after the King. Shortly afterward little Henry was Christened. Henry VIII stood as one of the godfathers and gave the midwife and nurse £4 for their efforts.

Much to Brandon’s joy Katherine, gave birth to a second son named Charles sometime in 1537, where this son was born and when has not been recorded.

Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk died on the 22nd of August 1545. He left behind his wife Katherine, three daughters (from his previous marriages to Anne Browne and Mary Tudor), and his two sons Henry and Charles Brandon, aged ten and eight years respectively.

Upon Brandon’s death the majority of his estates and wealth would go to his oldest son and heir, Henry, when the boy reached his majority. Young Henry’s wardship and the right to organise his marriage was granted to his mother Katherine Willoughby in May 1546 for the sum of £1500 (which was to be paid off in seven instalments).

Until he reached his majority Henry Brandon was sent to be educated with Prince Edward, Henry VIII’s son and heir. He was taught by Richard Coxe, John Cheke, and Roger Ascham.  In January 1547 upon Henry VIII’s death Edward succeeded his father and became King Edward VI. During the young King’s Coronation both Henry and Charles Brandon were knighted and Henry Brandon had the great honour of carrying the King’s orb.

Henry Brandon

Miniature of Henry Brandon by Hans Holbein the Younger, age 6 years, 1541.

(The size of the miniature is only 5.6cm!)

After Edward VI’s Coronation, Henry Brandon continued to remain in the new King’s household. He participated in various courtly events including revelling with the King in March 1547, running at the ring in May 1550, and dressing up as a nun in a masque in June of the same year.

In 1549 Henry Brandon went to France for a brief period of time as a hostage to fulfil the treaty of Boulogne. In essence the treaty granted France the return of the city of Boulogne and France in return had to pay 400 000 crowns and withdraw their troops from Scotland. In France young Henry impressed the French nobility with his ability to ride while wearing armour and also his skills in Latin. Upon his return to England Henry returned to Edward’s household until the autumn of 1549 where he began his education. Katherine Willoughby decided that both of her children should attend St Johns College, Cambridge and thus Henry Brandon and his younger brother Charles started their education at fourteen and twelve years respectively.

At St John’s College both boys would have participated in a strict and gruelling regime of education which saw them wake up at around four or five in the morning before they attended church. Afterward they would start their studies which lasted twelve hours a day with little time for leisure or entertainment. After their studies they had a simple dinner and went to bed.

In the summer of 1551 another case of the dreaded Sweating Sickness broke out in Cambridge. The sweating sickness had first struck in the 15th century and appeared on and off between 1485 and 1551. The symptoms appeared to be something like influenza or phenomena, with the patient having pains and aches all over the body, headaches, and a great thirst and also breaking out in a horrible sweat. Many people that caught the sweat were dead within twenty four hours.

Hearing of the outbreak Katherine ordered that her sons and their cousin George Stanley move to Kingston, several miles from St John’s. However George Stanley soon died and both Brandon boys were moved to the Bishop of Lincoln’s Palace at Buckden. Tragically on the 14th of July 1551 both Henry and Charles would die of the Sweating Sickness within a half an hour of one another, aged 15 and 13. They were buried together at Buckden.

Charles Brandon Jr

Miniature of Charles Brandon by Hans Holbein the Younger, age 4 years, 1541.

(The size of the miniature is only 5.5cm!)


Baldwin, David 2015, Henry VIII’s Last Love The Extraordinary Life of Katherine  Willoughby, Lady-in-Waiting to the Tudors, Amberley Publishing, Gloucestershire.

 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.

Sadlack, Erin 2001, The French Queen’s Letters, Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Loades, David 2012, Mary Rose, Amberley, Gloucestershire.

Medine, Peter, 2010, Art of Rhetoric: (1560) Thomas Wilson, Penn State Press, USA.

Trueman C 2008, Foreign Policy 1549 to 1553, viewed 14 July 2017, < http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/tudor-england/foreign-policy-1549-to-1553/&gt>


The Amicable Grant of 1525

England had previously been at war with France in 1523 and war against the old enemy was once again proposed in early 1525. In February of that year the French troops had suffered a devastating loss against the Imperial troops of Charles V outside of Pravia. To make matters even worse for the French their King, Francis I had been captured in the battle and was now a prisoner of Charles V. When the messenger brought the news of Francis I capture to Henry VIII the King is reported to have likened to the Archangel Gabriel such was his happiness and excitement at hearing the news. Henry VIII ever the opportunist saw another chance at military glory and quickly proposed war against France. The English King believed that the idea to go to war had been blessed by God and unlike two years previously he had visions of reclaiming French throne for England.

However much the King desired to go to war his coffers were greatly reduced due to the war England had undertaken against France only two years previously. Naturally money, and a lot of it, was needed to fund a war and it was needed quickly. Thomas Wolsey proposed an ‘Amicable Grant’ hoping to gain an estimated £800,000 for the proposed war. However this ‘Amicable Grant’ was not passed through Parliament, rather it was proposed as a means for people to give monetary ‘gifts’ to fund the King’s war. Of course people did not have a say if they wished to donate to the King’s war fund, rather the grant was proposed as a nice way of demanding coin, hence the title.

Clergy were ordered to pay a third of their income if it was more than £10 a year or a quarter if it was less. Laity (essentially everyone else who were not in the service of the church) were required to pay 3s 4d in the dollar if they earned over £50 a year, those earning between £20 and £50 a year were required to pay 2s 8d per dollar and those earning less than £20 a year had to pay 1s per dollar. Naturally the everyday person was not impressed. These so called offers to the King to fund his war were nothing of the sort. Instead they were demands upon people who more often than not struggled to make ends meet. In addition to this in 1522 – 1523 a huge loan of £250,000 had been forced upon the people and was as of yet had not been paid back.

Discontent quickly spread through the country. People claimed that they could not afford to pay the tax and that it was unconstitutional as it had not been approved by parliament while the clergy protested as they had not agreed to such a tax in convocation. Soon there were widespread rumblings in Essex, Kent, Norfolk, Warwickshire and Huntingdonshire. However the greatest protests were in Lavernham where around 4000 people gathered to protest against the grant. The King quickly sent The Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk to try and deal with the protesters who greatly outnumbered their own army. While the Duke of Suffolk waited for the Duke of Norfolk and his men to arrive he began to burn bridges in an attempt to stop the rebels, he also informed Wolsey that his troops would defend him against all perils but he doubted that they would fight against their own countrymen. Luckily the rebels did not put up a great deal of resistance. Several leaders of the so called rebellion returned with the Dukes of Suffolk Norfolk to London and were quickly put in the Fleet Prison.

Henry VIII ever conscious of the opinion of his people quickly turned face. Organising a council meeting the King stated that “that his mynd was neuer, to aske any thyng of his commons, whiche might sounde to his dishonor, or to the breche of his lawes.” Weather in an act of clemency or the realisation that it was not possible to gather such funds from the people and with the threat of rebellion on their hands, the Amicable Grant was quickly dropped. The King claimed that he knew nothing about the grant and that he had not authorised it. A general pardon was granted for the rebels and those held in the Fleet Prison were released. In the end Thomas Wolsey took the blame for the whole affair and the idea of going to war with France was dropped.

Thomas Wolsey

Thomas Wolsey


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