The marriage of Charles Brandon and Katherine Willoughby

On the 7th September 1533 just three months after the death of his third wife, Mary Tudor, sister of King Henry VIII, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk married his fourth wife, Katherine Willoughby.

There has been some debate over Brandon’s actions in such a rushed marriage. In March 1528 Brandon bought the wardship of Katherine Willoughby, daughter and heiress of the late Lord Willoughby de Eresby who has died in October 1526 from the King for a staggering £2,266 13s 4d.

Originally his intent was to have Katherine marry his son Henry who at the time was only eleven years of age. Brandon however needed cash and quickly and he could not afford to wait until his son became of age so he could be married to Katherine. In addition to this with his son’s marriage Brandon would not have acquired the properties and financial benefits that were left to Katherine from her father. Instead these would have gone to his son and Brandon was ever the opportunist and in desperate need for money.

At the time of the marriage Brandon was forty nine and Katherine a mere fourteen. Looking back with a modern prospective Brandon was old enough to be Katherine’s father and this can be quite horrifying, but for the age it was not completely unusual for an older man to marry quite a younger woman. However it is said that there were still some mutterings surrounding Brandon’s actions, and people were well aware of the real reasons as to why Brandon married Katherine Willoughby.

We have no knowledge regarding Katherine’s thoughts and feelings towards her marriage to Brandon. She had been raised to seek out a good and prosperous marriage and by marrying a Duke she would become a Duchess and in turn become one of the most prominent women in England at the time. Despite the vast age gap between the pair there seems to be a close relationship of some sorts as Katherine would go on to give Brandon two sons in a short period of time.

Charles Brandon and Katherine Willoughby (Images from Wikipedia).


Baldwin, D 2015, Henry VIII’s Last Love The Extraordinary Life of Katherine

Willoughby, Lady-in-Waiting to the Tudors, Amberley Publishing, Gloucestershire.


Franklin-Harkrider, M 2008, Women, Reform and Community in Early Modern England: Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, and Lincolnshire’s Godly Aristocracy, 1519-1580, The Boydell Press, Woodbridge.


Gunn, S 2015, Charles Brandon, Amberley Publishing, Gloucestershire, UK.

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.

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