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>


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