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, <;.


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.

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

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

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Trueman C 2008, Foreign Policy 1549 to 1553, viewed 14 July 2017, <>


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


1525: Amicable Grant 2014, All Kinds of History, viewed 29 November 2015, <;.

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On the 18th March Mary Tudor, daughter of King Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth of York was born.

Before the birth Margaret Beaufort had outlined a strict set of protocols and necessities required for Elizabeth of York’s labour and birth. These protocols covered everything from the number and rank of the women allowed within the chambers, to the number and even the colour of the cushions used by the queen! Approximately one month before the child was due to be born, it was customary for the queen to withdraw from the world. After a church service in which people prayed for the safe delivery of the child, Elizabeth retired to a series of rooms known as the ‘lying-in chamber’. The purpose of these rooms was to recreate a womblike effect, warm, safe and shut off. To do this, thick tapestries depicting happy images so as not to upset or distress the mother and in turn harm the unborn child, were hung on the walls and over the windows. Only a single window was left open to allow in fresh air as it was believed that bright light could bring in evil spirits. Carpets would have been placed over the floor and a fire would have burned constantly.

Elizabeth may have also have had two beds, one in which she could rest and sleep in before the birth and a second in which to give birth. This second bed would have been full of pillows and covered in crimson satin, the colour helping to hide any blood stains. A birthing stool may have also been provided as another means to give birth. The queen would have been accompanied by her female servants; men − including male physicians − were strictly barred from the lying-in chamber. Elizabeth’s mother, Elizabeth Woodville, had supported the queen during her first three pregnancies, but she had died on 8 June 1492, before Mary was born.

During her labour Elizabeth would have trusted in her Catholic faith. It is known that she asked for the Girdle of Our Lady to be brought to her from Westminster Abbey. The girdle would have been laid over Elizabeth’s stomach while she and her ladies prayed for the Virgin Mary to help the queen’s labour pains and to bring about the safe delivery of her child. Elizabeth may have also called on St Margaret, the patron saint of pregnant women and childbirth, to aid her in her labour and the birth.

It is quite probable that Elizabeth of York’s midwife for Mary’s birth would have been Alice Massey, who was also the midwife for her previous pregnancy as well as her last pregnancy (which would take place in 1503). Friar Bartholomew wrote that a midwife….

‘takes the child out of the womb, and ties the navel-string four inches long. She washes away the blood on the child with water, anoints him with salt and honey (or salt and roses, pounded together) to dry him and comfort his limbs and members, and wraps him in clothes. His mouth and gums should be rubbed with a finger dipped in honey to cleanse them, and to stimulate the child to suck.’

A midwife had to be ‘pleasant and merry, of good discourse, strong’ and have a good reputation. The profession of midwifery was not taught at schools, but rather by time and experience. Women would have learnt the trade from other women, and by assisting a midwife attending a woman in labour. Since childbirth was such a dangerous time for both mother and baby, the midwife was also granted by the Church the ability to baptise a baby should it appear that it would not live. Therefore the midwife had to be a good Catholic woman, dedicated to Christ and the Church.

The little girl Elizabeth of York gave birth to was named Mary, possibly after the Virgin Mary as she was born so close to the Tudor New Year, 25 March, known as Lady Day or the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin (the date that Mary was told she was pregnant with Jesus). The date of her birth was recorded by Elizabeth in her psalter. Margaret Beaufort recorded Mary’s birth in her book of hours. Next to 18 March Margaret wrote: ‘Hodie nata Maria tertia filia Henricis VII 1495’, ‘Today was born Mary, the third daughter of Henry VII 1495.’

Mary Tudor Birth Note

Image from the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts

Margaret recorded the date as 1495 because during the early Tudor age, the new calendar year did not start until Lady Day, 25 March, so we would say that she was born in 1496, referring to the modern Gregorian calendar. Henry VII states that Mary was born in 1495 when he wrote to the Duke of Milan on 2 March 1499 rejecting a marriage proposal between Mary and the duke’s son. Mary was only three at the time; having not quite reached her fourth birthday.

Shortly after her birth, Mary would have been christened. It was vitally important that a new-born baby be christened since it was believed that an unchristened soul would forever be stuck in limbo. A baby could be christened a few minutes after birth, or even during the birthing process should the midwife believe that there was a chance it may die and the midwife was able to touch any part of the child, such as the top of its head or a limb.

Although not the last child born to Elizabeth of York and Henry VII, she would be the last child that lived to adulthood.


Beaufort Book of Hours Royal 2 A XVIII f. 29, Calendar page for March with an added date of the birth of princess Mary, daughter of Henry VII, viewed 18 March, < ASP?Size=mid&IllID=33306>.

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Henry VIII’s Jousting Accident of 1524

King Henry VIII held a great love of jousting. As a young teenager Henry had been denied the ability to joust in competitions as he was the sole heir to the throne. His father, Henry VII, feared his son may be injured or even worse killed. Yet when Henry came to the throne in 1509 he was extremely athletic and quickly took to the excitement and chivalry of the joust.

Throughout the early years of his reign Henry VIII participated in many fabulous jousting events one of those being on the 10th of March 1524. However the joust this day would not go as planned for the King and he faced a near disaster of which could have ended his life.

During this joust Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk was set to joust against the King. With one man at each end of the tilt the signal was given to start and both men surged their horses forward. Brandon was wearing a helmet that gave him very little vision and alarmingly the King had forgotten to lower his visor. People cried for Brandon to stop but with limited vision and unable to hear he surged forward and struck the inside of the King’s helmet sending splinters exploding over the Henry VIII’s face.

In his Chronicle Hall recounts the incident in more detail…

“The 10th day of March, the king having a new harness [armour] made of his own design and fashion, such as no armourer before that time had seen, thought to test the same at the tilt and appointed a joust to serve this purpose.

On foot were appointed the Lord Marquis of Dorset and the Earl of Surrey; the King came to one end of the tilt and the Duke of Suffolk to the other. Then a gentleman said to the Duke, “Sir, the King is come to the tilt’s end.” “I see him not,” said the Duke, “on my faith, for my headpiece takes from me my sight.” With these words, God knoweth by what chance, the King had his spear delivered to him by the Lord Marquis, the visor of his headpiece being up and not down nor fastened, so that his face was clean naked. Then the gentleman said to the Duke, “Sir, the King cometh”.

Then the Duke set forward and charged his spear, and the King likewise inadvisedly set off towards the Duke. The people, perceiving the King’s face bare, cried “Hold! Hold!”, but the Duke neither saw nor heard, and whether the King remembered that his visor was up or not few could tell. Alas, what sorrow was it to the people when they saw the splinters of the Duke’s spear strike on the King’s headpiece. For most certainly, the Duke struck the King on the brow, right under the defence of the headpiece, on the very skull cap or basinet piece where unto the barbette is hinged for power and defence, to which skull cap or basinet no armourer takes heed of, for it is evermore covered with the visor, barbet and volant piece, and so that piece is so defended that it forceth of no charge. But when the spear landed on that place, it was great jeopardy of death, in so much that the face was bare, for the Duke’s spear broke all to splinters and pushed the King’s visor or barbet so far back by the counter blow that all the King’s headpiece was full of splinters. The armourers for this matter were much blamed and so was the Lord Marquis for delivering the spear when his face was open, but the King said that no-one was to blame but himself, for he intended to have saved himself and his sight.

The Duke immediately disarmed himself and came to the King, showing him the closeness of his sight, and swore that he would never run against the King again. But if the King had been even a little hurt, the King’s servants would have put the Duke in jeopardy. Then the King called his armourers and put all his pieces together and then took a spear and ran six courses very well, by which all men might perceive that he had no hurt, which was a great joy and comfort to all his subjects there present.”

Naturally Charles Brandon as well as all those that witnessed the impact were alarmed! The impact of being hit in the head at full pace with a lance could have killed the King instantly! Or one or more of the splinters could have embedded into the King’s eyes or even his brain causing a slow and painful death. Luckily Henry VIII was not badly hurt and laid no blame upon Charles Brandon and their friendship remained intact.

Charles Brandon swore that he would never joust against the King again but Henry VIII did not take this vow seriously. Brandon was one of the few men at court that were equal to the King in skill and ability in the joust and Henry VIII wanted an opponent that could offer him a true challenge. Nine months later the pair would joust opposite one another again.

Henry VIII had escaped a near fatal jousting accident… little did he know that twelve years later he would again suffer another, far more serious jousting accident that would affect him deeply for the rest of his life.

King Henry VIII and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk



Hall, Edward 1809, Hall’s chronicle: containing the history of England, during the reign of Henry the Fourth, and the succeeding monarchs, to the end of the reign of Henry the Eighth, in which are particularly described the manners and customs of those periods. Carefully collated with the editions of 1548 and 1550, J. Johnson, London.

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