Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk

The name of Charles Brandon [1484-1545] is usually associated with his friend King Henry VIII, who became his brother in law and his third wife Mary Rose Tudor [1496-1533] who was the dowager Queen of France.

Charles Brandon was the son of Sir William Brandon [1456-1485] the standard bearer to Henry Tudor and his wife Elizabeth Bruyn [d.1494]. Sir William died at the Battle of Bosworth and his widow was later married to William Mallory. William had a property in Soham, Cambridgeshire and his father Sir William Brandon [1425-1491] of Wangford, Suffolk was knight marshal who was married to Elizabeth Wingfield [d.1497].

Charles was married to Margaret Neville and Anne Browne before he was secretly married in 1515 to Mary Rose Tudor, the dowager Queen of France who had been married to Louis XII of France [1462-1515]. In 1514 Charles had been created Duke of Suffolk and obtained lands which had belonged to the De La Pole and Wingfield families. Charles was a soldier and diplomat and fought in a number of French campaigns.

Charles had a number of properties including Suffolk Place in Borough High Street, London, but his main seat was at Westhorpe Hall in Suffolk. He also seems to have had an interest in Henham Hall near to Wangford, Suffolk, Wingfield Castle, Eye Priory and Leiston Priory, Suffolk. In 1536 Charles leased the Hoxne Hall Estate from Henry VIII until 1539 when the Southwell family took over the lease, until they purchased the manorial estate at Hoxne in 1543.

Monastic properties were being leased, exchanged and purchased during the dissolution of the monasteries [1536-1541] which had been implemented by King Henry VIII who took control of the Church of England and its properties.

We do not know how important the Hoxne Hall Estate was to Charles Brandon and what changes he made if any. We know that Charles had an administrative building at Eye, next to the site of Eye Priory. In 1536 Charles was appointed the kings lieutenant to disperse and supress the rioters in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire who were revolting as a result of the dissolution of the monasteries.

Charles obtained Westhorpe Hall in 1515 from the Crown and set about building a suitable residence for himself and his wife Mary Rose Tudor, the favourite sister of Henry VIII. Charles and Mary were the parents of Henry who died young, Frances [b.1517], Eleanor [b.1519] and Henry [b.1523]. Charles always seemed to be in financial difficulties although Mary brought in monies from properties she owned in England and her properties and interests in France.

In June 1533 Mary died aged 37 after suffering from several bouts of illness and having recovered from a sweating illness. She lay in state at Westhorpe Hall until her burial at the Abbey of St Edmundsbury, but her husband and brother did not attend the funeral. Her body had to be moved in 1538 to St Mary’s Church in Bury St Edmund’s as the Abbey of St Edmund was being dissolved.

After Mary’s death Charles quickly remarried the heiress Catherine Willoughby [1519-1580] as he needed finances to pay off his depts and help to maintain his households. Westhorpe Hall was sold to the Crown and he also sold Eye and Leiston. Charles died in 1545 on the 22nd August and was buried at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

Article provided by Stephen Govier.