Henry and Charles Brandon, miniatures by Hans Holbein the Younger
Henry and Charles Brandon, miniatures by Hans Holbein the Younger

On this day in history, 14th July 1551, the fifteen year-old Henry Brandon, 2nd Duke of Suffolk, and his fourteen year-old brother, Charles, 3rd Duke of Suffolk, died of sweating sickness at the home of the Bishop of Lincoln in Buckden, Huntingdonshire. Charles survived his brother by under an hour, becoming 3rd Duke of Suffolk on his brother’s death. When Charles died, the title became extinct.

The boys were the sons of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, and his fourth wife Catherine Willoughby, Baroness Willoughby de Eresby and Duchess of Suffolk. Henry Brandon had carried the orb at Edward VI’s coronation procession in 1547 and both boys had been created Knights of the Bath by the new King. They entered St John’s College, Cambridge, in autumn 1549 and studied with the German theologian Martin Bucer, who became good friends with their mother, who was staying in Kingston, a village just outside Cambridge. When an epidemic of the sweating sickness broke out in Cambridge in July 1551 the boys were moved to Buckden, but it was too late. The Duchess, who had been ill at her own home in Kingston, arrived at Buckden in time to see Charles before he died. She was understandably devastated at the loss of her two sons.

The boys were buried privately at Buckden and then a special requiem mass, known as “A Month’s Mind”, was celebrated on 22nd September 1551. John Strype writes that “it was performed with two standards, two banners, great and large, ten bannerols, with divers coats of arms; two helmets, two swords, two targets crowned, two coats of arms; two crests, and ten dozen of escutcheons crowned; with lamentation that so noble a stock was extinct in them.”

Notes and Sources

  • Read, Evelyn (1963) My Lady Suffolk, p83-84
  • Strype, John Ecclesiastical Memorials Relating Chiefly to Religion, and the Reformation of It, and the Emergencies of the Church of England, Under King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, and Queen Mary I, Volume II, p496

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7 thoughts on “14 July 1551 – Deaths of Henry Brandon and Charles Brandon”
  1. Those poor young lads, considered young men in those days I suppose. they had managed to survive childhood when infant mortality was high, to be struck down by this terrible illness.
    How utterly bereft their mother must have been. I don’t know how parents coped with the death of so many of their children in those times. I know it can be said they became ‘used’ to it, but did they ever really become used to it, its hard to say…but it still happens in the poverty stricken parts of the world today. We are so lucky.

    This ‘Sweating Sickness’ is it still undecided what it actually was?
    Some say a highly virulent ‘flu type infection, others H.P.S (Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome) contracted from rat/mouse droppings, or tick and lice bites.

    The little I have read on the disease as it was the rich that seemed to be the worst effect, if it was though bites, logically thinking, I would have thought it would have been the poor who succumbed the most. It appears that there was no evidence of bites on those that caught it as there was with the Plague.

    Don’t know if this is true, but I have read that if you survived the Plague, you became immune, if you survived the Sweat, you could still catch it again, so I wonder if it mutated into a stronger different strain, like flu does…also it seems that it never came to Scotland.
    It is a real mystery this Sweating Sickness, especially since it seemed to disappear altogether, wasn’t this the last recorded outbreak of it? Strange…

  2. Having lost a child I understand what this poor lady suffered for the rest of her life. You do not learn to live with it; you only learn to live around it. There are no words of comfort no matter how much time goes by and you think of your child(ren) each and every day wondering what they would have been like and what they would have been doing had they lived. While you can be happy and find laughter again, you only do so with a bitter sweet guilt and happiness is never again complete. Your live “in spite of” and you find yourself sometimes wondering how much longer you must endure this pain and longing. My heart breaks for every mother who has lost a child to death; it is a club I would not wish membership to for anyone for any reason.

    1. Oh Shoshana, how you very much expressed the feeling of all of us who have lost a child. My son, David, will have been gone 15 years this fall. It was his birthday last Saturday and I feel as if my heart has been torn to pieces again. It has never really “healed”.

      Isn’t it funny when something is called “priceless”? I would trow away any “thing” in a moment to have my David here again.

      I will be a lifer on Prozac – this lady never even had that. I have three other children and if it hadn’t been for them I would have committed suicide. My reasoning not to do it, was how could I send a message that even though David was gone they were no worth living for.

      Otherwise, I would have long ago joined him * and out Anne *.

    2. I have also lost a child, & you are so right it never goes away! It’s just like it happened yesterday. To loose 2 sons hours part must have be devesting for her. So many children died young back then when i read about all of them it just is so sad. I dont know how they got throught those times.Tthey had to be strong women!!

  3. Their mother must have been incredibly resilient — she went on to marry again and have a second family after their deaths. Incidentally, according to Wikipedia anyway, Charles Brandon holds the record for shortest tenure as a peer (one hour). I’m sure he’d much rather have not been remembered for that, but it’s an interesting fact nonetheless.

  4. Death was most certainly a very real part of life in those horrible days. And the sad thing is, I’m not sure these people, rich or poor, commoner, or royalty, really had much to look forward to, day after day. Wars seemed to always be going on, diseases were abundant, for the poorer class of people, life was incredibly hard. Oh, my gosh, how the world has changed!!!! And thank God!!!!

  5. Really sad loss for their mother who was with them when they died of the terrible sweat on this day. They were 15 and 16 and died within hours of each other. Both boys were very talented and were being educated in Cambridge. Their death was also a loss for their potential. Katherine Brandon Duchess of Suffolk must have been devastated at such a tragedy and the loss of her two beautiful boys. RIP Charles and Henry.

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