19 September 1580 – Death of Katherine Bertie (Willoughby/Brandon), Duchess of Suffolk

Catherine_Willoughby,_portrait_miniatureOn this day in history, 19th September 1580, Katherine Bertie (née Willoughby and previous married name Brandon), Duchess of Suffolk, died at the age of sixty-one after a long illness. She was buried in Spilsby church, Lincolnshire.

Katherine was the wife of Richard Bertie and had previously been married to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, who died in 1545. She was the daughter of William Willoughby, 11th Baron Willoughby de Eresby, and his wife, Lady Maria de Salinas, who had travelled to England from Spain in Catherine of Aragon’s entourage.

Click here to read more about her.

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6 thoughts on “19 September 1580 – Death of Katherine Bertie (Willoughby/Brandon), Duchess of Suffolk”
  1. Katherine Willoughby de Eresby Bertie is one of my favourite Tudor women, partly because she was outspoken and feisty. At about 64 years old when she died she was a good age for the time; and she lived a full and interesting life. Sadly she lost her two sons by Charles Brandon from the sweat within hours of each other in 1551, she was a friend of Queen Katherine Parr and may have helped to influence her Protestant views; she is said to have encouraged the Queens publication Lamention of a Sinner in 1548. The Duchess patronized radical preachers and thinkers and Hugh Latimer preached at her home in Lincolnshire Grimsthorpe Castle on a number of visits there. His book of sermons was dedicated to her. The Duchess was very outspoken and had a dog called Gardiner, named after Stephen Gardiner but not as a compliment. Although a supporter of Princess Mary, in the early reign of Mary as Queen, her husband Richard Bertie was accused of not paying debts owed to the crown, even though Henry VIII actually pardoned all debts owed by the Duke, his sister and their children forever, The crown argued this did not include her new husband and a dispute arose. This threatened to lead to hersey charges, but Bertie was not about to allow that to happen. Whether or not a prosecution would have been successful as the couple were close to the crown is also debatable but he could not put his family in danger. Bertie took the Duchess, their son and young baby into exile and had many adventures while abroad. The King of Poland used them in his service and a court in exile grew up around them. Bertie even got into several sword fights over there and the Duchess made several important friends. One friend that she wrote to often on her return to England was William Cecil. So outspoken was our Katherine that she criticised Queen Elizabeth for not being radical enough in the Protestant faith. Into her care were also placed important state wards such as Mary Seymour, the young daughter of the late Katherine Parr, whose death is a complete mystery; and the two younger Grey sisters Mary and Katherine when they both engaged in unauthorised marriages with people close to the throne; and had children that Queen Elizabeth saw as rivals. The Queen obviously trusted Duchess Katherine and her career seems to have been successful and comfprtable under Elizabeth I. She was also reportably meant to have a fiery temper and her outbursts were called Lady Suffolks sweats. She lived a good and full and active life. Rest in peace Lady Katherine Brandon Bertie Marcheness of Willoughby Duchess of Suffolk, and may perpetual light shine upon you. Amen.

  2. She saw the deaths of her boys as punishment
    For her greedily enclosing her land so the poor
    would suffer. I wonder if she ever reversed course.
    Certainly the eradication of “good works” as a
    Requirement of salvation did little to encourage
    Charity amongst the “enlightened”.

    1. The evangelical texts that people like Anne Boleyn, Katherine Brandon, Katherine Parr etc. were reading never said that good works were not important, they simply pointed out that the Bible puts the onus on faith in Christ and accepting him as your saviour. The foundations of the reformed theology were sola gratia (by grace alone): the idea that Christians were saved by the mercy and grace of God; sola fide (by faith alone): the doctrine of justification by faith, that Christians gain God’s pardon for their sins, and eternal life, through faith alone and not human works; and finally, soli Deo gloria (to God
      alone be the glory): the idea that Christians should live their lives to glorify God and not themselves or others. Being in Christ’s image and living to gorify God meant that one should do good works. Reformers were against the idea that you could buy your way to Heaven through good works, they put the emphasis on faith and God’s grace. Interestingly, the theology of sola gratia, sola fide and soli Deo gloria was put forward by French reformer Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples, years before Luther, and he never left the Catholic Church. Anne Boleyn owned two of his books and also his French Bible.

      1. Hi Claire, sorry to ask you so long after the post, but do you have a link to a translation of the work of Jacques Lefebvre d Estaples book in English on line? I could only find a very expensive French copy on Amazon. I apologize for not emailing my request but my system is not functioning today. Thanks in advance. Lyn Marie

        1. Hi Lyn Marie,
          I’ve never found the book in English. My copy is in French and was edited by Guy Bedouelle. It’s a hardback and I got it from Abe Books for around £60, which was the cheapest I could find it at the time. I can read French but it is quite a challenge as it’s “old” French. I don’t believe that an English translation exists, which is a shame as it is a wonderful book.

        2. Hi Claire, thanks anyway for the information. I think the Amazon copy was about £40 plus but unfortunately I don’t speak very good French, but I have found one copy of a biography for a reasonable price so have ordered this. Many thanks for the information.


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