19 September 1580 – Death of Katherine Willoughby

Posted By on September 19, 2012

Katherine Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk, by Hans Holbein the Younger

On this day in history, 19th September, Katherine Willoughby, or rather Bertie as she was then, died after a long illness. She was laid to rest at Spilsby Church in Lincolnshire.

Here are some facts about this fascinating Tudor lady:

  • Katherine was born in 1519 and was the only child of William Willoughby, 11th Baron Willoughby de Eresby, and his wife, Lady Maria de Salinas.
  • Katherine’s mother, Maria, is thought to have accompanied Catherine of Aragon when she came to England in 1501 to marry Prince Arthur and was one of Catherine’s great friends. When Maria heard that Catherine was ill in December 1535, she rushed to her side, forcing her way into Kimbolton Castle, and was with Catherine when she died on the 7th January 1536.
  • Katherine became a ward of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, in 1529, three years after her father’s death.
  • She married Suffolk in 1533 when she was fourteen years old and the couple had two sons: Henry, born in 1535, and Charles, born in 1537/8.
  • Suffolk died on 22nd August 1545 at Guildford.

  • Henry and Charles Brandon died on 14th July 1551 of sweating sickness, with Charles outliving his brother by half and hour. They were buried at Buckden. The Suffolk title passed from Henry to Charles and then to Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset, Frances Brandon’s husband.
  • Katherine married her gentleman usher, Richard Bertie, c.1552 and had two children by him: Susan, born in 1554, and Peregrine, 13th Baron Willoughby de Eresby, who was born in October 1555.
  • Katherine was known for her strong Protestant faith and was part of a circle of reformist women who were friends with Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth wife.
  • Katherine had many reformist and humanist books dedicated to her and was a known Protestant patron. She invited Hugh Latimer to preach at her home and hired Bible translator Miles Coverdale to tutor her children.
  • She and Bertie went into exile in 1555 when it became clear that she could not support the Catholic Mary I. They returned in 1559, after the accession of Elizabeth I.
  • Katherine and Richard Bertie have a beautiful alabaster monument at Spilsby Church.

12 thoughts on “19 September 1580 – Death of Katherine Willoughby”

  1. Baroness Von Reis says:

    It is just amazing to learn about all of these people and what they had to endure in those very hard times,but somehow they seem to get threw.I was so happy to read that Katherine Willoughby ,feld the wrath of Mary 1and was able to return when the Great Queen Elizabeth took the crown ,as so many others were able to return to the home land.Katherine loks like a very pretty women in her pic above,sad though to hear of her death.Thanks Claire for the great read!!What is sweating sickness?? THX Baroness

    1. Claire says:

      I think she was in a difficult position when Mary I came to the throne because although their mothers were friends, Katherine and Mary differed in their religious beliefs.

      See https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/6214/sweating-sickness/ for more information on sweating sickness.

      1. Baroness Von Reis says:

        Claire,Is it true that Elizabeth 1 ,sufferd from scarlet fever when she was young?? I have heard that many times? THX Baroness

  2. Kyra Kramer says:

    Moreover, she was a direct ancestress of Lady Diana Spencer, so when William becomes king in the distant future then she will have a direct descendant on the throne of England.

  3. Dawn 1st says:

    From the little have readI about Katherine she seems to have been portrayed as a very astute, fiesty lady, who knew her own mind, and spoke it…is this true.
    Anyway she seems to have had a exciting life, and must have experienced many things. Though it must have been devastating losing both her boys together like that, the sweat took you so quick, no wonder it was so feared
    Does anyone have any idea what she died of. I have actually been to Spilsby Chuch many years ago, I had forgotten until I had read this artical..

  4. Rachel says:

    This was an extremely interesting article on an amazing lady. I had read about her sons dying but i had not known that she herself had led such an interesting life. i must look further into her story.
    Thanks for the article.

  5. George says:

    The image looks like one of Jane Seymour.

  6. Elizabeth K says:

    I also thought that was a portrait of Jame Seymour. They look very similar, is there any relation?

    1. Claire says:

      I’m not sure if the Willoughbys and Seymours were related. Katherine’s mother was from Spain, but her father, William Willoughby came from a long English line so there may well be a link with Sir John Seymour, Jane’s father, or Margery Wentworth, her mother.

  7. Robyn Topham says:

    hi Claire. I have the notion that the disputed portrait of a lady in a Holbein sketch labeled as ”

    Queen Ann Boleyn” is possibly Katherine Willoughby. The lady is dressed in what appears to be nightclothes, high collar and cap possibly tired under chin. The face bears a strong likeness to the top sketch of Katherine but not the second portrait.

    I am sure this has been analysed before – what do you think?

  8. Carly says:

    Robyn, I came to this site to ask the same thing! I was on wikipedia and happened to click on the article about Catherine Willoughby. I was shocked when I saw her picture; I thought initially it was the exact same sketch that is labeled “Queen Ann Boleyn,” that’s how similar it looked to me.

    I know now that’s it’s not, but to me those two sketches show the same women, maybe one is even copied from the other? The clothes are so similar too. I looked around the internet but couldn’t find anything besides your comment.

  9. Gordon Thursfield says:

    Leanda de Lisle ‘Wyatt blamed Brandon for his arrest and the accusation that Anne had committed incest with her brother suggests revenge for her accusation in 1534 that Brandon had slept with ‘his own daughter’.
    Apparently Brandon accused Anne of having an affair with Thomas Wyatt.
    It all sounds very nasty and personal.

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