21 November 1559 – The death of Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk

Posted By on November 21, 2014

Frances Brandon's tomb effigy

Frances Brandon’s tomb effigy

On 21st November 1559, Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk, died at Richmond at the age of forty-two.

Frances was the daughter of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and his third wife Mary Tudor, Queen of France, and the mother of Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for just thirteen days in 1553. Frances was married twice. She married Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset, in 1533 and he was made Duke of Suffolk in 1551. After his execution in 1554, Frances went on to marry Adrian Stokes, her Master of the Horse and a former soldier.

Frances was buried at Westminster Abbey, in St Edmund’s Chapel, where Stokes erected a tomb in her memory. The Latin inscription on the tomb, when translated from Latin, reads:

“Dirge for the most noble Lady Frances, onetime Duchess of Suffolk: naught avails glory or splendour, naught avail titles of kings; naught profits a magnificent abode, resplendent with wealth. All, all are passed away: the glory of virtue alone remained, impervious to the funeral pyres of Tartarus [part of Hades or the Underworld]. She was married first to the Duke, and after was wife to Mr Stock, Esq. Now, in death, may you fare well, united to God.”

You can read more about her life in my article Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk, and I would also recommend reading Susan Higginbotham’s article The Maligned Frances Grey.

3 thoughts on “21 November 1559 – The death of Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk”

  1. Christine says:

    Think it strange how Queen Mary forgave her for her part in the plot to put her daughter Jane on the throne, she’s got such a magnificent tomb as befits her royal status yet her poor unfortunate daughter died a traitors death and lies under a plain stone slab.

  2. BanditQueen says:

    Lady Frances Brandon, Marquess of Dorset and Duchess of Suffolk, has been misrepresented through myth making and fiction. She may have had ambitions for her daughters, but she was a royal Princess as were they and it was her duty to marry them to people of high status. In fact the marriage to Guildford Dudley was probably more because of the influence his father had, rather than his status as he was not equal to Jane in status. John Dudley, Northumberland and Warwick as his titles had worked his way to the top of the tree through his influence on the council and his power over the young King Edward; a marriage with his family secured the throne not by right but by political power and manouvering. Francis and her husband, Herny, Earl of Dorset have been accused of bullying Jane and her sister Katherine into making marriages that they did not want; but this is a myth.

    Francis and her husband must have arranged the weddings and then persuaded their daughters that the marriage was for a political union and was for their own good; given many reasons why the houses should be united, but must also have pointed out the benefits to Jane and the girls had been prepared for this sort of marriage from an early age; they knew this was their duty and accepted. Jane and Guildford seem to have gotten to know each other a little and to have come to some understanding, but Katherine had the reverse response. There is no evidence beyond popular myth of Frances or anyone else pinching, beating, putting Jane in prison, bullying her or anything else into accepting her wedding.

    Frances and Henry Grey may have promoted their daughter as heir and persuaded her to accept the crown, but that does not mean that they were united in this choice. In fact, Frances was not happy with being overlooked for her daughter; she even tried to plead with the King to change his mind and protested; Jane according to Leanne de Lisle was annoyed at her mother for this; but at the same time she was also at first reluctant to take her mother’s place in the succession. She was not reluctant to replace Mary, but her mother. Frances, however, even though she accepted Jane as Queen and with her husband promoted her as such she was keen when the moment came to make her peace with Queen Mary.

    Frances had been a friend of Princess Mary for many years and supported her even in face of the threats to her life and rights under Queen Anne; she supported her mother as well and the two women appear to have been close. Frances was able to make her way to Mary and submit to her in person, gaining her forgiveness for he role in the usurpian of Jane. Mary also pardoned many of the other traitors, including Jane’s father and at first Northumberland. But while Jane was also at first seen by Mary as an innocent; it is very clear that she was far from this. Frances made her peace with Queen Mary and was careful not to support any second rebellion. Unfortunately for Jane and Guildford; any chance that they had of receiving a full pardon was ended with the rebellion of Thomas Wyatt six months after Mary’s triumpth; which was meant to replace her as Queen. Jane’s father and Northumberland were active leaders in this revolt and this may have sealed Jane’s fate. Frances did not have anything to do with this second rebellion and remained on good terms with Mary, being faithful to her, even though she was a reformer.

    Frances has also been wrongly condemned for her marriage to Adrian Stokes, her master of the horse, several years her junior, three weeks after the execution of Henry Grey. She was even misidentified in her portrait which showed a much fatter and older woman; but this portrait has been dismissed and correctly shown to be someone else. Above we see a fine and beautiful noblewoman; tall and elegant. in her traditional dress and regalia as Duchess and royal princess. Even if marriage to her master of the horse was shocking; given all she had recently been through; it was about time that she had her own life and choices and happiness was granted to her. Sadly neither of her younger daughters had happy lives; they married for love; Katherine’s first marriage being annulled, but both Katherine Grey and Mary Grey were seperated from their husbands and children; by the jealous royal protocols of Elizabeth I. Frances took her opportunity for happiness denied her daughters and good luck to her.

    I would love to read a full biograthy of this woman; one that puts the record straight.

    1. Dylan says:

      I think Nicola Tallis is publishing one!

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