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21st November 1559 – Death of Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk

Posted By on November 21, 2011

Frances Brandon tomb effigyOn this day in history, 21st November 1559, Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk, died at Richmond. She was buried in St Edmund’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey, on the orders of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, and her second husband, Adrian Stokes, erected a tomb in her memory.

Here are some facts about Frances:-

  • She was born on the 16th July 1517 at Hatfield
  • Frances was the eldest daughter of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and his third wife Mary Tudor, Queen of France
  • She was born on St Francis’s Day
  • “Lady Boleyn and Lady Elizabeth Grey” acted as proxies for Catherine of Aragon and Princess Mary at Frances’s christening at Hatfield on the 18th July – Some believe the mystery “Lady Boleyn” to be Anne Boleyn’s aunt,also named Anne Boleyn, and others believe it to be Elizabeth Boleyn, mother of the future Queen Anne Boleyn
  • Frances married Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset, at Suffolk House, Southwark, around May 1533
  • Frances’s mother, Mary, died in June 1533 and Frances acted as chief mourner
  • Her father, Charles Brandon, married his ward, Katherine Willoughby de Eresby, in September 1533
  • Frances’s first two children, a son and a daughter died in infancy

  • Frances had three surviving daughters with her first husband, Henry Grey: Lady Jane Grey, Lady Catherine Grey and Lady Mary Grey
  • She was with her father when he died on 24th August 1545
  • Frances attended Queen Catherine Parr
  • Her daughter, Lady Jane Grey, became Thomas Seymour’s ward and lived with him and his wife, Catherine Parr, for a time.
  • Frances has often been portrayed as an overly harsh mother after John Aylmer wrote of how Lady Jane Grey had complained of her parents’ treatment of her and their correction of her with “pinches, nips and bobs”
  • Frances became the Duchess of Suffolk in 1551 when her husband was made Duke of Suffolk on 11th October following the deaths of Frances’s half-brothers that summer
  • In May 1553, Frances’s eldest daughter, Jane, married the Duke of Northumberland’s son, Guildford Dudley
  • After the death of Edward VI on 6th July 1553 Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed queen after she had been named heir in Edward’s “Devise”
  • Frances and her husband were imprisoned in the Tower of London, following Mary I’s overthrowing of Jane’s short rule, but were released on the 31st July 1553
  • Following Henry Grey’s involvement in Wyatt’s Rebellion, his and Frances’s daughter, Lady Jane Grey, was executed on the 12th February 1554 and Grey was executed on the 23rd February
  • Frances married Adrian Stokes, master of her horse, on 1st March 1555 and Mary I allowed the couple to reside at Richmond
  • Frances gave birth to a daughter in July 1555 but she died in February 1556
  • Frances was seriously ill by the beginning of November 1559 and drew up her will on 7th November
  • She died on the 21st November 1559
  • Frances is buried in Westminster Abbey and her tomb, erected by Stokes, has an effigy of her on it.

Trivia: According to Retha Warnicke, Frances’s funeral was “the first Protestant service at the abbey after the reconstitution of its chapter by the queen.”

Author Susan Higginbotham has written some excellent articles on Frances and the Grey family on her blog “History Refreshed” – click here to browse them.

Notes and Sources

  • Retha M. Warnicke, ‘Grey, Frances, duchess of Suffolk (1517–1559)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008

20 thoughts on “21st November 1559 – Death of Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk”

  1. Tamise says:

    Thanks Claire for the interesting facts.

  2. Christine says:

    Very interesting! (There is a typo in the year she became a duchess, that was in 1551, not 1542). Thank you.

    1. Claire says:

      Thanks for that, Christine, not sure why I put that when 1551 was in my notes and in Warnicke’s article!

  3. Lucy says:

    Interesting article!
    I would love to know how Frances felt about her young step-mother, and whether she and Henry were particularly harsh parents, for the time…. or was Jane just bad-mouthing her parents like many a teenager?

    Frances’s tomb is one of my favorite in Westminster Abby. The level of detail and quality of craftsmanship is dazzling. Where did you manage to get hold of that photo of the tomb? Do you have any others of it? I presume it must come from some official source as, alas, general punters aren’t allowed to take pictures :>(

    Thanks :>)

    1. Claire says:

      It came from Wikimedia Commons – see http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frances_Brandon_tomb_effigy.jpg where the photographer has given permission for the image to be published. It is a wonderful photo as it really shows the detail.

      I don’t think there is any evidence that Jane was treated badly by her parents, apart from that one comment which, I feel, has been blown out of all proportion through the ages.

      Yes, I wonder what Frances thought of her father marrying Catherine Willoughby!

  4. WilesWales says:

    Thank you so very much, Claire for publishing this. Your research, knowledge, and tenacity to this site are more than gold to Tudor History. Now I really wonder who “Lady Boleyn” was. It is easy to assume that she was Elizabeht Howard, but the the “Aunt” is most intriguing as well. You are a masterpiece. Thank you again, WilesWales

    1. Claire says:

      Thank you – *blush*!

      1. David Loades says:

        Actually this is Judith answering on my behalf (David is in Cambridge for a couple of days speaking on John Foxe and Mary Tudor)
        David is just completing a new book for Amberley on Henry VIIII’s sister, Mary, wife of Charles Brandon.. famoulsy known to her contemporaries as ‘the French Queen’ much to her husband’s annoyance!
        Judith on behalf of
        David Loades

        1. Claire says:

          Hi Judith,
          That’s good news! When is it due to be published?
          Thanks!

        2. David Loades says:

          Hi Claire.. not sure! David is ahead of schedule. His King and Queens of Enlgand (also for Amberley) will appear first but I will keep you up to schedule. He will complete by the end of the year. Love your site .. he has the print-outs and replies when he is here!
          Best
          Judith

  5. Anne Barnhill says:

    Oh, that’s exciting news about another Loades’ book. Thanks, Claire, for another great gathering of facts–I can’t imagine how Frances might have felt about her father’s rather quick remarriage–to his ward and also his son’s betrothed? Do I remember correctly? It is interesting ot thing of what sort of mother she might have been–and if Jane’s comments were teenage (or just any child’s) complaints. Thanks!

  6. Ceri C says:

    That’s interesting that there is only one citation about Jane’s harsh treatment by her parents. She’s so often depicted as bullied and abused by her parents but if you look at the surviving advice to parents in the 16th century, nips and bobs were very much the order of the day. Frances has so often been depicted as a cruel philistine in contrast to her gentle, bookish daughter. I wonder whether that’s really the truth.
    Exciting news about David Loades’s new book. There has not been enough published about either of Henry VIII’s sisters.

  7. Susan Higginbotham says:

    Thanks, Claire, for mentioning my blog! I’m glad to hear that David Loades is doing a work on Mary.

    Frances may well have been close to her young stepmother. In a 1548 letter to Thomas Seymour, she referred to writing to him in a letter of “my lady of Suffolk” (that is, Katherine Brandon). Interestingly, Frances’s inquisition post mortem refers to her being married to Adrian Stokes in 1554 at Kew, a manor which was held not by Frances but by Katherine Brandon. After Charles Brandon’s death, Katherine had married one of her servants, Richard Bertie–perhaps it was she who encouraged the widowed Frances to marry Adrian Stokes, and hosted the wedding at her house at Kew?

  8. Baroness Von Reis says:

    Very good read,its wonderfull to learn more and more on your site Claire, again thank you. I can’t waite ant Idea when the book will be done? I’m not sure who The Lady Boylen was? Would really like to know there where so many Ladys pretty hard to keep track. Best Wishes Claire.

  9. Julz says:

    Another fascinating article. I saw her tomb when I visited Westminster Abbey a couple of years ago. Was she really so harsh? Jane must have been an awkward teenager to cope with. Though I’m sure she didn’t deserve the beatings.

    I would love to know what this woman was really like. Any thoughts Claire?

  10. Julia says:

    Great posts, Claire. One thing, however, isn’t quite correct in these facts. Frances wasn’t in the Tower with her husband. While he was arrested, she rode all night through to her cousin Mary and early in the morning pleaded with her for the release of her family. It was due to this audience that Mary pardoned Henry Grey. Since Jane, however, had signed documents declaring war on Mary and had used the title of queen in it, she remained in custody. Frances, however, never was imprisoned.

    Keep up the good work!

    Julia

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Julia,
      Thanks so much for your comment. I got that information from Retha Warnicke’s Oxford DNB article on Frances where she says:-
      “The next day they accompanied her to Westminster for her public recognition as queen, and remained with her until after Mary’s accession, when they were confined in the Tower. Although Jane was to be tried and convicted of treason, her parents were released on 31 July after Frances made a personal plea to the queen. The duke withdrew to Richmond while the duchess attended court.”
      Hmmm…

  11. Susan Higginbotham says:

    I think Warnicke is probably mistaken about Frances being imprisoned in the Tower. Contemporary accounts record that the Duchess of Northumberland was kept there for a few days, but they don’t mention Frances. There’s also a list of prisoners’ expenses that specifically names the Duchess of Northumberland and Jane Grey, among others, but doesn’t include Frances. The Duke of Suffolk himself seems to been free for a few days before being imprisoned, after which Frances went to Mary to plead for his release.

  12. Robert Hampton says:

    what is the connection between Lady Jane Gray and Margaret DeChampernon and the Lady Jane Gray room in the Champernon manor. How are they related?

    1. Claire says:

      Champercombe Manor was owned by the Champernon family and Lady Jane Grey was said to have descended from them. I have never looked into Lady Jane Grey’s roots so I’m not sure which branch of the family was descended from the Champernons – sorry!

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