The Rivalry of Charles Brandon and Anne Boleyn by Sarah Bryson

Apr30,2016 #Charles Brandon

Charles BrandonTo celebrate the release of her biography of Charles Brandon, Charles Brandon: The King’s Man, Sarah Bryson is joining us today with a guest article on Brandon and Anne Boleyn. Thank you, Sarah, and good luck with your book!

Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII, and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, had never seen eye to eye. Brandon was the King’s childhood friend. He had grown up with Henry, sharing his teenage desires and adventures, and ultimately forming a close bond that would sustain many ups and downs. Anne Boleyn was to become Henry VIII’s second wife, his passionate lover, the woman he waited seven years to marry and broke with Rome to make his queen. Brandon and Anne were headed on a collision course, both vying for the King’s attention. Only one would survive.

The first signs of unrest between Brandon and Anne may have appeared indirectly from Brandon’s third wife, Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s younger sister and a close friend of his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. When Henry openly separated from Katherine in 1531 Mary disapproved and removed herself from court.

Brandon may have shared similar feelings as his wife. Clearly he was not impressed with Anne Boleyn and her new position at court and sought to discredit her. Eustace Chapuys, ambassador to Charles V, wrote to his master that Anne “had been accused by the Duke of Suffolk of undue familiarity with a gentleman who on a former occasion had been banished on suspicion.” This gentleman was Sir Thomas Wyatt, poet, courtier and long-time friend of the Boleyn family. His poetry suggests that he had a crush on Anne, but there is no evidence to suggest that Anne returned his feelings. While there turned out to be no truth in this rumour, Henry was furious at his best friend and banished him from court for a time. In retaliation for this accusation, Anne Boleyn made one of her own declaring that Brandon was sleeping with his daughter. Despite being banished from court, Brandon spoke with the treasurer of the King’s household, William Fitzwilliam, in the hope of working with him to persuade the King against marrying Anne Boleyn.

It may have been that Brandon genuinely did not believe Anne Boleyn to be suitable for the position of queen. Katherine of Aragon had been a Spanish Princess, raised from birth to become a queen. Anne Boleyn was an earl’s daughter who had previously served Katherine. With his wife firmly supporting the rejected Katherine of Aragon, Brandon may have sought to align his feelings with Mary and to discredit Anne.

Another reason for Brandon’s dislike of Anne may have been her link to the Duke of Norfolk. Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, was Anne Boleyn’s uncle, and Brandon and Norfolk had never seen eye to eye. The pair had often squabbled over minor matters at court and often sought to outdo one another. With Anne Boleyn on the ascent, this would also mean a rise for her family and in turn greater influence for her uncle. Brandon may have simply used Anne as a means of attacking Norfolk’s growing power.

In 1532, things went even further when Brandon’s wife spoke publicly about her opposition to the marriage and where her loyalties lay, speaking about Anne Boleyn in unfavourable terms. This resulted in a quarrel between some of the Duke of Norfolk’s men and Brandon’s men. On 23 April, Carlo Capello reported that:

At the moment of his arrival at the Court, one of the chief gentlemen in the service of said Duke of Norfolk, with 20 followers, assaulted and killed in the sanctuary of Westminster Sir (D’no) William Peninthum (sic) chief gentleman and kinsman of the Duke of Suffolk. In consequence of this, the whole Court was in an uproar, and had the Duke of Suffolk been there, it is supposed that a serious affray would have taken place. On hearing of what had happened, he (Suffolk) was on his way to remove the assailants by force from the sanctuary, when the King sent the Treasurer [Thomas Cromwell] to him, and made him return, and has adjusted the affair; and this turmoil displeased him. It is said to have been caused by a private quarrel, but I am assured it was owing to opprobrious language uttered against Madam Anne by his Majesty’s sister, the Duchess of Suffolk, Queen Dowager of France.( Calendar of State Papers Venice Vol. 4 761).

The murderers were pardoned and then in 1533 the Duke of Norfolk demanded that Brandon relinquish the office of Earl Marshal – which Brandon had held since the death of Norfolk’s father in 1524 – to Norfolk. Henry VIII complied with this request and in turn granted Brandon the office of Warden and Chief Justice of the royal forests south of Trent. This loss of position may have furthered Brandon’s resentment of Norfolk and added to his growing disdain for Anne Boleyn.

After these events, Brandon and Mary removed themselves from court and it took the influence of Thomas Cromwell and even a visit from the King to smooth things over. The Duke of Norfolk had won this round but Brandon had learnt a valuable lesson. He would keep this thoughts and opinions to himself rather than risk losing the King’s favour.

Anne Boleyn NPGOn Sunday 1 June 1533, Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England. Wearing a gown of crimson velvet edged in ermine and a purple velvet mantle, and her hair loose, Anne made the journey barefoot from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey under a canopy of cloth of gold. Brandon was to play a role in Anne’s coronation, as Lord High Steward, and it was his duty to walk before the future Queen carrying her royal crown. During the coronation, he stood close to the Anne holding his white staff of office. Afterwards, a great banquet was held at Westminster Hall where Brandon acted as Lord High Steward and Constable. It was his responsibility to organise all the details of the coronation, including Anne’s procession through London the previous day. Wearing a doublet covered in pearls and riding a charger covered in crimson velvet, Brandon rode through the banquet consisting of eight hundred people and approximately thirty-two dishes. However much Brandon may have personally disapproved on the marriage he did his duties to the fullest and for now bided his time.

In the last weeks of April 1536, a coup swept through the court that saw the death of Anne Boleyn and five innocent men. On 24 April, two commissions of oyer and terminer were set up at Westminster by Thomas Cromwell and Sir Thomas Audley, Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor. A jury of noblemen, including Charles Brandon, were presented with a list of offences against the King committed in both Middlesex and Kent. While examining the various offences, the jury found enough damning evidence against Anne Boleyn to try her for committing adultery with Sir Henry Norris, Francis Weston, William Brereton, Mark Smeaton and George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, her brother, as well as plotting to have her husband, the King of England, killed.

Anne Boleyn was arrested on 2 May 1536 and taken to the Tower, lodged in the Queen’s apartments where she had been housed the night before her coronation. Then, on 15 May, Brandon was amongst the jurors who were selected to try George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, and Anne Boleyn herself.

Hundreds of people came to the Tower to see Anne Boleyn’s trial – for the very Queen of England to be tried for adultery, incest and treason was surely no light matter! The charges were read to Anne, every sordid, horrible, scandalous detail of her alleged adultery and treason. It is said that throughout this indignity Anne sat, poised and beautiful, showing no sign of disgust or guilt. After this she was asked how she pleaded, the Queen replied that she was not guilty of any of the charges.

Despite defending herself nobly, it was to no avail. One by one, each member of the jury stood and gave their verdict – every man said ‘guilty’, including Charles Brandon. Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, had been found guilty of all the charges presented before her: adultery, incest and treason.

It has been proposed that the charge of incest against Anne Boleyn was brought forward by Brandon. Previously, Anne had declared loudly that Brandon had slept with his daughter. Was the suggestion of incest with her brother Brandon’s way of getting back at Anne for her comment? Or was it simply a means to rid the court of George Boleyn, a powerful man in his own right? Either way, Brandon was no fool. He had learnt his lesson against standing up to the King and knew that his title, his lands, and his very position at court were reliant upon the King’s favour. As at so many times previously, Brandon did his duty and found both Anne and George Boleyn guilty.

On 19 May 1536, around 9am, Anne left her chambers in the Queen’s lodgings for the last time. Anne walked down the stairs from the Queen’s lodgings to the courtyard between the Jewel House and the King’s Hall. Two hundred Yeomen were there to lead Anne, her ladies-in-waiting, Sir William Kingston and several others to the scaffold that had been erected. She walked through the courtyard and then through the twin towers of the Coldharbour Gate to the scaffold that awaited her. Reports state that approximately a thousand people surrounded the scaffold upon Tower Green to watch the execution of Anne Boleyn. Two men in that crowd were Thomas Cromwell, who some suggest was behind Anne’s fall, and, of course, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.

With one stroke of the French executioner’s sword, Anne Boleyn’s head was cut from her body and her life ended. In one swift stroke, Brandon’s rival was no more. Certainly there was a rivalry between the pair, both fighting for Henry VIII’s attention and both slinging insults at one another seeking to discredit the other. But what did Charles Brandon think and feel in regards to Anne’s fall from power and ultimate execution? Sitting on the jury, he must have seen through the allegations brought against Anne if we can do so 500 years after the event. Did he feel remorse or did he simply do his duty knowing that much of what he had was reliant upon the King’s favour? We may never know Brandon’s true feelings towards Anne at the end of her life but with her death, his rival was gone.

Charles Brandon: The King’s Man

Charles Brandon coverCharles Brandon was an enigmatic, charismatic man, rising from a mere boyhood friend of the future king, Henry VIII, to flirting with a European duchess, marrying Mary Tudor, Dowager Queen of France, and being created Duke of Suffolk. Brandon was one of the best jousters during the reign of Henry, he was clever, athletic and confident, though his confidence sometimes got him into trouble.

In this detailed biography, Sarah Bryson (Mary Boleyn in a Nutshell) gives us a highly detailed look at Charles Brandon’s life and times, including information and background on each of his marriages, his children, and his lifetime achievements.

Fully referenced and indexed, Charles Brandon: The King’s Man is an invaluable resource for any Tudor enthusiast.

“A vivid portrait of one of the most enigmatic and fascinating men at the Tudor court.” – Josephine Wilkinson, author of Katherine Howard

“An enjoyable and readable biography of this fascinating Tudor man.” – Claire Ridgway, author of The Fall of Anne Boleyn

“Bryson has constructed a fluid and well-informed narrative which rings with passion for her subject. She successfully brings to life a vibrant and complex man, drawing out the different levels of his identity as a courtier, jouster, politician, friend to the King and as a husband and lover. I defy anyone to read this interesting study and not to be drawn in by the author’s infectious desire to understand the real Charles Brandon.” – Amy Licence, author of The Six Wives & Many Mistresses of Henry VIII

Charles Brandon: The King’s Man is available as a paperback and kindle book from:

and other Amazon stores. It will also be available as a paperback from other book retailers.

Sarah has also written an article for, who are having a special Charles Brandon day in celebration of the release of Sarah’s book today, “Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor: Forbidden Love” – click here to read that now.

Sarah BrysonSarah Bryson is a researcher, writer and educator who has a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education with Honours. She currently works with children with disabilities. She is passionate about Tudor history and has a deep interest in Mary Boleyn, Anne Boleyn, the reign of Henry VIII and the people of his court. Visiting England in 2009 furthered her passion and when she returned home she started a website,, and a Facebook page about Tudor history. Sarah lives in Australia, enjoys reading, writing and Tudor costume enactment, and wishes to return to England one day.


  • Bryson, S (2016) Charles Brandon: The King’s Man, MadeGlobal Publishing.
  • Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 4, 1527-1533, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1871.
  • Gunn, S (2015) Charles Brandon, Amberley Publishing, Gloucestershire, UK.
  • Hume, M (1905), The Wives of Henry the Eighth and the Parts They Played in History, Eveleigh Nash, London.
  • Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, 1509-47, ed. J S Brewer, James Gairdner and R H Brodie, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1862-1932.
  • Loades, D (2012) The Tudors: History of a Dynasty, Continuum International Publishing Group, London.
  • Loades, D (2012) Mary Rose, Amberley, Gloucestershire.
  • Weir, A (2009) The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Jonathan Cape, London.

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9 thoughts on “The Rivalry of Charles Brandon and Anne Boleyn by Sarah Bryson”
  1. Charles Brandon is a fascinating man and I love the passion Sarah has put into bringing Charles story to us she has a natural talent for writing.

  2. Very interesting! It really shocked me to discover that Anne (My fav historical character Of all time) declared that Brandon slept with his own Daughter (it was Frances or Eleanor?), I know she had a sharp tongue, but this… Just WOW! It surprises me, The fact that I have never read about this accusation in some recent anti-Anne novels…

    1. Hi LordBullen,
      Being myself another great fan of Anne – oddly enough, of Catherine of Aragon as well -, I feel no difficulty in finding some justifications for the fact.
      As soon as in 1530, we can find in one of Chapuys’ letters the charges (for having had a sexual intercourse with one of her suitors, but this one being not named, as you could guess!) raised by Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk against his brother-in-law’s sweetheart .
      I wont insist on the ridiculousness laying in the indignant blame from this paragon of virtue : had he not been granted with so much royal favors, Brandon would have been known as a mere fortune-hunter, leaving a pregnant betroth – if not secret wife – for another spouse, much older, but richer, before seducing and marrying a royal princess, while his first legitimate wife was still living
      The despise he so publicly professed against the Boleyns could only lay stress on his own extraction.
      All the more that, according to the by-then standards, a royal man could well wed a non-royal without putting the children-to-be’s rights in danger.
      As was not the case for queens or princesses.
      Even if of course, a descendant of Owen Tudor would not be touchy on this matter.
      For it was the purpose of Charles Brandon turning so base calumniator in his desperate try to tarnish the good name of Anne Boleyn.
      He and his wife were aware that Queen Catharine would not bring further royal progeny, save Princess Mary (and by then their own son, Henry Brandon, was still in very good health by then).
      The arrival of a young spouse-to-be to KH was a very bad new for their calculations.
      (Margaret’s son, heir of the scottish realm, did not count).
      However Anne, being so high in favour and known for having never committed herself in other relations that platonic, proved out of reach of this poisoned dart, but since then knew she had to count with a enemy resolved to get rid of her.
      That is the reason why, in 1531, we can find another letter by Chapuys reporting this reply of Anne in these terms : “because she wants to revenge herself on the duke of Suffolk, for having once brought a charge against her honour, accused, him of criminal intercourse with his own daughter. No one knows yet what will come out of all this.”
      My surprise comes from the fact that it seems that Eric Ives thought it could mean Catherine Willoughby de Eresby, a little girl by then, but sought-after for his son (Charles Brandon, still married would not dare cheat his royal wife, even if 2 years later,when being a widower, and before his son’s death, he married her indeed).
      I of course am unable to decide whose daughter was meant in Anne’s words.
      Frances, Eleanor…and why not anothe, for he had daughters born from his extra-conjugal relations but also two other born from his first official betroth and second wife (or third, if we count his first tie as a secret wedding), i.e. Anne and Mary Brandon .
      The first, married by then to a Baron Grey of Powis, was accused of being involved in an affair with a commoner, Randal Harworth, a man she would later marry in 1537, after the dissolution of her first union.
      The second, Lady Monteagle, was bound to die as a married wife, but her own husband complained about her licentiousness.
      Both daughters had been declared legitimate but only in 1528, their father having pressed the pope to declare valid his divorce from his first (official) wed.
      Interestingly enough, being granted a sort of divorce by the head of catholic church, he would show off these indignant posturings against Henry’s and Anne’s objects on the same matter.
      I don’t say it was well done from Anne’s part.
      But it was a fact that the Brandon family was known by some sexual scandals.
      Even if I doubt Charles Brandon as a “boyhood intimate” with Henry Tudor (for Charles Brandon was many years older than the prince and older than Prince Arthur himself, as bvious in the painting above : while his third, or fourth wife, born Mary Tudor is still a young and fresh woman, his marked features and grey hair and beard show a definitely aging man; it can of course mean that, as senior to his prince, he however much influenced him), I know that his main title to fame was the end of his father, dying for KH’s father’s sake at Bosworth.
      A fact bringing KH’s constant leniency to his future brother-in-law.
      That, even if himself would not prove the best general in England.
      But there was another scandal about his father and I guess that Charles Brandon prayed for it to be forgotten.
      When already a married man he was found guilty of having raped a gentlewoman (that was in 1478).
      These sexual misbehaviours so common in his family were a too easy target for Anne Boleyn.
      This accusation was less clumsy than Brandon’s indeed.
      So in this dispute for life or death, Anne certainly had won the first point

      1. Wow, thank you so much for the info bruno, those Brandons… What a history they have! To think young and pious Lady Jane Grey was descended from them , wow!
        Sometimes I can’t help seeing Charles Brandon as more cunning and ambitious that modern media present him… I mean, he always influenced Henry, he married Henry’s fav sister, then he and his wife took place in #TeamKatharine… I don’t doubt their attachment to someone as friendly and charismatic as Katharine Of Aragon was, but with Katharine as Henry’s queen Brandon’s offspring was closer to the throne than with Anne Boleyn, who was a “Fresh and young Damsel” able (at least that was what everyone thought) to produce healthy male heirs when her romance with Henry VIII saw the light… I don’t doubt Charles loved Henry, but I’m sure he had great ambitions too!

        1. Hope it brought some help – no need to say that I feel a sort of hatred – or, better said, despise – for the man.
          My knowledge about him is rather poor in fact(except his military “prowess” hmm…)
          I was unaware that “modern media” were so much in favour of Charles Brandon.
          You certainly ‘d better study thoroughly experts’ works on the matter.
          But I am on a personal level rather reluctant to find KH “charming” and much promising when young, but growing sour and bad-tempered later when I see who was his beloved friend from the very beginning.
          You are certainly right about Queen Katharine; not only she was good-hearted and, why not, charismatic, but it seems not absurd to fancy that her young sister-in-law, Mary Tudor, very soon deprived of her elder brother, then of her caring mother Queen Elizabeth and the same year of her older (and only) sister (wed to a foreign king) felt tender feelings towards her – Katherine being 11 years her senior and twice her sister-in-law.
          At least, a sort of pattern for this young orphaned princess.
          I would show far more cautious in imagining her second husband sharing the same feelings and gratefulness as her.
          But I stop blaming him; his connection to KH has to do with feudal ties.
          Don’t imagine me as criticizing only english sovereigns and celebrities …
          In french history we find these “attachés à la personne du roi” and at length (if not immediately) they proved “dear indeed”, turning very soon into mere venals.
          A king would be anxious to find a sturdy first set for his sons – and, from birth, ryal princes were surrounded with alleged friends.
          I don’t believe in a “boyhood friendship”, given the age of Charles Brandon (and by the way, are we sure of his birthdate, or is it just an assumption? when widowed, his mother was about 40 and would not bring further children to her third husband), but in Brandon’s machiavellism.
          He certainly acted as a protector to a so young royal heir.
          And later, when sent to France had to swear to his king he would not even try to marry his sister (so Henry seemed not to indulge much illusions on him, knowing his greediness towards heiresses and dowagers), a promise he of course would not keep.
          At the time, he had been granted the ward of Elizabeth Grey of Lisle, a girl being about the same age as his older daughter – with the intention of marrying her, so Princess Mary was sort of a first-class “plan b”

  3. Brandon was by no means over scrupulous where women were concerned. In fact, the same Pope who played Henry over his divorce-Clement VII, provided a bull legitimising Brandon and Mary’s marriage in 1528. (No wonder Henry was so angry about his own situation!)

    It is true that his children were closer to the throne if Henry had no more children, but Henry had few scruples as to legitimacy….he might well have placed Fitzroy in front of Mary in the succession.

    What is perhaps a larger issue is the French Queen. She would have fiercely resented being expected to bend the knee to the daughter of a knight, for such was Boleyn’s status at Anne’s birth. Anne herself by 1533 was a Marchioness in her own right, still a nobody
    to a princess and Dowager Queen. Anne may even have been among Mary’s ladies in waiting in France, before performing the same service for Katherine. Mary may have seen Anne as disloyal to Katherine, and certainly as a parvenu.
    Mary herself may have been ambitious for her own children, but the impression which has come down through the years is that she considered Anne unworthy to be Queen. This is an issue where Brandon would have fallen in line behind her. Years of friendship with Katherine would also have been a factor.
    The legality of the marriage would have been a touchy issue for the Brandons given his own peculiar marital history.

    With a daughter of Margaret living in England, the succession issues were knotty. Ultimately, Henry ruled out Margaret’s children in favor of Mary’s, but in the early 1530’s what he would do is anyone’s guess.

    One must speculate that Fitzroy had a place in his plans. By the time he was born it was increasingly clear that there would be no son from the Spanish marriage, yet Henry did not act, other than to lavish titles on his acknowledged illegitimate son.

    Henry did nothing until he decided to marry Anne. If Anne was born in 1501, she was already 27 in 1528 when the pursuit of the divorce got serious. 27 was old for childbearing in that time. Henry still delayed. He could have married her, devil take the hindmost, but he waited another five years. By 1533, he was over 40, Anne was 32, unless we believe she was born later than 1501. This made childbearing riskier and a regency more likely. Not the actions of a man desperate for an heir. Whatever Henry may have said or done, and he may have wished to prove he could have sons, his priority was not a male heir. The marriage was his priority. Doubtless, had Anne given him a son, any other children would have been disinherited. The lack of a son cost her, but it wasn’t the primary reason she lost her life.

    Desperation for a male heir would have set in after the death of Fitzroy, and he took Jane to task for her failures in this regard. She would not have kept her place long had she not borne Edward, and the birth cost her both throne and life.

    In truth, after Mary died in 1533, Brandon followed the King’s orders, without more ado. Was he glad to see Anne fall? Probably. You would think, parvenu that he was himself, he would have been more sympathetic.

    In Brandon’s case, it may have been jealousy. He and the King had been very close for years. Anne pushed his friendship aside, and the hostility of the French Queen would have made matters worse.
    I can’t say that I feel Brandon was better or worse than many another courtier of his time, and he was able to remain in Henry’s good graces which took some doing. In some ways he reminds me of Sir Thomas Seymour, another lady killer, just possessed of less ambition and more judgement.

    1. I do agree, Brandon knew something about “parvenus” .
      And he certainly had many reasons to fear persons ruling the king’s mind.
      A real danger if it brought this one some light on his alleged friends.
      However, trying to kill Anne Boleyn’s fame, he got the right answer.
      I think you draw an interesting parallel with Thomas Seymour – rake in his own right, indeed – but I still tend to think the latter lost his chances only because he was not granted of royal favors.
      On the contrary, he once happened to be the king’s rival – at least when he took Katherine Parr’s heart, by then widowed Latimer .
      He probably did sth risky when “flirting” (as we don’t know how far it went) with young Princess Elizabeth; but the girl was 15 or about, older anyway than many of Charles Brandon’s preys.
      The latter was no statesman and I’d speak about complicity (rather than friendship) between Henry VIII and the duke of Suffolk.
      So, indeed, I’d better put the blame on Henry rather than on his friend.
      Because to my mind, there is no need tfor a king – when aware of his duties towards his people I mean – to uphold such compromising connections when grown an adult .
      In France we can find those kinds of rascals in the sets of some great feudal lords but these were meant to do dirty jobs for them.
      I hardly understand why Henry VIII would turn a blind eye on any of Brandon’s pranks .
      Of course, they were brothers-in-law, might have been enough …
      When the duke of Suffolk was granted this bull, it was because his first (?) wife had just died (a lady Mortimer, née Neville), so it was high time to reaffirm his four daughters’ legitimacy (the first two, born from his second official wife) being an interesting case, because the very first was born from a woman (born Browne, and whose stepmother was sister to the aforesaid lady Mortimer) who was still his betroth by then . His second daughter (the first’s full sister) was born after her father had married their mother.
      It was that second wedding that was “dubious”, because Charles Brandon was still married with his aging lady Mortimer by then – at the time, he was clearly a bigamist.
      Oddly enough he used his power to get a very uncommon bull (given this situation), before showing a rather misplaced stiff moral position .

  4. Charles Brandon, I believe was far more intelligent than he has been given credit for, especially in some drama series. For one thing, this relatively uneducated, son of a gentleman, happy go lucky woman charmer, jouster and sportsman, friend of the King; outlived the lot of them. He outlived all the great nobles, all the great scholars, all the great advisors, all the great churchmen, 5.9 of Henry’s six wives; almost lived as long as the King; survived a charge of treason and a possible second charge three years later; that in itself proves he was intelligent. Norfolk and Surrey would outlive him, but both would be executed; Brandon died in his own bed with his wife and daughters around him. More, Fisher, Wolsey, the Boleyns, Cromwell, Buckingham, the Poles, all the so called brains of the court and old inflential houses, all had gone well before Brandon died in 1545. Brandon had somehow managed to avoid all of the factions, save for a short time, he had managed to stay away from taking political sides; he had weaved his way through all the scandals of the court; he did not advance his daughters into the royal bed; he had failed at times in his missions for the King, but returned to favour and friendship soon afterwards as if nothing had come between them; he took risks and won and he loved as he willed.

    Charles Brandon was the King’s man, he knew Henry better than anyone; he grew up with him; he was often honest, too honest for his own good to the King’s face; but was respected because of that honesty. Henry knew that Charles was not plotting behind his back because he told the King what he thought on several occassions, especially that he disapproved of Anne Boleyn. Charles sometimes took unfair advantage of his friendship with Henry, in that he married his sister without his permission and almost risked his head for treason. Charles had of course promised not to marry Mary, but did so after she wept and refused to leave France otherwise. As a gallant knight he agreed. Henry chose Brandon for some of the more delicate missions and secret ones. He sent him to Paris to sound out what Francis I thought of Wolsey and his true feelings on the divorce. Francis revealed to Brandon that Wolsey was not 100% behind the divorce and Henry learned the truth via Brandon. He also sent poor Charles to move Katherine from Buckdon to places she refused to go to; a mission that he dreaded, to tell her that she was no longer married and to attempt to get her to accept that Henry was supreme head of the church. Charles acted as his loyal leuitenant in France and in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. He put down the rebellion in the latter. He ruled the latter on the King’s behalf and he went to take Boulogne for the King. Henry, however, could never get him to fully accept Anne.

    Even though Charles would be High Constable at Anne Boleyn’s crowning, he would resist the marriage up to the end; refused to go to France and had to be persuaded; called Anne names which resulted in the fight that saw his retainer killed; confronted Henry about the marriage and was banished; and as a result of his falling out with the Boleyn family, found himself somewhat in the wilderness during Henry’s marriage to Anne. He was present at Anne’s trial and was appointed as her Judge; he may or may not have been pleased with this, we don’t really know, but he is believed to have refused to have shown the traditional respect at her execution, so it is assumed that he was not displeased with her fate. He found favour again and had connections to the Seymours which helped with his rise back to power after the death of Anne. He took part in putting down the rebellions of that year.

    Charles was also involved in the negotiations for the hand of Anne of Cleves and he and his wife escorted her to meet the King formally in London. Charles was also amongst those who informed the lady that she was no longer queen. He retained good relations with Anne of Cleves, as did Henry after the divorce. Charles was also involved in welcoming Henry and his fith wife to Grimsthorpe in 1541 and to organizing the entertainments on the Northern Progress of 1541. He was also involved in the investigations into the alleged crimes of Katherine Howard. His wife became a close friend of the last Queen Katherine Parr and the two became close through their love of the reformed faith. It is also known that Brandon protected and had live at his house reformed preachers. Alexander Seton, a Scottish reformer on the run died at his house in the 1540s. Katherine was known later on for her patronage of the reformed faith.

    One thing that is certain is that Charles Brandon had a thing for the ladies and married four times. He was also not very careful when ending those marriages. He was married to Anne Brown, then to his aunt, then again to Anne Brown, then after her death in 1514 he became Lord Lisle and was betrothed to Elizabeth Grey the heiress to the Lisle lands and fortune. He had to repudiate this after he married Mary, the King;s sister. Charles had one or two illegitimate children, there is some evidence he was unfaithful although not more than a couple of times; he adopted also a child that he saved the life of, from drowning; and he had two daughters by Anne Brown. He was generally a good husband and father, although one of his daughters caused him so much trouble that he did disown her; he did not provide for her in his will and he also was absent minded enough to forget that he had not finalized the divorce from his aunt. Wolsey had to get the Pope to sort this out in 1528. His marriage to Mary provided him with four children, although some writers say three as the evidence for the death and birth of two Henry’s is dubious, it is on the word of a foreign ambassador who said that the child made Lord Lincoln looked as a child of two only. What is the actual evidence for the death of the first Henry? What is the evidence for the birth of the second? There is none. His marriage to Katherine Willoughby also gained him much money and land; but he may also have had some affection for her as he knew her well as his ward. They had a great age difference but that was not unusual at the time and for an older man who had children, marriage to a younger woman may produce more children or a mother for those children. Women’s and mens worlds were separate and men needed someone to run their estates and the home. Whatever their age difference, there is no evidence that they had anything else but a successful and happy marriage. Katherine bore him two sons who, like her were very well educated and intelligent. Sadly both died young from the sweat in 1551.

    Charles Brandon remained true and loyal till the day he died; he may have walked on the edge from time to time but he remained close to the King. His letters reflect that friendship and he was not without rewards from the King. He ruled parts of the country in the south and the midlands on his behalf, he was a good administrator, he worked well even with Norfolk and his fellow councillors, he remained politically neutral most of the time; he held several royal appointments, he was a gentleman of the bedchamber and the privy chamber, he was appointed to the Board of Green Cloth which dealt with financial disputes at court, he was President and co-president of the privy council, he was Lord Leuitenant of the North, he commanded the royal armies, he was Lord Great Master of the Kings Household; he was present at the first attempt to recover the Mary Rose; he was in command in Scotland and in France in 1543 and 1544; he was the King’s favourite partner in the joust and at tennis; he was a good sportsman; he knew how to handle the men under his command; he even had mondain jobs such as reorganizing local drainage systems in the counties he lived in; he sorted out local justice and trade disputes fairly and he was well thought of by those who knew him. After his death he was praised by his tennants, by the King and by his friends. Henry, against his own will, gave him a state funeral and he lies practically level with the royal tomb, a few feet away in Windsor. It is an odd thing, but when Henry VIII lost his favourite ship, the Mary Rose in July 1545 and his best friend a few weeks later, 22nd August 1545, he seemed to deteriate himself very quickly, dying less than 18 months later in January 1547.

    1. I forgot to comment on the actual rivalry with Anne Boleyn. For a short time Brandon had allied himself with Thomas Boleyn and Norfolk to bring down Cardianl Wolsey who had failed to arrange Henry’s divorce in 1529-1530. This achieved, he then split and went his own way. The origins of his ill feelings towards Anne Boleyn may be three fold, although the evidence may also be debatable.

      One: According to Chapyus Brandon was banished from court for a time and there was speculation that he had come to the King with a story that Anne was seeing other men while they were courting; to whit one Sir Thomas Wyatt; her cousin and former courtier. Henry did not take kindly to this and banished the Duke. Anne is meant to have retaliated by spreading lies that Brandon was overly affectionate to his daughter Frances, an allegation which is most likely without substance; the King did nothing about it and there does not appear to be any reliable sources to back this up. This is clearly tit for tat.

      Two It is documented that at a banquet at court Anne was given precedent over all the other ladies, including his own sister Mary and Brandon’s daughters. This was an insult of the highest magnitude as the rules of prescedence were clearly laid down. Brandon had married into the royal family, thus his kids were in line for the throne; after the Kings of course. Anne was Henry’s mistress at the time; not his wife; she had no right to be honoured above these three Princesses and Henry knew it. Mary took this badly and Charles was furious. This is probably the source of his hatred of Anne Boleyn. It was after this that Charles seemed to increasingly attempt to dissuade Henry from marrying Anne Boleyn. He used insulting language about her; his wife was loud in her condemnation of Anne; she insulted her and her insults resulted in the tragic incident above.

      Sir William Pennington was not just a retainer of the Duke of Suffolk, he was his chief retainer and he was married to the Duke’s cousin. An exchange of words led to the Duke of Norfolk’s retainers and the Duke of Suffolk’s including Pennington to have a sword fight in the street and in the Westminster Sanctuary where Pennington was killed. Suffolk would have dragged the murderers from the church and probably have killed one of them had he not been stopped. Both sides had to agree to not take any further action and the murderers were pardoned and allowed to come out of sanctuary, after paying a fine. Suffolk was not too pleased but he had given his word. It is clear that he would bide his time and take revenge one day.

      For some reason, most likely because his wife saw Anne as an upstart, Brandon also saw her in this light and seems to have believed that she was a bad inflence on the King. He made his views known and he also refused to go to France where Henry and Anne were to be entertained by King Francis who was going to support their engagement. Two or three visits from the King and Cromwell, however, and Charles packed for France as he was told. He resented this treatment and that Henry no longer appeared to take his advice. Brandon may also have felt conflicted; with his wife supporting Katherine; whom he had served as Queen for 24 years; honoured as Queen and had some sympathy for; with the Boleyns now having all of the honours at court; with Henry somewhat changed over the years; with being dismissed when he tried to warn Henry of the truth as he saw it; he now felt pushed out. To Brandon; life was not the same and in his view; the Boleyns were to blame. He could not accept Anne as Queen; even though in the end he had no choice and as a result; the next three years were difficult ones for the Duke, who found himself partly out of favour.

      All three of these things combined to cause trouble between Brandon and the Boleyns. Imagined or real; Charles saw Anne as the cause of everything that was going wrong with the King; the country and his own life; It is not surprising that he was active at the end of three years of holding his tongue in her prosecution. In this, he was the King’s man.

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