Tag Archives: Frances Brandon

Eleanor Brandon, Countess of Cumberland…

eleanor brandon.jpgIt is sometimes easy to forget that Henry VIII had more than one English niece who featured in his will.  Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, married Charles Brandon who was elevated to Duke of Suffolk.  They had two children who survived childhood, Frances and Eleanor. I’ve posted about Eleanor before.  Double click here to open the post in a new window. This post is by way of a precursor to a post about Lady Margaret Stanley (no, not Henry VII’s mother better known to history as Margaret Beaufort but her great-granddaughter born Lady Margaret Clifford.)

Frances Brandon, the elder of the two girls, married Henry Grey and bore three children who survived to adulthood: Lady Jane Grey, Lady Catherine Grey and Lady Mary Grey.  All three of her daughters were blighted by their Tudor blood and claim to the throne. Lady Jane Grey or Dudley as she was by then was executed by her cousin Queen Mary whilst Catherine and Mary became in turn “heir presumptive”; each married for love and each in turn was imprisoned by their other cousin Elizabeth I, one starved to death and neither was allowed to see her husband again.  The treatment of the Grey girls was not Elizabeth’s finest hour.  Lady Mary died on the 20 May 1578.

The role of heir presumptive was then passed to Lady Margaret Stanley, Countess of Derby.  Her claim came through her mother – Eleanor Brandon.  Needless to say Lady Margaret soon found herself under house arrest just as her two cousins had done.  She didn’t make the mistake of marrying for love – she and her husband were long married by then and estranged.  No, Lady Margaret was something of an alchemist and a follower of astrology – she had apparently wanted to know what the chances of Cousin Lizzie popping her clogs might have been.

So back to Eleanor Brandon – she was born some time between 1518 and 1521 meaning that when she died in 1547 she was at most twenty-eight.  Henry VIII was a guest when Eleanor married her husband in 1535.  Henry Clifford, the First Earl of Cumberland and Eleanor’s father-in-law  was determined to make his home fit for a princess and promptly extended Skipton Castle, adding an octagonal tower and long gallery to make it more pleasant. The Cliffords had sold off some of their estates to pay for the rebuilding work and also to pay for the wedding. It comes as something of a surprise to discover that the young couple spent much of their early married life at Brougham Castle.

Eleanor turns up the following year in the capacity of chief mourner at Katherine of Aragon’s funeral in Peterborough Cathedral. Interestingly Frances Brandon didn’t fill the roll – perhaps it was because Frances was pregnant at the time.That same year Eleanor was rescued from the Pilgrims of the Pilgrimage of Grace by Christopher Aske and taken to safety rather than being turned into a hostage for Lord Clifford’s co-operation. She ended up holed up in Skipton Castle. Eleanor appears to have suffered from ill health for quite some time after this but by 1546 she is listed in the household of Queen Katherine Parr – who had experienced her own difficulties at the time of the Pilgrimage of Grace as Lady Latimer.

Henry VIII died at the beginning of 1547, his niece died at the end of autumn the same year – in November (or possibly September depending on which source you read).  Henry Clifford, by now the second earl, went into a bit of a decline, burying his wife in Skipton Church where he’d buried his two infant sons. Ann Clifford, in her family history went on to explain:

…he fell into an extream sickness, of which he was at length laid out for a dead man, upon a table, & covered with a hearse of velvet; but some of his men that were then very carefull about him perceiveing some little signs of life in him, did apply hot cordials inwardly & outwardly unto him, which brought him to life again, & so, after he was laid into his bed again, he was fain for 4 or 5 weeks after to such the milk out of a woman’s breast and only to live on that food; and after to drink asses milk, and live on that 3 or 4 months longer.

Henry Clifford recovered and married for a second time.  He also had the common good sense not to get tangled up in the plots of the Duke of Northumberland who initially tried to arrange a marriage between his own son Guildford Dudley and Lady Margaret Clifford, Eleanor’s only surviving child.

Eleanor’s father, Charles, married three times.  Eleanor’s mother Mary Tudor was his second wife. He’d previously married secretly in 1508 and had two daughters. Eleanor mentions on of her elder half sisters in the only letter that survives from her:

“Dear heart,
After my most hearty commendations, this shall be to certify you that since your departure from me I have been very sick and at this present my water is very red, whereby I suppose I have the jaundice and the ague both, for I have none abide [no appetite for] meat and I have such pains in my side and towards my back as I had at Brougham, where it began with me first. Wherefore I desire you to help me to a physician and that this bearer my bring him with him, for now in the beginning I trust I may have good remedy, and the longer it is delayed, the worse it will be. Also my sister Powys is come to me and very desirous to see you, which I trust shall be the sooner at this time, and thus Jesus send us both health.

Certainly the letter confirms Eleanor’s ill health and the reference to sister Powys is to Anne Brandon who was married to Lord Grey of Powys.

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Henry Grey, duke of Suffolk – father of Lady Jane Grey.

henry-greyHenry Grey was the great grandson of Elizabeth Woodville by her first husband Sir John Grey of Goby – and incidentally it’s pronounced ‘Grooby’. He died at the second Battle of St Albans in February 1461 leaving Elizabeth a widow with two sons.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Henry Grey’s father was the second marquis and on of Elizabeth of York’s closest relatives.  He found that his credentials were suspect under the new Tudor regime not least because of his suspected conspiracy in the Lambert Simnel affair.  What saved his bacon was his skill at jousting and his friendship with Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk.  When he died in 1530 it is perhaps not surprising that young Henry found his wardship in the hands of Brandon.  And with that knowledge it is unsurprising that he ended up married to Charles’ daughter Frances.  His links to the crown mad whim a suitable match for a girl of royal blood – Frances’ mother was, after all, Princess Mary or the French Queen as she was known during her lifetime.

Henry did what nobles did – he jousted. He gambled. He wandered around looking magnificent whilst being short of cash.  He took part in ceremonies such as Henry VIII’s funeral.

To all intents and purposes he does not appear desperately interesting, until that is he became embroiled involved with Sir Thomas Seymour at the beginning of Edward VI’s reign. Seymour convinced Henry and Frances that he could arrange a marriage between their oldest surviving child, Lady Jane Grey, and the new king, young Edward VI.  With this in mind and perhaps on account of Henry’s rather sizeable gambling debts, Henry sold the wardship of his daughter to the king’s uncle and was drawn further and further into Seymour’s web.  Whilst  Jane was at Chelsea in Katherine Parr’s household all initially seemed to be well.  Young Jane was in receipt of a first rate education and a step closer to the crown. All that can be said with the clarity of hindsight  is that Grey was either extremely ambitious and took gambling to the extreme or that he was incredibly naive to believe that any of Seymour’s schemes would work. Not only that of course but it soon became clear that Seymour was behaving inappropriately by romping with Princess Elizabeth. For reasons best known to themselves, even after they’d heard the rumours Jane’s parent allowed her to remain in Seymour’s care. She did refer to him as a beloved father and there is no evidence of any untoward behaviour on Seymour’s part.

Grey was a man of the time.  He had  Protestant sympathies. He was father to three of the potential claimants to the throne and husband of the fourth.  He was a man worth cultivating. Perhaps for this reason he was appointed to the privy council in 1549 after the fall of the duke of Somerset. He certainly started to extend his collection of lands at this time, he rounded up some of the property of the duke of Somerset when he was convicted of treason, and added to his offices. In 1551 he became a warden of the marches but didn’t really seem to know what to do.  It was something of a relief to all concerned, apart possibly from the Scots, when he handed in his notice. Even if he was fairly nondescript as a politician or a military commander his role as head of the family of female Tudors made him important in the Tudor political world so it is fairly unsurprising that Dudley made him duke of Suffolk following the death of his father-in-law and two young  half-brothers-in-law. There was also a handy little grant of £2000 a year.

lady-jane-grey

Suffolk, as I shall now call him in line with his title, must have felt as though everything was falling into place when Northumberland persuaded Edward, who was seriously ill by the beginning of 1553, that it would be a good idea if his own son were to marry Lady Jane Grey and that she should be nominated heir to the throne given her protestant credentials. There was the small matter of persuading Jane that it was a good idea but it was effectively a done deal with the marriage being celebrated in May 1553 along with the nuptials of Jane’s younger sister Lady Katherine Grey to William Herbert, heir of the earl of Pembroke on the same day.  At the same time as the Grey girls acquired husbands the duke of Northumberland’s daughter, also called Katherine and not yet twelve years old, married Henry Hastings, son of  the earl of Hastings – another man with Plantagenet blood threading through his veins. Northumberland was binding his party together through promises of power and through the traditional medium of marriage.  Edward VI died on 6 July 1553.
 On the 9th July 1553 Suffolk together with the privy council declared Jane queen.  A few days later Suffolk declared Mary queen outside the Tower before tearing down the canopy of state from over his daughter’s head.  He then left her to face the music.
Somehow or the other Suffolk managed to avoid being  incarcerated in the Tower and having the key  to his cell thrown into the Thames. He was imprisoned, along with Frances, on the 27th  May 1553. After a few days he was released without charge, unlike seventeen year old Jane. She was a hostage and Mary’s pro-catholic council, featuring amongst its number men who’d made her queen, were looking for an excuse to end her life. Under those circumstances you’d have thought that Suffolk would manage to keep his head down and his nose clean.
Of course, he didn’t. Whilst Frances and their two  younger daughters returned to court where they were welcomed by Queen Mary, Suffolk having paid a fine made disgruntled noises about the prospect of a return to Catholicism.  It was for this reason that he became involved with Sir Thomas Wyatt who wished to prevent Queen Mary from marrying Philip of Spain.  Suffolk thought that as a leading gentleman of the Midlands that he could raise support for a rebellion.  He also thought that the Earl of Hastings would support him. Hastings was very busy at that particular time back tracking as fast as he could. Unfortunately  Suffolk was just about as good a rebel as he was a politician and had failed to spot that the band of nobles who’d sealed their deal with the marriages of their children were now backtracking rather rapidly – poor Katherine Grey was virtually kick rout of the Pembroke house despite the young couple having taken rather a shine to one another. The plot was betrayed by Edward Courtenay, earl of Devonshire, who also happened to have quite a lot of Plantagenet blood and who Wyatt thought would make a better royal spouse.
It wasn’t long before the Privy Council asked Suffolk to pop around for a cosy little chat.  Had he heard anything about a rebellion?  Would he take command of men in order to put the insurgents down? Suffolk panicked and scarpered home to Bradgate where the locals showed a determined line in being loyal to the Crown.  Leicester and Coventry turned him away.
Suffolk realising the game was up thought that it would be sensible to leave rather rapidly…he wasn’t terribly good at being a fugitive either. He decided that he would flee to Denmark but wasn’t quite sure about the direction he needed to take. Unsurprisingly he was softly captured and returned to the Tower where he was executed on 23rd February 1554. His actions were the excuse that Mary’s government needed to execute his daughter. Grey, attainted of treason,  went to his death grieving for his daughter who was executed along with her husband on the 12th.
It’s hard to feel any sympathy for Henry Grey. He played at the top table of Tudor politics without having any real aptitude for the game. His eldest daughter paid with her life.

Robert C. Braddock, ‘Grey, Henry, duke of Suffolk (1517–1554)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/11535, accessed 27 Feb 2017]

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Frances Brandon

frances-tombFrances Grey nee Brandon is another ‘not quite Tudor princess.’ She was the elder daughter of Henry VIII’s sister Mary Tudor the Dowager Queen of France and her second husband Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk- based on modern rules she would not be defined as a princess but her nearness to the crown at a time when there was a shortage of Tudor heirs created tragedy for her three daughters.

Frances was born at Hatfield on July 16, 1517. Interestingly, like her cousins there was some legal wrangling as to her legitimacy. Charles had been married to Margaret Neville before marrying Mary – unfortunately Margaret was still very much alive at the time. Charles had to get the marriage annulled on grounds of consanguinity by which time Frances had arrived so his legal paperwork had to declare her legitimate.

 

Mary Tudor was close to her sister-in-law Catherine of Aragon so inevitably Frances spent time with her cousin the Princess Mary meaning that the arrival of Anne Boleyn made family gatherings a tad tricky.

 

In 1533, Frances married Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset. He was the great-grandson of Elizabeth Woodville through her first marriage. Soon after the marriage Frances’ mother died. By 1551, Frances’ half brother was dead and Henry Grey became Duke of Suffolk. Frances was also third in line for the throne, the Tudor lack of males making her more important than she might otherwise have been. By the time she was nineteen she’d already lost a daughter and more importantly, in the minds of folk wanting male Tudors, a son. In 1537 another daughter, Lady Jane Grey, was born. Roger Ascham, her one time tutor, recorded Jane’s views of Frances’ parenting strategy –

 

“For when I am in presence either of father or mother; whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand, or go, eat, drink, be merry, or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing any thing else; I must do it, as it were, in such weight, measure, and number, even so perfectly, as God made the world; or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea presently sometimes with pinches, nips, and bobs, and other ways (which I will not name for the honour I bear them) so without measure misordered, that I think myself in hell, till time come that I must go to Mr Elmer; who teacheth me so gently, so pleasantly, with such fair allurements to learning, that I think all the time nothing whiles I am with him…”

 

No wonder then that numerous writers have suggested that the greys were disappointed that Jane was not a boy – although expectations of learning amongst the Tudor children was undoubtedly high.

 

Unlike Eleanor Brandon who seems to have been unambitious, perhaps because of her poor health Frances appears to have been much more determined to shin up the Tudor powerlist. When Henry VIII died in 1547 they handed Jane over to Thomas Seymour as a ward in the hope that he might arrange a match with her cousin the new king Edward VI.

 

But by 1553 it was clear that Edward was dying. Jane leapfrogged over her cousins Mary and Elizabeth bypassing Henry VIII’s will when Edward named her his heir. She was married off to Guildford Dudley. Novels suggest that Frances beat Jane in order to ensure compliance but there are no historical sources to support this.

 

Frances’s husband Henry Grey was executed on February 23, 1554 for his part in Wyatt’s rebellion against Mary- he outlived his daughter by ten days. His involvement in the rebellion cost Jane her life.

 

Frances went on to marry her Master of Horse, rather suggesting she wasn’t as ambitious as all that the following month. By marrying Adrian Stokes she lowered her rank so significantly that William Camden believed that she distanced herself and her surviving children far enough from the throne to make them less of a threat. Leanda de Lisle’s book about the Grey sisters reveals that Katherine and Mary remained at risk because of their closeness to the throne but that during Mary’s reign they were welcome at court, as indeed was their mother Frances.

 

Frances’ health deteriorated in part from late pregnancies- she gave birth to a daughter who died the same day – had she visited Henry Grey in the Tower after his arrest there might have been some doubt as to whether or not Adrian Stokes was the father. And there were also two sons who died in infancy. Frances died in the Charterhouse at Sheen in 21 November 1559. She was given the burial of a princess in Westminster Abbey and was described as such by the heralds at the funeral demonstrating that the term princess was a moveable feast during the Tudor period.

 

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Lady Eleanor Brandon

Brandon,Eleonor01The Act of Settlement in 1701 ensured a Protestant succession upon the deaths of King William III (That’s the William in William and Mary) and his niece Princess Anne who would become the last Stuart monarch dying in 1714. Since then, the title of princess has been clearly designated. The daughter of a monarch is a princess. The daughter of a prince is a princess. The daughter of a princess on the other hand is not a princess unless her father is one of the above.

 

Before the advent of the Hanoverians the title was less regularly used and it was not always clear how diluted royal blood was deemed to have become. Mary Tudor was undoubtedly a princess being the daughter of King Henry VII of England. She was also the Dowager-Queen of France having been married off for political reasons to the elderly Louis XII of France who expired three months after the wedding – the moral here being don’t marry a bride more than thirty years your junior… perhaps. However, although Mary was known throughout her life as ‘The French Queen,’  and whilst her daughters Francis and Eleanor were important in terms of the Tudor dynasty they were not, by Hanoverian standards princesses because their father was neither a prince nor a king.

 

After Louis XII died Mary batted off a number of suitors and married the man she’d fallen in love with whilst she was a princess back at home in England. Charles Brandon was the Duke of Suffolk. His father had been Henry VII’s standard-bearer at the Battle of Bosworth. Following the death of his father at Bosworth Charles was raised at court. He was a favourite of young Henry and was described in one letter as a ‘second king.’ Even so the pair of star struck lovers had enough common sense to undergo a private ceremony in France before returning home and then to get Cardinal Wolsey to break the news to Henry VIII that his sister, whom he had promised could marry whosoever she wished, was married to Brandon. He was not amused. The pair ended up giving the grasping Henry all her dowry and plate as well as agreeing to pay £1000 each year for the next twenty-four years.

 

Eleanor was their second daughter and at that time was so unimportant that her birth was not recorded accurately – so sometime between 1518 and 1521. In 1533 she was contracted to marry, Henry Clifford, First Earl of Cumberland who was also a second cousin through the maternal line. An account is given in that same year of Eleanor and her sister Frances as mourners at their mother’s funeral.

 

The marriage between Eleanor and Henry Clifford, like most noble matches was about land and power.  The pair, who spent much of their married life at Brougham Castle, seem to have been genuinely fond of one another – she refers to him as “dear heart” in her letters. As for Henry Clifford, he celebrated his marriage into the Tudor family by extending Skipton Castle with the addition of a tower and a gallery.  After all, its not everyday you marry into royalty.

 

In 1536, Eleanor acted as chief mourner at Catherine of Aragon’s funeral, as her cousin the Princess Mary was refused permission to attend because of her intransigence in the matter of her personal beliefs and her determination to uphold her mother’s wishes. It suggests that Eleanor was as close as her mother had been to Catherine of Aragon. This is confirmed by the circumstantial evidence that she does not seem to have had any role in the households of any of Henry’s queens apart from Katherine Parr – perhaps it was the northern link.

 

Alternatively it may be that Eleanor was not in robust health. We know that she bore three children – two of whom, Henry and Charles, died young. There are letters from her father, her husband and one from her which contain information about her own poor health:

Dear heart,
After my most hearty commendations, this shall be to certify you that since your departure from me I have been very sick and at this present my water is very red, whereby I suppose I have the jaundice and the ague both, for I have none abide [no appetite for] meat and I have such pains in my side and towards my back as I had at Brougham, where it began with me first. Wherefore I desire you to help me to a physician and that this bearer my bring him with him, for now in the beginning I trust I may have good remedy, and the longer it is delayed, the worse it will be. Also my sister Powys Anne Brandon is come to me and very desirous to see you, which I trust shall be the sooner at this time, and thus Jesus send us both health.

At my lodge at Carlton, the 14th of February.
And, dear heart, I pray you send for Dr Stephens, for he knoweth best my complexion for such causes.
By your assured loving wife, Eleanor Cumberland

 

 

In the same year that Catherine of Aragon died Eleanor was staying in Bolton Priory with her infant son, when the Pilgrimage of Grace erupted around her.  Skipton Castle was besieged and the pilgrims threatened to use Eleanor as a hostage. To ensure that Henry Clifford did what they wanted of him – the message, according to Stickland, was that if Clifford failed to comply  with the pilgrims demands then Eleanor would be handed over to ‘ruffians.’ Being a Victorian lady writer Agnes Strickland passes over the terror of that particular fate.  Fortunately for Eleanor there was a knight errant at hand. Robert Aske, leader of the Pilgrimage of grace, had a brother called Christopher. It was he who offered Eleanor protection.   Along with the Vicar of Skipton he escorted Eleanor and her son through the camp and across the moor to safety under cover of darkness.

 

The religious uncertainites of the period seem to have haunted Eleanor once more at a later stage of her life when she was mentioned as having a connection to Anne Askew. Fortunately for Eleanor it would appear that Anne approached her but nothing came of it.

 

Henry VIII died in 1547 as did Eleanor who passed away whilst residing in Brougham Castle. She was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Skipton. It is interesting the at the wording of Eleanor’s epitaph gives her the title “Grace” – a reminder, perhaps, that to her family and to her people she was a princess.  Henry Clifford was, apparently, bereft for months afterwards to the point that his household thought that he had died and set about laying him out.  He recovered sufficiently to remarry. Henry VIII, as might be expected of a man who turned his kingdom upside down, wrote a will which identified the order in which his children would inherit the throne. If they did not survive he identified the children of Lady Frances Grey, Countess of Dorset and then those of Lady Eleanor, Countess of Cumberland to follow after him- bypassing the children of his other sister , Margaret Tudor, completely. It was perhaps fortunate that Eleanor did not live long enough to know the fate that befell her niece Lady Jane Grey or the difficulties that her only surviving child, Margaret, would face as a result of their Tudor blood and Henry VIII’s will.

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