Tag Archives: Margaret Clifford

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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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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