Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk Biography

(English Military Leader and Courtier)

Born: 1484

Born In: Guildford, England, United kingdom

Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk and 1st Viscount Lisle, was a English military leader and courtier who is recognized by many as the only person who successfully retained the favor of King Henry VIII over his turbulent four-decade-long reign. Orphaned at a young age, he was raised in the court of King Henry VII and became close friends with Henry VIII, impressing him with his extraordinary jousting skills. He held various offices during his lifetime and had become the top councilor for the King later in his life. He also became Henry VIII’s brother-in-law following his marriage to Mary Tudor. He led the English army to invade France twice and had accompanied Henry VIII to France for the Field of the Cloth of Gold summit meeting. He was made the 1st Duke of Suffolk by Henry VIII and was the 1st Viscount Lisle for a period of time.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, 1st Viscount Lisle

Died At Age: 61


Spouse/Ex-: Katherine Brandon - Duchess of Suffolk (m. 1533), Anne Browne (m. 1508 – 1511), Mary Tudor - Queen of France (m. 1515 – 1533)

father: Sir William Brandon

mother: Elizabeth Bruyn

children: Anne Brandon - Baroness Grey of Powys, Charles Brandon - 3rd Duke of Suffolk, Eleanor Brandon, Frances Grey - Duchess of Suffolk, Henry Brandon - 1st Earl of Lincoln, Henry Brandon - 2nd Duke of Suffolk, Lord Henry Brandon, Mary Brandon - Baroness Monteagle

Born Country: England

Noblemen Military Leaders

Died on: August 22, 1545

place of death: Guildford, Surrey, Kingdom of England

City: Guildford, England

Childhood & Early Life

Charles Brandon was born around 1484 to William Brandon, son of Sir William Brandon who was knighted by Henry VI, and Elizabeth Bruyn, the daughter and co-heiress of Sir Henry Bruyn. He had a brother named William, who was last mentioned in a 1497 document, and a sister named Anne, who was married first to Sir John Shilston and then to Sir Gawain Carew.

A loyal supporter of Henry VII, his father was chosen standard-bearer at the Battle of Bosworth Field where he was killed by King Richard III on August 22, 1485. After the death of his grandfather (1491) and his mother (1494), Brandon was raised by his uncle Thomas at the court of Henry VII and became a close friend of future King Henry VIII.

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In 1503, Charles Brandon served Henry VII as Squire of the Royal Body and was appointed Cavalry Captain to the Earl of Essex, Henry Bourchier, in which capacity he served for six years. After Henry VIII ascended the throne in 1509, Brandon served the new King as Esquire to the Body and was appointed Chamberlain of the Principality of North Wales.

He was made Marshal of the King's Bench in 1510 and the next year he was granted the office of Marshal of the Royal Household with Sir John Carewe in survivorship. In 1512, he was given several titles including Keeper of the Royal Manor and Park of Wanstead and Ranger of the New Forest and Knight of the Body.

He was elected Order of the Garter and made Master of the Horse in 1513, and following his engagement to his 9-year-old ward Elizabeth Grey, heiress to Lord Lisle, he also became Viscount Lisle. Nevertheless, in 1514, Henry created him 1st Duke of Suffolk, one of only three dukes in the kingdom, and even attempted to goad Margaret of Savoy, daughter of the emperor Maximilian I, to marry him.

After King’s favorite sister, Mary Tudor, was widowed following the death of King Louis XII of France in 1515, Henry sent Brandon to France to bring Mary and her dowry back to England. However, he briefly fell out of favor with the King after the two got married secretly, but his sentence for effective treason was reduced thanks to intervention from Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.

Following his marriage to Mary, his title of Viscount Lisle was forfeited and he went to retirement except for accompanying the English delegation at the Field of Cloth of Gold in France in 1520. However, once the conflict with France was renewed, he was called back in 1523 to lead English troops stationed in Calais and invaded France with Count of Buren.

He was appointed Earl Marshal of England in 1524, but later relinquished the office in 1533 in favor of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. He helped overthrow Wolsey in 1529, becoming Henry's leading councilor, and was sent to collect the Great Seal from him, but he loathed it when Henry sent him to dismiss former queen Catherine's household.

Brandon, who supported Henry's ecclesiastical policy, received valuable grants of land after the dissolution of the monasteries. He served as the Lord Steward in 1541-44 and was again sent to command the English army to invade France in 1544.

Personal Life & Legacy

Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, was betrothed to Anne Browne, daughter of Anthony Browne, in 1505 and the relationship was consummated before he married her aunt, wealthy widower Margaret Neville, in 1507. After Browne’s pregnancy with their first child was revealed, his marriage to Neville was declared void, following which he married Browne in 1508 and had two daughters with her.

After the death of his wife in 1512, he was contracted to marry Elizabeth Grey, 5th Baroness Lisle, but the contract was annulled after he married Mary Tudor, Queen Dowager of France, in May 1515. The two resided at Westhorpe Hall and had four children, including two sons, both of whom died young.

After Mary’s death in 1533, he married Catherine Willoughby, 12th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby, with whom he had two sons, both of whom died of the sweating sickness on July 14, 1551.

Charles Brandon died at Guildford, Surrey, on August 24, 1545 and was buried at Windsor in St George's Chapel at Henry VIII's expense.


Charles Brandon’s romance with Mary Tudor has spawned several fictional accounts, including the novel When Knighthood Was in Flower, which was adapted into three different movies. He was portrayed by Henry Cavill in the Showtime series The Tudors, which is more fictional and contains historical inaccuracies.

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