Catherine Brandon

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Catherine Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk (Willoughby d'Eresby) as played by Rebekah Wainwright and Marcella Plunkett
* called Catherine Brooke in the series but in history her maiden name was Willoughby

born March 22, 1519 - died September 19, 1580
Character's backstory:
Only surviving daughter of William Willoughby, 11th Baron Willoughby of Eresby, by his second wife Maria De Salinas, one of the spanish Maids of Honour who came to England with Katherine of Aragon. Catherine's paternal great-grandmother, Cecily de Welles, was a maternal half-sister of Lady Margaret Beaufort (grandmother of King Henry VIII) by their mother Lady Margaret Beauchamp, thus making Catherine a first cousin, once removed of King Henry.

She was a good looking girl, healthy, intelligent and high-spirited. A Baroness in her own right after her father's death in 1526, she was also the heiress to 15,000 ducats a year.
Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, bought her wardship from the king, and she was contracted to marry the then 3 year old Henry Brandon, Earl of Lincoln, the son of Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor (Princess Margaret Tudor in the series). She lived with them and was educated along with the sisters of her fiance, Frances and Eleanor. Brandon didn´t want to loose Catherine's inheritance because he needed the money badly and married his son's betrothed in 1533, shortly after his royal wife's death. He was about 48 and she was 14. His son, Henry Brandon would be betrothed elsewhere easily enough. But that was not to be soon after his father's wedding, the young Earl died at the age of only ten or eleven. One and a half years after his death, Brandon and Catherine had a son and named him Henry Brandon, and another son was named Charles in 1537.

Under Catherine Parr's sponsorship, Catherine would become part of an influential group which included Margaret Radcliffe, Countess of Sussex, Joan Denny, Anne Parr, Lady Herbert and Jane, Lady Dudley that studied and discussed the gospels and listened to discourses of preachers like Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and Nicholas Shaxton. Although still in her mid-twenties, Catherine had developed into a personality to be reckoned with, a lady with a sharp wit and sure hand to thrust it home and make it pierce where she pleased.

*The series depicts Catherine as a catholic supporter of Katherine of Aragon's marriage to Henry VIII and opposed to the rise of Anne Boleyn and her family. In truth, whatever her opinion of the "Great Matter" Catherine was a devout evangelical reformer like the Boleyns. She is not even shown in Season 4 as part of Catherine Parr's group of ladies and friends and the series also shows Catherine as estranged from her husband Charles Brandon, which is historically inaccurate.

She would become a patron of Protestant publisher <a class="external" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">John Day</a> (publisher of John Foxe's Acts and Monuments) and she would take an active role in the 1550's onward of the establishment of "Stranger churches" for English Protestant exiles in continental Europe. After the accession of Queen Mary I in 1553, Catherine and her Protestant husband Richard Bertie fled with other English exiles to the continent to escape the Marian Persecutions. Catherine and her family returned to England once Elizabeth took the throne in 1558.
In her later life she became an inveterate schemer and loved nothing better than getting involved in other people's affairs. She was constantly being reproved for interfering in things that did not concern her. Her sharp tongue had offended many but she was not one whit abashed by her general unpopularity. The last twenty years of Catherine's life were spent in obsessing with her children's rights and the rights of their spouses. Catherine spun her wheels, pathetically as it seems, trying to get Elizabeth to declare Susan's husband, Reginald Grey, the Earl of Kent. She also devoted years of letter writing and personal appointments to seeking the title "Lord Willoughby" for her husband Richard Bertie. She succeeded in the first suit and failed in the second. She died at the age of 61 and two years later her 'soulmate' Richard Bertie died and they were both buried in a splendid tomb in Spilsby, Lincolnshire (below).

Gentility: inherited the Barony of Willoughby de Eresby at age seven after her father Lord Willoughby died which gave her an annual income of 15,000 ducats a year

Position: 12th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby by inheritance, Duchess of Suffolk by first marriage; Dowager Duchess of Suffolk; Lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine Parr

Personality type: intelligent, high-spirited, historically she was a staunch Protestant.
- "a lady of a sharp wit and sure hand to thrust it home and make it pierce where she pleased, as well as a sarcastic tongue and a tendency to "frowardness" she possessed a good brain and a lively enquiring intellect, eagerly receptive of new ideas. "
- "born to a sheltered and secure life and, by her own
honesty and outspokenness, she courted persecution and lived in danger. She was a woman of wit and beauty and charm, and of great integrity."
~ Evelyn Read

Signature look: good looking.

Endearing trait(s): a good stepmother to her husband's children by Princess Margaret and maintained a lasting friendship with his daughters Lady Frances, who became Duchess of Suffolk, and Lady Eleanor along with their grandchildren, especially Lady Mary Grey (not shown in the series). She also took on the responsibility of Queen dowager Catherine Parr's daughter, Lady Mary Seymour, after her pre-mature death from giving birth when Thomas Seymour was reluctant to take care of the child.

Annoying trait(s):

Catherine Brandon as played by Rebekah Wainwright

"... I give God thanks, good Master Cecil, for all His benefits which it hath pleased him to heap upon me; and truly I take this last (and to the first sight most sharp and bitter) punishment not for the least of His benefits, inasmuch as I have never been so well taught by any other before to know His power, His love and mercy, mine own weakness and that wretched state that without Him I should endure here. And to ascertain you that I have received great comfort in Him, I would gladly do it by talk and sight of you. But as I must confess myself no better than flesh, so I am not well able with quiet to behold my very friends without some part of these vile dregs of Adam to seem sorry for that whereof I know I rather ought to rejoice..." ~ Catherine wrote to Sir William Cecil after the death of her two young sons of the sweating sickness in 1551.

Katherine Willoughby, 12th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby

Henry's Seventh Wife?

Catherine Brandon's friendship with Queen Catherine Parr had a great impact on her religious beliefs but Parr's friendship was also important after the death of Catherine's husband the Duke in 1545 and subsequently the death of her two sons from sweating sickness. But Catherine's closeness to the Queen also attracted notice of someone else. When Parr's religion became too controversial for the King, there was talk that Henry planned to replace Parr with a new wife - the widow of his late friend Charles Brandon.

In February 1547, Van der Delft wrote: 'I hesitate to report there are rumours of a new queen. Some attribute it to the sterility of the present Queen, while others say that there will be no change during the present war. Madame Suffolk is much talked about and is in great favour; but the King shows no alteration in his behaviour to the Queen, although she is said to be annoyed by the rumour'

Despite the rumours, Catherine Parr's and Willoughby's friendship continued until Parr's death in 1548 after giving birth to her first and only child, Lady Mary Seymour. Lady Mary would eventually become the responsibility of Brandon as specified in Parr's will.

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Family members:
Father: Lord William Willoughby d'Eresby, 11th Baron
Mother: Maria de Salinas (d. 1539)
Aunt: Ines de Salinas (one of the original ladies in waiting to Princess Katherine who journeyed to England in 1501)


Historically, after Catherine was placed into the wardship of the Duke of Suffolk she was betrothed to his son Henry Brandon, but Charles decided to marry her himself.

First Husband: Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk (1534 - 1545)
Son: Henry Brandon, 2nd Duke of Suffolk (1535 - 1551)
Son: Charles Brandon, 3rd Duke of Suffolk (1537 - 1551)

Second Husband: Sir Richard Bertie (1553 - 1580) - her gentleman usher and a "love match".
Daughter: Susan Bertie, Countess of Kent (b. 1554)
Son: Peregrine Bertie, 12th Baron Willoughby de Eresby (1555 - 1601)

Catherine Parr
Anne Stanhope
Anne Parr

Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford
Thomas Seymour
Hugh Latimer (employed as her chaplain for a while)
Bess of Hardwick
Lady Mary Grey
Lady Frances Brandon (step-daughter)

Princess Elizabeth (during her exile in Europe, Catherine wrote to Elizabeth with news from the continent)
Sir William Cecil

Enemies :
The Boleyn faction (in the series)
Queen Mary I (Princess Mary Tudor)
Catholic faction
Bishop Stephen Gardiner (in reality)

  • " So keep your head. It's a pretty head, in any case, and I don't want to lose it either. But store up your knowledge and your anger. Don't act impulsively; it's always a mistake. But one day with others so disposed, use them both and if you can, bring her down and destroy her [[[Anne Boleyn]]]." Catherine to Charles, episode 2.3



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Catherine Brandon

Catherine Brandon by Hans Holbein
Sketch of Catherine by Hans Holbein

Catherine Brandon as played by Rebekah Wainwright

Catherine Willoughby
Catherine BrandonCatherine Brandon as played by Rebekah Wainwright
Catherine Brandon - The Tudors Wiki
The Duke and Duchess of Suffolk at the royal visit to Calais in 1532
Catherine Brandon as played by Rebekah Wainwright
Catherine Brandon - The Tudors Wiki
Catherine's advice to Charles: Keep your head.
Catherine Brandon - The Tudors Wiki
Season 2
Catherine Brandon - The Tudors Wiki
Catherine Brandon - The Tudors Wiki
Catherine Brandon
Catherine Brandon
Charles Brandon as played by Henry Cavill
Season 3
Charles Brandon as played by Henry Cavill
Brandon familyCatherine Brandon as played by Rebekah Wainwright
Charles Brandon as played by Henry CavillCatherine Brandon as played by Rebekah Wainright
The Dowager Duchess of Suffolk
Season 4 as portrayed by Marcella Plunkett
Catherine and Henry Brandon
Katherine Willoughby, Dowager Duchess of Suffolk
Portrait of Katherine, dowager duchess of Suffolk that accompanies one of her second husband, Richard Bertie.
(see below for full length portraits)
Unknown artist; English school. Dates to the eighteenth-century.

Holbein's miniature of Catherine Brandon
Catherine Brandon as widow
Catherine Brandon's tomb
Catherine's tomb with her second husband Richard Bertie in Spilsby, Lincolnshire, England
Katherine Willoughby, Dowager Duchess of SuffolkRichard Bertie, husband of Katherine Brandon
Susan Bertie, Countess of Kent
Catherine's daughter by her second marriage to Richard Bertie, Susan Bertie, Countess of Kent.
Peregrine Bertie, 13th Baron Willoughby de Eresby
Catherine's son by her second marriage to Richard Bertie,
Peregrine Bertie, 13th Baron Willoughby de Eresby.
Willoughby of Eresby

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source: youtube <a class="external" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">JuzTudor70AD</a>