Friday, June 5, 2015

Katherine Willoughby - Henry VIII's Last Love by David Baldwin

Katherine Willoughby
Katherine Willoughby grew up in the Tudor court where her mother, Maria de Salinas, was a lady-in-waiting for Queen Catherine of Aragon and her father, Baron William Willoughby de Eresby, served the king.

When her father suddenly fell ill and died, as the only heir, Katherine inherited all his titles and holdings. She was only seven and became an incredibly wealthy young heiress. In fact, she became one of the wealthiest heiress' in all of England.

Of course, with so much wealth at hand, disputes arose. Namely, her father’s brother, Sir Christopher Willoughby argued that the holdings could pass to only male heirs and accused Katherine’s mother of concealing important papers that established the title to various estates, and of having kept him out of possession of estates that rightfully belonged to him.

While disputes raged, King Henry VIII stepped up and made Katherine his ward. That is, until he decided to sell her wardship to his best friend and brother-in-law, Charles Brandon, the 1st Duke of Suffolk.
Charles Brandon
1st Duke of Suffolk 

As her new guardian, and now formally in possession of Katherine’s titles and wealth, Suffolk immediately took action to put an end to the bitter quarreling and constant interference by Christopher Willoughby. Suffolk wrote a letter to the all powerful Cardinal Wolsey. Wolsey vociferously threw his support behind Suffolk and Katherine’s uncle backed off. For a while, at least.

To secure Katherine’s wealth even further, Suffolk betrothed the young Catherine to his ten year old son, Henry Brandon, 1st Earl of Lincoln, who was his son by his third wife, Mary Tudor.

When his wife Mary died, however, Suffolk became interested in Katherine for himself. And why not? After all, there was much wealth at stake. So, he cancelled the betrothal he had previously arranged between Katherine and his son, and he married her instead. He was forty-nine and Katherine was fourteen.

All the while, the dispute over Catherine’s inheritance raged. Suffolk forced Katherine’s Uncle Christopher to relinquish possession of some of the contested estates, and thus he became the greatest magnate in all of Lincolnshire.

Katherine bore her husband two sons, Henry and Charles. She was very intelligent with a passion for education. Outspoken and witty, she supported English Reformation and became a close friend of Queen Catherine Parr. King Henry took a great interest in her. When Suffolk died, King Henry VIII was seriously considering making her his seventh wife because Queen Catherine Parr had yet to produce an heir. Fortunate for Katherine, that never happened, and King Henry VIII was destined to have only six wives!

The details of her life and her relationship with King Henry VIII is documented in a newly released book. The book is well researched and provides wonderful insight into this fascinating woman's life.


1533 Katherine Willoughby married Charles Brandon, Henry VIII’s closest friend. She would go on to serve at the court of every Tudor monarch bar Henry VII and Mary Tudor. Duchess of Suffolk at the age of fourteen, she became a powerful woman ruling over her houses at Grimsthorpe and Tattershall in Lincolnshire and wielding subtle influence through her proximity to the king.

She grew to know Henry well and in 1538, only three months after Jane Seymour’s death, it was reported that they had been ‘masking and visiting’ together. In 1543 she became a lady-in-waiting to his sixth wife Catherine Parr. Henry had a reputation for tiring of his wives once the excitement of the pursuit was over, and in February 1546, only six months after Charles Brandon’s death, it was rumoured that Henry intended to wed Katherine himself if he could end his present marriage. But Henry changed his mind at the last moment, and Katherine Willoughby never became his seventh queen.

Hers was a life of privilege mixed with tragedy and danger, losing both her sons to illness and being forced into exile in Poland beyond 'Bloody' Mary's clutches. But Katherine kept her head on her shoulders when many of her contemporaries lost theirs for lesser reasons. 

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Sue Bursztynski said...

It can't have been easy being an heiress in those days, being treated as an expensive commodity. A lucky escape indeed, though probably by that time she was used to being married off to a much older man. Mind you, it was a lucky escape for Catherine Parr too - he nearly DID get rid of her in his inimitable way, and not by divorce. The world was done a favour when Henry died.

Fred H said...

Godd evening
I'm new hereabouts. Very interesting the life of this person, with Spanish blood, it was an important influence in the reigns of Henry VIII and her daughters Mary the first and the great Elizabeth.


Mirella Sichirollo Patzer said...

Thank you Fred and Sue for leaving such thoughtful comments. I think I love historical fiction so much because of the rigid rules and societal beliefs of the past. It always makes for some fascinating reading.