Book Review: The Tudor Brandons: Mary and Charles – Henry VIII’s Nearest & Dearest by Sarah-Beth Watkins

Genre: History

Publisher: Chronos Books

Pub date: 1 July 2016

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

After reading Watkins’ portrayal of Sir Francis Bryan I desperately wanted to read more from Sarah-Beth Watkins. I was kindly given the opportunity to read this and more so I obviously leapt at the opportunity.

Product description from Amazon:

This fascinating book studies the life and times of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon, Henry VIII’s dearest sister and his closest companion. Charles rose from being Henry’s childhood friend to becoming the Duke of Suffolk; a consummate courtier and diplomat. Mary was always royalty. At first married to the King of France, Mary quickly wed Charles after Louis XII’s death in 1515, against her brother’s wishes. Their actions could have been construed as treason yet Henry chose to spare their lives. They returned to court and despite their ongoing disagreements throughout the years, especially over the king’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, the Tudor Brandons remained Henry’s most loyal subjects and perhaps more importantly, his beloved family.

I’ve been intrigued by Charles Brandon for a while so you can imagine my excitement on receiving this. I knew Brandon had been a close companion to Henry before he became king and was aware that his father had died at the Battle of Bosworth. His father was standard bearer for Henry Tudor. However, that was all I knew about Brandon’s family.

This book delves into his family including his father and grandfather which was an utter delight to learn about. His grandfather William had fought at the Battle of Towton and Tewkesbury, earning his knighthood after the latter. He along with his sons William and Thomas were involved in the Buckingham rebellion after which Brandon’s father William was attainted for treason but later pardoned. He joined the Lancastrians and fought at Bosworth where he was killed but his brother Thomas and his father survived.

Following the death of his mother, Brandon is brought up by his uncle and starts his court life as a server to the royal table. Through his skill at jousting and sports he soon becomes a friend to Prince Henry and began his rise through the ranks of nobility.

As we all know Brandon later married Mary, Dowager Queen of France and sister to Henry VIII.

Watkins takes us through their marriage, the hardships, celebrations and the events of being favourites of Henry VIII. The book continues following the death of Mary and Brandon’s marriage to Katherine Willoughby through to his own death in 1545. What I really enjoyed was how the book didn’t end there, it continues to explain the lives of their children and grandchildren including Lady Jane Grey.

I loved this book, it’s extremely well written, easy to read and excellently referenced throughout. I especially enjoyed the contemporary sources being cited throughout.

I’ve learnt a lot more about Brandon from this book and from the referencing and bibliography now have a whole host of books/sources I want to read.

Highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in the Brandon’s especially Charles as it explores his whole life from childhood to the aftermath of his death.

‘For as long as Suffolk had served him, he had never betrayed a friend or knowingly taken unfair advantage of an enemy’

Thank you kindly to Sarah-Beth Watkins and Chronos Books for the opportunity to read this!

If like me you can’t wait to read more about the Tudors you can get your copy here:

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