The Death of Lady Frances Brandon: Did She Push Her Daughter to Become a Traitor?

by AlexandriaIngham

Frances Brandon didn't die with the reputation of being the monstrous mother. She gained that years after her death due to the fall of the Grey line.

On November 21, 1559, Lady Frances Grey (nee Brandon) died. Some historians do give the date of her death as November 20 and it is difficult to be 100% certain of which date is true. She was the mother of Lady Jane Grey and has often been viewed as an ambitious niece of Henry VIII who simply wanted to place her family on the throne. However, that view may not be quite true.

Frances was the daughter of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon. She was their second child and the elder of their two daughters. She soon found herself third in line to the throne after the death of her elder brother, Henry Brandon, and then the death of her uncle, Henry VIII of England. However, it was Edward VI’s reign that changed it all.

Frances Brandon: The Friend of Mary I of England

Frances Brandon was close to Mary Tudor. This was a friendship that would help her in the future.

Frances Brandon was the scheming mother of Jane GreyIt would seem surprising that Frances would scheme to put her daughter on the throne when you look into her past. She grew up close to her mother, Mary, and aunt, Catherine of Aragon. This led to her being a close friend of her cousin, Mary Tudor, who would later become Mary I of England. Mary and Frances just had a year difference in their ages, which helped them to forge such a strong friendship. Their mothers also had a same dislike to Anne Boleyn.

Henry VIII granted Frances the permission to marry Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset in 1533; the same year that her mother died. When both her brothers died, the title Duke of Suffolk, went back to the crown. Henry VIII gave it to Frances’ husband.

The Daughters of Frances Brandon

Who were the daughters of Frances Brandon and what roles did they play in the view of this ambitious woman?

Frances had three surviving children with Henry—she actually had two before her eldest daughter, Jane, but both died when they were very young. By the middle of 1536, both Henry VIII’s daughters found themselves illegitimate and demoted to Lady instead of Princess. They were now on the same standing as Frances’ own daughters. In fact, herself and her daughters were now one step up in the line of succession. Unless Henry VIII had another child, Frances would likely be England’s next monarch, since Henry did not want the crown to pass into the Scottish hands.

Henry VIII did have another child and this time a son. Frances would have been moved to second in line to the throne and her daughters close behind. However, that all changed when Katherine Parr helped restore her step-daughters’ favour with the king. Mary and Elizabeth were placed back into the line of succession, followed by Frances and then her three daughters.

However, Frances was on friendly terms with Katherine Parr. It led to Katherine gaining wardship of Frances’ eldest daughter, Jane. Part of this would have been possible due to Katherine’s good relationship with Katherine Willoughby, Frances’ step-mother. After the dowager queen married Thomas Seymour, it was time for the Grey family to start arranging a wealthy marriage for their eldest daughter—something that is now viewed as conspiring.

History tells us that Frances was a terrible mother and often belittled and acted in spite of her daughters. However, when delving further into her, it probably isn't true. She always wanted the best for all three of her children. She wanted them to have the best education possible and to marry well. It was understandably important for her being so close to the throne. It is also worth noting that disciple was different during Tudor times. Beatings were a regular way to instil discipline, while it is frowned upon today.

Arranging Marriages for Daughters

Frances Brandon Aims for the best for Lady Jane Grey

Frances brandon wanted the best marriage possible for jane Grey, leading to looking at Edward VIIn the Tudor times, it was common for parents to use their daughters as political pawns. They wanted to gain something from the marriage of their daughters. It wasn’t Frances and Henry Grey simply conspiring to get their daughter on the throne. They wanted the best for her and working with Lord Thomas Seymour, Edward VI’s uncle, was the best way of getting that. They worked with him to arrange a marriage between Jane and the king.

It doesn’t seem that far-fetched an idea. Royal cousins married each other all the time; they just needed a dispensation from the Pope to do it. However, now, dispensations were no longer required. England was a Protestant country and the King of England was the head of the church. The king could marry whoever he wished.

Edward and Jane were close. They were both around the same age (in fact, born in the same month and year!) and would have spent some time together. The downside was that Edward was still young and his marriage needed to be advantageous for him. His elder uncle, Edward Seymour, was busy trying to arrange other marriages for him. Some of those included connections to the French court, the Holy Roman Empire and even talks about a marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots. Nothing came from any of the discussions.

The Death of Katherine Parr and Change of Plans for Frances Brandon

When Katherine Parr died, Frances had to start looking elsewhere for options for her eldest daughter.

In 1548, Katherine Parr died of childbed fever. Thomas Seymour had already gained a reputation for something that had happened between himself and Elizabeth Tudor, leading to Elizabeth leaving the home of Katherine Parr. Frances didn’t trust the king’s uncle and wanted Jane to come home. Thomas argued that he had the legal wardship and Frances had no choice but to send Jane back to him. Thomas did continue to uphold his end of the deal previously made to arrange a marriage between Edward Tudor and Jane Grey.

By this time, though, King Edward didn’t trust his uncles. Within the next few years, both the Seymours would be executed for treason. Frances needed to change her plans to get the best for her daughter. The next events are probably ones that she never thought possible and probably didn’t really want at first.

After the execution of Edward Seymour, John Dudley became Lord Protector. The Grey family quickly aligned themselves to him, knowing it was for the best. Maybe he could help arrange a wealthy marriage. Dudley had other plans though and helped his own family rise in power. Jane was married to his fourth son, Guildford Dudley.

Guildford was definitely not the match the Greys hoped for and there were disagreements. The crown would end up in the hands of Dudley’s family and not remain in their own, which was something they didn’t really want to happen. However Edward VI supported the match and Frances and her husband had to give in. Lady Jane Grey was married to Guildford Dudley in 1553.

The events were really a scheming plot for John Dudley. He found a way to get a member of his family on the throne. Now all he had to do was work on Edward VI. Edward didn’t want the crown to pass to his Catholic half-sister, Mary, and didn’t believe that women could rule the country. There was also the fact that Mary and Elizabeth had both been declared illegitimate, which meant that they shouldn’t be able to be monarchs. Only the will of his father stood in the way. When Edward realised that he was going to die without an heir, he needed to make changes to his father’s preferred line of succession. This all led to Lady Jane Grey becoming queen for nine days. Did Frances Brandon have anything to do with that? Not completely. She was third in line to the throne before her daughter. She felt cheated that the crown would not pass to her. In the end, she had to do the best for her family and allow herself to be skipped over.


Articles About Edward VI, Mary I and Edward Seymour on Wizzley

Edward VI reigned between 1547 and 1553 when he was just a boy. It's hard to know the type of king he would have been but here are some thoughts on the matter.
Mary I is known as Bloody Mary after burning 300 protestants at the stake. It is interesting to look how Henry VIII's actions may have led to Mary's end.
Edward Seymour was the uncle of Edward VI. He rose in power thanks to Jane Seymour but soon lost it after poor management skills and a thirst for power.

The Reign of Lady Jane Grey

Would Frances really have wanted to put her whole family at risk? She trusted that Edward VI wanted this and made the right provisions to see Jane on the throne.

Lady Jane Grey's reign was shortlivedFrances’ daughter’s reign was a short one to say the least. Jane ruled for 13 days—she is known as the Nine Day Queen taken from the date of her coronation. It took 13 days for Mary to learn of her brother’s death and ride to London, with Elizabeth and a number of supporters in tow, to depose the traitor.

Frances was sparred arrest, unlike her husband, daughter, son-in-law and John Dudley. She rode to Mary in the middle of the night and quickly received an audience with her. It may have been their childhood friendship that helped her. She tried desperately to save her family by placing the blame on John Dudley and even made it out that the Dudleys were trying to kill her family—Jane had suffered from food poisoning at some point during her time in the household. Mary pardoned Henry Grey. After her coronation, she would pardon her 16-year-old cousin until the Wyatt Rebellion took place. Mary feared that people would use Jane as a pawn and had the 16-year-old executed. Jane’s father had a part in the rebellion and was executed, too.

Frances had to use her relationship with the Queen again. All her property was her husband’s and would pass back to the crown since he was a traitor. She had two young daughters and needed lands and money to raise them. Mary was sympathetic and allowed Frances to retain some of the lands. She and her daughters were even allowed back at court; where Mary could keep a close eye on them.

More Articles on Wizzley About Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey is commonly known as the Nine Day Queen but is never called Queen Jane? Should she be known as Queen Jane or is there a reason that will never happen?
Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon officially married on May 13, 1515. Their actions led to the unfortunate Nine Day Queen, Lady Jane Grey.
On May 21, 1533, Lady Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley married. This set up the plot for John Dudley's family to take the throne, although it didn't quite go to plan.

The Second Marriage and Death of Frances Brandon

Frances died luckily not in poverty. She was allowed a good burial and an effigy to be remembered by.

Frances was allowed to marry for a second time. At first there was talk of Frances marrying Edward Courtenay, a descendent from the Plantagenet line. However, it wasn’t a safe match for the Queen’s cousin. Instead, she married Adrian Stokes, the Master of the Horse. None of the children between them would be considered high enough for the throne, meaning they and she would be safe. She did have three children to Adrian but all were stillborn or died in infancy.

Frances died in 1559 and was buried at Westminster Abbey. Her cousin, Elizabeth, would bear the expense of the funeral and her now elder daughter, Catherine, would be her chief mourner. It took four years for Adrian to gather the funds for a lavish effigy of his late wife. It was during the centuries after this that Frances gained the horrible reputation that she has today.

A Couple More to Enjoy

Mary Tudor was the youngest surviving child of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. After the death of her husband, Louis XII of France, she did something that no-one would dare to do!
Edward VI was born on October 12, 1537. He was Henry's only legitimate son to survive childhood but his birth was also surrounded with misery.
Updated: 11/21/2013, AlexandriaIngham
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