Monday, September 16, 2013

Question from Bron - Anne Boleyn accusing Charles Brandon of Incest

Did Anne Boleyn accuse Charles Brandon of incest with one of his daughters?

In 1531, the Imperial ambassador reported that Anne Boleyn wants to revenge herself on the duke of Suffolk, for having once brought a charge against her honour, (and has) accused him of criminal intercourse with his own daughter. No one knows yet what will come out of all this. [5] La dite dame aussi pour le mesme respect, et pour se venger de ce que le due de sufforcq lauoit autres fois voulu charger de son honneur, luy a fait mectre sus quil se mesloit et copuloit avec sa propre fille (Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 4 Part 1, note 302.)



Foose said...

Well, Boleyn apparently made the accusation according to the ambassador's report. The key word is "propre" - his own daughter.

The candidates would then be Lady Powys (who had a bad reputation), Lady Mounteagle, Frances Brandon (about 14 in 1531) and Eleanor Brandon.

Another candidate, except for the propre would be Katherine Willoughby (12 in 1531), betrothed to Suffolk's only son by Mary Tudor.

I couldn't find anything to back up or explain the charge. There is a certain piquancy in that Brandon married Willoughby almost as soon as Mary Tudor was dead, despite his son still lingering on. She had been in his charge and household since she was nine and was probably treated more or less as a daughter.

One of his previous betrotheds, Elizabeth Grey Lady Lisle, was about 8 when he contracted with her. Mary Tudor was evidently hung up on him from a very young age, so perhaps a novelist might be able to construct a predatory sort of character out of Brandon (see Boy Dougdale in Love in a Cold Climate).

Mostly it was property that seemed to attract him. Against the youthfulness of Elizabeth Grey and Katherine Willoughby, one can contrast his wife Anne Browne (likely of mature age, I saw one birthdate circa 1479) and his "sorta" wife, Anne's aunt Margaret, usually described as a wealthy older widow.

Political figures with daughters (particularly a number of daughters, and especially troubled but indulged daughters - Lady Powys lived openly with her lover during the 1520s and Lady Mounteagle's husband made complaints about her conduct to Cromwell) often have the incest charge levelled at them. It would be interesting to know more about the background of this one. It all turns on the word propre.

One point - Brandon's father had apparently participated in a rape in his youth:

"Young William Brandon is in ward and arrested for that he should have by force ravished and swived an old gentlewoman, and yet was not therewith eased, but swived her oldest daughter, and then would have swived the other sister both; wherefore men say foul of him, and that he would eat the hen and all her chickens …” (Paston Letters)

Possibly his father's unsavory history might have prompted Charles Brandon to originate the story that Henry had slept with all the Boleyn ladies, incestuously. Anne would have wanted to hit back.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Foose. It's an interesting topic. I love the bit about earlier swiving: thank you for that!. I'm sort of going along the lines of Lady Powys being a prime candidate at the moment. Her latter career (yes, I know, I'm not supposed to extrapolate) would suggest she may well have been the one. The question for me is, how did Anne Boleyn come to know about this intimate allegation? And it would seem to me possible that Lady Powys may have been at Court as a young person and may have confided in Anne. (I have an open, if suspicious, mind.)It was a serious allegation, and Charles seems to have stayed away for a time. I'm not quite sure about Anne Browne's age: here are my notes: 'In 1503 Charles would have been about 18. His relationships with women throughout his life were enthusiastic. Brandon confessed to Walter Devereux in 1503 that ‘he was in love and resorted muche to the company of Anne Browne, daughter of Anthony Browne, Lieutentant of Calais. Anne would have been perhaps 13 in 1503. Anne was Sir Antony Browne’s only child by his first wife. His Will states she was his next heir after his son Anthony, (by his second wife). Anne was then at court as a maid of honour to Elizabeth of York (where she was paid £5 per annum. The Queen died on her thirty-seventh birthday on 11 February 1503 in the Tower. Was Anne the mother of a small girl child called Catherine Brandon, who was born and immediately died in the Tower in 1503?'

What I think is interesting is that Charles was a prominent participant at Anne's own trial. I think an article re allegations of incest in Tudor England would be very useful. Did Anne's allegation lead to her ultimate downfall? Ah, further research beckons.

Foose said...

Hmm, the information on Anne Browne's birthdate does add some undesirable color to Brandon's possible juvenile preferences in ladies.

I looked at the original reference, and the sentence immediately preceding the explosive accusation refers to Anne getting the "young Marquis of Dorset" banned from court because he is a supporter of Catherine of Aragon. The subsequent sentence then reads, roughly, in English, "The said Lady, on that account and to make trouble for the Duke of Suffolk, etc. ..." Therefore, it seems to me the implication is that Frances Brandon is the daughter involved - Anne is attacking both the Marquis of Dorset (Frances' affianced husband) and Suffolk in one deadly smear.

Leanda de Lisle said...

Brilliant point Foose - and how fascinating. Frances was at her father's side when he died.

Foose said...

Thanks, Leanda - it's just a conjecture, really.

I see your new book is out and has attracted enthusiastic reviews in the U.K. I have it on order and am really looking forward to reading it!

Leanda de Lisle said...

Thank you!

Sylwia said...

I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post a link, but if anyone's interested, I've written an article about Anne Boleyn's accusations:

Anonymous said...

Anne Browne and Anne Boleyn were both secured a place in the court of Archduchess Margaret of Savoy. wehter they arrived together Both Anne’s are known to have been there in 1514 and if you believe Anne Boleyn to have been born in 1507 they were the same age. Although I believe Anne was a bit older and may have taken on a “big sister” role to the younger Anne. Who knows what the two Anne’s confided in each other. Anne seemed to have begrudged Charles from the start though and his continued behavior towards young girls seem to suggest the “smoke” that comes with fire.