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September 19, 1580 – Death of Catherine Willoughby

Catherine Willoughby, drawing by Hans Holbein the Younger

Catherine Willoughby has always been fascinating to me, and today is a fitting day to raise a glass in her memory and talk about her life. A few salient points:

  • She was the daughter of Maria de Salinas, Catherine of Aragon’s most devoted lady in waiting, but became so associated with the reform movement that she had to flee England when Mary I came to the throne. (When she was in Katherine Parr’s household, she actually named her spaniel “Gardiner” so that she could amuse the rest of them by calling it to heel)
  • She became the ward of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, when she was nine – and his wife when she turned fourteen (he was forty-nine at the time…).
  • It would seem that Henry was attracted to her for years. There was even a rumor right after Brandon died in 1545 that Henry was considering divorcing Katherine Parr to marry her. It was said that the impetus was that Katherine was barren since she had never had children, while Catherine was fertile, having already borne two sons. It never came to pass.
  • After Thomas Seymour’s execution, Catherine was given the wardship of the infant Mary, his daughter with Katherine Parr – despite clearly not wanting it. The child brought no financial benefit since Katherine Parr had left her entire estate to Thomas Seymour, and his estate had been forfeited to the state when he was convicted of treason. At the same time, as the daughter of a former Queen she required certain expensive formalities. Catherine wrote to Secretary of State William Cecil asking for funds to cover those costs. It is not clear whether they were granted, but the issue disappeared since the baby died around her second birthday.

Right now, I’m working on the sequel to Jane the Quene (tentatively entitled The Path to Somerset) so I’ve been reading up on Catherine and the events of the second three-queen set of Henry’s life (the final book in the trilogy will The Boy King, covering Edward’s accession to his death – I’m not quite up to that yet). I’m still working out how much of my fascination to indulge, and how much of it will be distracting to the story…Anyone who would like to weigh in, I’d love to hear from you!


If you like my posts, you’ll love my books! Jane the Quene and The Path to Somerset have finally been joined by The Boy King – now available through AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and Apple, or even your local independent bookstore.!

Cover of The Boy King

(What? You haven’t read Jane the Quene or Path to Somerset yet? Please do! And equally important – please leave a review – even just a stars rating! It makes a huge difference in helping new readers find them and would mean the world to me!)

September 19, 1580 - Death of Catherine Willoughby
Published inOn This Day


    • Not yet! And I am about to embark on a critique that will push it off another eight months! I’ll be sharing more about the process…Thank you so much for asking!

  1. chasbaz chasbaz

    Janet, have you traced her lineage back further? How was she a Willoughby? It is a Nottinghamshire name and I have a faint family connection.

    • A family connection! How cool, however faint!! Catherine was the daughter of William Willoughby, 11th Baron Willoughby de Eresby, and his second wife, Maria de Salinas. As his only child, she inherited his title “suo jure” (in her own right) – she and Charles Brandon had four children of their own: Henry Brandon (second Duke of Suffolk), Charles Brandon (third Duke of Suffolk), Susan Bertie, and Peregrine Bertie (13th Baron Willoughby de Eresby). Hope this helps!!

    • Dawn Dawn

      Mary de Salinas was married to an English knight, William Willoughby, 11th Baron Eresby, after her mistress, Catherine of Aragon, married Henry VIII. According to Wikipedia (so double-check), William was a large landholder in Lincolnshire and they were married in 1516. I would guess his lineage is fairly traceable.

  2. Peregrine and Susan would be Brandon’s if Charles was their father, but it appears that after Charles died Catherine remarried a man named Richard Bertie who prior to their marriage was her gentleman usher.

      • Absolutely, I had only heard it in fiction prior to this post or in reference to falcons and wondered if there was any basis outside of fiction for the name. I have to admit I thought it was a girls name, but apparently not!

  3. Listen, indulge yourself any way you fancy m’dear – I never knew what happened to Katherine Parr’s daughter, everything I ever read said she disappeared and ‘there’s nothing known about her’. Don’t suppose you know why the baby died at the age of two?

    Fascinating stuff!

    Barbara Colautti

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