Eleanor Clifford, Countess of Cumberland

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Lady Eleanor Brandon
Countess of Cumberland
Portrait by Hans Eworth of either Lady Eleanor or her daughter, Lady Margaret.
Spouse(s) Henry Clifford, 2nd Earl of Cumberland
Lady Margaret Clifford
Henry Clifford
Charles Clifford
Noble family Brandon
Father Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk
Mother Mary Tudor, Queen of France
Born 1519
Westhorpe Hall, Westhorpe, Suffolk, Kingdom of England
Died 27 September 1547 (aged 27–28)
Brougham Castle, Westmorland, Kingdom of England
Buried Skipton, Yorkshire, Kingdom of England

Lady Eleanor Brandon (1519 – 27 September 1547) was the third child and second daughter of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk and Princess Mary Tudor, the Dowager Queen consort of France.[1] She was a younger sister of Lady Frances Brandon and an elder sister of Henry Brandon, 1st Earl of Lincoln. She was also a younger paternal half-sister of Lady Anne Brandon and Lady Mary Brandon from her father's second marriage. After her mother's death in 1533, her father remarried to Catherine Willoughby and Eleanor became an elder half-sister of Henry Brandon, 2nd Duke of Suffolk and Charles Brandon, 3rd Duke of Suffolk.

Her paternal grandparents were Sir William Brandon and Elizabeth Bruyn. Her maternal grandparents were Henry VII of England and his queen consort Elizabeth of York. She was thus a niece of Henry VIII.

Countess of Cumberland

Lady Eleanor was a descendant of a member of the Tudor dynasty and therefore her marriage would advance the political ambitions of any given husband. In March 1533, a marriage contract was written up for Lady Eleanor and Henry Clifford, the eldest son and heir of Henry Clifford, 1st Earl of Cumberland by Lady Margaret Percy.[2] However, since her mother died nine months later, she waited to go and live with her young husband and in-laws. In anticipation of Eleanor's arrival, the Earl of Cumberland built two towers and the great gallery within Skipton Castle.[3] Eleanor married Clifford at Brandon house, Bridewell, in 1537; her uncle King Henry VIII was present.[3][4][5][6]

In January 1536, Eleanor was designated the chief mourner for the funeral service of Catherine of Aragon, first Queen consort of Henry VIII, at Peterborough Cathedral.[7]

There is not much known about her later life and she left only one letter:

"Dear heart,
After my most hearty commendations, this shall be to certify you that since your departure from me I have been very sick and at this present my water is very red, whereby I suppose I have the jaundice and the ague both, for I have none abide [no appetite for] meat and I have such pains in my side and towards my back as I had at Brougham, where it began with me first. Wherefore I desire you to help me to a physician and that this bearer my bring him with him, for now in the beginning I trust I may have good remedy, and the longer it is delayed, the worse it will be. Also my sister Powys Anne Brandon is come to me and very desirous to see you, which I trust shall be the sooner at this time, and thus Jesus send us both health.

At my lodge at Carlton, the 14th of February.
And, dear heart, I pray you send for Dr Stephens, for he knoweth best my complexion for such causes.
By your assured loving wife, Eleanor Cumberland"

Prospects of succeeding to the throne

The Third Succession Act of 23 March 1544 defined that Eleanor was in line to succeed her maternal uncle Henry VIII. She was eighth-in-line for the throne following:

Henry VIII died on 28 January 1547. Prince Edward became King Edward VI. Lady Eleanor was the seventh-in-line for the throne, but she died on 27 September the same year without surviving male issue at Brougham Castle, and was buried at Skipwith.[1] Her place in line was taken by her daughter. Her husband later remarried Anne Dacre, who bore him six more children.


With Henry Clifford:


There is a discrepancy as to who the sitter is in the Hans Eworth portrait which is featured. The coat of arms in the top left corner, which may have been added later, are the impaled arms (those of a husband and wife) of Henry Clifford, 2nd Earl of Cumberland, and his wife Lady Eleanor, daughter of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, and Mary Tudor, Dowager Queen of France. As a result the painting has been frequently exhibited in the past as a portrait of Lady Eleanor, regardless of the fact that she died in 1547, well before the date of this portrait. It is, however, a rule of heraldry that impaled arms are not used by the children of a marriage, as they would have their own. Hence the later addition and erroneous use of the arms here suggests that the identity of the portrait was already unclear only two or three generations after it was painted, a situation by no means unusual amid the frequent early deaths, multiple marriages, and shifting alliances and fortunes of the most powerful families of the Tudor era. Later the portrait was thought to represent the only child of Eleanor and Henry to survive infancy, Margaret. Unfortunately the inscription on the right which might have provided a check (Margaret would have been aged 25–28 at the time of this portrait) has been truncated; although the Roman numerals of the year can apply only to 1565-8, the age of the sitter cannot be ascertained with any useful accuracy. The National Portrait Gallery has an online sketch of this portrait identified as Lady Eleanor, but the portrait remains in dispute.[8][9] There is, however, a portrait of Lady Eleanor featured at Skipton Castle. It is reportedly a very poor work of art, but nonetheless interesting.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Cokayne, George (1982). The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct, or Dormant. III. Gloucester England: A. Sutton. p. 567. ISBN 0-904387-82-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. George Edward Cokayne. The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, Vol III, pg 567.
  3. 3.0 3.1 John Burke. The portrait gallery of distinguished females, E. Bull, 1833. pg 36. Google eBook
  4.  Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1887). "Clifford, Henry de (d.1570)". Dictionary of National Biography. 11. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 63.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Gunn, Steven J.: Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, C. 1484-1545 Blackwell Publishing, Williston 1988, p 132
  6. Dulcie M. Ashdown: Tudor Cousins: Rivals for the Throne, Sutton Publishing, 2000, p 56
  7. [1] „[…] the chief mourner was lady Eleanor daughter of the duke of Suffolk and the French Queen, and niece of king Henry“ Imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys to Charles V. on February 10, 1536 In: Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10: January–July 1536 (1882)
  8. Eleanor Clifford (née Brandon), Countess of Cumberland, probably by Alfred Thomas Derby, after unknown artist, Purchased, 1893, Reference Collection NPG D23066. National Portrait Gallery
  9. The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.66-8. Tate Collections
  10. Richard Davey. The sisters of Lady Jane Grey and their wicked grandfather, E.P. Dutton and co., 1912. pg 294.

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