Mastodon The Writing Desk: Book Review: The Brandon Men: In the Shadow of Kings, by Sarah Bryson

28 July 2021

Book Review: The Brandon Men: In the Shadow of Kings, by Sarah Bryson

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Four generations of Brandon men lived and served six English kings, the most famous being Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, best friend and brother-in-law to King Henry VIII. Yet his family had a long history tied closely to the kings of the Wars of the Roses back to Henry VI.

I should begin by mentioning that I studied Charles Brandon and his wives for four years while researching and writing my Brandon trilogy. This means I feel unusually well placed to confirm that Sarah Bryson’s new book is impeccably well researched. (At one point I realised I was following in her footsteps, tracking down locations in Suffolk.) 

I particularly like the scene setting at the start, and the overview of the so-called ‘Wars of the Roses’. As well as providing a context for what follows, the preamble should help readers understand the background to the rise of the Brandons.

Chosen as Henry Tudor’s standard bearer, loyal Sir William Brandon chose death rather than dishonour on that fateful day at Bosworth field by failing to defend himself. His gesture seems futile, as the banner fell, yet it proved the making of his son, Charles Brandon. 

Despite almost killing Henry VIII in a jousting accident, Charles Brandon and the king were lifelong friends (perhaps Henry’s only true friend). I think Brandon would have been surprised to know he would Henry would outlive him by just eighteen months, and join him in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Well referenced and highly readable, this much needed account is supported by extracts from letters and papers, and spans four generations and the reigns of six English kings. Highly recommended.

Tony Riches

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