We don't really consider Henry VIII to have had friends. Subjects, cronies, dutiful wives and ministers of state, perhaps, but not friends. In truth, Henry was a very sociable person and craved genuine relationships. Charles Brandon, the son of Henry VII's standard-bearer at the battle of Bosworth, was to be Henry VIII's closest friend and companion for his entire life. Brandon held a succession of important offices in Henry's royal household, and the king trusted him with some of the dirtiest jobs at the Tudor court. Henry even forgave Brandon for marrying in secret the king's favourite sister, Mary, the widowed queen of France.
Yet Brandon's life was by no means free from misadventure. His marriage to Mary initially angered the king, and his relationship with Anne Boleyn was fraught. Some of his many military campaigns disappointed Henry, and he was suspected of passing secrets to the French. Steven Gunn explains how Brandon not only survived these downturns of fortune and managed to retain the king's friendship, but also how he steadily increased his own power, wealth and standing at the Tudor court. When Charles died in 1545, Henry ordered him laid to rest in St George's Chapel, Windsor, where the king would end up himself a mere eighteen months after the death of his one true friend.
Dr Steven Gunn is Professor of Early Modern History and Tutor in History at Merton College, Oxford. He has taught Tudor history at Oxford University for over twenty years and is a regular commentator on the subject for BBC Radio and the broadsheet newspapers. His other books include Arthur Tudor: Prince of Wales, Cardinal Wolsey: Church, State and Art and Early Tudor Government.