The Howards were one of the oldest families. They were the family who had the Dukedom of Norfolk. Anne of York, the daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, married into the Howard family. Well-known descendents included Anne Boleyn (second wife of Henry VIII) and Katherine Howard (fifth wife of Henry VIII). Mary Howard married Henry Fitzroy, illegitimate son of Henry VIII and Duke of Richmond and Somerset. It was probably their ambitions that brought them down in the end.
The Seymour family were pretty obscure until Henry VIII fell in love with Jane Seymour, who later became his third wife after the execution of his second, Anne Boleyn. Their triumph was short-lived. Jane’s only child became Edward VI, but he had no children. Jane’s two brothers, Edward and Thomas, were both executed in the reign of their nephew, Edward VI. Edward Seymour had been Lord Protector, until he was overthrown by John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. Thomas Seymour tried to get control of Edward VI and was killed for it.
The Grey family is best-known for producing the famous Nine Days Queen, Lady Jane Grey. Jane also had two sisters, Katherine and Mary. Mary was a hunchback. Katherine married into the Seymour family in secret. Katherine Grey was Elizabeth I’s heir, followed by her sister. Her marriage was disputed because there was no documentation to prove it ever happened. After her death her marriage was legalised and her heirs found legitimate. The sisters were the descendents of Mary Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII and the daughter of Henry VII.
The Brandon family was an unimportant family. Charles Brandon was Henry VIII’s childhood friend. His father, William Brandon, was Henry VII’s standard-bearer at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 and was killed in his post. Henry VIII created Brandon Duke of Suffolk. Brandon was to give Henry’s sister, Mary, away in marriage. After her short-lived marriage, Brandon married Mary himself in secret, with the backing of the King of France. This line created the Grey sisters. After Mary’s death, Brandon married his ward, Catherine Willoughby.
The Dudley family was derived from Empson Dudley, one of Henry VII’s ministers, executed by Henry VIII. John Dudley became the Lord Protector of Edward VI, replacing Edward’s uncle, Edward Seymour, and made himself Duke of Northumberland. He was executed by Mary I. His son, Guildford Dudley, was married to Lady Jane Grey, and was also executed. His other son, Robert Dudley, was a favourite of Elizabeth I and later became Earl of Leicester. It has been suggested that Robert Dudley and Elizabeth I had been planning to marry.
The Percy family owned the Earldom of Northumberland until the death of Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland in 1537, when it reverted to the crown. He had married, to Mary Talbot, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury, but theirs was not a happy marriage and they had no children. There were rumours of a relationship between Percy and Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. It is unknown whether the relationship was consummated, or whether this relationship was the reason for the annulment of Anne Boleyn’s marriage to Henry VIII.
The Staffords were the family who had the Dukedom of Buckingham. It was first created in 1444 but the first Duke was killed fighting for the House of Lancaster in the Wars of the Roses. The second Duke was executed in 1483 for leading a revolt against Richard III, supposedly to rescue the Princes in the Tower. The title then became extinct when the third Duke was executed in 1521 for treason against Henry VIII, due to his opposition of Cardinal Wolsey. The Dukedom of Buckingham wasn’t recreated until 1623.
William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, was the first notable of the Cecil family. His father and grandfather were both courtiers under Henry VIII. Baron Burghley was Lord High Treasurer, Lord Privy Seal and Secretary of State to Elizabeth I. Cecil also funded a ring of spies under Francis Walsingham in order to protect the Queen. The Cecil family were staunch Protestants and their line runs into the Marquesses of Salisbury and Exeter. Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury (1830-1903), was Prime Minister under both Queen Victoria and Edward VII, and their line continues today.