Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bertie, Catharine

BERTIE, CATHARINE, Duchess (Dowager) of Suffolk (1520–1580), only child of William Willoughby, eighth Lord Willoughby de Eresby, was born in 1520. Her mother, Mary de Salines or Saluces, a near relative of Katharine of Arragon, had been maid of honour to that queen, and had come with her to England on her marriage with Prince Arthur. On her father's death in 1526 she succeeded to his dignity and fortune, and was entrusted to the guardianship of Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk, and eventually became that nobleman's fourth wife. She was married at the early age of sixteen, and was left a widow in 1545 with two sons, Henry and Charles, both of whom died of the sweating sickness within a few hours of each other on 16 July 1551 [see Brandon, Henry and Charles]. She was married to Richard Bertie about the end of the year 1552. In the latter part of Edward VI's reign she distinguished herself by her zeal for the reformation. To escape the vengeance of Bishop Gardiner she left England with her husband, and remained abroad during the reign of Queen Mary. An account of her wanderings on the continent will be found in the memoir of her husband [see Bertie, Richard]. Her death occurred on 19 Sept. 1580. Fuller says that she was 'a lady of a sharp wit and sure hand to thrust it home and make it pierce when she pleased.' Seventeenth-century copies of a popular Elizabethan ballad (by T. Deloney), entitled 'The most Rare and Excellent History of the Dutchess of Suffolk and her husband Richard Bertie's Calamities,' are extant in the Roxburghe, Pepys, and Bagford collections of broadside ballads.

[Lady Georgina Bertie's Five Generations of a Loyal House; Biog. Brit. (Kippis), ii. 280; Courthope's Historic Peerage, 511.]

T. C.