Born: 1554, England
Died: AFT 1596
Father: Richard BERTIE (MP)
Mother: Catherine WILLOUGHBY (B. Willoughby of Eresby/D. Suffolk)
Married 1: Reynold GREY (5ļ E. Kent)
Married 2: John WINGFIELD (Sir) 1582
1. Peregrine WINGFIELD (b. ABT 1589)
2. Robert WINGFIELD (chr. 19 Jul 1591 - d. 18 Aug 1592)
by the Master of the Countess of Warwick
painted when she was thirteen
Susan was the daughter of Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk and Baroness Willoughby díEresby in her own right, and Richard Bertie, the Duchessís gentleman usher (or steward) whom she married after the death of her first husband, Charles Brandon. Lady Catherineís mother was a Spanish lady in waiting to Catalina de Aragon. Susan was born in England in 1554 just before Mary Tudor came to the throne. Her mother and father then fled in 1555 to escape Bloody Maryís reign, since Catherine was a zealous Protestant to the point of being a Puritan. Susanís brother Peregrine was born shortly after their arrival on the continent. They eventually were granted a place of refuge by the King of Poland, who gave them virtual rule over Samogita (what is now Luthuania) where they lived until Queen Elizabethís ascension in 1558. They then returned to live at her motherís estate at Grimsthorpe.
Susan and Peregrine were educated at Grimsthorpe with ten children of honor (nine boys and one other girl). They were tutored by Miles Coverdale, who had translated the Bible into English. They also became friends of Mary Grey since their mother was one of her jailers.
When Susan finally married in the winter of 1570, it was to Reginald Grey de Ruthin. Through her motherís help, Lord Grey was re-established as the 4th Earl of Kent by 28 Mar 1572, and Susan became Countess of Kent. A year later, on 15 Mar 1573, the earl died, cause unknown. Susan spent the next few years of her life in the court of Queen Elizabeth. As a widow, she was entitled to at least a third of the estate. She did retain her title until death even though the earldom passed on to Reginaldís brother, Henry Grey. Susan was also able to sign her own papers (very unusual for a woman in this time) and did not need a male factor to represent her in the law system. The Queen also granted Susan an annuity of £100 for the rest of her life.
Susan eventually married a soldier, Sir John Wingfield, in 1582. They moved to the Lowlands since he was serving in the army as a captain. He was also appointed governor of Gertruydenberg. Susanís brother helped them while they were there, where they lived until 1588. Susan first son was born in Holland in 1589, named Peregrine, after her brother. Wingfield died in 1596, leaving Susan a widow once again.
As Countess of Kent she was a patron of the arts. Emilia Bassano, the first Englishwoman to assert herself as a professional poet through her single volume of poems, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (1611), calls Susan Bertie "the Mistris of my youth, / The noble guide of my ungovern'd dayes". The poet was educated under the direction of the dowager Countess of Kent, whose Protestant humanist circle had a profound influence on the young Lanyer. The practice of being sent from one's family to be trained up in service in an aristocratic household, like that of Susan's, was then widespread.
|to Bios Page|
|to Peerage Page||to Home Page|