Francis Bryan

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Sir Francis Bryan as played by Alan Van Sprang
Soldier, Sailor, Poet, Translator, Diplomat

born c. 1490 - died February 2, 1550
Character's backstory: Came to court at a young age but was removed due to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey's influence. He returned in 1528 as a member of the Privy chamber probably due in part to his cousin Anne Boleyn. From then on he was highly influential, becoming one of the king's most favoured companions,and a leading member of the faction who wished to break Wolsey's grip on power. In 1536, he joined forces with Sir Thomas Cromwell to bring about his cousin Anne's downfall. After her death, he became Chief Gentleman of the Privy chamber,but was removed from this post in 1539 when Cromwell turned against his former allies. Sir Francis returned to favour following Cromwell's demise, becoming Vice Admiral of the Fleet.

Gentility: knighted courtier

1513 - his first official appointment as captain of the Margaret Bonaventure, a ship in the retinue of Sir Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk
1516 - the king's cupbearer

1518 - acting as 'master of the Toyles,' and storing Greenwich Park with 'quick deer.'
1522 - knighted for his courage when he served in Brittainy
1523 - sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire
1527 - accompanied Wolsey to Calais
1528 - sent to Rome by Henry to obtain the papal sanction for his divorce
1531 - Ambassador to France
1533 - 35 - involved in negotiations with the Pope
15 May 1536 - undertook the office of conveying the condemnation of his cousin Anne Boleyn to Jane Seymour

15 Oct 1537 - played a prominent part at the christening of Prince Edward Tudor
December 1539 he was one of the king's household deputed to meet Anne of Cleves near Calais on her way to England
- Chief Gentleman of the Privy Chamber under King Henry VIII
- Lord Chief Justice of Ireland and Vice Admiral of the fleet under King Edward VI

Personality type: an infamous rake and libertine. Bryan had a reputation as a poet of almost the same calibre as his friends. He was also a man who, according to the abbot of Woburn, dared to speak his mind to the King; on foreign missions he could on occasion be equally outspoken, if not arrogant. Roger Ascham, who presumably knew him well, described his youthful personality as being maintained even when ‘spent by years’.

Signature look: eye patch, lost an eye in a joust in 1526. There are no paintings of him because of this. He was noted for his rich apparel and a chain of great worth and strange fashion.

Endearing trait(s): distinguished diplomat, soldier, sailor, writer & poet. He had a great talent for languages.

Annoying trait(s): morally flexible to whatever the King wishes, which is why he survives to die from natural causes, decided to turn on his first cousin Anne Boleyn and help Thomas Cromwell dispose of her

After Story:
t the funeral of <a class="external" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Henry VIII</a>, on 14 Feb. 1546-7, Bryan was assigned a chief place as 'master of the henchmen.'

As a member of the privy council Bryan took part in public affairs until the close of Henry VIII's reign, and at the beginning of Edward VI's reign he was given a large share of the lands which the dissolution of the monatries had handed over to the crown. He fought, as a captain of light horse, under the Duke of Somerset [[[Edward Seymour]]] at Musselburgh 27 Sept. 1547, when he was created a knight banneret.

Soon afterwards Bryan rendered the government a very curious service. In 1548 James Butler, ninth earl of Ormonde, an Irish noble, whose powerful influence was obnoxious to the government at Dublin, although there were no valid grounds for suspecting his loyalty, died in London of poison under very suspicious circumstances. Thereupon his widow, Joan, daughter and heiress of James FitzJohn Fitzgerald, eleventh earl of Desmond, sought to marry her relative, Gerald Fitzgerald, the heir of the fifteenth earl of Desmond. To prevent this marriage, which would have united the leading representatives of the two chief Irish noble houses, Bryan was induced to prefer a suit to the lady himself. He had previously married (after 1517) Philippa, a rich heiress and widow of Sir John Fortescue; but Bryan's first wife died some time after 1534, and in 1548 he married the widowed countess. He was immediately nominated lord marshal of Ireland, and arrived in Dublin with his wife in November 1548. Sir Edward Bellingham, the haughty lord-deputy, resented his appointment, but Bryan's marriage gave him the command of the Butler influence, and Bellingham was unable to injure him. On Bellingham's departure from Ireland on 16 Dec. 1549 the Irish council recognised Bryan's powerful position by electing him lord-justice, pending the arrival of a new deputy.

But on 2 Feb. 1549-50 Bryan died suddenly at Clonmel. A postmortem examination was ordered to determine the cause of death, but the doctors came to no more satisfactory conclusion than that he died of grief, a conclusion unsupported by external evidence. Sir John Allen, the Irish chancellor, who was present at Bryan's death and at the autopsy, states that ' he departed very godly.'

[Source: <a class="external" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="Luminarium encyclopedia">Luminarium encyclopedia]</a>

Sir Francis Bryan as played by Alan Van Sprang

' Bryan ... who knows how great a grace
In writing is to counsel man the right.
To thee ... that trots still up and down
And never rests, but running day and night
From realm to realm, from city, street & town,
Why dost thou wear thy body to the bones? '
~ Thomas Wyatt

'...sacred Bryan (whom the Muses kept,
And in his cradle rockt him while he slept)'

~ Drayton

' The Vicar of Hell'
*He calls himself "The Black Pope" in the series

Nicholas Sander in his Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism (1577), p. 24, records that Sir Francis Bryan 'was once asked by the king to tell him what sort of sin it was to ruin the mother and then the child'. Bryan replied 'that it was a sin like that of eating a hen first and its chicken afterwards'. The king burst forth into loud laughter and said to Bryan, 'Well, you certainly are my vicar of hell'.

Also Cromwell, in a friendly letter to Bryan, calls him 'the vicar of hell' possibly due to his duplicity in regard to his cousin Anne Boleyn's Fall.

But Bryan was a hard-working diplomat, to whom Thomas Wyatt addressed one of his satires, and one suspects that his nickname should not be taken too seriously.

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"Francis Bryan was a clever and versatile young man who was to gain a reputation as a rake and hell-raiser. He became one of the King's closest companions, a fellow jouster, gambler, tennis player and it was rumoured accomplice in extra-marital affairs. He had come "to the court very young", the son of Sir Thomas Bryan by Margaret Bourchier.... No portrait survives so we know nothing of his appearance. Bryan was a typical Renaissance courtier, a poet and man of letters who was also to distinguish himself as a soldier, sailor and diplomat. His irresistible charm disguised an incorrigible intriguer who was two-faced, manipulative and promiscuous; once, on a trip to Calais, he demanded "a soft bed then a hard harlot". He was full of pent-up energy; highly articulate and viciously witty. Observers were astonished at the familiarity he used towards the King, both in speaking his mind and telling jokes. Bryan was no creature of principle; by altering his loyalties and opinions to conform to the King's changes of policy, he managed to remain in favour throughout the reign" ~ Alison Weir's Henry VIII and his Court (2001)


Family members and kin:
A first cousin of Anne Boleyn's through their grandmother Elizabeth Tilney, he was also related to Jane Seymour
Father: Sir Thomas Bryan
Mother: Lady Margaret Bryan, nee Bourchier (Lady Governess to Henry VIII's children)
Sister: Margaret Bryan
Sister: Elizabeth Bryan (wife of Nicolas Carew)

First marriage: Phillipa Spice (daughter of Sir Humphrey Spice)
Son: Edmund Bryan

Second marriage: Joan Fitzgerald, Countess of Desmond
Son: Sir Francis Bryan
Daughter: Elizabeth Bryan

Mistresses: * in the series, fictional character Lady Ursula Misseldon
& a fictional romance with Anne Stanhope, Edward Seymour's wife

Friends: King Henry VIII
Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex



  • to Princess Mary Tudor - "you are an unfilial daughter....if you were my daughter I would smash your head against the wall until it was a soft as a boiled apple, you understand?"

  • recited to Lady Ursula Misseldon - "here is the real Danaë - she would kindle your lust even higher -
    with a touch, one mere touch of her body - and your limbs melt in the fire"

  • King Henry VIII to Francis: "who is that?" Francis: "shes the widow of the Earl of Edgmonde" Henry "a widow?" .....Francis: "Wait.its true she doesn't look it but she is over forty. On the other hand there is a maid at court who is only 14 but she already has a goodly stature" Henry:"let the fruit ripen before you pluck it, Sir Francis"

  • "I hate popery with a passion thats why they call me 'the Black Pope" to Anne Stanhope


Francis Bryan as played by Alan Van Sprang

Sir Francis Bryan as played by Alan Van Sprang
Sir Francis Bryan as played by Alan Van SprangPrincess Mary Tudor and Sir Francis Bryan
Francis Bryan and the KingSir Francis Bryan as played by Alan Van Sprang
Francis Bryan as played by Alan Van SprangFrancis Bryan as played by Alan Van Sprang
Francis Bryan as played by Alan Van Sprang Francis Bryan as played by Alan Van Sprang
Francis Bryan as played by Alan Van Sprang Francis Bryan as played by Alan Van Sprang
Edward Seymour with Francis Bryan Francis Bryan as played by Alan Van Sprang
Francis Bryan