2 February 1550 – Death of Sir Francis Bryan, “the Vicar of Hell”

Francis Bryan Wolf HallOn this day in history, 2nd February 1550, Sir Francis Bryan, courtier, diplomat, poet and a man nicknamed “the Vicar of Hell”, died suddenly at Clonmel in Ireland. He had settled in Ireland after marrying Joan Butler, Dowager Countess of Ormond, and had travelled to Tipperary as Lord Justice “to check the incursions of the O’Carrolls”. His last words were allegedly “I pray you, let me be buried amongst the good fellows of Waterford (which were good drinkers)”.

Bryan had only one eye. He lost an eye jousting in 1526 and historian Susan Brigden writes of how he joked about it, saying of Pilgrimage of Grace rebel Robert Aske, who also had only one eye, “I know him not, nor he me… yet we have but two eyes”.

Bryan had served Henry VIII as a diplomat during the King’s Great Matter, as Ambassador to Francis I in 1538, as Vice-Admiral in 1543 and as Ambassador to Charles V in 1543. He was made Knight-Banneret in 1547 for his role in the expedition against the Scots as commander of the horse and then appointed Lord Marshal in January 1549, leading Edward VI’s forces in Ireland. In December of that year, he was appointed Lord Justice, but died less than two months later.

Click here to read more about Sir Francis Bryan.

Taken from On this Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway.

Image: Felix Scott as Sir Francis Bryan in BBC’s “Wolf Hall”.

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