Sir Francis Bryan, the Vicar of Hell

Feb2,2012 #Francis Bryan

Francis BryanOn this day in history, 2nd February 1550, Sir Francis Bryan 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”.

In “The Tudors”, Sir Francis Bryan is a one-eyed rake who likes to have his wicked way with the ladies, but was the real Sir Francis Bryan really like that? Here are some facts about him:-

  • He did indeed have one eye – He lost an eye jousting in 1526 and historian Susan Brigden writes of how he joked about it “for he wrote of the one-eyed Robert Aske ‘I know him not, nor he me … yet we have but two eyes’ (LP Henry VIII, 11.1103)”.
  • His birthdate is not known but is thought to be around 1490.
  • He was the first surviving son of Sir Thomas Bryan and Lady Margaret Bryan (née Bourchier) who was lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon and governess to Princess Mary, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Edward.
  • Brigden believes that Bryan may have spent some of his youth in the household of Sir Thomas Parr of Kendal, Westmorland, in Northamptonshire because he later referred to him as his patron. Parr was the father of Queen Catherine Parr.
  • His sister, Elizabeth, married Sir Nicholas Carew.
  • He was Anne Boleyn’s cousin – His mother was Elizabeth Boleyn’s half-sister.
  • In April 1513 he was Captain of the Margaret Bonaventure.
  • In 1516 he became the King’s cupbearer.

  • He was known for his skills at jousting and hunting and became the King’s master of the toils in 1518, a position he held for the rest of Henry VIII’s reign.
  • He was also known for his rich clothing.
  • in 1518 he became a gentleman of the privy chamber – He lost this position in Wolsey’s purge but then regained it in 1528.
  • Bryan was knighted in 1522 for his courage during the capture of Morlaix in Brittany, serving under the Earl of Surrey.
  • His first wife, who he was married to by 1522, was Philippa, daughter and heir of Humphrey Spice and widow of John Fortescue of Ponsbourne in Hertfordshire. The marriage was childless.
  • Bryan had a reputation for gambling and was a court favourite.
  • By 1526 he held the position of chielf cupbearer and master of the henchmen.
  • During the King’s Great Matter, Bryan was Henry VIII’s “trusted emissary to those with most power to bring about the king’s remarriage: Clement VII and François”.

  • Brigden writes of Bryan, “Bryan became known for his unusual willingness to tell the king the truth, but also for his employment of dubious means to gain diplomatic ends”, and writes of how he slept with a courtesan at the papal court to gain intelligence.
  • Bryan was the one who informed the King of his excommunication in August 1533.
  • In the 1530s he served as sheriff, JP and MP.
  • In May 1536, when the Boleyns fell from power, he was summoned to London for questioning but was not arrested. He had previously distanced himself from the Boleyns and allied himself with the Seymours.
  • Bryan was sent to tell Jane Seymour the news of Anne Boleyn’s execution and benefited from Anne’s fall, becoming Chief Gentleman of the King’s Privy Chamber.
  • Thomas Cromwell referred to Bryan as “the vicar of Hell” in a letter to Gardiner and Wallop on the 14th May 1536. According to Catholic recusant Nicholas Sander, the King also referred to him by this nickname. Sander writes “This man was once asked by the king to tell him what sort of a 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.” The man had been long ago called the vicar of hell on account of his notorious impiety, henceforth he was called also the king’s vicar of hell.”
  • Bryan’s motto was Je tens grace (‘I look for salvation’) and he was a staunch Catholic. Brigden writes “He owned a copy of the Matthew Bible of 1537, and was intrigued by the humanist enterprise of scriptural translation and exegesis. Although he could not translate scripture himself, he was the patron of scholars of Greek who could, and his own household was a kind of academy.”
  • In 1537 he was sent to Paris to secretly arrange the kidnap or assassination of Cardinal Pole but it was suspected that he actually tipped Pole off.
  • He acted as ambassador to Francis I in 1538 in Nice while Thomas Wyatt acted as ambassador to Charles V but was recalled due to his reckless gambling, drunkenness and all round bad behaviour. He never acted as ambassador to the French king ever again.
  • Bryan sat on the jury which found his brother-in-law, Carew, guilty of treason in 1539.
  • He was appointed vice-admiral in January 1543 but this was revoked in the February after he went against the instructions of John Dudley, Viscount Lisle and lord admiral.
  • In October 1543 he acted as ambassador to Charles V.
  • In October 1546 he was given the freedom of the City of London.
  • He was made knight-banneret in 1547 for his role in the expedition against the Scots as commander of the horse.
  • After his wife’s death in 1542 “he followed Wyatt’s satirical advice to marry a wealthy widow” and in 1548 married Joan Butler, dowager countess of Ormond, and daughter of James fitz Maurice Fitzgerald, tenth earl of Desmond.
  • Brigden describes how “through his marriage Bryan wielded Ormond authority in south Leinster, controlling the estates of Thomas Butler, tenth earl of Ormond (1531–1614), in his minority and a private army of gallowglasses in co. Kilkenny” and “Through the office of lord marshal, to which he was appointed in January 1549, he commanded royal forces in Ireland”. Bryan had become a powerful and wealthy man.
  • He died in Ireland on the 2nd February 1550, his last words allegedly being “‘I pray you, let me be buried amongst the good fellows of Waterford (which were good drinkers)’”.
  • Like his good friend Thomas Wyatt, Bryan was a poet.
  • Thomas Wyatt wrote of Bryan:
    “To thee, therefore, that trots still up and down
    And never rests, but running day and night
    From realm to realm, from city, street, and town,
    Why dost thou wear thy body to the bones?”
  • There are no portraits of Sir Francis Bryan.

Notes and Sources

  • Susan Brigden, ‘Bryan, Sir Francis (d. 1550)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  • Nicholas Sander, Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism

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86 thoughts on “Sir Francis Bryan, the Vicar of Hell”
  1. Hey Claire ….. his role he played in he tutor was interesting… I personally thought he was hot LOL!!!! But my question to you is I’m not sure u wrote it. I was going to ask about his eye but u answered it already LOL! Did he wear a earring in his ear? I know women did but for a man to. We see the typical pirate with the earings hoops in their ears. Was it normal cause i don’t see painting with men wearing earring. If he did that cool. I’m sure if he lived now he have tattoos n body piercing LOL! I never knew he was Anne’s cousin!!! Amazing how much her family was still in court and in favor of the king. If you think of it. If she did what she wad charged with you think Henry wouldn’t want anything to do with her family at all but throughout his rein her family served hid court. I believe that its proof she was innocent of the charges that was brought against her. Funny how family would turn n on you so quick. Thank you ~Jessica Rose~

    1. I’m so happy that this was the post for today. I am “re-watching” The Tudors and just finished the first episode in which Sir Francis is featured. It’s funny how they never really explained much about him in the series. He just kind of “appears” as if we’re supposed to know all about him. He is so interesting and I’m anxious to learn more about him. Interesting to know he was related to the Boleyn’s as I am always looking for some kind of proof that Henry was sorry for what he did to Anne.
      Love this website – thanks so much!!1

  2. Jessica Fletcher is right about the Boleyn’s staying in court in some fashion in court, and if not by actual surname, but then her family nonetheless. I agree that if may serve as proof that Anne was innocent.

    As for him being “being hot.” LOL!, it does say that there are no portraits of Sir Francis Bryan. Would be interesting to see one, though.

    Claire, you write on the best things. I finally had to send Eric Ive’s “Anne Boleyn” back to the library as I could not renew it anymore, but I did get a late Christmas gift for B&N and bought it outright yesterday! I am beginning to hate due dates, and as you said, it sits right by you. That was enough for me to actually get a copy. The used book stores around here don’t carry him. I also ordered Betram Fields, “Royal Blood: Richard III and the Mystery of the Princes.” I have looked for the article you put out, and I believe it was Elizabeth of York that named another book by another author whose last name begins with “A.” I tried the Elizabeth of York site again and was directed to another of you great pieces but left this one out.

    Be all that as it may, and I don’t want to get into trouble with anyone else who comments; I do agree with Jessica Fletcher (I like her name, too), on these things. Thank you, WilesWales

    1. Hi im a descended to my grand farther was sir lord William ingarum also my other grandfather henry Thomas vi n henry Thomas again in related to betty Sheldon her mum margret Sheldon Mary Anne Boleyn iv jus found out via long lost families uk 31st august 2019 .1030 sent all my family tree via facebk pages private sent to me …… Vanessa Sheldon ..

  3. Hi, Claire – thanks very much for posting this information. I am a direct descendant of Sir Francis Bryan’s and I guess I am happy to know more about him despite his rather wicked ways. I do appreciate your posting of this on the anniversary of his death. Best regards, Julie

    1. I too just found out that I am a descendant of his. He is my 14x great grandfather. I live in Northeast Alabama.

      1. Thank you for replying, Mirandi. It is nice to see all the descendants of SFB on this page! I live in Fairfax, VA. Thanks to Claire for the good information.

        1. Like many others, I can also trace a direct relationship to Sir Francis, he is my 13th Paternal Great Grandfather. Julie, I moved to Texas to Leesburg VA about 2 years ago, so nice to know that I have family in the area. Hehehe..

        2. Julie
          Small world I live in Fairax and still carry the Bryan name. David I too am a direct descendant . I am currently tracing roots would love to hear where and how you link
          use my middle name

        3. Well will wonders never cease! I too am a descendant of SFB, through my GG Great Granother Susannah Bryan, Here in Raleigh, NC

        4. Nice to meet all of my relatives here on this page! I have done some genealogy, and I do have to make one correction to this article – Francis Bryan married Joan Fitzgerald, not Joan Butler. It is confusing since there were many Fitzgeralds and Butlers, both families being of Norman extraction. But it was Joan Fitzgerald who was the daughter of the Earl of Desmond who married Bryan. On her mother’s side she descended from Brian Boru, famed Chief and Irish warrior who saved Ireland from the Vikings. Joan’s mother’s name was Amy O’Brien.

    2. Hello Jule, and others. I am searching my Bryan family line and am looking for the connection to Sir Francis. I have found that he seems to have had an illegitimate son, but cannot find the name. He does not appear to have any other children. Does anyone have a name and their source of information? Does anyone know if Francis had a brother who lived to have sons? I believe that my 13th great grandfather may be the illegitimate son.
      Also, Francis’ wife was both a Fitzgerald AND a Butler – Fitzgerald being her maiden name and Butler being the surname of her first husband who died in 1546.
      For those interested in Sir Francis’ connections to King Henry VIII, besides being cousin to Anne Boleyn (wife #2 of Henry VIII & mother of Queen Elizabeth I), he was also cousin to wife #5 (Katherine Howard), vice-chamberlian to wife #1 (Catherine of Aragon & mother of Queen Mary), and had other dealings in the court with wives #3 (Jane Seymour) and #4 (Anne of Cleves).
      A final interesting tidbit – his mother Margaret (Bourchier) Bryan was a governess to all of the children of the king, perhaps even the king’s illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy.

      1. I am also related through Capt Morgan Brayan 1671- 1763 who arrived in VA in a Quaker settlement he married Martha Strode. His daughter Sarah Bryan married Samuel Bailey (Va and NC). William Bailey “flea tick” marrie isabell Bentsen. They had a daughter Sarah sally bailey who married William garwood who had a daughter Elizabeth who married Richard foster (NC), they had Ellen Nellie foster who had a son Richard Edmond Williams who had a daughter Lessie Richard Williams – MY GRANDMOTHER- They are from Knott’s Island NC.

  4. Thank you WileSWales you made my day 🙂 I think that it’s true… I do love my name n will always keep my last name, me n my brother are trying to trace our family history but we can’t get past 1850’s if I lived in england we have better resources. I thought it be cool if I was related to dr. Dean Fletcher who was apart of Mary Queen of Scott’s execution . I’m going to check out Sir Francis if he has a painting on this site . Again thank you for your kind comment.

  5. I have always wondered why he was called, the vicar of hell. That response to Henry’s question is interesting, as is the question itself. It reminds me of when he was asked if he slept with ‘the mother and the sister’ and he said, never the mother–but maybe he thought about it! Who knows–Thanks–he is such an interesting character.

  6. Well he certainly lived an adventurous life, on the edge too at times its seems. His greatest achievement seems to be that he kept on the right side of Henry and not only survived his reign but come out of it pretty unscathed,charmed? lucky? or just downright wily and clever? Bet he was great fun to know,and I bet he doesn’t want to rest in peace either, too much of a party animal 🙂
    Am I right in saying that he had a son Francis jr who was only a year old when his father died, and inherited a vast estate, also did he have a daughter too name Elizabeth? what happened to her (if she existed).

  7. Greetings, I am a direct descendant of Sir Francis Bryan as well and was pleased to see this post.

    It may be of interest to many that Sir Francis’s descendants (Rebecca and Martha Bryan) married Daniel Boone and his brother Edward “Ned” Boone.

    Also, the Bryans were exiled by Oliver Cromwell to the Colonies (Virginia) in the 1600’s when his descendants claimed a right to the Irish Throne (via their mother’s Irish nobility). They purportedly brought the first thoroughbreds to the New World that would later establish the Kentucky horse racing culture.

    Sir Francis was a poet and a cipher and was purported to be a bit of a rake but he was also a translator of serious literature and a bit of a scholar in addition to being a gentleman. He is a very colorful character indeed.

    1. Wow, that’s so interesting, Sir David, thank you for sharing that. Bryan was indeed a poet, he was one of the circle with Surrey, Wyatt, Mary Howard and George Boleyn. Yes, an interesting character.

      1. Hi Sir David, I am also a direct descent of Sir Francis Bryan and WIlliam Smith Bryan. Rebecca Ann Bryan (Boone) was my 2nd cousin 7xs removed. Daniel Boone’s compatriot, Capt. Robert Bean (the first white settler in what is now Tennessee), was also a direct ancestor. Daniel and Rebecca’s cabin was neighbor to the Bean cabin. They were explorers and woodsmen together. I did not know about the thoroughbreds and find that fascinating. I am a horse fancier. Thank you.

    2. ME TOO! I am also a direct to Sir Francis via Martha Bryan Boone and Ned Boone!
      Bryan’s of Martha and Aunt Becky’s line had land in Co. Claire and went to reclaim it in the 1700’s, but … can’t remember the exact details.. but they gave it up because it was too much trouble to retain it. The details are on the Boone Society site somewhere.

      1. I, too, am a descendant of Sir Francis Bryan I through the marriage of Captain William (Billy) Bryan who married Mary Boone, a sister of Daniel Boone. He is my 11th great-grandfather. Don’t condone his wild ways, but he was obviously an interesting character. You can trace this line through his Bourchier mother to Anne Plantagenet and then to her grandfather, King Edward III of England. From there, you can trace your genealogy a long way back, because the genealogy of the monarchs was recorded in history.

        There are probably a lot of us descended from Sir Francis Bryan I.

    3. Amazing!

      I am a direct descendant of Nathan Boone (Daniel’s youngest brother). He was born in Kentucky and died in Missouri (1781-1856). My mom’s mother was a Bryan, but her family immigrated from Ireland.

      I’m not sure if I’m related to Sir Francis, but I sure hope so because he was awesome.

      1. You are related as I am. Of Sir Francis Brian 1st, I am also related. He is my maternal 13th Great Grandfather. Rebecca (Bryan) Boone was the wife of Daniel Boone and they are both maternal 7th great grandparents of mine and I am a direct descendent of Daniel. Rebecca’s family hailing from Ireland and immigrating to England and later to America. Daniel’s father’s name was Squire Boone hailing from England. (Daniel also had a brother named Squire) Squire Sr.’s father(s) were George Boone III (Immigrant to America), GB II, and GB I.


    4. If you are a decedent of Daniel boone then you are a decedent of Sir Francis. Also Daniels siblings married bryans so you could be link through them as well. I am the direct deven dent of sir francis.

    5. I have found the connection to Rebecca Bryan and Daniel Boone and have information about Sir Francis Bryan, but I do not have the connection between them. Is it possible to get this from someone? My grandmother was Gladys Bryan from Rome, Georgia.


      1. Elaine,

        If you can trace your lineage to Rebecca Bryan then the line to Sir Francis is:

        Daniel Boone & Rebecca Bryan
        Joseph Bryan & Hester Hampton
        Morgan Bryan & Martha Strod
        Francis Bryan, III & Sarah Brinker
        Willian Smith Bryan & Catherine Morgan
        Francis Bryan, II & Ann Smith
        Sir Francis Bryan & Lady Joan Fitzgerald

        There is some controversy about whether Sir Francis and Lady Joan had any surviving children but I find the evidence, given the adversarial Irish position, fairly credible. Also, it seems that Rebecca and her sister Martha were raised by their grandparents so some thought that Rebecca was the daughter rather than the grand daughter of Morgan Bryan.

        In my own genealogy my second great grandmother, Martha Ann Power, was the grand daughter of Elizabeth Boone. Her parents were Israel Boone and Martha Farmer but both of them succumbed to tuberculosis when Elizabeth was about 4 years old so she was purported to have been raised by Daniel Boone and Rebecca Bryan. (Israel was Daniel’s older brother).

        1. I too, am related through a Bryan, Edward John Bryan, son of Francis II ! Cousins to Rebecca Boone Bryan! Hi Cousin! LOL

        2. Steve,

          What is your source for this lineage,

          Francis Bryan, III & Sarah Brinker
          Willian Smith Bryan & Catherine Morgan
          Francis Bryan, II & Ann Smith
          Sir Francis Bryan & Lady Joan Fitzgerald.

          For me, instead of Morgan Bryan, William Smith Bryan, Morgan’s brother, is my ancestor.

          Please advise.

          Thank you!

          Bryan Watkins

  8. Thank you so much for your posting about Sir Francis Bryan. I too am a descendant of his through his son who emigrated to Virginia. I have a question for you regarding his sympathies toward Catherine of Aragon. I had read in another Anne Boleyn file that he secretly supported Catherine’s right to the throne but perhaps did not have the fortitude to stand up to Henry VIII a la Sir Thomas More? Could you expound upon this if possible? I too am glad that he is not as vile a character as the one portrayed on TV.
    Thanks so much!

  9. You can definitely see your skills in the work you write. The arena hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. At all times follow your heart.

  10. Sir Francis Bryan was my 8th great-grandfather. His marriage to Philippa Spice was not childless, as mentioned in your article.. They had a son named Edmund Bryan, born 1517 at Tor Brian, Devonshire, England, and who married Margery Courtenay. In addition, Sir Francis adopted Henry Fortescue, son of Philippa’s first marriage to Sir John Fortescue. He was one of the most amazing men of his age and his full accomplishments have yet to be credited. He was a boy companion of Henry VIII and educated by Henry’s grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort. Sir Francis Bryan’s mother, Lady Margaret Bourchier Bryan, was the Lady Governess to Henry VIII’s children, Princess Mary, Princess Elizabeth, and Prince Edward. When Henry VIII was on his deathbed, he uttered his last words to Sir Francis Bryan, who attended his sick bed. “Oh, Bryan, we have lost all.”

    1. Historian Susan Brigden, who wrote the biography of Francis Bryan for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, records the marriage being childless and although I have see mentions on some sites of Edmund being their son the Devon birthplace doesn’t make sense to me. The Bryans were from Hertfordshire and Philippa’s late husband was from Hertfordshire, and I don’t see any mention of Bryan having property in Devon at that time or Philippa living there when her husband was so busy at court. What is your source for Edmund being Francis’s son? Also, I’d be interested to know what your source is for Bryan being present at Henry VIII’s death. Sir Anthony Denny was there and Henry spoke to him, asking him to get Cranmer, but by the time the archbishop arrived Henry had lost the power of speech. I have never seen the words that you quote, “Oh, Bryan, we have lost all”, in the primary sources.

      I have also never seen mention of Bryan being educated by Lady Margaret Beaufort. It is thought that he was brought up in the household of Sir Thomas Parr of Kendal, Westmorland, but that is simply because Bryan referred to Parr as his patron, nothing is known for certain.

      I find Bryan an interesting character so would love to explore your sources in more detail, thanks.

      1. The Bryans were not from Hertfordshire; their family seat was at Cheddington, Buckinghamshire, England, but the family had long maintained estates at Tor Brian, Devonshire, as early as the eleventh century when it was founded by Guy III Bryan, ancestor of Sir Francis Bryan. Bryan had sent Philippa to live at Tor Brian to isolate her from his activities at court. He admittedly had married her for position and held her in small regard at court. Sir Thomas Wyatt alludes to this in his poem to Bryan wherein he calls Philippa an “olde mule”. Philippa’s first husband, John Fortescue, died in Hertfordshire, but he was born in Buckinghamshire. The Fortescue Baronetcy was founded at Salden in Buckinghamshire. Sir John Allen, the Irish chancellor, who was present at Bryan’s death and at the autopsy, states that ‘ he departed very godly.’ He further reports that Bryan asked that care should be taken for his young son. The stories of Henry VIII’s last words are legion, but his words to Sir Francis Bryan are duly recorded. I hope to publish the entire account of Bryan’s life and times in the near future.

  11. I, too, am a direct descendant of Sir Francis Bryan. His maternal grandmother was Elizabeth Tilney, Countess of Surrey, (1445-1497) who was the grandmother of three wives of Henry VIII–Queen Katherine Howard, Queen Anne Boleyn, and Queen Jane Seymour–and also three mistresses–Elizabeth Carew, Mary. Boleyn, and allegedly Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond.

  12. I am so great that you published this. He is a direct descendant of my Bryant family and I am still learning of them and this will help me in my search thank you so much.

  13. Morning Claire I look forward to your page everyday and always enjoy reading it and any comments following from it , I have especially enjoyed today’s one because like a lady said before me I have watched all the Tudors and all of a sudden Sir Francis did appear I did,nt know much about him it’s been good reading everything this morning and especially all the comments written by his desendents today :))

  14. This is very interesting to me as I just learned he was a great grandfather of mine. I watched the Tudors this last year and found Sir Francis to be a jerk LOL now I take that back as I don’t want to disrespect my ancestor 😉

  15. Thank you for writing such an interesting, detailed and accurate article about Sir Francis Bryan. I had recently discovered that he was our Ancestor via Benjamin Bryan who married Lydia Lincoln the Daughter of President Abraham Lincoln’s Great Grandfather Virginia John Lincoln. That made their Daughter Hannah Bryan who married Henry McDaniel a first cousin once removed to President Lincoln. I thought it was interesting that another branch of the Bryan’s married into the Boone family so they are cousins also. I am still reading and learning about Sir Francis Bryan and thought to myself… while Cromwell referred to him as the “Vicar of Hell”, it was Cromwell who was responsible for the downfall of Cousin Ann Boleyn. Sir Francis Bryan was wise enough to see that poor Ann would be made guilty of treason by forcing confessions inquisition style out of the selected victims. Cromwell was directly responsible for the inquisition style tortures and conspiracy against Ann. If Sir Francis Bryan really was against his cousin Queen Ann Boleyn he would not have paid for Cromwell’s executioner to be drunk and to take a half hour to execute Cromwell in a fashion that was painful and humiliating. My Father always said “If you really want to know what a person is about, don’t look at what they say, look at what they do”. While dear Ann lost her head quickly, her conspirator Cromwell paid for it dearly. Interestingly, this was not the last battle between Cromwell and Bryan. Bryan married Countess Joan of Ormonde Ireland and had a son Francis ll. That Francis married Ann Smith and they had a Son William Smith Bryan born 1590 in Clare Ireland. During the Puritan Rebellion William Smith Bryan attempted to take the throne of Ireland and was called Prince William of Ireland. The Cromwellian Government created by Thomas Cromwell deported Prince William to Virginia with his family and they landed in Gloucester Beach IN 1650. There was one last attempt by the Bryan family to take back their ancestral titles and estates they had inherited in Clare Ireland. This was attempted by Sir Francis lll in 1667. For whatever reason, he was not accepted and had to flee the country. Someone there has been trying to prevent the Bryan family from returning or claiming their rightful titles and estates. Sir Francis lll fled to Denmark and married Sarah Brinker, cousin to Prince William of Orange who became King William lll of England. In 1683 after the Revolution Francis was finally able to return to Ireland and died in Belfast. Family was spread out between Ireland, Denmark and Virginia at that time. There are probably quite a few descendants of Sir Francis Bryan today and it is fun to read about him and find cousins. Thank you.

    1. Prince William of Orange was already the King in his own country before he became co ruler with his wife Mary, the heir of James II. Mary was William’s cousin. When Mary died he would not give up the throne even though technically Anne, Mary’s sister was the rightful heir.

    2. Nicely explained but there is one inaccuracy that is evident. The Cromwell who exiled William Smith Bryan (likely grandson of Sir Francis Bryan) was Oliver Cromwell, not Thomas Cromwell who was executed many years previous. Since then there had been King Edward VI, Queen Mary (Bloody Mary), Queen Elizabeth, etc. I suppose Thomas and Oliver were probably kinsmen of some sort but Thomas’s influence was long gone.

    3. They are my family as well. This has all been quite a surprise to me. Although I knew my grandparents were American, this western Canadian girl never dreamed that I would follow the line back to these people. It’s truly fascinating.

  16. Interesting thread, I am descended from the Mary Boone side (Daniel’s Sister). The Vicar from Hell sounds like he lead an interesting life.

    1. Yes, I am descended from this line, too. Mary Boone (sister of Daniel) was married to Captain William (Billy) Bryan.

      Kathy Clark

  17. It seems everyone wants to be related to someone famous. I wanted to be related to Daniel Boone because of the TV show. Now Boones want to be related to a Bryan because of a TV show.

    The question I have is how do you establish lineage over such a long period of time? The information available online seems spotty.

    1. Bryan roots run deep, be careful of what you find on the internet. The records are there tho. bryans go back really far.

      1. This is long after the fact, but I had to vouch for my newly discovered “cousins”. Daniel Boone married Rebecca Byran and she, her son Isaac Boone and father William Bryan/Bryant, (my great, great great, great grandfather’s brother or 1st cousin), were killed in an Indian massacre after moving to Kentucky from North Carolina. Not only are there hard records to prove this, but an analysis by a UK expert of our DNA test reveals perfect ancestral matches to the families who would have been in Sir Francis Bryan’s lineage. They do go back to royal roots. Any Bryan/Bryant cousins reading this – if you are on FTDNA or Ysearch, look in the surname project for William Bryant, born in Thomasville, Ga. we are one, two markers and three markers off of your ancestor at 37 markers. contact me!

        1. William Bryan, who married Mary (Boone) Bryan, was mortally wounded by Indians near Bryan’s Station and died several days later in May 1780, from those wounds. There is a memorial Wall at the Spring at the site of Bryan’s Station which was located about 3 miles outside of Lexington, KY on Bryan’s Station Road. William Bryan’s name as well as Mary (Boone) Bryan’s name is on that wall as well as many, many other KY pioneers. A KY Historical Marker is located near the road. However, one person commenting on genform, several years ago, stated there is a DNA “problem” with the William Bryan line. That person stated that the William Bryan must have been adopted, etc. The reason being was the DNA from descendants from that line did not match the DNA of other Morgan Bryan (and Martha )Strode) Bryan descendants. I am a descendant of William Bryan, son of Morgan Bryan and Martha (Strode) Bryan. I don’t know if the DNA of this William Bryan has been reconcilled or not.

        2. Rhonda- I just reread you submission. I believe the father of Rebecca Bryan (wife of Daniel Boone) was Joseph Bryan, not William Bryan. Also, I don’t believe that that Rebecca (Bryan) Boone was killed in an Indian attack. Or perhaps I am misreading.

      2. The records are not there. There are NO records that support any of the claims made about legitimate sons of Sir Francis Bryan. There is mention of a son in a letter of Odet de Selve (French ambassador to England) in 1548. This son had been sent with letters & was on his way to London to meet his father (so cannot have been a child in 1548.) This son is also deemed to be illegitimate, as neither of Francis’ marriages produced issue. (This is also shown by Francis Bryan’s reversion of property to his nephew Francis Carew, which only reverted to his sister Elizabeth & her heirs if Francis had none of his own.) This son’s name, mother, and subsequent fate are all unknown. If you claim Sir Francis Bryan as a direct ancestor you should look closely at these parts of your tree. These claimed rich and famous (‘prince of Ireland’ etc.) ancestors have no records and are unknown to historians in Britain & Ireland. They exist only in American family trees.
        (Anyone can publish a family book (and people have been doing so since the 1800s.) Study the sources attached to these books (if there are any) they do not support the claims they make.)

    2. Ralph – Rebecca was the daughter of Morgan. She was not the one killed in the attack in 1880, it was William C Bryan, Boone’s friend and Rebecca’s brother. Issac was captured by indians once but not this time. It was one of William’s sons that was also killed.
      There is a problem with William Smith’s DNA for a time because people expect him to be married to Martha Strode (his brother Morgan’s wife). He was not but he is still in Sir Frances’ bloodline though the markers would be different from the true line.
      Though there has been many mistakes in the bloodline because everyone wants to be related to Daniel Boone, there is an unbroken blood line straight from Morgan, Rebecca Boone’s father to sir Frances Bryan.
      If you are checking bloodlines, it should also be noted that Rebecca Boone’s mother was not really Martha Strode. Her mother was Morgan’s first wife who died in child birth with Rebecca. Martha raised Rebecca. Also Rebecca raised 6 of Boone’s nephews from the day they were married at 17. These are sometime recorded as her children and dates confuse researchers. She had nine children her self.
      I would like to add, as anyone that researches knows, illiterate people tend to change the spelling of their names over time. After leaving Bryan’s Station, the name was often written as Bryant or Brant’s Station. Two of William’s brothers took that spelling. Thus the name of Bryant in the bloodline.

      1. Rick Shope – I may be wrong but I still disagree. I still believe that Joseph Bryan was the father of Rebecca Bryan who married Daniel Boone!

    3. Verify all info with primary documents. Passenger lists, census, tax rolls, military documents. etc

  18. This is all very interesting and I would love to be able to get more information. I agree that sometimes establishing lineage over long periods of time is spotty. It doesn’t help that everybody in a family named their kids the same thing. Middle names aren’t always available and sometimes that’s the key that would make everything more clear. This genealogy business gets hairy in a hurry. I wish I had started doing this a long time ago. There’s not enough time in the day! But according to my research thus far I am a direct descendant of Sir Francis so this was a great read for me! Previous comments were from other Bryans in Texas as well.

    1. At one time, you could only name your children royal names. That narrowed the choices considerably and now we have to wade through families that all have the same names.

      1. ‘Royal’ names? You could name your child anything you pleased, as long as it was a good Christian name. You couldn’t pop over to the baptismal font and expect a priest to bestow a silly name like Kylar upon your child, for example.

        In Tudor times they picked a popular name for a child, just as people do today. They also chose to name children after relatives, as some people also do today. Some even would bestow the name of a child who had died upon his newborn brother/sister. More than once, if they kept having bad luck.

        Middle names were not a ‘thing’ and it was unusual back then to find a person who had one. Even Henry VIII was just christened plain old Henry!

        Names waxed and waned just as they do today. In the 1000-1110s, you couldn’t walk without tripping over a Constance, Matilda, Adela, William, Richard, or Henry, but those names have remained steadily in use ever since, and are even enjoying a huge resurgence as of late. I joke that girls today are being saddled with ‘little old lady names’ because they’re the same as my great-aunts and great-grandmothers had – Florence, Adeline, Frances, Anna, Stella, Rose, Veronica, and Matilda are all rising in popularity in the US.

        A long time ago, I found a paper online that had researched parish christening records, in a certain region of England, from the later Elizabethan period. From the research they compiled a list of baby names. The list was quite long, but it seemed the more unusual names were near the bottom of it.

        The Top Ten for boys were John, Thomas, William, Richard, Robert, Henry, George, Edward, Nicholas, and James – from this list you can see that whilst royal names were popular, there were plenty of others just as or more popular.

        The Top Ten for girls were (naturally) Elizabeth – a great deal more of them than of any other name, but then Elizabeth I herself was a popular monarch – Anne, Joan, Margaret, Alice, Mary, Agnes, Catherine (in several spelling variants), Jane, and Dorothy.

        A few of the more unusual names they found – Adrian, Mark, Alan, Tristram, Valentine, and Ambrose, two of which came to public notice via Mark Smeaton and Ambrose Dudley. For girls, Ursula, Judith, Rose, Constance, Barbara, and Lucy – Margaret de la Pole, Countess of Salisbury, the only daughter of George, Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville, named her daughter Ursula, but I can’t think of anyone else ‘famous’ for the rest of them.

        Like at any other time in history, parents wanted to pick the ‘cool’ names for their kids. Tudors were no different than us in that respect.

        How could they know they’d be providing a source of frustration for everyone who wants to research their family tree, determined to prove they’re related to someone famous or royal?

      2. Hi Kathleen, no love, you could name your children as you pleased, although it was a custom to name children after the King or Queen or father, mother or favourite Saints. There were no fixed rules on naming children.

  19. Sir Francis Bryan the First was my 10th great-grandfather. My grandmother, Lillian May Bryan (1890-1972), was his descendant. The stories of Sir Francis never came down to us through her line of the family. His patrilineal ancestors were in England for several generations, and Wales before that, and France before that, going back to the Chateau-de-Brienne as early as the 800s A.D.

  20. WOW, didn’t know I had so many cousins lol! I just found out last year that I’m a direct descendant of Sir Francis Bryan too, he’s my 13th Great Grandfather. What a family reunion it would be if we all met together some day!

  21. Wow! I just discovered that my fourth Great Grandmother, ‘Mary Stratton Bryan’ was a direct descendant of Sir Francis Bryan I. She was born in 1771 in Lynchburg, VA. Her Father, Alexander Bryan was born in 1721 in Richmond, VA and died in 1784, also in Richmond. I was looking at the birth dates of Morgan Bryan’s children and realized that his older Brother William could have easily had a son in 1721. Can anyone tell me anything about Morgan’s older Brother William and his descendants? I think we might be from that line, if I can only get more details!! PLEASE HELP if you know anything!
    Thanks so much! Wow, there sure seems to be a LOT of us Bryans, lol! And I’m delighted to be related to such a colorful character!

  22. I just looked up this name because I found it in my genealogy and I’d never heard of the Vicar of Hell before…I can’t figure out if it is a good thing or bad…???

  23. I am descended from Sir Francis Bryan on at least three different occasions and I’ve tested at three different DNA sites online, and pair up with quite a number of cousins who also line up with Sir Francis Bryan and his wife. Who knew? Apparently this is the only royalty that’s in my line, although I do descend from some other prominent families from Ireland as well, such as the Granthams which was my great grandfather’s line going back to early colonial days of Virginia, and the Smiths days as well. The surnames Butler and Bryant are also in my 23andme surname enrichment list. This is all very interesting to me. The Smith’s, Whitfields and Granthams settled in Marengo County Alabama (at least my ancestors). There is both a Needham community and a Whitfield community in the adjacent Choctaw County. There is even a Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial hospital in Marengo County, Alabama as well, named after a very prominent Whitfield (related to Bryan) cousin that moved to the south. There’s truly a lot to soak in about this line.

    1. I also am related to the Bryan family through the Bishop/Grantham, Stevens/Sasser, Jernigan/Bryan , Bryan/Smith and so on. I too have DNA tested myself and many of my family members with Family Tree DNA and have many DNA matches to the Bryan family I am an American living in Gloucestershire, UK. This past weekend I visited Tewksbury Abbey and lit a candle for Guy De Bryan whom is emtumbed there. I hope to visit St. Briavels Castle in the Forest of Dean where Guy De Bryan was caretaker. I would love to email with you Dewayne as I would appear we are descended from the same Bryan family .

  24. I am also related. Leah Bryant (Barnes) and thru the Bryans (Bryants) of TN. To Texas. My father is Myron B. Bryant, Jr.

    My email is:

    This is all amazing and fascinating to me!! I want to learn more!! Pls help!

  25. I too am a descendant of this line (William Christopher Bryan and Mary Boone), but am troubled but the reports which say Sir Francis had no children with either of his wives. Is there some documentation to the contrary? Sorry if this is a repeated question, but I just found this site. . .

    1. my grandmother, minnie russel bryan, was descended from william bryan & mary boon bryan and elizabeth boon gahan & her husband ( things got a little cozy in the family tree there for awhile ). nice to see kin, though we will likely never meet.

  26. i just found out that i am also a descendant. i will figure out the family tree and post again.
    Whalen Bryan

  27. I am not a relative but it is wonderful to read all of your stories and family history. What a marvellous link to Francis Bryan and Daniel Boon. Both men had great adventures. Fantastic article. Nice to read all of your stories.

  28. Hello, I am having a hard time with knowing what is accurate information regarding Sir Francis Bryan. My Grandmother is Evelyn Lucy Bryant born 1920 in Brandon, Rutland, Vermont. She died 1980 in Rensselaer County, Averill Park, New York. Her father..
    Carl Leslie Bryant of Vermont his Albert Bryant of Vermont his Thomas D Bryant of Vermont his Daniel Bryant of Vermont his Amasa Bryant who died in Hartland Vermont but was born in Middleborough Plymouth Massachucetts. the son of Micah Bryant son of Benjamin Bryant son of Lt. John Bryant((1644) son of John Bryant(1618) all of Massachusetts. He was the son of John(1592) who died in Massachusetts but was born in Kent County England. Son of John (1553). born and died in Kent England. Who is the son of Robert Bryant (b.1532 d.1580 Kent England.
    This is where the trouble starts. Is Edmund John Bryan the father of Robert? Is Francis the father? Is Edmund Francis’s son? I do have Thomas Bryant as Francis’s fathrer, it is just that generation or two that has me stopped. Help please

  29. Cheers! I, also, am descended from Francis Bryan. The portrait of Mary Bryan, daughter of Joseph Bryan and Margaret Cartmill, rests on my bedroom wall. She is lovely.

  30. Greetings. What is the proof that Siri Francis Bryan had a son? He is purportedly my ancestor, as well, through this line:

    William Smith Bryan & Margret Brockers
    Francis Bryan, III & Sarah Brinker
    Willian Smith Bryan & Catherine Morgan
    Francis Bryan, II & Ann Smith
    Sir Francis Bryan & Lady Joan Fitzgerald.

    Please advise.

    Thank you.

    Bryan Watkins

    1. Absolutely none. Anyone claiming descent from Francis Bryan is descended from a completely unrelated Francis Bryan, or a relation on his father’s side, or a bastard of any of the above. Bryan married late in life, around age 50, and died three years later, leaving no legitimate offspring. I suppose it’s possible he left an acknowledged bastard son, but more than likely, he didn’t, as nothing’s ever been said about it.

      1. Actually one site says he had an illegitimate son and another a son by his second wife, born 1549, who either died in childhood or lived, but without anything more about either, so it isn’t as simple as that. It’s more likely he had an illegitimate son but there is no more information about any further children or grandchildren. His biographies don’t acknowledge any children. Collateral descendants are possible.

  31. Francis Bryan’s other sister, Margaret, is also a bit noteworthy; she was married to Sir Henry Guildford, Henry VIIIs Master of Horse and Comptroller of the Royal Household until his death in 1532. And like pretty much everyone else, Bryan could trace his lineage back to Edward III, being descended on the Bourchier side from Edward’s youngest son, Thomas of Woodstock, The Duke of Gloucester.

    Recently read an older (circa mid-2010s) online article (have unfortunately closed tabs and have no idea who wrote it, or which of the many Tudor articles I’ve been perusing it is) about Anne Boleyn. Been driving myself mad trawling through my History trying to find it, with no luck. It’s given me a genealogy puzzle to solve concerning Bryan’s relatives, and I’d like confirmation that I’ve indeed solved it, correctly.

    It states as a ‘fact’ that Elizabeth Howard, in addition to being a half-sister of Margaret Bourchier, Bryan’s mother, was also a half-sister of Margery Wentworth, Jane Seymour’s mother. Also says Elizabeth and Margery were raised together at Sheriff Hutton by the-then Countess of Surrey, also Elizabeth Howard.

    I’d not seen anything before alluding to Anne and Jane being first cousins. I do know that Elizabeth (mother of Margaret and Elizabeth) Tilney’s first marriage was to Sir Humphrey Bourchier, her second marriage to Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey and later Duke of Norfolk, and that she didn’t have a third marriage, so throwing in Margery Wentworth as another sister was puzzling.

    Anne Say, Margery’s mother, was Elizabeth Tilney’s sister, however. Anne and Elizabeth’s mother, Elizabeth Cheney, was married first to Sir Frederick Tilney prior to her marriage to Sir John Say.

    This may explain Elizabeth and Margery being raised together, but it makes them aunt and niece, not half-sisters. I’m looking at the familial relationships around the Bryan and Boleyns, and really not seeing where the confusion arose that a supposed historian would lump in Margery as another half-sibling.

    At the most, Anne Boleyn and Francis Bryan would be Jane Seymour’s second cousins? Am I figuring that correctly? Anne spent nine years in France, but would Francis and Jane have been close or raised in the same household at some point? I have seen it said Jane got her position at court because he recommended her for it, she being his cousin.

    There is this unidentified mistress of Henry VIII whom Chapuys in 1534 described as ‘a handsome woman’ (that used to be a polite way of saying she wasn’t terribly attractive; don’t know if Tudor meaning of the adjective is the same).

    It’s been theorized that Anne persuaded one of her Shelton cousins to grab Henry’s interest when his eye began to wander, and Chapuys does mention Mistress Shelton by name, so the unidentified damsel isn’t her. Chapuys generally salivated over every female who said more than a passing word to Henry as a potential ‘mistress’, eager as he was to see Anne’s downfall, so this woman may or may not have been one in the physical sense of the term.

    It’s been said Anne selected the Shelton girl to ‘keep it in the family’, ie, a relative who was firmly in Anne’s faction and would not stab her in the back and try to put herself into Anne’s slippers.

    With Anne and Jane also being cousins, it occurred to me that Jane also could have been recruited as a ‘safe’ alternative to engage Henry’s attentions. When the marriage went irreparably downhill in Henry’s mind, there was Jane, sitting cozily on his lap, first in queue for his next queen. Anne’s previously ardent supporters, Bryan and Sir Nicholas Carew (sidebar: his portrait is pretty hot lol), the latter of whom was married to Bryan’s sister Elizabeth, quickly switched their support to Jane, their cousin who was the rising star, ditching Anne, their cousin who was the obvious falling star.

    COULD Chapuys’ ‘handsome lady’ have been Jane?

    (If you deem this worthy of its own post as hardly any of it’s related to Francis Bryan, feel free to put it up elsewhere. This came up in my search of how the trio or ladies were related to him.)

  32. O.K can someone clear this up. The descendants of Sir Francis Bryan may have done DNA which will settle this.

    Francis had no children from first marriage so no direct decent possible there.
    His second marriage gave him no children, although maybe it did?

    No official biography states he and Joan Fitzgerald had any legitimate children, although she had dozens.

    However, three sites have different versions. One geni site says had one illegitimate son, married, no more information. One geni did had one legitimate son, Francis II born in 1549 from whom people are descending. Two history sites say one son who died in childhood, so no direct descendants there.
    One geni site says illegitimate son only so was this Francis II?

    Clearly with do many people claiming to be his direct descendants, they guy left his seed somewhere and DNA and must have had at least one child, who had children, legitimate or illegitimate as he has a lot of people who are his descendants in America and England.

    Unless you mean he is a collateral ancestor and you are descending from a brother, sister, cousin, because you can’t be directly descended unless he had children and they had children. I am not doubting people, just wondering if people have actually got sources or DNA to help with a historic mystery and confusion.

  33. I am unable to find any biographies of William Bryan I. If anyone has book Suggs it would be greatly appreciated. I did find the following information on Tudor Place. I am unable to find references for any material available.

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