Sir Francis Bryan
The life of Henry VIII's most notorious ambassador, who, unlike many who served the second Tudor monarch, managed to keep his head.
The life of Henry VIII's most notorious ambassador, who, unlike many who served the second Tudor monarch, managed to keep his head.
Sir Francis Bryan was Henry VIII's most notorious ambassador and one of his closest companions. Bryan was a man of many talents; jouster, poet, rake and hell-raiser, gambler, soldier, sailor and diplomat. He served his king throughout his life and unlike many of the other men who served Henry VIII, Bryan kept his head and outlived his sovereign.
This book tells the story of his life from coming to court at a young age through all his diplomatic duties to his final years in Ireland.
The latest book from the best-selling author of Lady Katherine Knollys: The Unacknowledged Daughter of King Henry VIII
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Ms Watkins definitely knows how to bring a little obscure historic figure to a modern reader. Sir Francis Bryan often appears in books talking about the Tudors, yet, he is always a bit in a shadow of his king, whom he supported throughout his life and thanks to this wise policy he outlived Henry VIII. It is interesting to find out how he did it. This non-fiction is well-written, accessible to a modern reader who is not necessarily a scholar. ~ Beata B. Reviewer (Reviewer), NetGalley
.............I found this a thoroughly enjoyable read. The writing style made it easy to follow and I will be checking out other books by this author. ~ Jill G (Educator), NetGalley
I would like to thank the publisher, Chronos Books, for providing me with a free copy. I really enjoyed this title. Bryan is one of those characters in history who keeps coming up, but, yet, no one really knows all that much about him. He had his hand in a lot of important historical events and it was nice to see the Tudor court from his point of view. Well, I guess, this is nonfiction, but still, it was a nice change of pace to focus on someone other than the actual Tudors. I like the formula that was used in this one. Each chapter focuses on different part of Bryan’s life. I like the order of it and how each chapter was a different subject. It kept everything fresh and clean. A lot of times historians will jump back and forth, which kind of makes everything a little bit on the messy side. This simple compact way works for both the author and the reader. It makes difficult things, not that this is difficult by any means, a lot easier to follow. It makes it seem like you are getting somewhere. Plus, it’s like we are getting to live his life with him. What I really like about this book is that we are focusing on a background historical figure. If you look at Tudor court, Bryan is there, but there really isn’t much written or said about him. I really enjoyed having the focus on him. Now, there is still a lot of basic information in here about the workings of the Tudor court, but that’s okay. It is nice to experience the events through Bryan’s eyes. Yes, we do move away from court life and see him later in life, which was a nice touch. After Henry VIII’s death, we really don’t get a lot of information about what happened to his council. By adding those last chapters in there, we get closure, much like in a fiction novel. I like how we get to see how he survived with a king who is well known for making people lose their heads, literally. We get to see him deal with the downfall of people who he knew really well and some of them were even family. Some of them he even had to sit trial for I couldn’t even imagine living like that. We really don’t get an in detail look at his emotions through all of this, but it just tells you a little bit about his character. Anyway, I really enjoyed this title and getting to look into someone other than a Tudor monarch. I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in Tudor history. ~ Alyson Serena Willow Stone, Book Reviewer
Francis Bryan was one of Henry VII’s most important ambassadors and also one of the very few companions who managed to stay (mostly) in favour with the ever unpredictable and fickle king. At least he didn’t lose his head - even though he was banished from court on a few occasions. He’s perhaps less well-known than some of the more flamboyant and notorious members of the court but he had a rich and busy life and this well-researched and detailed biography does him justice......... ~ Mandy Jenkinson (Reviewer), NetGalley
5 out of 5 stars: Sir Francis Bryan was one of the great survivors of the Henrican court. One of Henry VIII’s group of close personal friends and courtiers, and cousin to both Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, Francis managed to survive all the ups and downs of Henry’s reign, bearing witness to events as they occurred but managing to stay neutral and to survive when many other great men fell. The author presents a man who kept his head down and did his duty, remaining loyal to his King throughout his reign, whilst for the most part remaining popular with many of the court. The author’s style as always is informative and easy to read and much research has gone into this book, with the author referring to primary sources throughout. This is a really interesting book on a figure who is often overlooked in Tudor histories, but who was an integral part of court life. I really enjoyed this and recommend to anyone interested in the reign of Henry VIII and the Tudor Court. ~ R Thomson, Amazon
5 out of 5 stars: Yet another meticulously researched and insightful offering from Sarah-Beth that chronicles the life and times of an ebullient character that played a significant role in and around the Tudor court of Henry VIII and beyond. The author has unearthed some previously unknown facts that are woven into an entertaining and detailed look at the life of one of Henry’s most trusted henchmen who lost an eye whilst jousting and avoided a mighty close call with the executioner’s axe among other things. ~ Effers, Amazon
A bit top-heavy with characters, cast these aside to concentrate on the book’s main focus, Sir Francis Bryan and his relationship with King Henry VIII in 17th century England, and you’ll fly through this thoroughly well-researched story. Sir Bryan’s life truly makes epic reading. Amongst the king’s closest companions, Sir Bryan was a skilled jouster, soldier, sailor, poet, rake, ambassador, gambler, drinker, and unlike many of his contemporaries in the king’s court managed – literally – to keep his head. His mother once ran the royal household and he was related to two of Henry’s queens, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. We read about Bryan’s many roles alongside wars with France and Scotland. Knighted for actions in France, his involvement in a war without arms, Henry VIII against the pope, was probably his most dramatic, years of endorsing Henry’s divorce with French and papal courts dominating much of the story. As usual Sarah-Beth Watkins gives us plenty of those personal details we love; the private letters, mouth-watering descriptions of the Palace of Illusions and Cloth of Gold (temporary abode for Henry’s duration in France complete with fountain dedicated to Bacchus). We read descriptions of Tudor banquets and menus; even Venetians comment on the flamboyant dress of the English courtiers - gowns of gold lined with vair, slashed with silk and brocade. We witness Cardinal Wolsey’s journey through London on a mule trapped with crimson velvet with stirrups of copper and gilt. Bryan navigates the absolute tyranny of Henry’s court with skill. He proves an astute courtier who knew who to keep on side and when to step away. He lost many to execution (including his cousin Anne Boleyn) often benefiting from their deaths (doing especially well following the dissolution of the monasteries, including a huge estate previously belonging to Cardinal Wolsey). Not accepting Henry as supreme head of the Church of England had a price, however, we remain unsure of Sir Bryan’s religious conviction; he corresponded with Thomas Cromwell until his execution. Being close to the king, many looked for Bryan’s help, but working for Henry was a dangerous and stressful job, people often executed just by association. Perhaps he fulfilled his motto ‘'I look for salvation’ by always telling Henry what he wanted to hear. The king, who reputedly asked him to test his daughter Mary’s virtue, named Bryan the ‘Vicar of Hell’. His penchant for gambling and drinking finalised his longstanding role as ambassador to France. Perhaps his marriage to Joan Butler in Ireland was not the happiest (he was appointed Lord Justice to Ireland in 1549) rumours abounded that she had poisoned him on the occasion of his death in 1550. A drinker with a talent for mistruth, Bryan survived where many others hadn’t. Clever enough to make sure that his loyalty was rarely in question, this book reveals why Bryan was Henry VIII’s most notorious ambassador. ~ Carina Jeisy, Book Reviewer
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. This is a very detailed delve into a character who at best was peripheral to the transitions in what has been described as the Tudor Revolution. The desperation to get a son by Henry VIII meant a turbulence both in England and without. Sir Francis Bryan, was not untalented nor was he particularly remarkable. He could have been a martyr or committed gross crimes. He did neither, but survived when so many fell. This book by Sara-Beth Watkins shows the man and the time. In all due respect to the author this is an excellent biography of a very mediocre figure. For this reason one should read it, it fleshes out a picture of the period like nothing else I've read. Its clear and well researched, readable and informative. ~ Willy Marz (Reviewer), NetGalley
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. When offered the chance to read Sarah-Beth Watkins' latest, I pounced on the opportunity. A book focusing on the man Thomas Cromwell called "The Vicar of Hell?" How could I resist?............In her latest, Watkins covers the exploits of one of the most notorious men of the Tudor court, Sir Francis Bryan. From his first coming to court to his sudden end, Bryan's life is retold through the prism of contemporary documents and letters written by and about the man himself. His roles as courtier and kinsman, diplomat and spy, poet and man of the arts, are all explored here. It's an interesting and engaging dive into a man little has been written about over the last five centuries. ~ Adrienne Dillard , Goodreads
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. The book Sir Francis Bryan by Sarah-Beth Watkins offers an informative and different approach to the King Henry VIII period. The book presents a different approach to the historical background that played out during the 16th century and concentrated on the role Sir Francis Bryan played in the British court. Also, the relationships developed and the impacts because of his actions when at court. I enjoyed the story line because the author invested significant effort to research the historical events but to describe the diplomatic role played by the main character. Each chapter offered a detailed and interesting insight into Henry VIII's wives, their frustrations, challenges and relationship with Sir Bryan.........I recommend this book to history lovers or people who generally enjoy reading about the King Henry VIII saga.. ~ Elize Becker (Reviewer), NetGalley
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. It is always a great pleasure to read Sarah-Beth Watkins’ books. They are always well written and extremely researched. This time she gave an exhaustive portrait of Sir Francis Bryan, Henry VIII’s main ambassador and one of his closest companions. He served the king throughout his life at court and abroad with his diplomatic missions in France and Scotland that helped to prevent war. Some critical voices were truly exasperated to realize that Sir Francis Bryan and a band of minions were circulating in the Henrician court and thought they exerted too much control over their sovereign. Sir Francis Bryan was also among those who helped the king in his break with Rome after Henry VIII’s request of divorce was opposed by the Pope. He helped his king with his negotiations to solve the case, but we don’t know if he opposed his decision. Sir Francis Bryan swore the oath of loyalty under the Act of Supremacy, accepting the king’s new role as Head of the Church in England and Wales, because he never went against Henry’s will and whatever he felt he kept to himself. He had lived to serve his king and had adapted to the changes that occurred during his reign. It is very surprising to read that Sir Francis Bryan was also a patron of the arts, a translator and a poet as Francis Meres indicates in his Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury, including him alongside other great poets such as Wyatt, Spenser, Daniel, Drayton and Shakespeare. To sum up, Sarah-Beth Watkins’ book describes magisterially how Sir Francis Bryan had survived where many others hadn’t in a court where vengeance and hatred were very frequent and his loyalty was rarely in question, even when Edward VI succeeded his father and excluded him from his first parliament. ~ Francesco Camodeca (Reviewer), NetGalley
There is a significant skill in writing historic biographies and maintaining a pace that holds the reader’s attention. This skill is even more admirable when taken into consideration the vast gaps in the historic record for a person’s daily life experiences. This lack of accurate information is true even of those in close contact with the monarchs. Sara-Beth Watkins has managed to write yet another captivating, informative and entertaining read. Sir Francis Bryan includes monochrome pictures, references, a bibliography and an Appendix. My sincere thanks go to: Sara-Beth Watkins (Author), NetGalley, and the Publisher (Chronos Books) for affording me the opportunity to review Sir Francis Bryan: Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Ambassador. ~ Nemo Nemo (Reviewer), NetGalley
Very good! This probably won't appeal to those that want all the nitty gritty details about Bryan, but this is concise and very interesting. The author writes very well and in a friendly style, and does solid research. I'll have to circle back to some of her other work. Recommended. ~ Paul V (Reviewer) , NetGalley
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. Another highly rated book from Sarah- Beth Watkins, I'm really enjoying increasing my knowledge of a favourite historical period, and realising that when history is this interesting, school lessons are more satisfying!. I had heard of Sir Francis Bryan, or Brian sometimes, the English language and spellings were still evolving, but never in this detail, he became a real person!. To be a close friend of King Henry the VIII, and to be related to three of his Queens, is an achievement, and clearly shows his talent in making sure no scandal sticks to his person.....This book is a dream guide of leading Tudor figures and the spider web of family connections, that cause so much confusion! Full of the intrigues, scandals and interesting facts that are not taught in schools, which is such a pity! This book helps to put you in the mindset of the Tudor court and its daily routines and perils. I find myself to be quite fond of The Vicar of Hell, and heartily recommend this book as a five star read. ~ Daphne Sharpe (Educator), NetGalley
Sarah-Beth Watkins’ short story about one of Henry VIII’s intimate childhood friends was a pleasure to add to my ever-growing knowledge about this time period. To me, it fits another piece into a large Tudor puzzle. I haven’t found many books about the earlier people that surround Henry VIII, beside the more famous Wolsey and the like.... She writes enthusiastically, pulling out Sir Francis Bryan’s character and she uses minimal details to create fantastic scenes; such as his tunic detailing when he jousted in the Gold of Fields.... I am looking forward to reading about the other people that Sarah-Beth has brought into the light...... ~ Sherri WTowle (Reviewer) , NetGalley
Having not read about Sir Francis Bryan I jumped at the chance to read this review copy. Bryan was known as The Vicar from Hell, apparently due to his sex life and lack of principle. “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.” Where many died as a result of upsetting Henry VIII, Bryan managed to retain his head by changing with the times in accordance with the kings needs. Although he did fall out of favour a few times and was banished from court for his influence on the king..........The book uncovers his life from coming to court at a young age through all his diplomatic duties to his final years in Ireland. He outlived Henry VIII and really was his most notorious ambassador. I was enthralled by this book, the writing style is easy to follow and it's exceptionally referenced throughout. I very much look forward to reading more by this author.. ~ Amy McElroy (Reviewer), NetGalley
.........This book provides a decent amount of information about Bryan's dealings in England and the Continent, and relies heavily on data from contemporary correspondence. Reading excerpts from Tudor letters was the best part of this book in my opinion, and did a lot to provide context for the biographical information of Bryan's life.......the story flows very evenly and quickly through Henry VII's reign. An enjoyable and quick history read! ~ Valerie Falkow (Reviewer) , NetGalley
Blame it on The Tudor series. I just had to know what happened to the man in the eye patch. Amazingly enough, he was a very interesting man in real life too. Faithful to his master, Henry VIII, he was a hard drinking, sexual creature who was called "The Vicar of Hell" for good reason. Very interesting book. I enjoyed it. ~ Donna Pingry (Reviewer), NetGalley
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. Hooray for this nonfiction about Sir Francis Bryan, diplomat for King Henry VIII; this book stands out for the way in which Watkins makes the characters feel truly human, piquing the readers' interest in their traits and foibles. It was super interesting to read about how Wolsey tried to pry the king's friends away from Henry. Keeping a young man away from his male friends?......... I truly enjoyed following the path of Sir Francis Bryan. The vicissitudes of life are thrown into high throttle in this milieu--one could gain the world one day and die a bloody mess (or drown attired in full armor) the next. A lot of detail is in this book about the Howard family, which I found interesting, knowing an American descendant of that same family. Bryan was an incredibly dexterous man, both physically and mentally, matching the needs of his king without getting into the kind of trouble that could cost his estate or his life. When he was on off hours, he drank and gambled too much, but that makes him human! I found myself envying him for knowing the courts of his era so well that he could compare them easily. He makes the most engaging comments: "And in the French Court I never saw so many women; I would I had so many sheep to find my house whilst I live" [sic}. I have never seen a book that gives more interesting details--perhaps as good, but never better. I think I may end up buying the hard cover. Yes, that good! ~ Julia Simpson-Urrutia (Reviewer) , NetGalley
....Although I knew of Francis Bryan, this is the first in-depth treatment of his life that I have read. I found it to be very interesting and well written. I enjoyed getting to know him.... ~ Joyce Fox (Reviewer), NetGalley
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. I only requested this book on a whim, since I have a passing interest in this time period and thought it would be interesting to learn more about one of the characters I knew relatively little about. However, I'm really pleasantly surprised by just how much I ended up enjoying it! Sarah-Beth's writing is fantastic - really informative, but engaging and easy to read too. I got through the entire book in a couple of days because I could hardly put it down. Congratulations on a truly brilliant and enlightening book. ~ Amelia Louise (Reviewer) , NetGalley
Sir Francis Bryan was a member of Henry VIII's inner circle, and throughout his life, he served the King in various capacities. But more often than not, he seems to have sent his time representing the King as ambassador to France. Bryan spent much of his time engaged in Henry's obsession with either declaring war on France or finding ways to outmaneuver his on and off again neighbor and ally. As one of Henry's most trusted friends and members of the court, he undertook numerous missions for the King. Even traveling to Rome to help persuade the Pope to agree to Henry's divorce from Queen Katherine so that he could marry Ann Boleyn, a cousin of his from his mother's side of the family. He was also related to another of Henry's Queens, Katherine Parr. Unlike many others at Henry's court, Bryan managed to stay mostly on the right side of the King, even as the King became increasingly unpredictable. He managed to outlive him and serve his son King Edward VI. From this account of his life and work, I found myself wondering when he had time for a private life; he was so busy traveling and working for the court. Before picking up this book, I didn't know anything about this man who played such a significant role in Henry's life. Not only was this a well-written account of his times, but it was also fascinating. I enjoyed seeing how many familiar figures from history were related to one another and how they fared during changing times. If you are as intrigued by Tudor history as I am, this is a book you will not want to miss. Thanks to Chronos Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review. ~ Susan Miller, Book Reviewer
Praise for 'The Tragic Daughters of Charles I': I love Sarah-Beth's writing, she completely draws you in and you find yourself becoming lost in the pages of her work. The story is told in such an informative and engaging way, that you can't help but feel for the girls and the hard times they endured. I found this hard to put down, a fascinating story of a time that I'm now compelled to find out more about. ~ L.J., Netgalley