31 January 2020

Sir Francis Bryan: Henry VIII's Most Notorious Ambassador, by Sarah-Beth Watkins

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

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

Francis Bryan and Nicholas Carew were becoming firm favourites of the king’s. At the May joust in 1514 at Greenwich the king lent horses and armour to them both for jousting. The tilt yard at Greenwich had become Henry’s permanent play area. Close to the palace of Placentia, Henry had added extra stables, an armoury, a gallery and a five-storey tower for viewing. Such was Henry’s delight in the joust the Spanish ambassador commented ‘The King of England amuses himself almost every day of the week with running the ring, and with jousts and tournaments on foot in which one single person fights with an appointed adversary… 
The most interested in the combats is the king himself, who never omits being present at them’. As well as the king, Nicholas Carew especially excelled as a star of the tournament. He became so popular and so skilled that Henry gave him his own tilt yard at Greenwich in 1515. Carew and Bryan were both also charged with teaching the art of chivalry to ‘encourage all youth to seek deeds of arms’ and pass on their skills to a younger generation. On 19 April 1515 there were more entertainments at Richmond, jousting and a banquet, in honour of Louise of Savoy and Bryan and Carew rode out with the king again. Henry paid for his friends coats of blue satin embroidered with white satin including ‘48 yds. blue satin, at 7s. 8d. a yd., for coats, trappers and saddlery for Bryan and Carew’.

For the celebration of May Day at Shooters Hill, Henry put on a masque around the story of Robin Hood, one of his favourite themes. Eighty-seven yards of green satin were needed for Bryan’s and Carew’s coats and Arnold, the Queen's embroiderer, made hawthorn leaves for their headpieces. The king himself was dressed ‘entirely in green velvet, cap, doublet, hose, shoes and everything’. Henry had with him a band of archers and a hundred noblemen who were joined by Queen Katherine and her ladies to watch an archery contest. Afterwards Henry asked his queen whether she would ‘enter the greenwood and see how the outlaws lived’ and when Katherine said she was content to, he led her into the woods to an area decorated with floral bowers and where tables were laid out with a feast. Bryan was also at the Christmas entertainments at Eltham when the king’s chapel master William Cornysh devised a castle pageant. 
For all the pleasure, there was also work to do and in 1516 Bryan became the King’s cupbearer bringing him in even closer contact to the king both officially and personally.
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About the Author

Sarah-Beth Watkins grew up in Richmond, Surrey and began soaking up history from an early age. Her love of writing has seen her articles published in various publications over the past twenty years. Working as a writing tutor, Sarah-Beth has condensed her knowledge into a series of writing guides for Compass Books. Her history works are Ireland's Suffragettes, Lady Katherine Knollys: The Unacknowledged Daughter of King Henry VIII, The Tudor Brandons, Catherine of Braganza, Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots: The Life of King Henry VIII’s Sister, Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII's Unwanted Wife and The Tragic Daughters of Charles I. You can find Sarah-Beth on Twitter @SarahBWatkins

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