Book Review: Sir Francis Bryan by Sarah-Beth Watkins

Genre: History

Publisher: Chronos Books

Pub date: 31 January 2020

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

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.

β€œThis 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, β€œWell, 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.

Bryan was cousin to Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard and also distantly related to Jane Seymour. Being close to these women it’s a surprise he managed to stay in favour.

Through his life Bryan saw many of his friends die either through execution or normal causes of death. His friends included Thomas Wyatt, Lord Lisle and Nicholas Carew (also his brother in law) who he had to sit on the trial for which found Carew guilty of treason. He spent most of his life as an ambassador travelling to across Europe on behalf of Henry VIII.

In 1526 Bryan lost an eye in a jousting accident and from then on wore an eye patch (if you’ve watched the Tudors you’ll know who I mean). He was first married to Philippa which was childless, and following her death took the advice of Thomas Wyatt and married a wealthy widow, Joan Butler dowager countess of Ormond. Bryan spent his remaining days in Ireland where he died 2 February 1550 and was buried in Waterford at his request.

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.

You can pre-order/purchase here:


Thank you to NetGalley and Chronos Books for the opportunity to read this in exchange for my review.

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