John BRAY

(2nd B. Bray)

Born: ABT 1520

Died: 18 Nov 1557

Father: Edmund BRAY (1º B. Bray)

Mother: Jane HALLIGHWELL

Married: Anne TALBOT (B. Bray / B. Wharton) Jun 1542


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Only son of Edmund Bray, first Baron Bray, by his wife Jane, dau. and heiress of Richard Halywell of Harberton, Esq.

First came to prominence when commanding the forces sent to suppress ‘Kett’s rebellion’ of 1548, which, along with a series of uprisings across England over religion and enclosure, threatened the very foundations of Edward VI’s government.

In 1553, after Edward’s death, Bray was one of twenty-six peers who signed letters patent handing the Crown to Lady Jane Grey.

Bray was particularly mistrusted by Queen Mary, and lost valuable lands as a result. Bray seems rather to have been in the wrong places with the wrong people at the wrong time. He was first arrested on 15 Jul 1553, during Wyatt's Rebellion, on suspicion of being involved in that plot, but he was released later the same day. 

In May 1556 he loudly declared, in the parish of St. Andrew in the ward of Baynard’s Castle, that he wished Elizabeth, Mary’s sister, was on the throne instead, for ‘he should have his lands and debts given him again, which he both wished for and trusted once to see’. For this personal insult to Mary and on suspicion of treason in connection with the Dudley Conspiracy, Bray was imprisoned in the Tower of London for a year, and for some time lived under the threat of execution. His mother, Jane Hallighwell, and his wife Mary Talbot, daughter of Francis Talbot, 5th Earl of Shrewsbury, immediately went to London to petition for his release. Neither woman managed to arrange a meeting with the Queen, but they sent tokens to influential courtiers, including Susan Clarenceaux, the Queen’s chief gentlewoman.

Lord Bray was confined first in the Fleet and later in the Tower and according to gossip was deprived of basic necessities. Throughout his imprisonment, Bray maintained that he was innocent of treason and the eventual charge against him was only “infraction of true obedience” for his “false and contemptuous words”. He remained in custody until the first week of Apr 1557 and was then released. He was pardoned on 13 May 1557. Mary could not, however, resist remarking that ‘God sent oft-times to good women evil husbands’. She may have been thinking of her own husband, for word had come to her on 16 Jun that King Felipe would not be returning to England as planned. Anne, Lady Bray, working at court to rescue her husband from the consequences of his involvement in the same plot, equally turned to the mistress of the robes.

Bray in fact repaid Mary’s mercy with interest. In 1557 he joined King Felipe's army in the siege of St Quentin, as did many who had formerly been rebels, and was wounded there on 10 Aug 1557. He contracted a fatal fever. He died soon afterwards at his home in Blackfriars on 18 Nov at three o’clock in the afternoon.

His mother Jane was with him and was named his executrix. The will was proved two days after his death. She made all the arrangements for his funeral, which was conducted according to Catholic ritual, and for his burial at Chelsea, where his father and grandfather were buried. There was obviously some dissention in the family. No one from John's wife's family attended the funeral, nor did the husbands of at least three of his sisters. The chief mourner was Lord Cobham, who was married to his eldest sister. An account of his death and elaborate burial is recorded in great detail at the Royal College of Arms.

Anne Talbot had no children by John Bray and the title went into abeyance after his death. She remarried four years later, taking as her second husband Thomas, 1st Baron Wharton. She does not seem to have had any children by her second husband, either. She could not have been the Lady Wharton at court when Queen Mary died. This was probably her second husband's first wife.

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