Lady Bryan

Born: ABT 1468, Benningborough, Yorkshire, England

Died: 1551/2, England

Father: Humphrey BOURCHIER (Sir Knight)

Mother: Elizabeth TILNEY (C. Surrey)

Married 1: John SANDS 11 Nov 1478, Benningborough, Yorkshire, England

Married 2: Thomas BRYAN (Sir Knight) ABT 1487, Benningborough, Yorkshire, England


1. Margaret BRYAN

2. Elizabeth BRYAN

3. Francis BRYAN (Sir Knight Lord Chief Justice of Ireland)

4. Mary BRYAN

Married 3: David ZOUCHE

Margaret was born around 1468 in Beningbrough, Yorkshire, England, dau. of Sir Humphrey Bourchier and Elizabeth Tilney. Margaret Bryan could boast royal Plantagenet bloodlines for herself through her great grandmother on her father's side, Anne of Woodstock, Countess of Buckingham, who was herself the granddaughter of King Edward III. Humphrey Bourchier was heir to the title Baron Berners but died before his father, killed at the Battle of Barnet while fighting for the Yorkists. Margaret's brother John succeeded to the title as second Baron Berners. Her mother remarried at Sir Humphrey´s death; her second husband was Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. Margaret was brought up with her half brothers and half sisters, including Elizabeth Howard (Anne Boleyn’s mother). This connection made Margaret an aunt to Anne Boleyn as well as a member of the wider circle of kin and dependents around the Howard family.

Humphrey Bourchier and Elizabeth Tilney had one further daughter who survived to adulthood. Margaret's younger sister was Anne Bourchier, who married Thomas Fiennes, 8th Lord Dacre, in 1492. Their son, also Thomas, was the 9th Lord Dacre who was executed for murder in 1541.

Margaret Bourchier was married three times. Her first husband, with whom there may only have been a marriage agreement (a ‘pre-contract’), was Sir John Sands (or Sandys). The marriage agreement was signed when Margaret was 10 or 11 years old on 11 Nov 1478.

Margaret married Sir Thomas Bryan about 1487. As Lady Bryan, she was present at Catalina of Aragon's wedding to Prince Henry in 1509, and was a lady in waiting to Catalina from 1509 to 1516, while her husband was vice chamberlain of the Queen’s household. She apparently brought their daughters Margaret and Elizabeth Bryan, and her son Francis with her to court. She also had charge of the upbringing of Lettice Penyston.

Known as Lady Bryan initially because of her husband's knighthood, she claimed to have been made Baroness Bryan suo jure on 18 Feb 1516, upon the birth of Princess Mary, when she was appointed as Mary's Lady Governess in charge of the nursery at Ditton Park, Buckinghamshire and at Hanworth. She remained with the Princess for five years and when she left was given an annuity of £50 for life. She may also have been Lady Governess to Henry's illigitimate but acknowledged son Henry Fitzroy. If she had responsibility also for Henry Fitzoy that would have made her tenure as Mary's Lady Governess fairly short.

Sir Thomas Bryan died sometime before 1517, and Margaret married her final husband, David Zouche. In Jul 1519, there is a record in the archives of Henry VIII's court that notes the payment of an annuity of £50 to "MARGARET BRYAN, widow of Sir Thomas Bryan, and now wife of David Soche". The annuity paid "for services to the King and queen Katharine" included "one tun of Gascon wine yearly, out of the wine received for the King's use". David Zouche may have died in 1526 or in 1536.

In 1533 she was called back to care for Elizabeth Tudor at Hatfield. From Aug 1536, there is a widely quoted letter from her to Thomas Cromwell, in which she complains of the economic difficulties of the household of lady Elizabeth since the change in her status (from legitimate to illegitimate) following the annulment of the King's marriage to her mother Anne Boleyn, and Anne's execution in May.

"Now, as my lady Elizabeth is put from that degree she was in, and what degree she is at now I know not but by hearsay, I know not how to order her or myself, or her women or grooms. I beg you to be good lord to her and hers, and that she may have raiment, for she has neither gown nor kirtle nor petticoat, nor linen for smocks, nor kerchiefs, sleeves, rails, bodystychets, handkerchiefs, mufflers, nor "begens."

She also reports that: "My lady has great pain with her teeth, which come very slowly". Elizabeth was to have serious difficulties with her teeth on and off for much of her life.

She was Lady Governess to Elizabeth for four years. Margaret Bryan passed over responsibility for Elizabeth to Catherine Champernowne in Oct 1537 following the birth of Prince Edward, who became her new charge. Later, she was put in charge of a combined household at Havering-atte-Bower. A second letter to Cromwell, dated 11 Mar 1539, describes the Prince.

"My lord Prince is in good health and merry. Would to God the King and your Lordship had seen him last night. The minstrels played, and his Grace danced and played so wantonly that he could not stand still ..."

A late mention of Margaret Bryan in the archives is a note referring to the payment of a £20 annuity to "Lady Margaret Bryane, the King's servant" in 1545.

She died in Leyton, now a suburb of London but at the time a village in Essex. The only children Lady Margaret had were in her marriage with Sir Thomas Bryan. Two of their surviving children were: Elizabeth Bryan, who became the wife of Sir Nicholas Carew, and Sir Francis Bryan, who became Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.

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