Sir Edward BRAY of Shere, Knight

Born: ABT 1519

Died: 7 May 1581, Shere, Surrey, England

Father: Edward BRAY of Vachery Park (Sir Knight)

Mother: Beatrix SHIRLEY

Married 1: Mary ELRINGTON (d. BEF Jun 1547) (dau. of Simon Elrington) BEF Oct 1542


1. Reginald BRAY

Married 2: Elizabeth ROPER (dau. of William Roper of Eltham and Margaret More) (d. 1560)


2. Edward BRAY

3. Reginald BRAY

4. Elizabeth BRAY

5. William BRAY

Married 3: Magdalene COTTON (d. 1563) (dau. of Sir Thomas Cotton of Kent)

Married 4: Mary ?


6. Magdalen BRAY

7. Frances BRAY

8. Margaret BRAY

First son of Sir Edward Bray, by his 2nd wife Beatrice, dau. of Ralph Shirley of Wiston, Suss., wid. of Edward Elrington of London and Udimore, Suss. Member of Parliament for Helston, Cornwall, in the thirteenth year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Married first, Mary, dau. of Simon Elrington, Esq. of Northampton, and had by her an only son, Reginald, described as heir-apparent, and of the Inner Temple in 1557, being then of age, who appears to have died issueless. Sir Edward wedded, secondly, Elizabeth, widow of John Stevenson, daughter of William Roper, Esq. of Eltham, in Kent, by Margaret, his wife, daughter of Sir Thomas More, and had another son also named Reginald. He m. thirdly, Magdalene, daughter of Sir Thomas Cotton of Oxenhoath, by whom, who died in 1563, he had no issue: and fourthly, a lady named Mary, by whom (who wedded, secondly, Sir Edmund Tylney, master of the revels to Queen Elizabeth) he had three daughters. Kntd. 1560.

Authorities differ as to whether it was his 3rd or 4th w. who was the daughter of Sir Thomas Cotton.

Bray's family had at one time owned property in Cornwall, but by Elizabeth's reign their chief estates were in the home counties Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Kent and Surrey. Sir Edward's election patron at Helston is not obvious; possibly it was Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford, who received a Privy Council letter before the election, urging him to see that suitable candidates were returned for Cornish boroughs.

Bray presumably served in the Scottish campaign of 1559-60, since he was knighted by the Duke of Norfolk in Jul 1560, apparently at Berwick. No record of his military activities is known. For most of his life, at any rate during the Elizabethan period, he was crippled by debt. There was also suspicion about his religion. He had friends among leading Catholics, acted as executor for the will of Sir John Bournet, one of Queen Mary's principal secretaries, and his name is to be found on a list drawn up in the interest of Mary Queen of Scots in 1574. He presumably took the oath of supremacy on becoming a justice of the peace and a Member of Parliament.

On his first marriage, his father settled on him the manor of Gomshall, Surrey, and he bought Shere in 1547. But it looks as though he was mortgaging lands even before 1558, when he succeeded to his father's estates, and later, as his financial position deteriorated, he sold more and more property. His father's will left a large part of the fee-simple lands to the widow, Lady Jane Bray (dau. of Sir Matthew Browne of Beechworth), for life, with a proviso that if her stepson Edward molested her the property should remain to her heirs; and she and Edward disputed this clause for many years. There were further lawsuits over debts on lands which Bray had inherited in 1557 from John, 2nd Baron Bray. Sir Thomas Knyvett procured his outlawry for defaulting on one of these obligations, and Bray was forced to bring a Chancery case, which was still unsettled when Knyvett died in 1569. By 1581 the Bray lands had dwindled considerably, but Sir Edward still owned estates in several parts of Surrey and Bedfordshire, and possibly at Wrotham, Kent, where he is said to have lived for some time. It is not surprising that with this financial background he did not aspire to the position at court which his ancestry would otherwise have made possible. He shared the office of almoner at Elizabeth's coronation with John Neville, 4th Lord Latimer and Sir John Gascoigne, but even this his one recorded appearance at court resulted in an unseemly wrangle over the fee for the office, a tun of wine and the alms dish. Gascoigne, who with Latimer had acted by deputy, brought a Chancery case against Bray for taking the whole fee for himself, a charge to which the latter returned the flimsy defence that being in kind it was not easily divisible, adding a rider that the plaintiff was only an assistant almoner, and therefore not entitled to any payment.

By Nov 1564 Bray was in the Fleet prison for an unspecified offence (perhaps it was a quarrel with Sir Henry Weston) but he was released on bond to appear regularly in the Star Chamber. About 1569 one of his creditors, Robert Lloyd, sued him in the court of requests. The messenger who took the court's injunction reported that Bray was at first amenable, but forthwith the lady his wife came to him and did stand with him, and immediately he changed his former speaking, and said he would pay no money. He did know the worst; it was but to lie in the Fleet. The sheriff of Surrey was therefore ordered to arrest him. He was in trouble again by Oct 1573, when he was admonished by the Privy Council for a strong speech he had made and for certain bad news that he had reported to a private person instead of to a justice of the peace. By Nov 1577 he was so hopelessly in debt that the Council appointed a commission to deal with his petition (sent from the prison of Queen's bench) against his creditors.

He died 7 or 8 May 1581, and was buried at Shere. His will, made in Apr and proved in Jun, appointed the widow (who married Edmund Tilney) and Bray's son-in-law George Chowne, executors, with Sir Thomas Cotton as overseer.

Sir Edward, who sold a great part of his possessions, including the manor of Hawnes, Houghton Regis, Kempson, and Eaton Bray, in the counties of Berks and Buckingham, died in 1581, was buried at Shere, and s. by his son.

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