Bryan, Sir Francis (a.1492–1550), poet, courtier, justiciar (lord justice), and lord marshal of Ireland, was son of Thomas Bryan, knight of the body to Henry VII and Henry VIII, and his wife Margaret, daughter of Humphrey Bourchier, and was possibly educated at Oxford, although no certain evidence of this remains. He was a lifelong courtier and friend of Henry VIII, whom he served as gentleman of the privy chamber. Bryan was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold (1520) and in 1522 served with his kinsman Thomas Howard (qv), earl of Surrey, in Brittany, where he was knighted. His flair for languages made him a natural envoy for Cardinal Wolsey, and in 1528 he was sent to Rome to seek a papal dispensation for the royal divorce. Bryan served as ambassador to France in 1531. He was a cousin of the Boleyn family and a strong proponent of the king's marriage to Anne Boleyn, but was quick to disassociate himself from his cousins when they fell from grace. He was active in the suppression of the Pilgrimage of Grace and attended the christening of Prince Edward (1537). Bryan served as MP for Buckinghamshire several times in the 1530s and 1540s; his favour with the king remained high throughout the reign and he continued to be a prominent figure after the king's death in 1547. His Irish career started when he married (1548) Joan, widow of James Butler (qv), 9th earl of Ormond. The purpose of this political marriage was to prevent the dowager countess marrying Gerald Fitzgerald (qv), heir of the earl of Desmond. Bryan's new influence in Ireland was recognised by his appointment as lord marshal of Ireland (November 1548), an appointment that greatly antagonised the lieutenant, Edward Bellingham (qv). He was elected justiciar to replace Bellingham who left Ireland in December 1549, but his term as chief governor came to a sudden end when he died unexpectedly at Clonmel (February 1550).
L & P Hen. VIII; CSPI, 1509–73; S. T. Bindoff, The house of commons, 1509–1558 (3 vols, 1982)