Sir Francis Bryan and Sir Richard Page. The Lucky ones
Not much is known about the background of Sir Richard Page, his birth or family. It is almost certain he was from the South of England, and entered the employ of Cardinal Wolsey. By 1516 Page had been knighted and subsequently found a position within the Privy Chamber of Henry VIII.
By 1525, after serving as a Justice of the peace for Surrey, Page was a member of the Council of the North and moved to become Vice-Chamberlain in the household of Henry’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, and received various other offices in the following years in addition to those he held. In 1527, he was made Captain of the Kings Bodyguards, and was later a staunch defender of Queen Anne Boleyn.
Despite being one of Cromwell’s favourites, he was arrested at the beginning of May along with Sir Francis Bryan, as one of the accused in the charges of adultery with the Queen.
Sir Francis Bryan was born around 1490, in Buckinghamshire and entered court at a young age. He was soon appointed a gentleman of Henry VIII’s Privy chamber, one of several young men with whom the young King surrounded himself. Bryan was well known as a womaniser and one of the ring-leaders in the troublesome behaviour which led to disapproval of older courtiers. Following a particularly dishonourable event in Paris, whilst on a diplomatic mission, Francis and his companion Sir Edward Neville disgraced themselves by throwing eggs and stones at passers-by. Upon his return, Wolsey discreetly had Bryan removed from the Privy Chamber.
His absence was destined to be a short one, however as Bryan was attributed with being Henry’s assistant in organising his extra-marital affairs. However as the gentlemen of the Privy Chamber were close to the King, and influenced him greatly, in 1526 Wolsey devised a plan – the Eltham Ordinances – in an attempt to separate Henry from his companions. The plan failed but Wolsey was able once again to dislodge Bryan from the side of the King. Shortly afterwards, Bryan lost an eye in a jousting accident.
By 1528, he was once again reinstated to the King’s Privy chamber, following the death of William Carey, and being a cousin of Queen Anne Boleyn, worked with her for a time against the Cardinal in an effort to break the power Wolsey held.
By 1536, Bryan, perhaps realising the growing unhappiness of the King regarding the lack of a male heir, and being a party to Henry’s growing interest in the Lady Jane Seymour, Bryan swapped sides to support Cromwell and the growing prominence of the Seymours. Cromwell subsequently arrested Bryan along with Sir Richard Page and others, in his investigation into charges of the Queen’s misconduct, which seemed to involve most of Henry’s Privy Chamber.
It has since been claimed that Bryan and Page were never in any serious danger of being found guilty or even being brought to trial, and that their imprisonment was merely a cover for Cromwell, to show that those “Innocent” of the charges would be seen to be found as such and released, thereby implicating the “guilty” by default.
Page, Bryan and Thomas Wyatt were released following the execution of the “unlucky five” in June 1536. Page was banished from court for life, a sentence which in reality lasted around a year. By 1537, he was appointed Chamberlain in the house of Prince Edward. It has since been suggested that his connections to the Seymours, through his 1512 marriage to Elizabeth Bouchier, mother of Anne Stanhope who married Edward Seymour in 1535 were what saved Page’s life. Page died in 1538.
Following his release Sir Francis Bryan was made Chief gentleman of the Privy Chamber which he held until he turned against Cromwell in 1539, subsequently Bryan gained the office of vice-admiral of the Fleet. Following Henry VIII’s death Bryan continued in the Court of King Edward VI, eventually becoming Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. He married in 1548, to Lady Joan Fitzgerald, with whom he had three children, before his death in Ireland in 1550.
No pictures are know to exist of either man.