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Sir Francis Bryan

"...Perhaps you could revisit some of your old skills, while you are abroad..."

-Henry VIII to Sir Francis Bryan.

Sir Francis Bryan is a ruthless knight and an agent of King Henry's with various skills, among them cryptography, espionage and assasination; Henry uses him for special tasks, often accompanied by Sir Thomas Seymour.  He is also the son of Lady Margaret Bryan, governess to Elizabeth and Edward Tudor, which makes him a very distant descendant of the former Plantagenet dynasty.  Bryan claims, even in private, to be a supporter of the Reformation, but shows no hesitation in betraying even his closes allies and friends if it means keeping Henry's favor.  His lecherous and cruel nature is eerily similar to the King's, though Bryan seems to show even less scruples, earning him the nickname "The Vicar of Hell", but despite his arrogance Bryan is very shrewd, and a practiced survivor.  Although historically Bryan was in Henry's service for a long time (and, surprisingly, never once provoked Henry's wrath) Bryan does not appear until Season Three of The Tudors; for unexplained reasons, the character does not return in the fourth and final season.  He is played by Canadian actor Alan van Sprang.

Season Three Edit


Sir Francis intimidates Lady Mary

Sir Francis Bryan is first seen at Henry and Jane Seymour's wedding in episode 3.01, flirting with Lady Missledon, who accuses him of having a reputation for 'boarding other men's boats.'  Nonetheless, she soon accepts his offer to become his mistress.  In the same episode, Bryan delivers a document to Mary Tudor on behalf of Thomas Cromwell that recognizes her father as the head of the Church of England; when she refuses to sign it due to her Catholic convictions, Bryan verbally threatens her and leaves.

When Henry shows a sexual interest in Lady Missledon despite his happy marriage to Jane Seymour, she becomes his mistress; when Bryan tries to grope her in court, she warns him off.  Bryan quickly catches Henry's eye and, realizing what has happened, immediately bows to the King, reliquishing his claim on Missledon.  He instead begins having an affair with Anne Stanhope, the wife of Edward Seymour, the Queen's elder brother.  Hertford quickly catches on to what is happening (at one point, Edward sees Bryan and Anne having sex behind a tapestry in the King's dining hall) but his warnings to Anne and his threats to Bryan are largely ignored.  During the Pilgrimage of Grace, Bryan functions as Henry's main bodyguard, occasionally giving him advice (but always careful to advise what Henry wants to hear).

Sir Francis (right) and his romantic rival Lord Edward Seymour (left)

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Henry sends Sir Francis on a foreign mission

Around mid-season, Henry becomes angered by the writings of Reginald Pole, an English preist studying in Rome who now criticizes him for his efforts to repress the Pilgrimage of Grace; Pole is also a descendant of the Plantagenet dynasty, and Henry suspects he intends to overthrow his government with Papal-Imperial support and restore Catholicism.  He therefore sends Sir Francis and the Queen's younger brother Thomas Seymour (whom Sir Francis has taken as an informal protege) to capture or kill Pole.  Despite repeated journeys through France, Italy and Holland, however, Pole repeatedly escapes his enemies, much to Bryan and Henry's fury.  Bryan compensates for this by arresting Pole's family in England on Henry's orders.  He also finds supposed proof of their alliegance to the Papacy (banners of the Plantagenets and of the Pilgrimage of Grace) although Bryan may well have planted this 'evidence' himself.

After visiting his mother and the infant Prince Edward, Bryan is sent to procure a new potential mistress for the King in the Season finale, as Henry is furious about having to marry Anne of Cleves.  Sir Francis acquires Katherine Howard and promptly informs Charles Brandon and |Lord Hertford, who bring her to court.  As a last favor to them (for which they reward him) Sir Francis arranges for Cromwell's executioner to be made drunk, so that his death is a painful and humiliating affair.  Sir Francis watches with apparent relish, despite having been a Reformist like Cromwell. 
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Sir Francis watches Cromwell's execution


  • (to Mary Tudor) "You are an unfillial daughter.  Listen to me- if you were my daughter, I would smash your head against the wall until it was as soft as a boiled apple."

Quotes about Bryan Edit

  • "Any King who's gonna rule in the early 1500's needs men like Sir Francis Bryan... If this was The Godfather, he'd be, you know, that secret guy that comes in from Sicily and just does what he's told- and gets paid handsomely for it. You know, he's "Luca Brasi". - Jonathan Rhys Meyers.


  • Historically, Bryan played a role in the downfall of two prominent Lutherans- Thomas Cromwell and Anne Boleyn- despite being a pro-Reformer himself.  
  • Bryan was, in fact, distantly related to all three major familys in The Tudors- the Howards, the Boleyns and the Seymours- but his loyalty to any of them depended on how it affected his standing with the King at the time, as Henry was the only one he would toady to.  His reputation for utter lack of family loyalty developed after he turned his back on his cousin Anne Boleyn, at the time of her downfall- especially considering she had enabled his elevation at court in the first place.