Sir Reginald Bray – Tudor advisor, architect and spymaster

sir reginald bray.jpgSir Reginald Bray is often mentioned as Margaret Beaufort’s man of business and then as Henry VII’s advisor – a sort of Tudor prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer rolled into one politically astute package.  Bray first came to Tudor attention when he was master of the household to Margare Beaufort’s third husband (if you count the childhood proxy marriage and annulment from John de la Pole), Henry Stafford and given that Richard III issued him with a pardon of Lancastrian sympathies. His father is mentioned by Leland as one of Henry VI’s doctors. Indeed Sir Reginald is also mentioned as doctoring Henry. There seem no end to the man’s talents. In the meantime after Sir Henry Stafford’s death, following injuries sustained at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, Bray continued as the steward of Margaret’s household.

 

Somehow or other Bray often found himself at the centre of things. Whilst Margaret Beaufort was conspiring with the Duke of Buckingham  in 1483 it was Bray who carried messages for Buckingham on the advice of his ‘house-guest’ Bishop Morton of Ely who described Bray as “secret, sober and well-witted.” Following Bosworth it was Bray who allegedly retrieved Richard’s crown from a thorn bush so that Lord Stanley could place it on his step-son’s head. It was Bray who told Henry VII during his progress to York in April 1486 that Lord Lovell and the Stafford brothers (Sir Thomas and Humphrey) intended to break out of sanctuary in Colchester. Henry initially didn’t believe him because Bray’s source would not reveal the name of the person who had told him the information. On a later occasion Sir Francis Bacon records that bray paid a bribe of £500 from the king’s privy purse to Sir Robert Clifford to betray Perkin Warbeck.

 

Bray appears to be something of a polymath since not only did he do finance and spying but also a spot of doctoring and architecture. He had a hand in the design of Henry VII’s chapel at Westminster and also St George’s Chapel Windsor. The image  of the Sir Reginald on the left hand side of the picture in this post comes from the Henry VII window at Worcester Cathedral. Sir Reginald was one of the donors.

 

Sir Reginald reaped the rewards for his service. As well as being made a knight of the Bath he also became a knight of the Garter, was granted the constableship of the castle of the castle of Oakham in Rutland, and was appointed joint chief justice of all the forests south of Trent, and chosen of the privy council. After this he was appointed high-treasurer and chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. He was also made keeper of the parks of Guildford and Henley, with the manor of Claygate in Ash for life. He was also high steward for the university of Oxford and a member of Parliament.

 

In Jun 1497 following the Cornish Rebellion and the Battle of Blackheath he was rewarded with more titles. He also landed Lord Audely’s estate in Surrey when the unfortunate lord was found gulty of treason and lost his head.

He was born in Worcester in 1440 and buried in St George’s Windsor in 1503 after a career devoted to the Tudors. Edmund Hall extolled him as “a sage and grave person.”

12 thoughts on “Sir Reginald Bray – Tudor advisor, architect and spymaster

  1. I had no inside knowledge of this man. Have seen the window in Worcester but nothing clicked. Thank you for this but one thing puzzles one. The title Baronet came in 1612. We had to pay for it to help King James to build ships. One had to be a Knight at least in order to be ordered to pay for something that no one even wanted at the time. Mine title is passed down from that date and my belief is it did not exist before King James 1 thought of it around 1611. I can find no trace of what is not a peerage title before 1611-12. It did not come with Sir but custom demands one addresses a Baronet as Sir.In 1922 the Sir bit was added on all correspondence.

    • You are, of course, quite right a baronetcy was a title created by James. It was late when I typed it last night and two of my sources said baronet so my brain didn’t ring alarm bells. I shall have to dig around a bit more. I must admit I find the man fascinating. I have the feeling that he’s a bit of Walsingham spymaster figure as he turns up at every plot and twist of Henry’s reign. I wonder if the secondary source mistook the ‘Sir’ for a baronetcy and then it managed to duplicate itself? Oh well, another thing to add to my list of things to do.

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  3. I don’t know if you can get hold of English Medieval Architects (John Harvey) but there is an entry for a Reginald Bray (citizen and freemason of London) who in 1528-9 made ‘bases’ for the tomb of Lady Margaret Beaufort in Henry VII’s Chapel. It is suggested he might have been Sir Reynald Bray’s natural son.
    In Richard Edgcombe’s will, dated 19/6/1489, he gives money to various relations and household servants, and the rest of his goods he gives to Joan his wife, Reynald Bray, Roger Holland and Fulk Prideaux.

    • Thank you for the information. I’m fascinated by Reginald as he seems to have become very close to the seat of Tudor power whilst remaining fairly ‘low key’for all his role as man of business and architect – I shall certainly try to get hold of the text.

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  5. Greetings! I have had a lifetime interest in the Bray name. My father died when I was a wee little one and had no relationship with his family (was it murder or a suicide of my father…a long story). I do know my Ancestry DNA test says England, Wales & Northwestern Europe account for 84% (mid-range) of my DNA group with another 13% found in Ireland, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland and Scotland regions. I guess its fair to say I am related to the Brays of England and her history. 2 years ago, I was able to reach Westport, Ireland for my first trip outside the USA. I am hoping to make a trip to England and Scotland in the future finaces and health permitting (I am on permanent disability, retired clergy) and, of course, killer viruses in absentia! I do hope to visit Reginald’s resting place at Windsor and place rose in his memory. Love and gratitude attend you always and thank you for your work and information! I love history!!! 🙂

    • Happy Reginald hunting – when we’re all allowed back out into the world. In the meantime enjoy your reading round the subject.

      • Thank you! If, by chance, you run into anything that can help with how the Bray surname “traveled” and split in England and the surrounding areas, please let me know. Unlike a poster above, I have not been able to track my surname beyond 8 generations. Seems the Bray name went kind of everywhere. Thanks again, sincerely- Bradford N. Bray

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