Anne Boleyn’s Dog Purkoy: Where Did He Come From?

You may already be aware that Anne Boleyn was very fond of her lap dog, Purkoy…but are you aware that he was originally a gift to Sir Francis Bryan from Lady Lisle?

Anne Boleyn Royal Doulton Figurine

I was recently going through my “Lisle Letters” book and came across a letter that made me aware of the situation. I’ll be honest, I knew very little of Purkoy except for his tragic end.

This adorable little dog, as I already stated, was originally given to Anne Boleyn’s cousin (Sir Francis Bryan) by Lord and Lady Lisle – it was a New Year’s gift. It is said that Lord Lisle’s business agent, John Husee recommended the couple give the dog to Bryan because they were in need of his assistance in some matter.

It appears that when Queen Anne saw the dog she had to have him. Bryan had no choice but to give the dog to the Queen.

On the 20th of January 1534, Francis Bryan wrote a letter to Lord Lisle letting him know what transpired:

…I beseech your Lordship, after my most hearty recommendations made unto my very good lady your wife – unto whom and to your lordship, because ye be both but one soul though ye be two bodies, I write but one letter – that it may please your lordship to give her hearty thanks on my behalf for her little dog, which was so proper and so well liked by the Queen that it remained not above an hour in my hands but that her Grace took it from me. Nevertheless, her ladyship and any friend of hers, for the same, and her kindness therein, shall be assured of such pleasure as in me at any time shall be. As our Lord God knoweth, who have our lordship, with my said good lady, in his blessed preservation.

At Westminster, the xxth day of January

Yours at commandment,

Francis Bryan

Little Purkoy would not be around forever. Only twelve months after she received him Purkoy was dead. In a letter from Thomas Broke to Lady Lisle on 18 December 1534, he informs the Lady of the death of her former pet and how upset the Queen was by it.

…the Queen’s Grace setteth much store by a pretty dog, and her Grace delighted so much in little Purkoy that after he was dead of a fall there durst nobody tell her Grace of it. But her Grace setteth more store by a dog than by a bitch, she saith….

So, there it is! Purkoy was a gift from Lord and Lady Lisle to Sir Francis Bryan who then gave it to Queen Anne Boleyn when she showed her desire to have the dog.

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Men Behaving Badly: Lord Lisle and Sir Francis Bryan

Sometimes while doing research you will come across a little treasure that you never knew existed. This has happened to me quite often but this time what I found truly caught me by surprise, made me blush and left me wondering what the event or events were that provoked this letter.

I can figure out the rough year of this letter by the mention of the marriage of the Duke of Orleans and the niece of the Pope, which references the future Henri II of France and Catherine de Medici, who were married 28 October 1533. That was the same year that Arthur Plantagenet became Lord Deputy of Calais.

As you will notice while reading said letter I have given you notes after certain words to help explain better what is being said – sometimes it can be confusing if you’re not familiar with the way they wrote.

Sir Francis Bryan to Lord Lisle (Arthur Plantagenet)

My good lord, after my hearty recommendation, this shall be to advertise you that I have received your letter, by the which I do not only perceive that ye would be glad of my return but also my Lady, your bedfellow, whom I do heartily thank. Sir, whereas in your last letter I perceive that in Calais ye have sufficient courtezans (A woman prostitute, especially one whose clients are members of a royal court or men of high social standing) to furnish and accomplish my desires, I do thank you of your good provision, but this shall be to advertise you that since my coming hither (referring to Marseille) I have called to my remembrance the misliving that ye and such other hath brought me to; for the which, being repented, have had absolution of the Pope. (What did Lisle and someone else do?) And because ye be my friend, I would advertise you in likewise to be sorry of that ye have done, and ask my lady, your wife forgiveness, and that forgiveness obtained, to come in all diligence hither to be absolved of the Pope, who I think will not tarry here much longer than Hallowmas, ere (before) which time shall be married the Duke of Orleans (future Henri II of France)to the Pope’s niece (Catherine de Medici), who arrived yesterday in this town, accompanies with fourteen or fifteen gentlewomen, which gentlewomen nor mistress be not as fair as was Lucrece (Lucretia). And thus heartily fare ye well, my good lord. From Merseles (Marseille), the 24th day of October.

I beseech you this letter many commend me to mr. porter (Sir Thomas Palmer) & my Lady his wife.

Your loving brother of world, Francis (he spelled ffranssys) Bryan

The question I have after reading this letter was this: Was Sir Thomas Palmer the person mentioned in this statement?:

“I have called to my remembrance the misliving that ye and such other hath brought me to; for the which, being repented, have had absolution of the Pope…”

What kind of incident happened that Sir Francis Bryan felt he had to get absolution from the Pope?

If we look at it from the other side, what type of sin would cause someone to seek absolution from the Pope? Absolution refers to forgiveness of mortal sins, especially grave sins to be forgiven. The Ten Commandments are examples of mortal/grave sins that would require absolution. If you are unfamiliar, here is an example of the Ten Commandments:

  1. I, the Lord, am your God. You shall not have other gods besides me.
  2. You shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain
  3. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day (Sabbath)
  4. Honor your father and your mother
  5. You shall not kill
  6. You shall not commit adultery
  7. You shall not steal
  8. You shall not bear false witness
  9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods

So, one can only imagine what happened for Sir Francis Bryan to seek absolution. Until I can find out more, we’ll have to use our imaginations. What do you think happened?


Lisle Letters, Edited by Muriel St. Clare Byrne; page 22 section, #3
Catholic Bible 101 (Ten Commandments)
Sir Thomas Palmer – Wikipedia (confirming he was knight-porter)
Henri II of France – Wikipedia (referencing title Duke of Orleans)
Catherine de Medici – Wikipedia (confirming she was niece to the Pope)

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Sir Francis Bryan: Vicar of Hell

Image used of unknown man

Born about 1490 to Margaret Bourchier and Thomas Bryan, Francis was the oldest of two surviving children. His sister, Elizabeth was married Nicholas Carew.

Through his mother he was related to Anne Boleyn and this is most likely why he helped to promote Henry’s matrimonial causes with the French and papal courts. His mother, Margaret Bourchier was half-sister with Elizabeth Boleyn (née Howard) – mother to Anne and wife to Thomas Boleyn.

Francis Bryan: Timeline

In 1513, as Captain of the Margaret Bonaventure, Bryan started his career. The royal ship was active during the first of Henry VIII’s wars in France.

Not only was Bryan a ship Captain but he was also an excellent jouster and an avid hunter who was a close friend of the King and was a lead participant in court entertainments.

Henry VIII made Bryan royal cupbearer in 1516, and in 1518 he became mast of the toils and gentleman of the privy chamber. As you can imagine, all these stations kept Bryan very near the king’s person.

Cardinal Wolsey tried to rid the court of Bryan when in May 1519, with the backing of the Royal Council banished him, Nicholas Carew (Bryan’s brother in law) and other “minions” from court saying they treated the king with “inappropriate familiarity” and had behaved dishonorable on recent embassy to France. By October of the same year Bryan was back at court and accompanied Henry VIII to the Field of Cloth of Gold in June 1520. It wasn’t until 1528 that he was restored to his post as gentleman of the privy chamber.

In 1522  he was knighted for his courage during the capture of Morlaix in Brittany. Bryan served under the Earl of Surrey (Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk).

In 1522, he served under Thomas Howard – future 3rd Duke of Norfolk in Brittany and in Scotland in 1523.

By 1526, Sir Francis Bryan was Master of Henchman and Chief Cupbearer. It was also the same year that he lost an eye in a jousting match. The eye patch we know him by today had definitely added to his “bad boy” image.

Bryan spent a majority of his time at the court of Henry VIII. There he gained the reputation for gambling and dissolute living. These are the things we remember him most by today.

In August 1533, it was Bryan who informed the King that he had been excommunicated from Rome.

Like most who were close to the king they had an agenda of their own – Bryan was able to further himself by becoming Justice of the Peace in Hertfordshire (among other counties). He also sat for Buckinghamshire in the 1534 session of the Reformation Parliament.

When Bryan sensed the King’s change toward Anne Boleyn he was wise enough to pull away from the Boleyn clan. He began a quarrel with George Boleyn, Lord Rochford in late 1534.

When all of Anne Boleyn’s relatives were called to court in May 1536, Bryan was on the list of those to be questioned. He was not arrested and actually became Chief Gentleman of the Privy Chamber.

Thomas Cromwell wrote a letter to Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester where he referred to Bryan as the “vicar of hell.” There have also been claims made that Henry VIII called him by this name and that is possibly where Cromwell got the name from.

On the 17 May 1536, it was Sir Francis Bryan who brought word to Jane Seymour of Anne Boleyn’s sentence.

After the execution of Anne Boleyn, Bryan was suspected of supporting Lady Mary in being reinstated as Princess. As you can imagine that would have turned off many close to the King at the time. Months later, in the fall of 1536, Bryan found himself in the King’s favor again when he led forces against the Pilgrimage of Grace.

Reginald Pole had become a problem for Henry VIII after he married Anne Boleyn – in 1537, the King sent Bryan to convince King Francis I to refuse audience to Pole. Instead he requested an arrangement to have Pole abducted, or killed. Fortunately (or unfortunately) Pole was warned and escaped.

Roughly a year before the death of the King, Bryan turned his allegiance from his Howard family to the Seymours – Bryan understood that the Seymours would have great power with their nephew on the throne. It was also the same time the Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and his son, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey were implicated in treason – so this would have been a very wise choice for Bryan.

After the execution of the Earl of Surrey (19 Jan 1547), Bryan received some of his property and he was also created a freeman of London.

In 1548 he married his second wife, Joan Butler, dowager Countess of Ormond. This match gave him much influence in Ireland, where he commanded royal forces as Lord Marshall and won appointment as lord justice, despite the protests of the lord deputy.

Sir Francis Bryan died in Ireland on 2 February 1550.

His last words were supposedly: “I pray you, let me be buried amongst the good fellows of Waterford (which were good drinkers).” An autopsy was unable to determine a cause of death.


Wagner, John A. and Walters Schmid, Susan; Encyclopedia of Tudor England, Volume 1

Susan Brigden, ‘Bryan, Sir Francis (d. 1550)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
Nicholas Sander, Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism

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Lady Margaret Bryan: Governess of Prince Edward


Lady Margaret Bryan is best known as Governess to Princess Mary, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Edward. She was given a very important charge – the care of three future monarchs. In this article we are looking at who Margaret Bryan was and letters from her time as Governess of Prince Edward.

Lady Margaret Bryan

Born Margaret Bourchier, about 1468, in Yorkshire, she was the daughter of Elizabeth Tilney and Sir Humphrey Bourchier who was killed at the Battle of Barnet. The Battle of Barnet took place in 1471 and was one of many battles during the Wars of the Roses.

Elizabeth Tilney served as a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth Woodville and later, Lady of the Bedchamber to Elizabeth of York.

Margaret was the middle child of her parent’s three children. She had an older brother, John who later became 2nd Baron Berners and a younger sister, Anne who later became Baroness Dacre when she married Thomas Fiennes, Baron Dacre.

After her father died in 1471, her mother, Elizabeth Tilney, married Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey. Because of this marriage Margaret Bourchier became the half-sister of Thomas Howard (future 3rd Duke of Norfolk) upon his birth in 1473 and Elizabeth Howard (mother of Anne Boleyn) when she was born in 1480, among other half-siblings.

Sometime before 1490, Margaret wed Sir Thomas Bryan and together they had two children that made it to adulthood: Sir Francis Bryan and Elizabeth Bryan (who married Nicholas Carew).

Both Margaret and her husband served Katherine of Aragon at court – Margaret as a lady-in-waiting and Thomas as vice-chamberlain.

Surrounded by nobles at court and within her family – Margaret would have been very familiar with  the customs, training and etiquette it would take to govern the young royals.

Prince Edward

As Governess of the future King of England Margaret was responsible for his person. She was to make sure that when visitors arrived that they saw the young prince in all his glory.

This letter is dated June 30, 1538 in Letters and Papers and discusses things the young prince would need and also updates Cromwell on his wellness:

My Lord,

After my most bounden duty I humbly recommend me unto your good lordship; and according to the king’s grace’s commandment and yours shall accomplish it to the best of my power with such things as here is to do it withal: which is but very bare for such a time. The best coat my lord prince’s grace hath is tinsel, and that he shall have on at that time; he hath never a good jewel to set on his cap; howbeit I shall order all things for my Lord’s honour the best I can, so as I trust the king’s grace shall be contended withal; and also Master Vice-Chamberlain and Master Cofferer I am sure will do the best diligence that lieth in them in all causes.

My lord, I thank Jesu my lord prince’s grace is in good health and merry, and his grace is in good health and merry, and his grace hath four teeth; three full out, and the fourth appeareth. And thus fare you well, my own good lord, with as much joy and honor as your noble heart can desire.

From Havering, with the hand of her that is your true beadwoman, and will be during her life,

Margaret Bryan


Here is a quote from Lord Chancellor Audley to Cromwell after his visit to the prince on the 8th of September 1538:

Posthumous portrait of Thomas Audley (c.1488–1544)
And I assure your lordship I never saw so goodly a child of his age – so merry, so pleasant, so good and loving countenance, and so earnest an eye, as it were a sage judgemental towards any person that repaireth to his grace; and as it seemeth to me, thanks be to our Lord, his grace increaseth well in the air that he is in, and albeit, a little his grace’s flesh decayeth (he is thinner), yet he shotyth out in length (has grown), and wexith firm and stiff, and can steadfastly stand, and would advance himself to move and go, if they would suffer him, but as me seemeth they do yet best, considering his grace is yet tender, that he should not strain himself, as his own courage would serve him, till he come above a year of age.

In the letter, Audley also states that he is glad to hear the King will remove Edward from Havering for the winter for the house will be very cold. The conditions at Havering are much better for the Prince’s health in the summer.

Later in March 1539, Lady Margaret Bryan wrote Cromwell again to tell him that Edward was in good health and merry and that she wished that he and the King had seen Edward the previous night. While the minstrels played young Edward “danced and played so wantonly that he could not stand still…”

Although Lady Bryan retained the title of lady mistress even after Edward’s succession in 1547, her last years were spent not at court but at her estate in Essex, where she enjoyed a generous annuity of £70 per year.

Margaret Bryan writes as a mother would – talking of accomplishments of her young son. I can imagine that for little Prince Edward that she was the closest thing to a mother that he could recall.

Lady Bryan died in 1552, living long enough to see Edward on the throne of England.

Through her daughter, Margaret was the great-grandmother of Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton, Lady Raleigh, wife to Walter Raleigh and chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I.


Loach, Jennifer; “Edward VI”

Wagner, John A., Walters Schmid, Susan; “Encyclopedia of Tudor England, Volume 1”

Everett Green, Mary Anne; “Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain: From the …, Volume 3”

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