BRAY, Sir Edward (by 1492-1558), of Henfield and Selmeston, Suss. and the Vachery, Shere, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Oct. 1553
Apr. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1492, 2nd s. of John Bray of Eaton Bray, Beds. educ. M. Temple, adm. 1509. m. (1) Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Henry Lovell of Harting, Suss. div.; (2) by 1518, Beatrix, da. of Ralph Shirley of Wiston, Suss. wid. of Edward Elrington of London and Udimore, Suss., 2s. inc. Edward 1da.; (3) by May 1539, Jane, da. of Sir Matthew Browne of Betchworth, Surr., wid. of Sir Francis Poynings. Kntd. 13 or 14 Oct. 1513.2

Offices Held

Capt. Mary Rose 1513, Magdaleyn of Founteraby 1514; j.p. Suss. 1524-40, Surr. 1554-d.; commr. subsidy, Suss. 1523, 1524, tenths of spiritualities, Surr. 1535, musters, Surr. 1539; sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1538-9; lt. Calais castle 1541-52; high treasurer, the army against France 1545; constable, the Tower 1556-7.3


Edward Bray could not hope to emulate his uncle Sir Reginald Bray in the political field, but in his youth he cut a figure as a naval and military commander. His name was entered in the Middle Temple register for 1509, although he had attended lectures in the previous Christmas vacation, which he was allowed to count as his first. His attendance at the inn was hardly more than a recognition of his family’s importance, for he had no ambitions as a lawyer.4

In May 1513 Thomas Howard, the lord admiral, appointed Bray captain of his flagship Mary Rose; the importance of this command implies some previous naval experience, perhaps in the attack upon Brest earlier in the year, when Howard’s brother Sir Edward, then lord admiral, had been killed. Bray did not go with Howard in the autumn to the northern marches, but instead he served in France where his valour at Tournai earned him a knighthood. In the following year he helped patrol the Channel while Lord Bergavenny moved his forces to the defence of Guisnes, and he joined the admiral for the attack upon Normandy. There followed eight years of uneasy peace, until in August 1522 Bray accompanied the admiral to Calais for a campaign through Picardy. His continuing association with Howard, who in 1524 succeeded to the dukedom of Norfolk, eventually in 1541 brought him a lieutenancy at Calais, where he was to remain for nine years. During the campaigns of the 1540s his services were frequently called upon: he organized the transport for the army, operated a spy network and himself commanded a company. In November 1544, when the 13th Lord Grey of Wilton was appointed captain of the army in Calais and Guisnes, it was to Bray and Sir John Wallop that he was advised to turn for direction ‘in any great enterprise’. In the following year Bray was appointed treasurer of the army, and early in 1546 he commanded Guisnes town and castle in the temporary absence of Lord Grey. Bray’s services in France ended in 1552, when he exchanged his lieutenancy of Calais castle for the constableship of the Tower in reversion. His military prowess was remembered in 1557, when the council at Calais advised Queen Mary to put him in charge of Guisnes during Grey’s further absence in England, but it is not known whether he took up the appointment.5

When not involved in military or naval campaigning Bray took part in the administration of Sussex and Surrey. Between 1523 and 1541 he was a justice of the peace in Sussex, and also served on local commissions in that county and in Surrey. He held property in both counties. Sir Reginald Bray had left the reversion of his lands in Sussex to those of his nephews who married his wards Elizabeth and Agnes Lovell. Sir Edward Bray married Elizabeth, but they were later divorced and both remarried; although it is not clear how far Bray benefited under his uncle’s will, in 1524 he was assessed at £100 in lands at Henfield. As Sir Edward Bray ‘of Selmeston’, near Lewes, he bought a manor from Sir John Gage in 1532, and in the following year the Duke of Richmond’s accounts show Bray as lessee of the demesne lands at Newhaven. In 1535 Bray’s brother Edmund sold him the manors of the Vachery, Cranleigh and Baynards, a valuable nucleus of estates in south-west Surrey. After the Dissolution he bought one ex-monastic manor in Surrey and two others in east Sussex, and in 1545 he offered to supply wood under contract to the city of London. This was also the year in which he acquired the reversion of the Staffordshire lordship of Madeley, previously owned by his third wife’s late husband: this he reluctantly sold to a London merchant in 1547, although William, Lord Paget, had asked that he might purchase part of it.6

In what appears to have been his first experience of Parliament Bray sat for Lewes, a borough amenable to the influence of the Duke of Norfolk. Bray was then living near the town, and this may have helped him at the election of 1529 as much as his kinship with Sir Richard Shirley, one of the knights for Sussex on this occasion, or his business links with Sir John Gage, the other knight of the shire. At the same time his brother Edmund was summoned to the Lords as 1st Lord Bray. It is probable that he sat again in 1536, when the King asked for reelection of the previous Members. Three years later he was barred from election in either Surrey or Sussex by his office of sheriff, but he may have procured a place in the Parliament of 1539 for a constituency elsewhere. His duties at Calais in the following decade prevented his reappearance in the House until the 1550s.

After his return from Calais, Bray settled in Surrey and acted in local government only in that county. He was in favour under Northumberland. The Council instructed the commissioners for the sale of crown lands to ensure that he acquired lands from them to the value of £80 a year, and in September 1552 he purchased numerous pockets of chantry land scattered in various counties, which he presumably resold at a profit. Bray nevertheless avoided implication as a partisan of Northumberland in the succession crisis, and after Mary’s accession he was returned as senior knight of the shire for Surrey in October 1553. That he was not an enthusiast for the restoration of Catholicism is shown by his inclusion among the Members of this Parliament who ‘stood for the true religion’, that is, Protestantism, but his loyalty to the Queen was affirmed at the time of Wyatt’s rebellion. As master of the Ordnance under the Earl of Pembroke, Bray commanded a force in London with Sir Henry Jerningham which routed a band of rebels at Charing Cross: he received a reward of 200 marks from the Queen and £20 from the City. In the Parliament which followed the rebellion Bray sat as junior knight of the shire for Surrey, the senior seat being occupied by Sir Anthony Browne. It was to be his last appearance in the Commons, perhaps because of the political embarrassment caused him by his nephew John, 2nd Lord Bray, who was implicated in the Dudley conspiracy and spent nearly a year in the Tower.7

Bray made his will on 16 Aug. 1558 and died on the following 1 Dec. He appointed as executors his wife and his brother-in-law George Browne, and as supervisor John Caryll. He asked to be buried in Cranleigh church, of which he was patron, and bequeathed the bulk of his lands to his wife, with the proviso that if his elder son Edward interfered with her possession she was to have all his lands in fee simple. Edward Bray was to receive a manor at Ewhurst in Surrey on condition that he discharged a debt of £60, for which he had already received money only to spend it elsewhere. Bray’s mistrust of his son was justified: for many years after his death Edward Bray, who fell progressively into debt, disputed the terms of the will.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: R. J.W. Swales


  • 1. Bodl. e Museo 17.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first office. Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 50, 177; C142/118/8; LP Hen. VIII, i, xiv.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, i, iii, iv, viii, xiii, xiv, xvi, xx; CPR, 1550-3, CPR, 1550-3, pp. 300, 337; 1553-4, p. 24; 1557-8, p. 86.
  • 4. M.T. Recs. i. 27.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, i, xvi, xviii-xxi; Chron. Calais (Cam. Soc. xxxv), 32; CPR, 1550-3, p. 337; CSP For. 1553-8, p. 325.
  • 6. PCC 26 Blamyr; Suss. Rec. Soc. lvi. 70; Barbican House, Lewes, Gage ms 4/85; Suss. Arch. Colls. lxxxix. 165; VCH Surr. iii. 98, 100, 114; LP Hen. VIII, vi, x, xiv, xx, add.; CSP For. 1547-53, p. 331; CPR, 1547-8, p. 229; City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 11, f. 220v.
  • 7. APC, iii. 52; CPR, 1550-3, pp. 445-52; 1557-8, p. 86; Bodl. e Museo 17; Chron. Q. Jane and Q. Mary (Cam. Soc. xlviii), 131, 187; City of London RO, rep. 13(1), f. 122v; D. M. Loades, Two Tudor Conspiracies, 210-65 passim.
  • 8. PCC 47 Welles; C142/118/8.