Bray, Reginald (DNB00)
BRAY, Sir REGINALD (d. 1503), statesman and architect, was the second son of Sir Richard Bray, one of the privy council to Henry VI, by his wife Joan Troughton. The father was of Eaton-Bray in Bedfordshire, and lies buried in the north aisle of Worcester cathedral; Leland speaks of him as having been, by the report of some, physician to Henry VI (Itinerary, 113 a). The son was born in the parish of St. John Bedwardine, near Worcester (Nash, Worcestershire, ii. 309). He held the situation of receiver-general and steward of the household to Sir Henry Stafford, the second husband of Margaret, countess of Richmond (mother of the Earl of Richmond, afterwards King Henry VII), and he continued in her service during her subsequent marriage with Thomas, lord Stanley (afterwards Earl of Derby), by whom he was appointed a trustee for her dower of 600 marks per annum. In 1 Richard III (1483) he had a general pardon granted to him, probably for having taken part with Henry VI.
When the Duke of Buckingham had concerted with Morton, bishop of Ely (then his prisoner at Brecknock in Wales), the marriage of the Earl of Richmond with the Princess Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Edward IV, and the earl's advancement to the throne, the bishop recommended Bray for the communication of the affair to the countess, telling the duke that he had an old friend who was in her service, a man sober, secret, and well witted, called Reginald Bray, whose prudent policy he had known to have compassed matters of great importance; and accordingly he wrote to Bray, then in Lancashire with the countess, to come to Brecknock with all speed. Bray readily obeyed the summons, entered heartily into the design, and was very active in carrying it into effect, having engaged Sir Giles Daubeney (afterwards Lord Daubeney), Sir John Cheney, Richard Guilford, and many other gentlemen of note, to take part with Henry (Hall, Chronicle, f. 37). After the defeat of Richard III at Bosworth he became a great favourite with Henry VII, who liberally rewarded his services; and he retained the king's confidence until his death. He was created a knight of the Bath at the king's coronation, and afterwards a knight of the Garter. In the first year of the king's reign he had a grant of the constableship of the castle of Oakham in Rutland, and was appointed joint chief justice, with Lord Fitzwalter, 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.
In 3 Henry VII he was appointed keeper of the parks of Guilford and Henley, with the manor of Claygate in Ash for life; and the year following, by letters patent dated at Maidstone 23 Dec. 1488, a commissioner for raising the quota of archers to be furnished by the counties of Surrey, Hampshire, and Middlesex for the relief of Brittany. By indenture dated 9 May 1492 he was retained to serve one whole year in parts beyond the seas, with twelve men of arms, including himself, each having his custrel (shield-bearer) and page, twenty-four half-lances, seventy-seven archers on horseback, and two hundred and thirty-one archers and twenty-four bill-men on foot; being at the same time made paymaster of the forces destined; for this expedition (Rymer, Fœdera, ed. 1711, xii. 480). On the king's intended journey to France, Sir Reginald was one of those in whom the king vested his estates belonging to the duchy of Lancaster for the purpose of fulfilling his will. In the tenth year of the king he had a grant for life of the Isle of Wight, castle of Carisbrook, and the manors of Swainston, Brixton, Thorley, and Welow in that isle, at the rent of 308l. 6s. 8d. (Rymer, xii. 480). In October 1494 he was made high steward of the university of Oxford, and he is believed to have also held the same office in the university of Cambridge. In 11 Henry VII he was in the parliament then summoned, but, the returns being lost, it is not known for what place he served.
In June 1497 he was at the battle of Blackheath when Lord Audley, who had joined the Cornish rebels, was taken prisoner. On this occasion Bray was made a knight banneret (Holinshed, Chronicles, iii. 1254), and after the execution and attainder of Lord Audley, that nobleman's manor of Shire, with Vacherie and Cranley in Surrey, and a large estate there, was given to Sir Reginald. On the marriage of Prince Arthur he was associated with persons of high rank in the church and state as a trustee for the dower assigned to the Princess Catherine of Arragon.
The chapel of St. George at Windsor, and that of his royal master King Henry VII at Westminster, are standing monuments of his liberality and of his skill in architecture. To the former of these he was a considerable benefactor as well by his attention in conducting the improvements made upon that structure by the king, as by his contributions to the support of it after his death. He built also, at his own expense, in the middle of the south aisle, a chapel which still bears his name, and in various parts of which, as well as on the ceiling of the church, his arms, crest, and the initial letters of his name may still be seen, as may also a device of his frequently repeated both on the outer and inner side of the cornice dividing this chapel from the south aisle of the church, representing an instrument used by the manufacturers of hemp, and called a hemp-bray. The design of Henry VII's chapel at Westminster is supposed to have been his; and the first stone was laid by him, in conjunction with the Abbot Islip and others, on 24 Jan. 1502-3. Sir Reginald did not live to see the completion of the edifice, for on 5 Aug. 1503 he died, and was interred in the chapel of his own foundation at Windsor. On opening a vault in this place for the interment of Dr. Waterland in 1740, a leaden coffin of an ancient form was discovered which was supposed to be Sir Reginald's, and by order of the dean it was immediately arched over. Sir Reginald is said to have been the architect of the nave and aisles of St. Mary's, Oxford, and it has been conjectured that he also designed St. Mary's Tower at Taunton. He was a munificent benefactor to churches, monasteries, and colleges.
Bray married Catharine, daughter of Nicholas Husee, a descendant of the ancient barons of that name in the reign of Edward III. He had no issue, and his elder brother John having only one daughter, married to Sir William Sandes, afterwards Lord Sandes of the Vine, he left the bulk of his fortune to Edmund, eldest son of his younger brother John (for he had two brothers of that name). This Edmund was summoned to parliament in 1530, as Baron of Eaton-Bray; but his son John, lord Bray, dying without issue in 1557, the estate was divided among six daughters of Edmund. Sir Reginald left very considerable estates to Edward and Reginald, younger brothers of Edmund.
His portrait was in a window of the Priory church of Great Malvern in Worcestershire, and is engraved in Strutt's 'View of the Manners, Customs, &c. of the Inhabitants of England,' ii. pi. 60, and more accurately in Carter's 'Ancient Sculpture and Painting.'
Bray is represented as being 'a very father of his country, a sage and a graue person, and a feruent louer of iustice. In so muche that if any thinge had bene done against good law or equitie, he would, after an humble fassion, plainly reprehende the king, and geue him good aduertisement how to reforme that offence, and to be more circumspect in another lyke case' (Hall, Vnion of the two famelies of Lancastre and Yorke, ed. 1548, Hen. VII, fol. 55). Bacon says of him, however, 'that he was noted to have had with the king the greatest freedom of any counsellor, but it was but a freedom the better to set off flattery.'
In the library at Westminster are many original letters addressed to Bray by Smyth, bishop of Lincoln, and other prelates and noblemen, and many other letters relating to his own private business.