Lady Margaret Bryan is the governess of two of King Henry's children in The Tudors: Princess Elizabeth Tudor, and later Prince Edward Tudor instead. She is played by actress Jane Brennan and appears as a recurring character in Seasons Two, Three and Four. She is later revealed to be the mother of Henry's top mercenary agent, Sir Francis Bryan.
Due to her mother's re-marriage, she is actually half-sister to Elizabeth Howard, Queen Anne Boleyn's mother- making her a half-aunt to Anne, and half-great-aunt to Elizabeth herself. She was also half-sister to the father of Anne's cousin Katherine Howard, another of Henry's ill-fated Queens. Through her mother's ancestry from the Gloucesters (formerly the house ruling as the Dukes of Buckingham) Lady Bryan descends from the royal Plantagenet family that was usurped by Henry's Tudor dynasty.
An outwardly stern and conforming matron, Lady Bryan is nonetheless a dedicated caregiver unfazed by the King's unpredictable and angry nature; she privately resents the way women are put upon by society, and has a high regard for Elizabeth's outspoken Protestant mother Anne Boleyn, which induces her to continue supporting Elizabeth after Anne is executed. She earns the love of both her royal charges, as well as a friendship with their older half-sister Princess Mary, with whom she was originally at odds.
Lady Bryan first appears in episode 2.04 in Hatfield Estate, the new home of the newborn Princess Elizabeth; she is heading the household, and shows unease when King Henry's daughter Lady Mary (born to his original wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon) arrives at the house, having been made to serve as one of Elizabeth's maids. Lady Bryan is not unkind towards the bastardized and demoted Princess, but nor is she friendly towards her; she also shows some ire when Mary declines to join the household for prayers (since the household ladies are Reformers, while Mary is a devoted Catholic). Lady Bryan later hosts visits to the Princess Elizabeth, both by her father King Henry and her mother Queen Anne. She proudly states that Elizabeth is a healthy, easy baby who is a credit to both of them, and is congratulated on her good work by both parents.
In episode 2.06, Lady Bryan finds Mary singing to her half-sister (who was crying uncontrollably) to calm her. Lady Bryan berates the other maids for leaving Mary alone with Elizabeth, knowing this will anger Anne, who has a very hostile relationship with Mary. In episode 2.07, she brings Elizabeth (now a toddler and beginning to speak) to visit Anne, who is delighted to see her.
Lady Bryan's duties are put at risk in episodes 2.09 and 2.10 when Elizabeth's mother is falsely accused of adultery and incest, arrested and sentenced to death. Henry- questioning whether Elizabeth is even his child- swiftly annuls the marriage in episode 2.10 so that he can marry his new love interest Jane Seymour, which makes Elizabeth a bastard just like her sister. Adding insult to injury, his agents begin looting Elizabeth's estate in order to finance Anne's imprisonment and execution, to Lady Bryan's disgust; she harshly herds her young ward out of the house to avoid the King's wrath, threatening to hit Elizabeth if she doesn't obey. Most of Elizabeth's maids are dismissed, but Lady Bryan and a hanful of Protestant women continue to protect and care for her. When one of the maids says that what is happening to Elizabeth and Anne is not fair, Lady Bryan bitterly remarks that life is never fair for women, and that the best course of action for women is simply to marry wealthy men too stupid to act cruelly towards them. She and Elizabeth are not arrested, but they are informally banished from court.
Lady Bryan initially communicates with the court through messages in early Season Three, begging the King for an allowance, since Elizabeth is outgrowing her clothes and has no money, as her household is dissolved. Henry sneeringly replies that he has no obligations to Elizabeth, still believing she is the child of one of Anne's 'lovers'. However, Henry's new wife Jane Seymour, having a kindly nature, takes pity on Lady Bryan and Elizabeth. She sends her primary Lady-in-waiting, Jane Rochford (who is Elizabeth's aunt by marriage and also sympathizes for her) to them with some jewels and money to finance the girl's needs. After Jane makes friends with Mary Tudor and restores her to Henry's favor, they have Lady Bryan bring Elizabeth to court in episode 3.03; on seeing his young daughter in person, Henry quickly reconciles with her and resumes providing for her, restoring Lady Bryan to court.
After Jane Seymour's death in childbirth, Lady Bryan is made head of the household for the late Queen's newborn son Prince Edward, though she still sees the young Elizabeth frequently. She seems to have reconciled whatever differences she has with Mary, and even politely inquires whether she has recieved any offers of marriage. Mary replies that it is more important that she reconnect with her remaining family (her father and siblings) and says she will take Elizabeth to live with her for a while, to which Lady Bryan (familiar with Elizabeth's precocious nature) fondly remarks that Mary won't have a moment's peace in that case. Mary (equally fondly) replies that she doesn't mind, and says that she is entirely happy with her brother being left in Bryan's care, as she can think of no-one better to look after him.Later in the season, Lady Bryan is visited by her son Sir Francis Bryan while she is attending the infant Prince Edward. Despite Francis' unscrupulous, cruel nature, they seem to have a fond relationship, and Francis is quite respectful towards his mother. Lady Bryan also acts as a confidant to the King's new, reluctant wife Anne of Cleves; uncertain whether Anne (a German Princess) is a virgin and doesn't understand the purpose of sex (but also being concerned for her since Henry killed Anne Boleyn for failing to give him a son) Lady Bryan urges her to give in to her husband, only to learn that Anne understands perfectly and both she and Henry are sexually repulsed by each other.
Lady Bryan is also shown several times in Season Four, still acting as governess to the young Prince Edward; she seldom appears in the first half of the season, but appears several times in the second half. She appears to be good friends with Henry's final wife Catherine Parr, who like Anne Boleyn is a Protestant and like Lady Bryan is devoted to the King's children. Edward is finally removed from Lady Bryan's care in episode 4.08 and sent to his tutors, but both he and Elizabeth clearly adore their former governess, while Mary is good friends with her.