BRENDE (BRANDE), John (by 1515-59), of London and Beccles, Suff.

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



Family and Education

b. by 1515. m. Ursula, da. of Edward Rede of Norwich, Norf., wid. of Thomas Garneys of Beccles and of Thomas Browne of Attleborough, Norf., 2s. Kntd. 2 Oct. 1553.1

Offices Held

Servant of Thomas, 3rd Duke of Norfolk by 1536; supervisor, building works, Tynemouth, Northumb. by 1545; muster master in the north 1548 Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumb. 1558; sec. William, 13th Lord Grey of Wilton as King’s lt. in the north, Apr. 1548; member, council of Henry, 2nd Earl of Rutland, as warden of the east and middle marches by Apr. 1549; comptroller, payments for fortifications on Scottish border 1558; j.p. Suff. 1558/59.2


Nothing has come to light about John Brende’s parentage or education. His contemporaries thought him ‘a man of wit and good readiness to express by the pen very vividly and handsomely’, and evidently he was something of a scholar, with an appreciation of Latin authors, as well as an accomplished linguist. The first reference to him comes in 1536 when, already in the service of Norfolk, he was the recipient of a small legacy from a kinsman. Through Norfolk he may have gained his first experience of the north, where he was to spend so much of his career, but by early 1543 he and Norfolk had parted company and he was travelling on the Continent. After visiting Vienna he went to Milan where he wrote to the King about the arrest of George Dudley, one of Cardinal Pole’s sympathisers. When Dudley escaped, it was Brende’s unhappy task to inform Bishop Bonner at Cologne and to bear Bonner’s letter on the subject back to England. By May 1544 he had obtained an appointment at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, as his name appears on a list of grand and petty captains attached to the garrison there. His supervision of the new fortifications brought him to the notice first of Francis, 5th Earl of Shrewsbury, and later of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, who recommended him as ‘a wise and expert fellow’ to survey the defences at Carlisle and to re-design them. Early in 1546 he and John Brigandine went to Antwerp to muster German mercenaries and to conduct them to Calais, where Hertford praised the two men for their diligence.3

As an expert in logistics Brende became known to Sir William Paget during the closing years of Henry VIII’s reign. To begin with their relationship was formal, but soon it warmed into friendship and during the reign of Edward VI he was a frequent visitor to Paget’s house. The renewal of the war with Scotland saw his return to the borders, and in the autumn of 1547 he served as a pioneer in Protector Somerset’s army against Scotland and fought at Pinkie. In his absence in the north he was elected at Thetford, a duchy of Lancaster borough, as a Member of Parliament: doubtless his return was procured by Paget, the chancellor of the duchy, at the instigation of the Protector, and it may also have been assisted by Richard Fulmerston, the comptroller of the Protector’s household and the chief figure in the town. Brende was back in London for the opening of the Parliament, but before the end of its first session he had been sent abroad to strengthen the Protestant alliance and to obtain munitions from Bremen, Hamburg and Lubeck. On his return in 1548 the negotiations in Scotland with the Earl of Argyll were entrusted to him, but his efforts on behalf of the Council to obtain the custody of the young Mary, Queen of Scots, came to nought. Despite this failure his other skills were too useful to be passed over, and he was made secretary to the King’s lieutenant in the north. The meticulous reports made during 1548 and 1549 on the Scottish war were his work, and evidently the discharge of his secretarial duties prevented him from attending most, if not all, of the second session of the Parliament. He remained in the north for some time after the fall of the Protector, perhaps also missing the third session on account of pressure of work, but on the conclusion of peace he returned to London. The frequency of his visits to Paget did not go unobserved, and on Somerset’s arrest in October 1551 Brende was committed to the Tower, remaining there until the following May when his release was ordered by the Duke of Northumberland. His captivity was noted on the list of Members for the last session (1552) of the Parliament, where his name was also scored through, the deletion later being superscribed ‘stet’.4

It was perhaps in gratitude for his release that in 1553 Brende dedicated his Historie of Quintus Curcius to Northumberland. Whether his fulsome praise of the minister achieved any purpose is not known, but on the death of Edward VI he declared for Queen Mary several days before her succession was certain. On 17 July 1553 he made his submission to the new Queen at Framlingham, and in reward she honoured him with a knighthood at her coronation and with an annuity worth over £66. Although little trace has been found of his activities under Mary, he evidently remained a supporter of her regime, for he was also the recipient of a pension from King Philip. The outbreak of war in 1557 saw his return to the Scottish borders, where he remained until October 1558. In the closing weeks of Mary’s reign he mustered troops at Portsmouth and after the accession of Elizabeth he paid two visits to Berwick-upon-Tweed. The new Queen named him to the Suffolk bench, but he did not live to enjoy his magistracy. On 18 Aug. 1559 he made his will, asking to be buried before the high altar in Beccles church. After remembering his friend John Blennerhasset, his brother-in-law Peter Rede and his servants, he divided his property between his wife and sons, with a remainder to George Walpole. He died in Norfolk within two weeks of making his will, for on 31 Aug. both (Sir) Thomas Chaloner and Cecil mentioned his death, but the will was not proved until 1561 by his widow, who took as her fourth husband Thomas Colby. Brende’s translation of De Bello Gallico had not progressed further than the fifth book, and Cecil gave it to Arthur Golding for completion. Golding finished the remaining books but the Eyght bookes of Caius Iulius Caesar published in 1565 was entirely his work as he was unable to blend his ending with Brende’s beginning.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Authors: Roger Virgoe / A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference Vis. Suff. ed. Metcalfe, 11.
  • 2. PCC 4 Crumwell; LP Hen. VIII, xx, xxi; APC, ii 177, 404, 551; vii. 88; CPR, 1557-8, pp. 12, 71.
  • 3. PCC 4 Crumwell; LP Hen. VIII, xviii, xx, xxi; HMC Bath, iv. 66, 77.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII xx, xxi; ex. inf. A. J. Malkiewicz; APC, ii-iv passim; Holinshed, Chron. 868; CSP For. 1547-53, pp. 14, 28; CSP Scot. i. 81-95; CSP Dom. Add. 1547-65, pp. 379, 381-6, 394, 396-7; W. K. Jordan, Edw. VI, i. 274, 285-6, 290, 295, ii. 112; M. H. Merriman, ‘Eng. and Fr. intervention in Scot. 1543-50’ (London Univ. PhD thesis, 1975), 239; M. L. Bush, Govt. Pol. Somerset, 27; Greater London RO, Anglesey mss acct. 446/H13; Lit. Rems. Edw. VI, 361; Hatfield 207.
  • 5. APC, iv. 293-4, 497, vi. 180-415 passim, vii. 6, 27, 88; H. Davis ‘John Brende; soldier and translator’, Huntington LQ, i. 421-6; Lansd. 156(28), ff. 90-94; CSP Span. 1554-8, pp. 373, 456; CSP For. 1558-9, pp. 56, 73, 108, 261, 336, 348, 515-16; CSP Dom. Add. 1547-65, pp. 474, 476, 479; PCC 34 Loftes.