Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/50

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Browne
Browe
44

granting the first-fruits of all abbeys to the King, thus paving the way for the suppression of the Irish monasteries, which quickly followed. By these enactments the English reformation ready made was flung in a mass into the midst of a semi-barbarous and decaying country. Browne held a commission from Thomas Cromwell, the minister and vicegerent of Henry, to further 'the king's advantage;' and in this cause he laboured with diligence, journeying into various parts, preaching, publishing the royal articles and injunctions, and collecting the first-fruits and twentieths of the spiritualties which had been decreed to the king. He put forth a form of bidding bedes, or prayers, which is the earliest document in which the church of Ireland is conjoined with the church of England under royal supremacy (Cal. of State Papers, ii. 504; Collier, Eccl. Hist. Records, No. 40). Browne encountered not only the open hostility of many of his brethren, and especially of Staples, the bishop of Meath, but the detractions and suspicions of the rest of the Irish council. The lord-deputy Grey was his enemy, and treated him with contempt, calling him a 'polshorn friar,' and on one occasion putting him in prison. The king entertained the complaints that were sent to England against him of arrogance and inefficiency, and wrote him a severe letter, menacing him with disgrace; but Browne contrived to explain all accusations, except perhaps the one of receiving bribes. He must have been a man of some sagacity, for he predicted that the alteration of religion would cause 'the English and Irish race to lay aside their national old quarrels, and a foreigner to invade the nation' (Letters to Cromwell, May 1538, Harl. Misc. v. 561).

In the first years of Edward VI the reformation languished. Browne lay at the moment under the cloud of certain accusations of neglect of duty, alienation of leases, and 'undecent' conduct in preaching, which were preferred against him by another member of the Irish council, and seem never to have been fully explained (Dixon, iii. 406). It was not until 1550, after the full publication of the first English Prayer Book in 1549, that the attempt was resumed to impose on Ireland the English alterations of religion. By that time Bellingham had been succeeded by the second administration of Santleger, a man of easy temper, secretly attached to the old system. His instructions were to order the clergy to use the English service. Accordingly he somewhat incautiously summoned a convention of the bishops and clergy at Dublin, and thus brought about the curious scene which was the final protestation of the ancient independent Hibernian church before she assumed her English livery. The lord-deputy read the royal order for the service to be in English. 'Then,' exclaimed the primate Dowdall indignantly, 'any illiterate layman may say mass!' and after a warm altercation he left the meeting, followed by the greater number of his suffragans. Santleger then handed the order to Browne, who now assumed his natural position as head of the conforming party. 'This order, good brethren,' said he to the remaining clergy, 'is from the king and from our brethren the fathers and clergy of England; to him I submit, as Jesus did to Caesar, in all things lawful, asking no questions why or wherefore, as owning him our true and lawful king.' On the Easter day following the English service was used for the first time in the cathedral church of Dublin, Browne preaching the sermon. To the Irish people the change from Latin to English was a change from one unknown tongue to another, for English maintained itself with difficulty even in the pale, though the use of it was commanded by penal statutes. The churches were emptier than ever, and the malcontent clergy were aided by papal emissaries, and the Jesuit missionaries gained ground (Macgeoghan, Hist. of Ireland). The prelates, however, who followed Dowdall gradually conformed; and when, in the middle of the same year, 1550, Dowdall went from his see, declaring that he would not be bishop where there was no mass, none of his brethren imitated his example. His place, after a vacancy of two years, was filled by Goodacre, an Englishman sent by Cranmer, who was consecrated by Browne at Christ Church. At the same time the primacy of all Ireland, the ancient dignity of the see of Armagh, was claimed by Browne, and transferred by royal patent to Dublin.

Browne had complained to the authorities in England of the remissness of Santleger in the reformation (Browne to Warwick, August 1551; Hamilton, Irish Cal. p. 116). But to John Bale, who arrived in Ireland at the same time as Goodacre, Browne himself appeared remiss. The Bishop of Ossory has given him the character of an avaricious dissembler, hints that he was a drunkard and a profligate, and affirms that his complaints against Santleger were a device to get the primacy. 'As for his learning,' says Bale, 'he knows none so well as the practices of Sardanapalus; for his preachings twice in the year, of the ploughman in the winter, by "Exit qui seminat," and of the shepherd in the summer, by "Ego sum bonus pastor," they are so well known in Dublin that when he cometh into the pulpit they can tell the