Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Browne, Anthony (1510?-1567)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

BROWNE, ANTHONY (1510?–1567), judge, son of Sir Wistan Browne of Abbes-roding and Langenhoo in Essex, knight, and Elizabeth, daughter of William Mordaunt of Turvey in Bedfordshire, was born in Essex about 1510 and studied at Oxford, but left the university without taking any degree and entered at the Middle Temple, where he was appointed reader in the autumn of 1553, but did not read until Lent of the following year. In 1553 (28 June) he purchased of the Lady Anne of Cleves the reversion of the manor of Costedhall near Brentwood in Essex, which had formerly belonged to Thomas Cromwell. Being one of the magnates of Essex, he was commissioned with Lord Kich and others in 1554 to enforce the Statute of Heretics (2 & 3 Ph. & M. c. 6) against the puritans in that part of the country. He would seem to have been a person of no fixed religious opinions, at least if the evidence of Watts, a protestant, burned at Chelmsford in 1555, is to be credited. The story which is told both by Foxe and Strype is to the effect that Watts being asked by Browne whence he got his religious views, replied 'Even of you, sir; you taught it me, and none more than you. For in King Edward's days in open sessions you spoke against this religion now used — no preacher more. You then said the mass was abominable and all their trumpery besides, wishing and earnestly exhorting that none should believe therein, and that our belief should be only in Christ; and you then said that whosoever should bring in any strange nation to rule here it were treason and not to be suffered.' The same year Browne was active in bringing one William Hunter to the stake at Brentwood; and in the following year he received the thanks of the privy council 'for his diligent proceedings against' one George Eagles, alias Trudge-over-the-world, whom he had executed as a traitor, and was authorised 'to distribute his head and quarters according to his and his colleagues' former determination, and to proceed with his accomplices according to the qualities of their offences.' This Eagles was a tailor and itinerant preacher, who was convicted of treason for holding religious meetings, and hanged, drawn, and quartered. The earliest mention of Browne in the reports is under date Michaelmas term 1554, when he argued an important case in the common pleas. In 1555 (16 Oct.) he took the degrees of serjeant-at-law and King and queen's Serjeant together. In 1558 (5 Oct.) he was appointed chief justice of the common bench, and at once had an opportunity of showing that he was capable of maintaining the prerogatives of that office with due tenacity. The office of exigenter of London and other counties having become vacant during the lifetime of Browne's predecessor, Sir R. Brooke, the queen, by letters patent of the same date as Browne's appointment, granted the office to a noininee of her own, one Coleshill. Browne refusing to admit Coleshill, and admitting his own nephew Scroggs, Elizabeth (who had acceded in the interim) in Michaelmas term 1559 directed the lord-keeper, Nicholas Bacon, to examine Coleshill's case. In the result the judges of the queen's bench were assembled, and unanimously decided that the action of Mary in granting the office was illegal, the right to do so being an integral part of the prerogative of the chief justice, and that, therefore, the title of Coleshill was null and void. Browne's patent had at first been renewed on Elizabeth's accession, but in consequence of his energetic conduct in enforcing the laws against heresy it was deemed advisable to degrade him, and accordingly (22 Jan.) Dyer was made chief justice and Browne reduced to the level of a puisne judge. In 1564 it is said that the queen offered the office of clerk of the hanaper to Browne, and that he refused it. In 1600 he was knighted by the queen at the Parliament House. He died on 16 May 1667 at his house in Essex. His wife, Joan, only daughter of W. Farington, died in the same year. Browne is credited by Doleman with having furnished Morgan Philipps with the legal authorities cited in his treatise in support of the title of the Queen of Scots to the succession to the English throne, of which the bishop of Ross (John Leslie) made considerable use in his work on the same subject. On the strength of this somewhat doubtful connection with literature, Wood accorded him a niche in the 'Athenæ Oxonienses.' Plowden speaks in very high terms of his legal learning and eloquence, quoting some barbarous elegiacs to the like effect.

[Nicholas's Testamenta Vetusta, 462; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), i. 355, 405, 433; Morant's Essex, i. 118, 120; Foss's Lives of the Judges; Strype's Memorials (fol.), ii. (pt. ii.) 509, iii. (pt. 1.) 51, 198, 265, 340, (pt. ii.) 40O; Narratives of the Reformation (Camden Society), 212, 237; Foxe's Martyrs (ed. 1684), iii. 157–9, 222, 700–2; Dugdale's Orig. 217; Dugdale's Chron Ser. 90, 91; Wynne's Serj.-at-Law; Dyer's Reports, 175a; Plowden's Reports, 249, 356, 376.]

J. M. R.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.39
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
39 i 11 f.e. Browne, Anthony (1510?-1567): after Cromwell insert He was M.P. for Lostwithiel in 1545, for Preston in 1553, and for Maldon in 1554