BROWNE, Richard I (d.?1614), of Knowle in Cranleigh, Surr.
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Family and Education
2nd s. of Henry Browne of Betchworth Castle by his 3rd w. Eleanor or Helen, da. of of West Grinstead, Suss.; half-bro. of Thomas. m. (1) Tabitha, da. of Jeffrey Lambert of Woodmansterne; (2) 1579, Catherine (d.1599), da. and coh. of William Harding of Knowle, wid. of Richard Onslow, at least 2da.1
J.p. Surr. from c.1579, commr. musters by 1580; sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1587-8.2
Browne’s father did not live long enough to inherit Betchworth Castle and the extensive estates pertaining to it, so that when he died, about 1549, he had comparatively little to leave his wife and children. Because his first son Thomas would eventually succeed to the family’s principal properties, Henry Browne left his own lands in Surrey and Sussex, after a life interest for his wife, to his second son Richard. The Brownes were related to Anthony Browne†, 1st Viscount Montagu, to the earls of Arundel, to such leading Sussex families as the Dawtreys of Petworth and the Shelleys of Michelgrove, and to the Blounts and Walsinghams. It is these family links that explain this Richard Browne’s parliamentary career, though where there are so many identity problems it must be said that there can be no certainty that the same man sat for these five boroughs in these six Parliaments. The 12th Earl of Arundel was patron of Arundel and frequently nominated at Steyning. Browne’s relationship, though distant, with the Sackvilles accounts for his return at Lewes, where, by 1584, Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, was a principal figure. Probably the same man was returned at Gatton, but several courtiers came in for this borough, and it is at least possible that the Member was Richard Browne II. By the last Parliament of the reign another Richard Browne, son of Sir Thomas of Betchworth, would have been old enough to sit in the Commons, but the return eliminates the doubt by recording that ‘Richard Browne, senior’ was elected. This was at Midhurst, where Viscount Montagu was lord of the manor. It is likely that it was this Browne who was appointed to a committee concerning the liability to jury service of members of the Household (14 May 1571) and who spoke on 21 May 1572 to the effect that wood was not in such short supply as to warrant restrictions on its use within 20 miles of London, and who was appointed to committees on sheriffs (18 Feb. 1576), wood (3 Mar. 1576) and juries (5 Mar. 1576). Other committees about which there need be no doubt, were on a more learned ministry (8 Mar. 1587), the subsidy (11 Feb. 1589) and to discuss the Queen’s dislike of the purveyors bill (27 Feb. 1589).3
Browne resided at Knowle after his second marriage, and was prominent in county affairs for over 20 years without ever becoming knight of the shire. Though he was executor of his wife’s will, her estates passed to a son by her first marriage, and this probably reduced his social standing. The will of a Richard Browne was proved in the local archidiaconal court on 5 June 1614. This man had a daughter Helen, as did the subject of this biography, but references to property at Dorking make it just as likely that this is the nephew’s will. No other wills or inquisitions have been found to solve the problem.4