BROWNE, Anthony I (1528-92), of Battle Abbey and Cowdray Park, Suss.

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



Mar. 1553
Oct. 1553
Apr. 1554

Family and Education

b. 29 Nov. 1528, 1st s. of Sir Anthony Browne of Battle Abbey and Cowdray Park by 1st w. Alice, da. of Sir John Gage of Firle. m. (1) Jane (d.1552). da. of Robert Radcliffe, 1st Earl of Sussex, 1s. 2da.; (2) by 10 Dec. 1558, Magdalen, da. of William, 3rd Lord Dacre of Gilsland, 5s. 3da. suc. fa. 28 Apr. 1548. Kntd. 20 Feb. 1547; cr. Viscount Montagu 2 Sept. 1554; KG nom. 23 Apr., inst. 17 Oct. 1555.1

Offices Held

Standard bearer Jan. 1546-d.; sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1552-3; commr. goods of churches and fraternities, Suss. 1553, musters, Surr. in 1557, 1572/3, in 1583, Suss. from 1569, subsidy, Surr. 1559; other commissions 1553-?d.; keeper, Guildford park Oct. 1553-d., Hampton Court chase June 1554-d.; j.p. Surr., Suss. 1554-d.; master of the horse to King Philip Apr.-Sept. 1554; trier of petitions in the Lords, Parlts. of 1555 and 1558; PC 28 Apr. 1557; ld. lt., Suss. Mar.-Oct. 1558, jt. Nov. 1569-85; envoy to Rome 1555, Spain 1560, Flanders 1565-6.2


Anthony Browne evidently owed his return for Guildford to the Parliaments of 1545 and 1547 to his father, who was senior knight of the shire on both occasions and who had been joint keeper of Guildford park since 1527 and sole keeper since the death of his half-brother, Sir William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton, whose property in the borough he had also inherited. The younger Browne was first returned on 26 Dec. 1544, a few weeks after his 16th birthday (although the Parliament did not meet until a few days before his 17th), yet he took precedence over his fellow-Member Thomas Elyot, who was his father’s servant. Sir Anthony Browne also obtained his son’s appointment as royal standard bearer, surrendering his own patent of the office in return for a grant to himself and his son in survivorship. The younger Browne accompanied his kinsman John Dudley, Viscount Lisle, to France in the summer of 1546, being given £40 towards his expenses by Henry VIII, and was knighted at the coronation of Edward VI. He was still under age when his father died in April 1548, and in the following January (Sir) Thomas Wroth was appointed standard bearer during his minority, but he was allowed to buy his own wardship for £333 6s.8d. In May 1550, six months after he came of age, he received livery of his lands.3

Browne’s career received its first check in the following year, when he spent six weeks in prison for hearing mass. He admitted to the Council on 22 Mar. 1551 that he had done so ‘twice or thrice at the Newhall and once at Romford now, as my Lady Mary was coming hither about ten days past’. The Council sent Browne to the Fleet; on 4 May he and (Sir) Richard Morgan who had likewise heard mass in Princess Mary’s chapel, were released ‘with warning to beware how they erred again’. Although there is no evidence that he then conformed, Browne was pricked sheriff of Surrey and Sussex in November 1552 and in the following year was even made a commissioner for church goods. These appointments may have been bids for his support by John Dudley, now Duke of Northumberland, who also perhaps procured his young kinsman’s return for Petersfield to the Parliament of March 1553. Fitzwilliam had held land in the neighbourhood but in tail male so that it had not passed to the Brownes. The lord of the borough, Henry Weston, was then about 18 years old and his stepfather, John Vaughan II, took the junior seat: Vaughan’s kinsman Sir Roger Vaughan may already have been married to a daughter of Henry, 2nd Earl of Worcester, by Browne’s aunt Elizabeth, but it is unlikely that Vaughan, especially in view of his own relegation to the junior seat, could have exercised complete control over the election. Browne himself seems to have intervened in several elections as sheriff of Surrey and Sussex, and his return of George Rithe for Bramber may have been part of an electoral bargain whereby Rithe, who held lands near Petersfield, stood down there in Browne’s favour.4

Browne was re-elected for Petersfield, with Rithe, to the first Parliament of the new reign, after he had apparently rallied to Queen Mary. He was also returned for Stafford to this Parliament, doubtless on the nomination of Lord Stafford. Browne’s wife was related to Stafford—the name of Browne’s ‘base brother’ Charles Stafford alias Browne is of interest in this connexion—and Browne may have had a hand in the choice of his replacement there, Simon Lowe alias Fyfield, a friend of Browne’s steward William Denton: Denton himself was to sit in eight successive Parliaments for Browne’s own borough of Midhurst. Having at length achieved the knighthood of the shire in the Parliament of April 1554, Browne was raised to the peerage in the following September. He probably owed this honour to an attempt to cover up a blunder of King Philip. In June 1554, when an English household was set up for Philip before his marriage, Browne was appointed his master of the horse and was given £200 to provide for his stable. Great was the indignation when Philip arrived in July with a Spanish household and promptly dismissed the Englishmen. It was particularly inept, since in the previous March the Spanish ambassador had bought Browne’s friendship with a gift of 150 crowns. Several anxious letters were exchanged about the ‘Browne affair’, which was settled by his creation as viscount, with an annuity of 20 marks, a material reward augmented in February 1555 by a grant of lands, made in consideration of his service to the Queen during the recent rebellions and for the better maintenance of a viscount’s estate. He was also granted a Spanish pension of 500 crowns a year; that this was already two years in arrear in 1558 reflected no lack of confidence in Browne, whom the Spanish ambassador succinctly appraised as ‘a good man and a Christian’.5

In February 1555 Philip and Mary sent Bishop Thirlby, Viscount Montagu and Sir Edward Carne to treat for the reconciliation of the Church in England to the papacy. On his way home Montagu visited Venice. Back in England he was the chief mourner at the funeral of Bishop Gardiner, who had named him one of his executors. In April 1556 Montagu was given licence to retain 60 men, and a year later he was sworn a member of the Privy Council. In the summer of 1557 he served under the Earl of Pembroke as lieutenant of the army preparing to defend Calais and was present at the siege of St. Quentin, and in the spring of 1558, as lieutenant of Sussex, he organized the defences of the English coast.6

Nothing is known of Browne’s role in the Commons but he was an active member of the Lords: during Mary’s reign he was regular in attendance and was frequently appointed to committees, including one in 1555 for the bill to punish exiles. On 14 Nov. 1558 he was a member of the Lords’ delegation to the Commons about a subsidy. In Elizabeth’s first Parliament he voted for the bill to restore first fruits and tenths to the crown, but was the only temporal peer to oppose the bills for the dissolution of the religious houses restored by Mary and for the re-establishment of the royal supremacy; he also voted against the bill for uniformity, in conjunction with eight other temporal peers. His speech against the supremacy bill has recently come to light: he objected to the abrogation of the mass and the profanation of the sacraments but he also warned of the danger to the realm should the pope proceed to its excommunication, with the consequent threat of invasion or rebellion, and besought the House to ‘be not noted thus often to change your faith and religion, and with the Prince to bury your faith’. He again distinguished himself in the Parliament of 1563 by his opposition to the bill for extending the obligation to take the oath of supremacy and for sharpening the penalties for refusal. A new law, he said, ought to be necessary, just and reasonable, and apt and fit to be put in execution, and the proposed measure was none of these things. Speaking on his last point, he asked, ‘What man is there so without courage and stomach, or void of all honour, that can consent or agree to receive an opinion and new religion by force and compulsion?’ Although the Act was passed (5 Eliz., c.1), peers were exempted from its operation and Montagu was not therefore tendered the oath. In November 1566 he opposed the bill to confirm the consecration of bishops.7

His opposition to the Anglican settlement had not excluded Montagu from employment. In January 1560 Elizabeth sent him—against his will, as he told the Spanish ambassador, and accompanied by a man to spy on him—to tell Philip of the French landings in Scotland and to ask his help to prevent an invasion of England. In 1565 he was employed to negotiate a commercial treaty with the Netherlands, which moved him to comment to the Spanish ambassador, ‘I cannot understand these people; they cannot endure me and yet they send me to do their business for them’. Four years later his unswerving loyalty received signal recognition when he was appointed joint lord lieutenant of Sussex.8

Montagu was the subject of many rumours in the various Catholic intrigues of the day, doubtless because of the involvement of many of his kinsmen and associates. His servant George Chamberlain is said to have fled overseas ‘upon the rebellion in the north’, and Chamberlain’s activities, perhaps in conjunction with those of Montagu’s son-in-law Henry, 2nd Earl of Southampton, may explain the otherwise incomprehensible reports of the Spanish ambassador made late in 1569. In the first, of 1 Dec. 1569, within a fortnight of Montagu’s being commissioned joint lieutenant of Sussex, he said that Montagu and Southampton had sent to ask him whether they should take up arms or go over to join Alva. Then on 18 Dec. he wrote that they had taken the latter course, but had been driven back by contrary winds and summoned to court to explain their conduct—whereupon Montagu received the governorship of Sussex. The ambassador added that Montagu had sent ‘George Hamberton, a kinsman of the Duchess of Feria’ to assure Alva of his good intentions. ‘Hamberton’ may well have been Chamberlain, whose contacts with his kinswoman had been one of the causes of his arrest seven years earlier; Southampton was indeed imprisoned but not until June 1570. In August 1580 the Spanish ambassador thought that Montagu was likely to be arrested and a month later the Venetian ambassador reported that he was in prison, but there is no confirmation of this.9

Although Montagu was removed from the Sussex lieutenancy in 1585, in the following year he was appointed a commissioner for the trial of Mary Queen of Scots and he remained active in his shire. On 21 Aug. 1587 the Council wrote to thank him for the speed with which he had travelled to the coast on hearing reports that foreign ships had been sighted, and in the Armada crisis of the following year he showed himself equally anxious to help. According to a pamphlet written by Lord Burghley, but purporting to be by an English Catholic, he led 200 horsemen to Tilbury, determined ‘to live and die in defence of the Queen and of his country’. Three years later Elizabeth spent a week at Cowdray Park and among the knights dubbed during her stay were Montagu’s second son George and his son-in-law Robert Dormer.10

Montagu died on 19 Oct. 1592 at his house in Horsley, Surrey, and was buried at Midhurst: his tomb, on which he is depicted with his two wives, was later removed to Easebourne church, close to the entrance to Cowdray Park. Several portraits survive. The executors of his will, proved on 14 Mar. 1593, were his wife Magdalen, his son-in-law Dormer, Edward Gage, Richard Lewknor and Edmund Pelham and the supervisor (Sir) Thomas Heneage, who was later to be the second husband of Montagu’s daughter the Countess of Southampton. His heir was his grandson Anthony Maria, who had married Buckhurst’s daughter.11

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. R. Johnson


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/89/153. Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 83-84; DNB; CP; R. Smith, Magdalen Viscountess Montague, ed. Southern, pp. xii. 22.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, xxi; CPR, 1553, p. 415; 1553-4, pp. 24, 28, 29, 35, 272, 392; 1554-5, pp. 107, 111; 1563-6, pp. 37-40, 43; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 102, 108, 129, 337; HMC 7th Rep. 613, 628, 639; APC, v. 32; vi. 81; vii. 376; CSP Span. 1554-8, pp. 140, 369; 1580-6, p. 604; LJ, i. 492, 513; HMC Hatfield, i. 443; CSP For. 1559-60, p. 292; 1564-5, p. 313.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xxi; CPR, 1549-51, p. 173; 1553, p. 406; Index 10217(1), f. 46b.
  • 4. APC, iii. 239, 270; Lit. Rems. Edw. VI, 309-10.
  • 5. CPR, 1554-5, p. 314; C219/21/142; PCC 22 Nevell; APC, v. 32; CSP Span. 1554, p. 158; 1554-8, pp. 41, 49, 58, 373, 455.
  • 6. CSP Span. 1554-8, pp. 140, 144; CSP For. 1553-8, pp. 180, 182; Letters of Stephen Gardiner, ed. Muller, 502-17; CPR, 1555-7, p. 18; APC, vi. 81; HMC Foljambe, 5, 6, 8; Suss. Arch. Colls. v. 189; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 102, 108.
  • 7. M. A. R. Graves, ‘The Tudor House of Lords 1547-58’, (Otago Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1974), ii. 268-9; CJ, i. 52; Neale, Eliz. Parlts. i. 45, 73, 75, 80, 120; Suss. Arch. Colls. cviii. 50-57; Strype, Annals, i(1), 442-6; LJ, i. 641.
  • 8. CSP For. 1559-60, pp. 292, 315-21, 601-3; 1564-5, p. 313; CSP Span. 1558-67, pp. 121, 407; Suss. Arch. Colls. cvi. 103-12.
  • 9. CSP Span. 1568-79, pp. 213-14, 218; 1580-6, p. 50; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, pp. 287, 372; APC, vii. 366; CSP Rom. 1558-71, p. 347; CSP Ven. 1558-80, p. 646.
  • 10. State Trials, ed. Howell, i. 1166; APC, xv. 198; xvi. 175, 177-8; Harl. Misc. i. 154; R. B. Manning, Rel. and Soc. in Eliz. Suss. 229-30; Suss. Arch. Colls. v. 185-7.
  • 11. C142/235/110; Suss. Arch. Colls. v. 189; Nairn and Pevsner, Suss. 212; R. C. Strong, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, i. 224-6; PCC 22 Nevell.