Anthony Browne (judge)

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Sir Anthony Browne QS (1509–1567) was a British justice.


He came from a family of lawyers; his father, Sir Wistan Browne, was a barrister of the Middle Temple, and three of his uncles served as benchers there, one of whom was Sir Humphrey Browne, a justice of the Court of Common Pleas. On his mother, Elizabeth's side were Sir John Mordaunt, chancellor of the Duchy of Cornwall, and William Mordaunt, chief Prothonotary of the Common Pleas. Keeping with family tradition he joined Middle Temple, and became a pupil of John Jenour, at the time the second Prothonotary of the Common Pleas. In 1545, he became a Member of Parliament, and in 1554 a bencher of Middle Temple. He was made a Serjeant-at-law in 1555 under the patronage of the Earl of Oxford, and was then immediately made Queen's Serjeant, obliged as the junior serjeant of his inn to give a reading, which he did on the subject of the Statute of Jeofails.[1][2]

On 5 October 1558, Browne was appointed Chief Justice of the Common Pleas by Mary I; his appointment was reconfirmed in November by Elizabeth I. He was removed by Elizabeth in the following January by means of appointing him a Puisne Justice of the Queen's Bench, most likely due to his religious disagreements with the new queen; while it was not serious enough to demand removal from the court, it would be unthinkable to have the head of a major court in religious disagreement with the monarch. In 1563, it was rumoured he would replace Nicholas Bacon as Lord Keeper of the Great Seal; if so he rejected it on grounds of religion. In 1565, he wrote an essay supporting the claim to the throne of Mary Stuart, which was later included in John Lesley's A Treatise concerning the Defence of the Honour of Marie, Queene of Scotland, made by Morgan Philippes, Bachelar of Divinitie, Piae afflicts animi consoleiones, ad Mariam Scot. Reg. in 1571,[3] and also encouraged Edmund Plowden to write A Treatise on Succession, which attempted to prove that Mary was not debarred from the English throne under Henry VIII's will. It is unknown whether Elizabeth was aware of these anti-Protestant efforts; if so, it is odd that she knighted him in February 1567.[1] Browne remained a justice of the Common Pleas until his death on 16 May 1567 at Weald Hall in Essex. [4]

Plowden described him at his death as a judge 'de profound ingeny et graund eloquence' (of profound ingenuity and grand eloquence), and the Spanish ambassador called his death a great loss to the Catholic faction in England. His funeral was performed, per his request, with the traditional Catholic ceremonies, and at his funeral various friends were given gold mourning rings in the style of those of Serjeants-at-Law with 'Wee dye' engraved on the outside and 'Forgett nott' on the inside.[5] He was buried in St Peter's Church in South Weald, but his tomb was badly damaged in the 1868 church restoration, leaving only a headless figure in judicial robes and part of an inscription, which gives his age at death as fifty seven.


Browne married Jane, the daughter of William Farrington at an undetermined point, but, as the marriage was childless, most of his estate was left to his brother George and various friends. His most lasting creation is Brentwood School, created as 'The Grammar School of Anthony Browne, Serjeant at the Law, in Brentwood'.[1]


Browne was a Member (MP) of the Parliament of England for Lostwithiel 1545, Great Bedwyn 1547, Preston March 1553 and October 1553, Scarborough April 1554 and Maldon November 1554.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Baker 2004.
  2. ^ Jeofail, from jeo (je) fail, "I fail") is an admission of an error or oversight in pleading a case. (OED).
  3. ^ The Treatise, which was suppressed, was attributed to John Lesley, Bishop of Ross, in George Gatfield, Guide to Printed Books and Manuscripts Relating to English and Foreign Heraldry and Genealogy (1892) sub "Scotland" p. 212.
  4. ^ Rigg 1886.
  5. ^ "Browne, Sir Anthony (1509/10–1567), judge". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/3666. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  6. ^ "BROWNE, Anthony II (1509/10-67), of South Weald, Essex. - History of Parliament Online".
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Robert Broke
Chief Justice of the Common Pleas
Succeeded by
Sir James Dyer