Richard BROWNE

Died: ABT Cranleigh, Surrey, England

Father: Henry BROWNE

Mother: Eleanor SHIRLEY

Married 1: Tabitha LAMBERT (dau. of Geoffrey Lambert of Woodmansterne)

Married 2: Catherine HARDING (dau. of William Harding of Knowle and Cecily Warner) (w. of Richard Onslow) 17 Jan 1579 in London, England


1. Helen BROWNE

2. Elizabeth BROWNE (b. 26 Feb 1583 - d. 1638)

The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

Second son of Henry Browne of Betchworth Castle by his 3rd w. EleanorShirley, Suss.; half-bro. of Thomas. Married first Tabitha, dau. of Geoffrey Lambert of Woodmansterne; and secondly, 1579, Catherine (d. 1599), dau. and coh. of William Harding of Knowle, wid. of Richard Onslow, at least 2da.

J.p. Surr. from c.1579, commr. musters by 1580; sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1587-8.

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, viscount Montague, 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. Henry FitzAlan, 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, 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 Ralph Browne. 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 Montague 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).

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 Jun 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.


H.G.O.: BROWNE, Richard I (d.?1614), of Knowle in Cranleigh, Surr.

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