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throne. Anthony Browne, the son and heir of Francis and the father of Robert, evidently maintained the reputation of the family, and, like his ancestors, served as sheriff of the county. He held the office at least three years, during the reigns of Henry VIII., Mary, and Elizabeth. The family was connected with Lord Treasurer Burleigh, by the marriage of Burleigh's aunt, Johanna Cecil, with Edmund Browne, the half-brother of Robert's grandfather.*
Robert Browne was educated, in part at least, at Cambridge, in Corpus Christi, or Bennet College. Fuller tells us that he preached at Bennet church, and there attracted the attention of Dr. Still, afterwards Master of Trinity, who, out of curiosity, or casually, being present on one or more occasions, discovered in him "something extraordinary, which he presaged would prove the disturbance of the church, if not seasonably prevented."
* Hist. and Antiq. of Rutland, ut sup. ; Fuller's Church History, bk, IX. sect. 6, Oxford, 1845. Most authorities speak of Browne as Burleigh's near relation," "near kinsman," and as "nearly allied" to him, etc. See Biographia Britannica; Heylyn, 257; Collier, VII. 2, etc. But the fact is, that the lord treasurer was very remotely allied to Browne, as appears by the genealogy of the Browne family, given by Blore; not quite so nearly, even, as the words of the text suggest; for Burleigh's aunt, Johanna Cecil, was only a half-sister of Burleigh's father.
↑ Heylyn, 256; Neal's Puritans, 1. 376; Fuller, bk. 1x. sect. 6. According to Masters, Browne's connection with Corpus Christi, where authors have generally placed him, is rendered somewhat uncertain, because of the college registers being deficient in Christian names; "although three are mentioned there by the sirname
leaving Cambridge, Browne became the master of the Free School of St. Olive's, Southwark. He did not, however, relinquish preaching; but, if we may believe Paget, devoted a portion of his time to the religious instruction of the poor laborers about Islington.* He early embraced the puritan side of the great controversy of the age. And, though it has been common to regard him as merely a wild fanatic, he must have been something more to have gained a standing among "the chief puritans about London" at the early age of twentyone years, as he did.† Browne was then chaplain to the Duchess of Suffolk, and an attempt was made by his patron to screen him from the archbishop's summons, on the ground of his living in a privileged place; but Parker sent a letter to the duchess, dated January 13th, 1571-2, and signed by himself and four other commissioners, telling her ladyship that their commission extended to all places within her majesty's dominions, and that, if
of Browne, from 1565 to 1570, and one by that of Robert, who proceeded A. B. two years after."-Hist. Corpus Christi, 252.
*Paget, or Pagitt, says he was schoolmaster of the free school of St. Olive's in Southwark. "This Brown, seducing certain people, preached to them in a gravel-pit near Islington.” — Heresiography, p. 66. Baylie's Dissuasive, pp. 13, 14. Masters speaks of him as a lecturer at Islington." Hist. C. C. C. 252.
"The archbishop cited the chief puritans about London to Lambeth, viz: Messrs. Goodman, Lever, Sampson, Walker, Wy-. burn, Goff, Percival, Deering, Field, Browne, Johnson, and others." - Hist. Pur., 1. 295, Ewer & Allen's ed. 1816; Strype's Parker, 11. 65-68.
she detained her chaplain, ("as he saith,") other means would be used to bring him to answer. The citation was accordingly obeyed. But Browne's "family and relations covered him for the present," and he escaped unpunished.*
After this we hear nothing of him until April, 1581, when Dr. Freke, bishop of Norwich, reported to Lord Burleigh" many great disorders in the town of Bury and county thereabout, as well in the clergy as in the laity"; and after mentioning Mr. Handson, curate of St. James' church in Bury, whom he had " inhibited to preach," † as the
* Strype's Parker, 11. 67, 238-41; Archbp. Parker's Correspondence, p. 391; Neal, 1. 296. Strype and Neal say that this letter was addressed to the "Duke of Narfolk"; but the letter was addressed 'to the well-known Duchess of Suffolk, Katherine, widow of Charles Brandon.” — Parker's Correspondence, ut. sup., and note. Masters says: "So early as 1571, (if Mr. Strype has placed his citation before the ecclesiastical commissioners for schism in the right year,) we find him entertained as domestic chaplain in the Duke of Norfolk's family."— P. 252.
† Sir Robert Jermin, with Lord North and some others, wrote to the bishop of Norwich on behalf of Mr. Handson, that "they knew his ministry to have been very profitable to a great number; that they who sought to remove him were rather adversaries, than friends to the truth; that for matter of faith and manners, he was ever held a sound teacher "; and "that in these indifferent things he had never labored much"; and urged, that, "in consideration of these things, he would give him liberty to exercise his ministry." But the bishop resolutely refused to set Handson at liberty unless he would publicly confess himself at fault, and be bound to follow another course. This Handson would not do. Sir Robert and his friends then appealed to the lord treasurer, but without success. So the bishop had his own way. See Strype's Annals, vol. 111. pt. 1. p. 30.
"only man there blowing the coals whereof this fire is kindled." he adds: "Herewith I send unto your lordship other articles ministered against Robert Browne, minister, and his several answers thereunto; the said party being lately apprehended in this county, upon complaint made by many godly preachers, for delivering unto the people corrupt and contentious doctrine, contained and set down more at large in the same articles. His arrogant spirit of reproving being such as is to be marvelled at; the man being also to be feared, lest, if he were at liberty, he would seduce the vulgar sort of the people, who greatly depend on him, assembling themselves to the number of a hundred at a time, in private houses and conventicles, to hear him; not without danger to some thereabout."
Browne's "arrogant spirit of reproving," of which the bishop complains, appeared doubtless at the time of his arraignment before his lordship and the commissioners; for we are told that he so "misbehaved himself to the court" that he was ordered into the custody of the sheriff of Norwich, by whom he was held a prisoner for some time.†
On the 21st of April, Burleigh - who seems to have been kept acquainted with his kinsman's movements two days after the bishop's letter
*Hanbury's Memorials, 1. 19, note, Lond. 1839; Strype's Annals, vol. 111. pt. 1. p. 22.
Heylyn's History of the Presbyterians, 11. 581, in Brook; Biog. Brit.; Collier, vII. 3.
was written, and probably before that had reached London, wrote to Freke, suggesting that Browne had become sensible of his errors, apologizing for him, and requesting that he might be "charitably conferred with and reformed"; and if that course failed, that he might be sent up to London :
"After my very hearty commendations to your lordship: whereas I understand that one Browne, a preacher, is by your lordship and others of the ecclesiastical commission committed to the custody of the sheriff of Norfolk, where he remains a prisoner, for some matters of offence uttered by him by way of preaching; wherein I perceive, by sight of some letters written by certain godly preachers in your lordship's diocese, he hath been dealt with and by them dissuaded from that course he hath taken. Forasmuch as he is my kinsman, if he be son to him whom I take him to be, and that his error seemeth to proceed of zeal rather than of malice, I do therefore wish he were charitably conferred with and reformed. Which course I pray your lordship may be taken with him, either by your lordship or such as your lordship shall assign for that purpose. And in case there shall not follow thereof such success as may be to your liking, that then you would be content to permit him to repair hither to London, to be further dealt with as I shall take order for upon his coming. For which purpose I have written a letter to the sheriff, if your lordship shall like thereof."*
*Fuller's Ch. Hist. bk. IX. sect. 6.