Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Broke, Robert
BROKE or BROOKE, Sir ROBERT (d. 1558), speaker of the House of Commons and chief justice of the common pleas, was the son of Thomas Broke of Claverley, Shropshire, by his wife Margaret, daughter of Hugh Grosvenor of Farmcote Hall in the same county. He was admitted B.A. at Oxford 8 July 1521 (Oxf. Univ. Reg. ed. Boase, i. 111). He afterwards studied at the Middle Temple, where in 1542 he was elected autumn reader, and in Lent 1551 double reader. He held successively the offices of common serjeant and recorder of London (being appointed to the latter office in 1545), and represented the city in several parliaments. On 17 Oct. 1552 he was made a serjeant-at-law. On 2 April 1554, while still recorder, he was chosen speaker of the House of Commons. The second parliament of Queen Mary, over which he was elected to preside, was declared in the opening speech of the chancellor (Bishop Gardiner) to be called 'for the corroboration of true religion, and touching the queen's highness's most noble marriage.' Broke was 'a zealous catholic,' and his conduct as speaker gave great satisfaction to the queen. He was appointed chief justice of the common pleas on 8 Oct. 1554 (Wood erroneously gives the date as 1553), and on 27 Jan. following was knighted by King Philip. On 26 Feb. 1556-7 he sat in the court which was appointed to try Charles, lord Stourton, for the murder of the Hartgills, and it is mentioned in Machyn's 'Diary' that, the prisoner having obstinately refused to plead, the lord chief justice at last rose and threatened him with the punishment of being pressed to death, upon which he pleaded guilty. Broke died on 6 Sept. 1558 while on a visit to his friends, at Claverley, his native place, and is buried in the chancel of the parish church there. In the 'Gentleman's Magazine' (xcii. pt. ii. 490) is a description of his monument at Claverley, with a copy of the inscription, which states that he was twice married, and had seventeen children. According to Wood he left to his descendants 'a fair estate at Madeley in Shropshire, and one or two places in Suffolk.' The mention of Suffolk, however, is probably a mistake ; Wood was apparently thinking of the Broke family of Nacton, who derived their descent from Sir Richard Broke [q. v.] The same writer informs us that Sir Robert Broke, by his will proved 12 Oct. 1558, made several bequests to the church and poor of Putney.
Broke was held in great respect as a learned and upright judge, and also obtained a high reputation as a legal writer. The following is a list of his works, none of which seem to have been published during the author's lifetime : 1. 'La Graunde Abridgement,' 1568. This is an abstract of the year-books down to the writer's own time, and is principally based on the work by Fitzherbert bearing the same title. Broke's treatise, however, is considered superior in lucidity of arrangement to that of Fitzherbert, and contains also some valuable original matter. Sir E. Coke and other eminent legal authorities have praised it highly. Further editions were published in 1570, 1573, 1576, and 1586. A selection from the 'Abridgement,' comprising the more recent cases which Broke had added to Fitzherbert's collection, was published in 1578, under the title of 'Ascuns novell Cases de les Ans et Temps le Roy Henry VIII, Edward VI, et la Roygne Mary, escrie ex la Graunde Abridgement.' This volume was reprinted in 1587, 1604, and 1625. It was translated into English by J. March ('Some New Cases of the Years and Times of King Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Queen Mary,' 1651), and an edition of this translation, together with the original Norman-French, was published in 1873. 2. 'A Reading on the Statute of Limitations,' 1647. 3. 'A Reading upon the Statute of Magna Charta, cap. 16,' 1641. This work is erroneously attributed by Wood to another Robert Brooke, who died in 1597, although the title-page gives to the author the designations of serjeant-at-law and recorder of London, which clearly identify him with the subject of this article.[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 267 ; Machyn's Diary, 27, 126 ; Journals of the House of Commons, i. 33 ; Dugdale's Orig. Jurid. 216, 217 ; Harl. MS. 6064, 80 b ; Foss's Lives of the Judges, v. 360 ; Gent. Mag. xcii. pt. ii. 490.]