Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Browne, Richard (d.1669)

BROWNE, Sir RICHARD (d. 1669) parliamentary general, a citizen of London, is described as a 'woodmonger’ in the list of adventurers for the reconquest of Ireland, to which enterprise he subscribed 600l, He took up arms for the parliament, and obtained a command in the trained bands. In September 1642 he disarmed the royalist gentry of Kent (Vicars, i. 163). In December 1642 he served under Waller, and his regiment was the first to enter the breach at the capture of Winchester (ib. i. 229). In July 1643 he was charged with the suppression of the rising which took place in Kent in connection with Waller's plot, and crushed the insurgents in a fight at Tunbridge (16 July 1643, ib. iii. 12). On 23 Dec. 1613 the parliament appointed Browne to the command of the two regiments (the white and the yellow) sent to reinforce Waller’s army, and he shared the command at the victor of Alresford 29 March 1644). In the following summer, by an ordinance dated 8 June, he was constituted major-general of the forces raised for the subduing of Oxford, and commander-in-chief of the forces of the three associated counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire (Rushworth, iii. pt. ii. 673). With three regiments of auxiliaries raised in London he took up his headquarters at Abingdon, where ‘he was a continual thorn in the eyes and goad in the sides of Oxford and the adjacent royal garrisons’ (Vicars, England’s Worthies, 101). The parliamentary ‘Diurnals’ are full of his exploits, while the royalist tracts and papers continually accuse him of plundering the country and ill-treating his prisoners. An attempt was made by Lord Digby to induce him to betray his charge, but it met with signal failure (September to December 1644, Rushworth iii. pt. ii. 808-16).

In May 1615 Browne was employed for a short time in following the king's movements, but was recalled to take part in the first siege of Oxford (June 1645). He took part in the final siege of that city in the summer of 1616. On the conclusion of the war he was appointed one of the commissioners to receive Charles from the Scots (5 Jan. 1647, Rusworth, iv. pt. i. 394). While at Holmby he was, according to Anthony Wood, ‘converted by the king’s discourses’ (Annals, ii. 474). He was at Holmby when the king was seized by Cornet Joyce, and told the soldiers ‘that if he had had strength we should have had his life before we brought the king away. “Indeed," said the cornet, “you speak like a gallant and faithful man," but he knew well enough he had not the strength, and therefore spake so boldly’ (Rushworth, iv. 516). Browne was elected member for Wycombe amongst the recruiters, and in 1617 was also chosen sheriff of London. Clarendon describes him as having ‘a great name and interest in the city, and with all the presbyterian party’ (Rebellion, x. 70). With the majority of his ‘party he changed sides in 1648, was accuse by the army of confederating with the Scots and the secluded members for the invasion of England (6 Dec.), arrested (12 Dec.), expelled from the House of Commons, and deprived of his sheriffdom and other posts (Walker, History of Independency, ii. 39; Rushworth, iv. pt. ii. 1354-61). For several years he remained in prison at Windsor, Wallingford, Warwick, Ludlow, and other places. In the account of his sufferings which he gave in parliament in March 1659 he says: ‘I was used worse than a cavalier; taken and sent away prisoner to Wales; used with more cruelty than if in Newgate; in a worse prison than common prisoners. My wife and children could not come under roof to see me. My letters could not pass. The governor demanded my letters; I said he should have my life as soon. I defended them with my weapon’ (Burton, Diary, iv. 263). This imprisonment lasted for live years. In 1656 Browne was one of the members excluded from parliament for refusing to take the engagement demanded by the Protector (see Protest of 22 Sept. in Whitelock). In Richard Cromwell‘s parliament he was one of the members for London, and found at length, in March 1659, an opportunity for securing redress. On 26 March 1659 the House of Commons annulled the vote of 4 Dec. 1649 disabling him from the office of alderman, and ordered the payment of 9,0l6l. still owing to him from the state. In the summer of 1659 he was implicated in Sir George Booth’s rising, and his arrest ordered, but he succeeded in lying hid at Stationers’ Hall, ‘by the faithful secrecy of Captain Burroughes’ (Heath's Chronicle, p. 737). The votes then passed against him were annulled on 22 Feb. 1660 (Journals ; and Pepys, Diary). Browne was one of the persons with whom Whitelocke took counsel for the furtherance of his scheme of persuading Fleetwood to recall the king (Whitelocke, 22 Dec. 1659). Browne was chosen by the city as one of the deputation to Charles II, and headed the triumphal procession which brought the king back to London with a troop of gentlemen in cloth of silver doublets. His services were liberally rewarded by the king, who conferred the honour of knighthood on both him and his eldest son. He was also elected lord mayor on 3 Oct. 1660. During his mayoralty Venner’s insurrection took place, and the vigour he showed in suppressing it gained him fresh advancement. The city rewarded him with a pension of 500l. a your (7 Aug. 1662, Kennet, p. 739), and the king created

him a baronet. He died and 24 Sept. 1869, ‘at his house in Essex, near Saffron Walden’ (Obituary of Richard Smyth, p. 83). He was a brave soldier, and the charges of rapacity and cruelty brought against him by the royalist pamphleteers can hardly he regarded as proved. A greater blot on his fame is his conduct at the trial of the regicides. Browne repeated against Adrian Scroop words tending to justify the king's execution which Scroop had spoken in a casual conversation, and this testimony excited a feeling in the high court and the parliament which cost Scroop his life (Wood, Athenæ, ii. 74, ed. 1721; Kennet, Register, p. 276).

[Vicars’s Parliamentary Chronicle; Rushworth's Historical Collections; Kennet's Register. Vicars's English Worthies (1647) contains a sketch of Browne's career and a portrait. The correspondence with Lord Digby who printed in a pamphlet entitled The Lord Digby’s Design on Abingdon (4to, 1644), and several of Browne’s relations of different battles and skirmishes were published contemporaneously.]

C. H. F.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.39
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
54 ii l.l. Browne, Sir Richard: after recruiters insert in October 1645
55 i 1 for 1647 . . . London read 1648 was also chosen alderman of Langbourn ward and sheriff of London
ii 4 after baronet insert He was commissioner of appeals in the excise from 1661 till death, and also president of Bethlehem and Bridewell hospitals 1660-8