family which, after a long settlement in Northumberland, migrated to Lincolnshire, and was born in 1530 at Flixborough or Broughton, in the latter county. After spending a short time at Lincoln College, Oxford, Anderson became in June 1550 a student of the Inner Temple, and ‘by indefatigable study,’ says Anthony à Wood, 'obtained great knowledge of laws.’ In 1567 he was appointed both Lent and Summer ‘reader’ at his inn of court, and a reference to him in Plowden's reports of the chief contemporary cases proves him to have aquired a considerable practice before 1571, Three years later he was nominated ‘double reader’ at the Inner Temple, and in Michaelmas term, 1577, he became a serjeant-at-law. In 1579 he was advanced to the highest dignity attainable at the bar, that of serjeant-at-law to the queen.
As an assistant judge on circuit, Anderson began to exercise judicial functions soon after this promotion, and in 1581 he conducted cases of importance in both the eastern and western counties. At Bury, in the Norfolk circuit, Robert Brown, the founder of the sect of Brownists, or Independents, was brought before him on a charge of nonconformity, and in sentencing him to a term of imprisonment Anderson emphatically expressed his intention, fully carried out in his subsequent judicial career, of upholding the Establishment against puritan dissent by every means in his power. On the western circuit, in November of the same year, Anderson presided at the trial of Campion and other seminary priests, charged with ‘compassing and imagining the queen's death,’ and here, as in many similar cases with which he was connected, lie assumed an attitude of personal hostility to the prisoners. The evidence adduced against Campion and his followers was somewhat slender, but the judge in an introductory speech ‘with grave and austere countenance dismayed the prisoners,’ and secured their conviction by his rhetorical invective.
Anderson's vigorous support of the crown's authority against its various opponents did not go unrewarded. The Bishop of Norwich requested Lord Burghley to call the queen's attention to his energy in the conviction of Brown, and the government showed themselves grateful for his action towards the catholic conspirators. Soon after the death of Sir James Dyer, the lord chief justice of the Common Pleas, Anderson was promoted to the vacant office, and he took his seat on the bench on 2 May 1582, receiving at the same time the honour of knighthood. Fleetwood, the recorder of London, in a letter to Lord Burghley describing his investiture, writes in the highest terms of the learning and facility he displayed on that occasion in arguing some very difficult points of law, which were proposed for his decision by leading members of the bar. ‘And thus one thing,’ the recorder proceeds, ‘was noted in him, that he despatched more orders and answered more difficult cases in that one forenoon than were despatched in a whole week in the time of his predecessors.’
As lord chief justice of the Common Pleas, Anderson took part in all the famous state trials that kept England in a frenzy of excitement during the last years of Elisabeth's reign. In September 1586 he was a member of the commission appointed to try Babington and his associates, and in very aggressive language he interrogated the prisoners, and ‘spoke their condemnation.’ A month later he proceeded to Fotheringay Castle to assist at the arraignment of the Queen of Scots, and he took a very prominent part in the trial of Secretary Davison on the charge of improperly carrying out the order for Mary Stuart's execution. When pronouncing sentence in the case, Anderson made a subtle distinction between the act and its performance, acquitting the prisoner, as Fuller states, of malice, but censuring him for indiscretion. In 1588 he was chosen to proceed to Ireland on judicial business, and remained there from 25 July to 1 Oct. (Lansd. MS. 57, f. 15). In the following year Anderson took part in the trial of the Earl of Arundel; and at the trials of Sir John Perrot, lord deputy of Ireland, on 17 April 1590, of the Earl of Essex on 19 Feb. 1600-1, and of Sir Walter Raleigh in 1603, Anderson made himself notorious by his harsh bearing towards the prisoners. In the case of Cuffe, who was charged with abetting Essex in his conspiracy, the lord chief justice treated Coke, the attorney-general, who conducted the prosecution, with the same bluntness as the prisoner. They were both, he said, indifferent disputants, and, addressing himself to Coke, reminded him that he sat on the bench to judge of law and not of logic (Camden, Annales, iii. 866, ed. Hearne).
Anderson's conduct towards the puritans was marked by excessive severity, and in 1596, in a charge to the jury on the northern circuit, he attempted to justify his attitude by declaring that all those who opposed the established church opposed her majesty's authority, were enemies to the state and disturbers of the public peace. But no general statement of this Kind can excuse Anderson for his action in the case of John Udall, a puritan minister, charged, before