Anthony Browne the second of that name, was born on 29th November 1528. He inherited West Horsley Manor from his Catholic father, Sir Anthony Browne (1500-1548).  There appears to have been an understanding that his young step-mother, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, should have possession of the house during her lifetime.  Browne’s mother was Alys Gage (died 3rd March, 1540). Alys was the daughter of Sir John Gage of Firle, Sussex.  The Gages were a leading Catholic family in the county. Sir John was a military administrator and a commissioner for the dissolution of Battle Abbey, and this marriage brought material benefit.  Alys had nine children and Anthony was the eldest of seven sons. Sir Anthony Browne became a prominent personality and privy councillor at the court of Henry VIII. he was wealthy and a considerable landowner in Surrey and Sussex. The king gave him Battle Abbey, West Horsley Manor and Hatchlands Park.  Sir Anthony was senior knight of the shire of Surrey, and had been the sole keeper of Guildford Park since the death of his half-brother, the Earl of Southampton, whose property in the borough he also inherited, as well as the extensive Cowdray estates in West Sussex.


Browne Junior was twelve when his mother died, and it was three years before his father married Elizabeth Fitzgerald, (‘The Fair Geraldine’.) It appears that during those years Sir Anthony had taken a ‘concubine,’ which did not impress his Catholic son.  Some years later, when that son had become Viscount Montague, Richard Smith (1566-1655) became the confessor to Montague’s second wife, Lady Magdalen.  He wrote ‘of the worthy Virtues of Viscount Montague’ who aged twelve criticised his father’s morals in no uncertain terms.  (Appendix 1.) It would seem as if the father took his son’s advice.  His father’s wealth – estimated at £1177.12.2d. per annum in 1547 – along with his influence, enabled him to enter parliament as member for Guildford, aged 16. He became standard bearer for England, when his father surrendered that honour in return for a grant. In 1547 Sir Anthony used his position as Master of the Horse to obtain an appointment for his son as an equerry of the Royal Stable, and in that same year he was made one of the fifty Knights of Bath, but was presently removed from this honour because of his age. He was restored when he gained his majority. Around this time 1546-1547, Anthony Browne the younger married his first wife, Jane Radcliffe (1531-1552). There were two twin children of this marriage, Mary (1552-1607) and Anthony (1552-1592). Jane died in childbirth on 2nd July, 1552.


Sir Anthony Browne died in 1548 at Byfleet, in Surrey. His son inherited his father’s considerable estate six months after he came of age. In 1551 his career was halted when he spent six weeks in the Fleet Prison for hearing Mass. He actually confessed to the Court on 22nd March, 1551, that he had heard Mass ‘twice or thrice at Romford now as my Lady Mary was coming thither about ten days past.’ (1).   The stay at The Fleet was brief, for the following year he entertained King Edward royally at Cowdray House. From 1552-1553 he was Sheriff of both Surrey and Sussex, becoming MP for Petersfield in 1553.  


In July 1553 Edward VI died and a succession crisis ensued.  As Sheriff of the two counties, Browne received a letter from the Privy Council on 8th July 1553, and one from Lady Jane Grey herself, on 19th July.  He does not appear to have taken any action in response, and later, in July, Mary Tudor became Queen. Browne was honoured with various positions in the royal household.  In the autumn of 1553, he became Keeper of Guildford Park.  The following spring, he was appointed Master of the Horse to Philip II of Spain, the Queen’s prospective husband. There was indignation at Court when Philip, upon arrival in England, dismissed Browne and appointed Spaniards.

Queen Mary and Philip II of Spain were married at  Hampton Court, in September 1554, and Browne became Viscount Montague, taking his seat in the House of Lords in November.  In February 1555, Philip and Mary sent Bishop Thirlby of Ely, Viscount Montague and Sir Edward Come to seek a reconciliation between the Church of England and the Papacy. On his return, Montague was made a member of the Queen’s Privy Council and Knight of the Garter. In 1556, he married again. His second wife was Magdalen, daughter of  Lord Dacre of Graystock and Gylesland, one of the leading Catholics in Sussex. Lady Magdalen had walked in the bridal procession of Queen Mary and Philip of Spain.  She was very tall and lovely, rumour has it that Philip made a pass at her, and she was obliged to fight him off with a stick.  In 1557, Montague became Lieutenant General of the English army, defending Calais at the Siege of St. Quentin.  When Mary died, in 1558, he was one of the fifteen executors of the Queen’s Will, and a chief mourner at her funeral.


When Elizabeth became Queen in 1558, Montague took a stand in the House of Lords against the Acts of Uniformity and Suppression, along with the dissolution of religious institutions restored by Mary.  In his speech, he warned the Lords of the dangers of excommunication, and commented: ‘be not noted thus often to change your faith and your religion, and with the prynce to bury your faith’. (2).  Montague was certainly one of the most prominent recusants in those times, but his loyalty to the Crown was above suspicion, he was trusted and honoured by Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth.  In his survival, and his ability to ‘duck and dive,’ he resembled his father, Sir Anthony Browne. Montague opposed the imposition of religious supremacy as being ‘a thing unjust and repugnant to the natural liberty of men’s understanding… for what  man is there so without courage and stomach, or void of all honour, that can consent or agree to receive an opinion and new religion by force and compulsion.’ (3).

But Montague did not lose the good opinion of Elizabeth, who sent him – against his will - as ambassador to Philip of Spain on diplomatic missions, in 1560 and 1565.  He remarked to the Spanish Ambassador: ‘ I cannot understand these people; they cannot  endure me and yet they send  me to do their business for them.’  (4)This was possibly a test of his loyalty, which received signal recognition when he was again appointed Lord  Lieutenant of Sussex.  


Montague had five sons and three daughters with Lady Magdalen, and in February 1566, his daughter Mary married Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton and also a committed Catholic.  This was a liaison which was to present its problems for Montague. Within a fortnight of his Sussex commission, he was accused of involvement in a rebellion along with his son-in-law, Southampton.  Guerau de Spec, the Spanish ambassador, in a letter to the Duke of Alba, wrote that Montague and Southampton ‘have sent to me for advice as to whether they should take up arms or go over to your Excellency.’ (5).

The two men were immediately summoned to court to account for their actions. They appear to have done this successfully, as neither of them received any punishment.  Southampton was in serious trouble again in 1570, but once more Montague managed to remain unscathed by the fate of his son-in-law, who was involved in secret meetings in Lambeth following the excommunication of Queen Elizabeth by Pope Pius V. English Catholics were instructed to choose between loyalty to the sovereign, or to religion.  The meetings at Lambeth were discovered and Southampton was arrested.  In early July, he was placed under the surveillance of Sir William More of Loseley, who was to ensure that Southampton engaged in Protestant practices in the More  household: this he apparently did, as he was released the following November. The years 1571-1572 were troublesome for Montague too, as he appeared to have been involved in a plot to marry Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk to  Mary, Queen of Scots, but once again, he survived.  He was frequently accused of implication in every Catholic intrigue as a result of the activities of his relatives such as Southampton.

The following year, 1573,  Sir William once again had the custody of Montague’s son-in-law, as the full story of the Lambeth meetings was revealed. After a spell in the Tower, Southampton returned once more to the supervision at Loseley, before being allowed to live with Montague at Cowdray, but with restricted liberty.  The relationship between Southampton and Sir William must have been fairly congenial, as, on 6th October 1573 he wrote to him from Cowdray House in great excitement announcing the birth of his son, Henry.  But more problems were to follow; in 1577 Southampton and his wife Mary, Montague’s daughter, became estranged. He accused her of having an affair with a certain ‘Donsame, a common person.’ Mary strenuously denied this, writing at length to her father accusing Thomas Dymock, one of the Viscount’s servants, of causing the marital rift. This caused the final breakdown in the relationship between Southampton and Montague.  In 1581, Southampton died.


In 1585, Montague was removed from the Lieutenancy of Sussex, but in 1586, he was appointed a Commissioner in the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots. It has been suggested that this might have been another test of his loyalty.  This loyalty was confirmed, when, in 1588 he was involved in the defensive measures against the Spanish Armada; with his son and grandson he was foremost in leading a troop of two hundred horsemen at Tilbury. He proclaimed himself ready ‘to live and die in the service of his Queen and his country’ (6).  Sometime during the late 1580s, upon leaving school at St. Peter’s, York, Guy Fawkes  entered the employ of Montague, but the Viscount took a dislike to him and he was dismissed: he was taken on by Anthony-Maria Browne, grandson of Montague who later became the 2nd Viscount. 

In 1591, Queen Elizabeth was lavishly entertained for almost a week at Cowdray House, and she rewarded Montague by knighting his second son, George, and his son-in-law, Robert Dormer. The Queen’s visit would have allowed her to observe the way the Montague household operated. This was one of the last significant courtly occasions of the Viscount’s life, and he used it to show the Queen that a committed Catholic and his household could be completely loyal to the sovereign. Catholics such as Montague, who owned several estates, were accused of hiding priests, by moving them from property to property, and months later, a proclamation was issued against those who concealed such Catholic priests.  Montague was not prosecuted; his loyalty to the queen was well proven, with no treasonous activities discovered.  Some historians, such as Curtis Breight have placed a different interpretation on the royal visit to Cowdray. Montague had lost the lord lieutenancy of Sussex, and Breight depicts him as a discontented Roman Catholic lord in an unsettled heavily Catholic region of the country.  He sees the royal progress as an attempt to scrutinise ‘an influential, yet suspected lord, a potential abettor of native rebellion in support of a Spanish invasion….’  (7). But the Armada had failed, and Montague, in the late 1580s and early 1590s, was in favour with the sovereign.


On the 27th January 1592, Montague was in West Horsley, where he gave a valedictory address to relatives, staff and friends.  It is a speech which has stimulated debate amongst historians.  The viscount stated: ‘yf the pope or the king of spayne, or  any other foreyn potentate shoulde offer to invade this realm for any cawse whatsever, I woulde be one of the first that shoulde bear arms agenst him or them for my prynce and cowtrye to the uttermost of my power, And yf I shoulde know that any of you my brethren or children shoulde consent unto any such thynge, as to joyne with pope or foreyne potentates, I woulde be he that shoulde first present you or any of youe to the queen and her cownsell.’ (8).

Montague has been described as a bluff and outspoken Catholic.  For much of his life he was obliged to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. He was continually being tested, but in the end Elizabeth valued and honoured him as a loyal and faithful servant of crown and country. She visited him in early October 1592, at West Horsley manor when he was dying. His death came on 15th October.  Montague was buried first in Midhust, but in 1851 his monument was moved to St. Mary’s parish church, Easebourne, Sussex, close to the entrance to the Cowdray Park. His son, Anthony Browne pre-deceased him by four months, so the title passed to his grandson, Anthony-Maria Browne.


‘Of the worthy Virtues of Viscount Montague husband of the Lady Magdalen.

The first virtue to be related of this Nobleman, was his rare affection unto chastity. For when,  (his Mother being dead) his Father kept a Concubine, as soon as this young Gent understood thereof, he went alone to his Father and on his knees besought him to leave that course of life, so hateful unto God, damnable to life, and dishonourable to all his friends, and to take to wife some honest Gentlewoman, with whom he might live honourably before men, and in the favour of God. To whom his Father, smyling, said: Thou dost give me such counsayle Sonne, as well be thirty thousand pounds out of thy way.’ But the pious youth answered that he nothing regarded that loss, whereby he might gain his Father’s soule and reputation. And  so much did the pious admonition of the Sonne prevaile with the Father, that dismissing his Concubine, he marryed a wife, with whom he spent the rest of his life honestly. The Sonne in this one act shewed great piety towards his Father, religion towards God, and with contempt of riches….'


1 htm.

2          ibid

  1. Dictionary of National Biography, 1526-1592. Browne, Anthony
  2. https://www.histoyof parliamentonline. Volume 1509-1555.
  3. Dictionary of National Biography, ibid
  4. ibid
  5. Breight, Curtis, quoted by Questier, Michael C. Catholivism and Community in Early Modern England, Cambridge University Press. 2006, pp.124-126
  6. ibid, pp 125-126


Catellini, Jorge H.  online at

Elzinga, J.C. Browne, Anthony, First Viscount Montague (1528-1592) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Hall, Adrian, Hall, Sarah, Ford, Keith. Brownes, Montagues and Recusancy, 1538-1629. BDH2018 https;// >Collections>F  ed. Dr. A.C. Southern

Manning, Roger B, Anthony Browne, Ist Viscount Montague: The Influence in County Politics of an Elizabethan Nobleman. Journal of Sussex Archeological Society, 1968.

Quester, Michael C, Catholicism and Community in Early Modern England. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Stephens, William, Wood, Richard, Anthony Browne, 1526-1592. Dictionary of National Biography.