Sir Richard Browne, c.1602-1669

London Presbyterian and commander of the Trained Bands who fought for Parliament but was imprisoned for opposing the King's trial

Portrait of Richard BrowneRichard Browne was the second son of John Browne of Wokingham in Berkshire and his wife Anne, daughter of John Beard of Wokingham. Browne became wealthy as a merchant trading in coal and timber. In 1632, he married Bridget Bryan, with whom he had three sons and two daughters. He was elected to the Common Council of London in December 1641 and invested £600 in the Irish Adventurers' scheme to finance the re-conquest of Ireland in 1642.

Browne became a member of the Honourable Artillery Company in 1622 and was the senior captain in the Orange regiment of the London Trained Bands when the First CIvil War broke out in August 1642. He assisted in the disarming of the Royalist gentry of Kent in September 1642 then marched with the Trained Bands to join Sir William Waller at the capture of Winchester. Promoted to colonel, Browne became active in enforcing security in London by suppressing demonstrations against the war. In July 1642, he was again sent into Kent where he successfully suppressed a Royalist uprising at Tonbridge.

In December 1643, Browne was appointed major-general of a brigade of Trained Bands and auxiliary regiments sent to reinforce Waller's army in the south. Early in 1644, Browne's forces participated in Waller's notable victory at the battle of Cheriton. The following June, Parliament appointed him commander-in-chief of the associated counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. He advanced from London with a brigade of 4,500 troops to support Waller in the Oxford campaign against the King's army, joining him shortly after the battle of Cropredy Bridge. Browne was appointed governor of Abingdon, from where he directed operations against Royalist forces around Oxford. However, he complained to Parliament that his men were mutinous and unruly owing to a lack of supplies and pay. From September to December 1644, Lord Digby secretly tried to persuade Browne to surrender Abingdon in return for a baronetcy. Browne feigned interest while using the time to finish the defensive works around Abingdon and to acquire supplies and reinforcements from London. He remained acutely sensitive to sneers about his social origins from Royalist propagandists, who called him "the Woodmonger" or "Faggot-Monger Browne".

In January 1645, Browne repulsed a surprise attack on Abingdon led by Prince Rupert. In accordance with a parliamentary ordinance, Browne ordered the hanging in Abingdon market-place of five captured Royalists who had served in Ireland. In May 1645, Browne joined forces with Lieutenant-General Cromwell to shadow the King's Oxford army on its march north, but relations between the two commanders were tense. Browne joined General Fairfax at the first siege of Oxford in June 1645. He was elected recruiter MP for Chipping Wycombe in Buckinghamshire in September 1645 but was given leave of absence from the House of Commons to participate in the final siege of Oxford in 1646.

In January 1647, Browne was one of the commissioners appointed by Parliament to receive King Charles from the Scots. He was with the King when he was seized by Cornet Joyce at Holmby House in June 1647. As a staunch Presbyterian, Browne vehemently opposed the seizure of the King and subsequently used his influence in the City of London to work against the designs of the Army and the Independents. He was elected an alderman in June 1648 and sheriff of London in November. However, his arrest was ordered after Pride's Purge in December 1648. He was stripped of all his offices and imprisoned for five years without trial. After his release from prison, Browne was elected to the Second Protectorate Parliament in 1656 but was among the MPs prevented by the Council of State from taking their seats. Three years later, he was elected to the Third Protectorate Parliament. Browne was in the process of being restored to his offices and having his substantial arrears paid when he came under suspicion of involvement in Booth's Uprising which forced him to go into hiding.

At the Restoration in May 1660, Browne led the royal procession into London. He was knighted by Charles II, made a baronet in July 1660 and elected lord mayor of London in October. His military expertise and loyalty were recognised with his appointment as major-general of the London militia. He gave damning evidence at the trial of Adrian Scrope, which resulted in Scrope's execution as a regicide. Browne sat as MP for Ludgershall in the Cavalier Parliament where he was mainly concerned with trade and London affairs. He died in September 1669.


Keith Lindley, Sir Richard Browne, first baronet, Oxford DNB, 2004

G. Ridsdill Smith & M. Toynbee, Leaders of the Civil Wars 1642-48 (Kineton 1977)