Browne, Anthony, first Viscount Montague 1526-1592, was the eldest son of Sir Anthony Browne (d. 1548) [qv.] and Alys his wife, daughter of Sir John Gage. He succeeded his father in 1548, inheriting with other property the estates of Battle Abbey and Cowdray in Sussex. Like his father he was a staunch Roman catholic, yet his loyalty to the crown was above suspicion, and he enjoyed the confidence of Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth. He was M.P. for Guildford, 1542 and 1547, Petersfield, 1553, and Surrey, 1554. He was knighted at the coronation of Edward VI, and although he was in the Fleet for a short time in 1551 for hearing mass, in 1552 he entertained the king sumptuously at Cowdray House. In the following year his wife, Lady Jane, daughter of Robert Ratcliff, earl of Sussex, died in giving birth to a son. He afterwards married Magdalen, a daughter of William, lord Dacre of Graystock and Gilsland, and by her had five sons and three daughters. In 1554, on the occasion of Mary's marriage with Philip of Spain, he was created a viscount, and chose the title of Montague, probably because his grandmother, Lady Lucy, had been daughter and coheiress of John Nevill, marquis Montacute. In the same year he was made master of the horse, and was sent to Rome on an embassy with Thirlby, bishop of Ely, and Sir Edward Carne (the three ambassadors representing the three estates of the realm), to treat with the pope concerning the reconciliation of the church of England to the papal see. In 1555 he was made a member of the privy council and a knight of the Garter, and in 1557 he acted as lieutenant-general of the English forces at the siege of St. Quentin in Picardy
On the accession of Elizabeth, Montague lost his seat in the privy council, and he boldly expressed his dissent in the House of Lords from the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity. Nevertheless he was employed two years afterwards, in 1561, on a special mission to the court of Spain, as one whom the queen highly esteemed for his great prudence and wisdom, though earnestly devoted to the Romish religion. In 1562 he made a forcible and courageous speech in the House of Lords against the act entitled for the assurance of the queen's royal power over all estates and subjects within her dominions, by which all persons were bound to take the oath of supremacy if required to do so by a bishop or by commissioners, incurring the penalties of præmunire for refusing to take it, and of high treason if the refusal was persisted in. Montague opposed the measure, not only on the ground that the queen's Roman catholic subjects were peaceably and loyally disposed, but also as being in itself 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?He did not, however, forfeit the favour of Elizabeth. He was one of the forty-seven commissioners who sat on the trial of Mary Queen of Scots in 1587, and in 1588, when the queen reviewed her army at Tilbury Fort, Montague was the first to appear on the ground, leading a troop of two hundred horsemen, and accompanied by his son and grandson. Three years after the defeat of the Spanish Armada in August 1591 the queen paid a visit to Cowdray, where she was most magnificently entertained for nearly a week. In October of the following year Montague died, and was buried in Midhurst Church. A splendid table tomb of marble and alabaster, surmounted by a kneeling figure of himself and recumbent effigies of his two wives, was erected over his remains, but has since been removed to Easebourne Church, close to the entrance of Cowdray Park.
Burnet's History of the Reformation (Pocock's edition), vols. ii. iii. and v.
Hallam's Constitutional Hist. i. 116, 117, 162
Nichols's Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, vol. iii.
Mrs. Roundell's History of Cowdray, ch. iv.
Contributor: W. R. W. S. [William Richard Wood Stephens]