77 Browne v Presley

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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John Browne of Frampton, co. Dorset, esq v William Presley of Up Sydling, co. Dorset, yeoman

December 1637 - November 1638

Figure 77:

John Browne of Frampton, Dorset who was insulted by William Presley when he visited London in 1637 (Photo credit: Dorset Natural History and Archaeology Society).


Browne maintained that in October-November 1637, in the parishes of St Dunstan-in-the-West, London, and St Andrew's, Holborn, Middlesex, in the presence of John Page, Master of Chancery, and other gentlemen, Presley 'sayd I lyed, and my man reprehending him for the same Presly replyed hee could finde in his heart to strike my man in the teeth'. Part of Presley's defence was that John Bartlet, a gentleman tenant of Browne's, who entered bond to prosecute the cause on his behalf, had boasted that Browne had £500 to spend on the suit and 'would see who would stand longest.' He had also, allegedly, threatened that Browne 'would have the skinne of Presley afore he had done with him' and leave him 'not worth a groat'. Presley was cited to appear in the Court of Chivalry on 2 December 1637, soon after the offence was committed.Commissioners were nominated by 3 February 1638 and Dr Duck produced Bartlet and Nathaniel Walton, a household servant of Browne's, as prosecution witnesses on 13 February. Sentence was appointed to be heard before Lord Maltravers on 6 November 1638; but both the definitive sentences were left blank which suggests that the case was dismissed without a verdict either way. [Browne's brother Robert was plaintiff in cause 78].

Initial proceedings

13/1r, Citation

Presley was to appear at the suit of Browne for scandalous words provocative of a duel.

Dated 2 December 1637

By the special direction of Gilbert Dethick, registrar.

3/24, Plaintiff's bond

2 December 1637

Bound to appear 'in the Court in the painted Chamber within the Pallace of Westminster'.

Signed by John Bartlett of Maiden Newton, co. Dorset, gent, on behalf of Browne.

Sealed, subscribed and delivered in the presence of Humphrey Terrick.

13/1l, Libel

Browne claimed to be descended from a family long reputed to be gentlemen and including several knights, while Presley's family for all time been reputed plebeians.

Between last October and December in the parishes of St Dunstan-in-the-West, London, and St Andrew's, Holborn, co. Middlesex and in other places nearby, John Browne and William Presley were in the presence of John Page, Master of Chancery, and other gentlemen. Preslie 'gave mee the lye and sayd I lyed, and my man reprehending him for the same, Presly replyed hee could finde in his heart to strike my man in the teeth'. These words were provocation to a duel.

No date.

No signatures.

Plaintiff's case

14/1bb, Defence interrogatories

1. The witnesses were warned of the penalty for perjury and bearing false witness. What was the age, occupation and condition of the witness? Where did they live now and where had they lived previously?

2. Were they related to the parties and if so in what degree? Were they indebted or obliged to either of the parties, and if so for how much?

3. In what place and room, on what day, time of day, name all present and who stood near Presley and who further off?

4. What did Mr Page say to Presley or others at the time the words in the libel were spoken; or was he silent or unheeding?

5. Whether John Bartlet had entered a bond for prosecuting the cause on Browne's behalf; and whether he served the process on Presley for Presley's appearance 'by retaining or instructing counsayle or otherwise'?

6. Whether since the beginning of the suit, Bartlet had said that Browne had £500 to spend on the suit against Presley 'and that he would see who would stand longest... and that Browne would have the skinne of Presley afore he had done with him'?

7. Had Bartlet said that he had heard Browne say that he would leave Presley 'not worth a groate afore he had done with him'?

8. Was Bartlet a tenant or farmer under Browne, 'of what land or tenements and upon what rent reserved'?

9. Was the witness Nathaniel Walton a household servant to Browne 'and weareth his liverie, and receiveth yearlie wages from him, and how much'? What means had Walton to live upon besides this service?

10. Had the witness deposed of his own knowledge?

No date.

Signed by Thomas Eden.

Sentence / Arbitration

18/3f, Plaintiff sentence

The spaces for sums for damages, expenses and tax to be filled in had been left blank.

Dated 6 November 1638.

Signed by Arthur Duck.

18/3j, Defence sentence

Lines scored through text where the sums should have been entered, and spaces left blank.

Dated 6 November 1638.

Signed by Thomas Eden and Lord Maltravers.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Duck acted as counsel for Browne and Dr Eden for Presley. On 27 January 1638 Dr Duck presented the libel and Presley was to appear in response to a summons where he acknowledged a bond of £100. Commissioners were nominated by 3 February and on 13 February Dr Duck produced John Bartlet and Nathaniel Walton as prosecution witnesses. Sentence was appointed to be heard before Lord Maltravers on 6 November 1638.


John Browne of Frampton, co. Dorset, esq (1580-1659), was the son of Sir John Browne of Frampton (d.1627), a vice admiral who had died on the expedition to the Isle de Rhé. His mother was Jane, daughter of Sir Henry Portman of Orchard Portman, co. Somerset. He studied at Magdalen College, Oxford, and the Middle Temple. In 1607 at Charminster, co. Dorset, he married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir George Trenchard. He was M.P. for Bridport, co. Dorset, in 1621 and high sheriff of Dorset in 1632. He was a ship money refuser in 1636 and M.P. for Dorset in the Long Parliament. He was an active parliamentarian committee man and was named a commissioner for the trial of Charles I, although he did not sign the death warrant. He was elder brother to Robert Browne of Taunton Castle, in Bishop's Hull, co. Somerset [see cause 78].

G. D. Squibb (ed.), The Visitation of Dorset, 1677 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 117, 1977), p. 8; M. F. Keeler, The Long Parliament, 1640-1641: A Biographical Study of Its Members (Philadelphia, 1954), pp. 118-119.


  • Initial proceedings
    • Citation: 13/1r (2 Dec 1637)
    • Plaintiff's bond: 3/24 (2 Dec 1637)
    • Libel: 13/1l (no date)
  • Plaintiff's case
    • Defence interrogatories: 14/1bb (no date)
  • Sentence / Arbitration
    • Plaintiff sentence: 18/3f (6 Nov 1638)
    • Defence sentence: 18/3j (6 Nov 1638)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 1/5, fos. 1-15 (27 Jan 1638)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 1/5, fos. 23-35 (3 Feb 1638)
    • Proceedings before Marten: 1/5 (13 Feb 1638)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: R.19, fos. 434r-449v (20 Oct 1638)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: R.19, fos. 454r-468v (6 Nov 1638)

People mentioned in the case

  • Bartlet, John, gent (also Bartlett)
  • Browne, John, esq (also Brown)
  • Browne, John, knight (also Brown)
  • Dethick, Gilbert, registrar
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Eden, Thomas, lawyer
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Marten, Henry, knight
  • Page, John, lawyer
  • Portman, Henry, knight
  • Portman, Jane
  • Presley, William, yeoman
  • Stuart, Charles I, king
  • Terrick, Humphrey
  • Trenchard, Elizabeth
  • Trenchard, George, knight
  • Walton, Nathaniel, servant

Places mentioned in the case

  • Dorset
    • Bridport
    • Charminster
    • Frampton
    • Maiden Newton
    • Up Sydling
  • France
    • Isle de Rhé
  • London
    • Middle Temple
    • St Dunstan-in-the-West
  • Middlesex
    • St Andrew, Holborn
  • Oxford
    • Magdalen College
  • Somerset
    • Orchard Portman

Topics of the case

  • apparel
  • Court of Chancery
  • giving the lie
  • high sheriff
  • inns of court
  • livery
  • Long Parliament
  • member of parliament
  • military officer
  • office-holding
  • other courts
  • parliamentarian
  • ship money
  • taxation
  • threatened violence