78 Browne v Searle

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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Robert Browne of Taunton Castle in Bishop's Hull, co. Somerset, gent v George Searle of St Mary Magdalene, Taunton, co. Somerset, mercer

Michaelmas term, 1638 - October 1639

Figure 78:

Taunton Castle, Somerset, the residence of Robert Browne.


At the mayor's feast at Taunton, Searle, who himself served as mayor of the town, insulted Browne, the son of Sir John Browne of Frampton, Dorset, by saying that he 'was an unworthy man and that the Brownes his ancestors were but shepheards'. Browne's libel was presented by Dr Duck on 21 February 1639, commissioners met to hear witnesses in the vacation following the Hilary term and Browne won the case, with £100 damages and £80 costs. Searle was ordered to make his submission at the next mayor's feast before Browne, those who had witnessed the original affront and twelve others of Browne's choosing. He performed this on 30 September 1639, begging the pardon of Browne and the Court of Chivalry, and promising 'to behave myself ever after towards all the gentry of this kingdome, and in particular to Mr Browne, with all due observance and respect.'

In January 1641 the case was taken up in the Long Parliament. Searle, now MP for Taunton, complained that as well as the damages and costs, and having to make 'an unworthie submission at Taunton', he had incurred costs of £100 in his own defence. [See cause 77 for an action involving Browne's brother as plaintiff].

Sentence / Arbitration

13/3l, Plaintiff's sentence

Plaintiff awarded £100 damages and £80 costs.

Searle had said: 'that George Browne was an unworthy man and that the Brownes his ancestors were but shepheards or words to that effect'.

No date.

Signed by Arthur Duck and Lord Maltravers.

13/3bb, Plaintiff's bill of costs

Michaelmas term, 1638: £6-13s-4d

Hillary term, 1638: £7-5s-0d

Vacation: £18-12s-4d, including £5 for the commissioners

Easter term, 1639: £7-7s-2d

Vacation: £9-16s-8d

Trinity term, 1639: £18-19s-4d

Total: £67-6s-10d

Signed by Arthur Duck.

Taxed at £40.

No date.

Signed by Maltravers.


13/3y, Submission

'Att the Mayor's next feaste in Taunton, in the presence of the same and Robert Browne if he shall thinke fitt, or the like companie before whome the wordes by Searle were spoken, standinge bareheaded in some convenient place, shall with an audible voyce read or after some one readinge unto him say as followeth:

Whereas I George Searle stand convicted by sentence diffinitive given against me in the Court militarie by the right Honorable Henry Lord Maltravers, Lieutenant to Thomas Earl of Arundel & Surrey Earl Marshal of England, to have much abused and vilified in wordes Robert Browne of this towne of Taunton, gent, and amongst other scandalous and disgracefull speeches used of him, to have sayd that hee was an unworthie man and the Brownes his auncestors were but shepheardes or to that effect. I doe hereby humbly confesse that I am hartily sorry for any such rash and unadvised speaking of the sayd wordes of and against Mr Browne whome I doe hereby acknowledge to bee a well deservinge and worthie gentleman, descended of an auncient and worshipful family of gentlemen bearinge armes and the son of Sir John Browne knight. And I doe humbly pray the pardon and forgiveness of the right honorable Henry Lord Maltravers and court militarie and allso of Mr Browne for my such rash and inconsiderate speaking of the wordes which I doe hereby acknowledge to bee false and scandalous and I doe promise to behave myselfe ever hereafter towards all the gentrie of the kingdome, and in perticuler towardes Mr Browne, with all due observance and respect.

George Searle att the next Maiors feast in Taunton in the same or like company as the wordes complained of were spoken, and in the presence of Mr Robert Browne if hee shall think fitt to be there present, and allso of some other persons to be brought thither by Mr Browne, not exceedinge the number of 12, standing bare headed.

Lett the submission be made in manner and forme as aforesaid.'

No date.

Signed by Maltravers.

17/5b, Certificate of submission [damaged]

Copy of the submission as in 13/3y signed by George Searle

'The acknowledgement was made and performed the last day of September by the within named George Searle fully according to the order in the presence of us.'

Signed by:

?H: Hortman?

George Blanchflower

J: Coventrye

Robert ?Wroyardy?

John ?Patner?

Jo: Buckley

George Farewell

William Hill

Roger Hill

John Trowbridge

Henry James

No date but filed under 12 October 1639.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Duck acted as counsel for Browne and Dr Parry for Searle. On 21 February 1639 Dr Duck, acting for Browne, presented the libel before the earl of Arundel and two days later Dr Parry denied it on Searle's behalf.


Robert Browne of Taunton Castle, gent, appeared in the Visitation of Somerset in 1672 as the second son of Sir John Browne of Frampton, co. Dorset, knt (d.1627). He married Elizabeth, daughter of Arthur Fowke of Symondsbury, co. Dorset. He was brother to John Browne of Frampton, M.P.

G. D. Squibb (ed.), The Visitation of Somerset and the City of Bristol, 1672 (Publications of the Harleian Society, new series, 11, 1992), p. 136.

George Searle of Taunton (d. 1658) had served as mayor of Taunton and was M.P. for the borough throughout the Long Parliament. Keeler summarises Searle's defeat in the Earl Marshal's court as having cost him £140 in damages and costs, and £100 in personal expense, as well as making 'an unworthy submission'. During his mayoralty in 1640 he petitioned against the verdict. During the civil wars he was a parliamentarian and a justice of the peace for Somerset. In 1646 he was voted £2500 as compensation for his losses.

M. F. Keeler, The Long Parliament, 1640-1641: A Biographical Dictionary of its Members (Philadelphia, 1954), p. 336.

This case was mentioned in the journal of Sir Simonds D'Ewes on 6 January 1640/1:

'Divers of the committee touching the Court of Honour and Heralds of which I was mett in the starrechamber ner upon three of the clocke; in the afternoone. And wee had in agitation before us the complaint of Mr. George Serle of Tanton in the Countie of Somerset now a member of the Howse of Commons, that for wordes spoaken to one Mr. Robert Browne a yonger sonnne of Sir John Browne knight and of his wife the daughter of Sir Henrie Portman, viz. that his ancestors had been sheapheards or sheepe masters, hee was adiudged to pay in the Marshals Court or militarie Court an 100£ damages and 40£ costs, and to make an unworthie submission at Taunton before divers persons: and it cost him besides an 100£ moore in the defence of himselfe during the saied suite. It was expected that Dr. Ducke or some other would have been present to have defended the iurisdiction of the saied Court: some alleged after some six weekes given ther to search, they could not yet finde such recordes as might prove the saied iurisdiction. I saied I durst confidentlie averre that they might search long enough ere they found anye such, and that ther was no record in England, which did warrant the proceedings of that court as they were now practiced. Soe it was at last agreed to supersede all further proceedings till Mr. Browne might have notice to make his defence. And soe the Committee adiourned itselfe.'

Wallace Notestein (ed.), The Journal of Sir Simonds D'Ewes from the beginning of the Long Parliament to the opening of the trial of the earl of Strafford (New Haven and London, 1923), pp. 226-7.


  • Sentence / Arbitration
    • Plaintiff sentence: 13/3l (no date)
    • Plaintiff's bill of costs: 13/3bb (Tri 1639)
  • Submission
    • Submission: 13/3y (no date)
    • Certificate of submission: 17/5b (12 Oct 1639)
  • Proceedings

People mentioned in the case

  • Dorset
    • Frampton
    • Symondsbury
  • Somerset
    • Bishop's Hull
    • Taunton Castle
    • Taunton

Topics of the case

  • allegation of plebeian status
  • civil war
  • denial of gentility
  • festival
  • justice of the peace
  • Long Parliament
  • mayor
  • parliamentarian