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August 10, 1610, being the mother of three sons and two daughters.
From this chequered story we pass to a circumstance related of the same family which bears out the curious reasoning upon which Sir Henry Spelman wrote in his History of Sacrilege in the year 1632,—namely, that all those families who took or had church property presented to them, came, either in their own persons or those of their ancestors, to sorrow and misfortune.'
One of the many curious occurrences relating to Sir Anthony Browne was sent some years since to Notes and Queries, being communicated in a letter to the Editor of that periodical by a clergyman of Easebourne, near to the famous Cowdray Castle, the principal seat of the Montagues. It stated, that at the great festival given in the magnificent hall of the monks at Battle Abbey, on Sir Anthony Browne taking possession of his sovereign’s munificent gift of that estate, a venerable monk stalked up the hall to the dais, where the worthy knight sat, and in prophetic language denounced him and his posterity for the crime of usurping the possessions of the church, predicting their destruction by fire and water, which fate was eventually fulfilled. The last viscount but one, just before the termination of the eighteenth century (1793), was drowned in an unsuccessful attempt to pass the Falls of Schaffhausen on the Rhine, accompanied by Mr. Sedley Burdett, the elder brother of the late distinguished Sir Francis. They had engaged an open boat to take them through the rapids, and had appointed six o'clock on the following morning to make their voyage ; but the fact coming to the knowledge of the authorities, they took measures to prevent so very dangerous an enterprise. They resolved, however, to carry out their project, regardless of all its perils; and in this spirit they decided on starting two hours earlier than the time previously fixed, namely at four o'clock in the morning instead of at six, the season of the year being early summer. They commenced their descent accordingly, and successfully passed the first or upper fall; but unhappily the same good fortune did not continue to attend them, as the boat was swamped and sunk in passing the lower fall, and was supposed to have been jammed in a cleft of the submerged rock, as neither boat nor adventurers ever again appeared. In the same week as that in which this calamity occurred, the ancient seat of the family, Cowdray Castle, was destroyed by fire, and its venerable ruins still stand at Easebourne—the significant monument, at once of the fulfilment of the old monk's prophecy, and of the extinction of the race of the great and powerful noble.
The last inheritor of the title—the immediate successor and cousin of the ill-fated young nobleman of Schaffhausen, Anthony Browne, the last Viscount Montague, who died at the opening of this century-left no male issue ; but his estates, so far as he could alienate them from the title, devolved on his only daughter, who intermarried with Mr. Stephen Poyntz, a great Buckinghamshire landholder and a member of the Legislature, who, from his local importance,
was desirous of obtaining a grant of the dormant title • Viscount Montague’ in favour of the elder of his two sons, issue of this marriage ; he was a very large contributor to the then 'Loyalty Loan,' and through his family connections, he was sanguine of success. His hopes, however, were suddenly and painfully destroyed by the deaths of the two boys, his only male issue, who were drowned together while bathing at Bognor, in the seventeenth and nineteenth years of their respective ages; the fatal ‘water' thus becoming again the means in fulfilment, as it were, of
, the monk's terrible denunciation on the family in his fearful curse! As if, too, Time had identified himself with the fate involving their doom, the most indefatigable efforts of those who have considered themselves collaterals have been frustrated in their attempts to draw evidence from the shadowy past ;' for although they have been most energetic 'tomb-searchers,' yet they have now nearly abandoned their efforts to lift successfully the shroud that Time has cast' over the scattered records of their ill-fated race.
The obscurity of the present gradually darkens as years roll on; and the proofs which now demonstrate thinly,' decline to their extinction, and appear to be verifying the doom which the monk of old foreshadowed ; for this once proud family of other days is rapidly becoming altogether lost in the mists of obscurity. It once occupied the highest position in the land ; whereas its honours are now only remembered in the ruins of its ancestral houses, leaving it for the wandering antiquary to bring them once more to light,
by the tower and the tomb to read a few records of their former greatness, and in the melancholy yet truthful strains of the poet to exclaim :
• Out upon Time! who for ever will leave
It may be interesting to add, that the name of Browne is not derived, as believed, from the colour brown, but boasts of a much higher origin : it is now well understood to be taken from the name of an office or position of dig. nity allied to chieftainship, which in a Scandinavian form is known as “brân," or "brin," and which was, with the numerous tribes of the north-west of Europe, the title of the chieftain or head of the clan. From this may possibly have come the French Brun, from which we get easily enough Brown and Browne.
“The family of Browne was no doubt derived from the Normans; for on the Roll of Battle Abbey, amongst others, occurs the name of Browne. On Stow's “auncient Role," which he received from “Master Thomas Scriven,” as containing the surnames of the “chefe noblemen and gentlemen which came into England with William the Conqueror," the name does not appear, although that of Montague occurs on both lists or rolls. The original Roll is said to
have perished in the great fire at Cowdray, whither Sir Anthony or his successors had carried it from Battle Abbey. Of all the copies of this famous deed, that of Leland, made in Henry VIII's reign, is generally thought to be the most reliable, as the monks, no doubt to gratify the pride of some of the great families, falsified and Frenchified names on the so-called copies they made of the Roll; but Leland copied his from the Roll itself, and states in notes to his copy
that some particular marks are the same in the original.'
The above narrative has been selected and abridged from an interesting paper contributed by Mr. George R. Wright, F.S.A., to the Journal of the British Archeological Association, 1867.