BRADY, Robert (c.1627-1700), of Caius College, Cambridge.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

b. c.1627, yr. s. of Thomas Brady, attorney, of Denver, Norf. by Mary, da. of Thomas Whick of West Walton, Norf. educ. Downham g.s. (Mr Gilbert) c.1642-4; Caius, Camb. 1644, BA 1648, BM 1653, MD Sept. 1660. m. Jane (bur. 6 Mar. 1680), da. and coh. of Luke Constable, attorney, of Swaffham, Norf., s.p.1

Offices Held

Master of Caius Dec. 1660-d., commr. for assessment, Cambridge and Cambridge Univ. 1661-3, 1679-80; regius prof. of physic, Cambridge 1677-d.; j.p. Mdx. and Westminster 1687-9.

FRCP 1680-d., physician in ordinary 1682-Dec. 1688; keeper of the records 1686-9.2


Brady, the son of a prosperous fenland attorney, was an undergraduate at Caius during the Civil War. His brother was hanged as a Royalist in 1650, and he himself fled to Holland. He returned to Cambridge in 1653, practised as a physician and assisted unofficially in the affairs of the college, though he is also said to have assisted the Norfolk Royalists ‘in many services tending to his Majesty’s restoration’. He was created MD by royal mandate in September 1660, and became master of his college three months later. It is not known when he began the historical studies which constitute his greatest achievement, but in April 1675 he wrote to (Sir) Joseph Williamson that he was planning a history of England which would ‘beget in far the greater and most considerable part of the people a cheerful submission and obedience, as also a firm adherence to the present Government’. This monumental task was to occupy him for the rest of his life. A pioneer of historical research and method, Brady was ‘impatient of abstract theories which could not be justified by the detailed evidence’, and he was particularly severe on the constitutional myths invented by Sir Edward Coke. In essence his works are designed to prove the subjection of Parliament to the prerogative. He took an active part in the Norfolk election of May 1679, and was proposed as a candidate for the university, but withdrew in favour of Sir William Temple. When William Petyt, reputedly the most learned of Whig scholars, defended the antiquity of Parliament in The Ancient Rights of the Commons of England, Brady replied in A Full and Clear Answer. This was published, probably by design, on the eve of the Oxford Parliament, to which he was returned for the university. Appointed only to the committee of elections and privileges his inactivity is not surprising, since his writings in support of absolutism were anathema to the Opposition. He wisely made no move when Sir William Jones referred to

the design some men have to depress the honour of this House. A book has been written by a Member of this House, which in time I hope you will consider of, that the House of Commons in Henry III’s time sprang out of rebellion.

According to Anthony à Wood, had the session lasted longer, the House would have ordered Brady’s book to be burnt. Later in 1681, he published A True and Exact History of Succession, expanding his theories on hereditary monarchy.3

In 1682 Brady was rewarded with the post of court physician, but he continued his historical research with constant use of the Tower records. As a Middlesex j.p. he examined one of the minor figures in the Rye House Plot. Re-elected in 1685, Brady was a moderately active Member of James II’s Parliament, being appointed to seven committees, including those to recommend expunctions from the Journals, to inspect the accounts of the disbandment commissioners, and to bring in a clause to forbid resolutions altering the succession. The first volume of his History of England, dedicated to James II, appeared in the same year. He superseded Sir Algernon May as keeper of the Tower records at a salary of £300 p.a., his appointment being confirmed in 1686, and in the following year he visited Oxford with the King when James made his attempt to force a Roman Catholic President on Magdalen College, and assisted in supplying precedents for the official account. As a court physician, he was one of those who certified the birth of the Prince of Wales on 22 Oct. 1688. In December, at the instance of the Bishop of Ely, he went to Rochester to dissuade James from flight.4

After the Revolution, Brady was ordered to deliver up the Tower records to Petyt. It was thought that he might stand again in 1690, but he did not do so. In Oct. 1691 he certified that he and all the fellows of Caius had taken the oath of allegiance. Brady died on 19 Aug. 1700, aged 73, and was buried at Denver, leaving books, land and money to his college.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: E. R. Edwards / Geoffrey Jaggar


This biography is based on G. A. Pocock, ‘Robert Brady’, in Camb. Hist. Jnl. x. 186-204.

  • 1. Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. lxxxv), 31; Q. Sess. Order Bk. (Norf. Rec. Soc. xxvi), 5.
  • 2. J. Venn, Gonville and Caius, i. 351; CSP Dom. 1682, pp. 546, 547; 1685, p. 309; 1686-7, p. 147.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1671, p. 78; 1675, pp. 53-54; Blomefield, Norf. iii. 399-400; Venn, i. 351; D. C. Douglas, English Scholars, 125, 131, Grey, viii. 306; Wood’s Life and Times (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxi) 533; Works of Sir Thomas Browne ed. Wilkin, i. 241.
  • 4. CSP Dom. July-Sept. 1683, pp. 350, 351, 365; 1684-5, pp. 22-23; 1687-9, p. 327; Poems on Affairs of State, iv. 271, Clarke, Jas. II, ii. 270.
  • 5. HMC Dartmouth, i. 253; Blomefield, vii. 318.