The Prophet from Placentia


January 25

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: VA 130-66.3 Placentia from Castle Hill

On January 25, 1824,  Richard Brothers originally from Placentia, Newfoundland died in the home of a family friend in England.  During his life time the Placentia native stirred much controversy gathering about him critics and disciples.

Richard Brothers was born in Placentia,  25 December 1757. His father was a gunner at what we now call Castle Hill

At the age of fourteen he entered the royal navy. He became a  lieutenant with seniority in 1783, he then asked to be discharged.  Brothers, resigned his majesty’s service on the ground that a military life is totally repugnant to Christianity

In September 1787 Brothers went to London. Here he lived very quietly on a vegetarian diet, and worshipped at a baptist chapel.

In 1790 he began to garner the attention of the public, he began his prophetic career by declaring he had a divine mission to announce the fulfillment of the scriptural prophecies in the Book of Daniel (Dan. vii.)

He  is credited with proposing a theory now called the Anglo-Israel theory which maintains that the English and their ethnic kinfolk throughout the world are descended from the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.

Brothers described himself as the “Nephew of the Almighty,” because he considered that he was descended from one of the brothers of Jesus, and claimed that in November 1795, he would be revealed as the “Prince of the Hebrews” and “Ruler of the World”.  When this date passed  he was abandoned by many of his disciples,  despite the fact that some of his earlier political predictions (e.g. the violent death of Louis XVI.) had been fulfilled. Brothers had also proclaimed that as a descendent of King David he was the rightful heir to the British Throne. King George III was not amused; in March, 1795 Brothers was committed to a lunatic asylum.

His ideas continued to flourish even from his hospital cell. He wrote his “Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies” (1794),  “A Description of the New Jerusalem” (1801), and “The New Covenant Between God and His People” (a posthumous work, 1830).

He had many influential disciples. In the British House of Commons, Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, M.P.  was his advocate. William Sharp, the engraver, was so fully persuaded of the claims of Brothers that in 1795 he engraved two plates of his portrait. His most faithful disciples was John Finlayson, he removed Brothers from the lunatic asylum and invited him into his home where he later died.

The believers in Brothers theory are not yet extinct, and those who adopt the Anglo-Israel theory regard him as the earliest writer on their side.

It is likely that descendants of this family are still in the province, children of his brothers and a sister who settled on the Southern Shore of Newfoundland.

Recommended Archival Collection: Archives and Special Collection, Memorial University of  Newfoundland. MF 351. Collection consists of seven images of the likeness of Richard Brothers.

Recommended Web Site:

Recommended Reading: Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies” (1794), A Description of the New Jerusalem” (1801), and “The New Covenant Between God and His People” (a posthumous work, 1830).