Robert Bowes (diplomat)

Robert Bowes (1535?–1597) was an English diplomat, stationed as permanent ambassador to Scotland from 1577 to 1583.

Sir Robert Bowes
Died15 November 1597
Berwick Castle
BuriedBerwick Castle
Spouse(s)Anne Bowes
Eleanor Musgrave
Ralph Bowes
FatherRichard Bowes
MotherElizabeth Aske


Robert Bowes was the fifth but second surviving son of Richard Bowes (d. 10 November 1558) and Elizabeth Aske.[1][2] He had four elder brothers, Ralph, Francis, Sir George (d. 20 August 1580), and Christopher, and seven sisters: Bridget, who married Thomas Hussey, esquire; Anne, who married Marmaduke Vincent, esquire; Muriel, who married John Jackson; Margery, who married the Scottish reformer John Knox; Elizabeth, who married George Bainbrigge; Margaret, who married firstly Thomas Middleton and secondly Ambrose Birkbeck; and Jane.[3]


He was educated at Queens' College, Cambridge.[4] He served under his father in the defence of the borders. In 1569 he was sheriff of the county palatine of Durham, and helped his brother, Sir George Bowes, to hold Barnard Castle against the rebel earls. Afterwards he was sent in command of a troop of horse to protect the west marches. In 1571 he was elected M.P. for Carlisle. In 1575 he was appointed treasurer of Berwick, and in this capacity had many dealings with the Scottish court.

In 1577 he was appointed ambassador in Scotland, where he had difficult tasks to perform: to counteract the influence of France, retain a hold on James VI, keep together a party that was favourable to England, and promote disunion among the Scottish nobles. In 1578 he managed by his tact to compose a quarrel between James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton and the privy council which threatened to plunge Scotland into civil war. In 1581 he was busily employed in endeavouring to counteract the growing influence of Esme Stewart, lord of Aubigné, over James VI. He witnessed the events which led to the raid of Ruthven and D'Aubigné's fall. He tried hard to gain possession of the casket letters, which after Morton's death were said to have come into the hands of John Ruthven, 3rd Earl of Gowrie, but his attempts failed.

He managed to procure his recall in 1583, but he still held the post of treasurer of Berwick, and was often employed on diplomatic missions in Scotland. Like his brother, Sir George, he worked at his own cost, and was rewarded by not much more than royal gratitude. Elizabeth held him at his post, and he died in Berwick on 16 November 1597. The Scottish poet and courtier William Fowler wrote an epitaph with the lines,

And you white Swannes of Thames and Tweide proclame,
Your grieuous losses, and his high desert,
Who both his courses, and his cares did frame,
All dangers from your bankes aye to divert.
He lov'd his Queene and crowne with upright heart,
Postponing private wealth, to publicke weale.[5]

His nephew, William Bowes, became ambassador to Scotland in 1601.

Marriages and issue

He married firstly his first cousin, Anne Bowes, Anne (died c. 1566), the daughter and coheir of Sir George Bowes of Dalden, by whom he had a son, Ralph Bowes (d. 1623).[1]

He married secondly, in 1566, Eleanor Musgrave, daughter of Sir Richard Musgrave of Eden Hall in Cumberland, by whom he had no issue.[1]


  1. McGladdery 2004.
  2. Richardson II 2011, p. 447.
  3. Richardson II 2011, pp. 447-8.
  4. "Bowes, Robert (BWS547R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  5. H. Meikle, ed., Works of William Fowler, STS, p. 7



Further reading

  • Joseph Stevenson (1842), The Correspondence of Robert Bowes, of Aske, Esquire

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.