BOWES, Sir Jerome (d.1616), of Elford, Staffs. and Hackney, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

s. of Sir John Bowes of Elford by Anne, da. of Richard Huddleston. m. 1562, Jane, da. of Roger Rookwood of Euston, Suff., wid. of James Calthrop of Cockthorp. Kntd. 1570.1

Offices Held

Ambassador to Russia 1583-5; j.p.q. Mdx. by 1601; knight of the canopy at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.


Little is known of the family of Bowes of Staffordshire, although numerous records of their legal transactions were preserved at Elford. According to a nineteenth-century antiquary, they were descended from a sixth son of the family of Bowes of Durham, possibly John Bowes, Speaker of the House of Commons in 1436. Bowes’s father and his elder brother, another Sir John, possessed considerable property in Staffordshire and some in Leicestershire and county Durham. The family seat at Elford was described at the end of the sixteenth century as ‘a goodly seat of a house’.2

Nothing is known of Bowes’s childhood or education. His admission to the Middle Temple in 1606 was presumably honorary. The first we learn of his career is that he was appointed in 1557 to attend Sir Edward Clinton (afterwards 1st Earl of Lincoln) into France. Bowes’s marriage licence, dated 1562, described him as a gentleman in the household of Queen Elizabeth, and he was probably normally at court when not serving in the field. He was one of the captains who served in 1570 under Sir William Drury, general of the forces sent into Scotland. Upon his return he was knighted at Carlisle by the 3rd Earl of Sussex, lord lieutenant of the north. He accompanied Sir Philip Sidney to Heidelberg and Prague early in 1577, then returned to court, whence in the summer he was banished for ‘a slanderous speech of my Lord of Leicester’. His disgrace did not last long: in 1583 he received a grant of crown lands to the annual value of £100, and a year later was appointed ambassador to Russia.3

Bowes is principally remembered on account of this embassy, an enduring subject of tavern talk 80 years later. His commission, describing him as ‘a gentleman of quality of our Household’ and allowing him wide discretionary powers, required him to arrange ‘a sure commerce and intercourse of merchants’, building upon the foundations laid by Anthony Jenkinson. The privileges granted to the English merchants by the Czar, Ivan, were being disputed by the Dutch, who had bought over three of the Czar’s chief councillors, including his chancellor. Bowes was kept waiting on Russian soil for five weeks before being installed in Moscow, where he was well lodged and well treated by Ivan, but not by the chancellor’s faction. The subject of Bowes’s mission raised ‘many jars’ and one day the Czar ‘let loose his passion’, and declared that he did not reckon the Queen of England to be his fellow. Bowes stood up to him, and the Czar ordered him home. His passion cooling, however, Ivan sent a gentleman to apologise to Bowes, and the offending chancellor was given a beating. Ivan now awarded Bowes a colossal diet, questioned him about the religion of England—Bowes was a puritan—discussed the possibility of an English marriage, and granted notable rights and privileges for the English merchants. Before the agreement could be concluded, Ivan died, the beaten chancellor sought his revenge, and Bowes was imprisoned, deprived of his arms and his interpreter, and the agreement cancelled. When at last Bowes got away he left a ‘hurly burly’ behind, but survived to kiss the Queen’s hand at Oatlands and present her with an elk and a brace of reindeer.4

In 1592 Bowes was licensed to make drinking glasses in England and Ireland for 12 years, and took over the Broad Street works of Verzellini, the Italian glassmaker in London. In 1601 Bowes was one of those appointed to examine prisoners held for complicity in the Essex rebellion. Why he entered Parliament so late in life is not clear. His return for Lancaster was no doubt effected by either Sir Robert Cecil or Sir John Fortescue. He was named to a procedural committee (11 Nov.) and a committee on fuel (7 Dec.). Again in the Commons under James I, he made his will on 25 Mar. 1609, appointing Sir Peter Manwood and (Sir) Percival Hart his executors, each of whom received 20 of the gold buttons usually worn by him on a velvet jerkin. He left £10 to each of his servants, £5 to the poor of the parish in which he died, and another £5 to the poor of Elford. He was buried 28 Mar. 1616 in Hackney parish church.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N.M.S.


  • 1. Rylands Eng. ms 311; N. and Q. (ser. 1), xii. 230; Paget, Ashtead Estate, 118-20; Erdeswicks Surv. Staffs. (1717), 163.
  • 2. Paget, 118-20; N. and Q. (ser. 1), x. 348.
  • 3. HMC Hatfield, i. 146; CSP Scot. 1569-71, p. 173; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 58; Add. 1566-79, p. 517; Add. 1580-1625, p. 88.
  • 4. DNB; Pepys Diary, ed. Latham, iii. 188-9. N. and Q. (ser. 1), x. 127-8, 209-10; xii. 109; Hakluyt, Voyages (1903), iii. 310-29.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 179; 1611-18, p. 357; D’Ewes, 635, 669; APC, xxxi. 151; PCC 38 Cope; DNB.