BOWES, Robert II (c.1553-1600), of Aske, Yorks. and Streatlam, co. Dur.
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Family and Education
Border commr. 1596.2
The heads of the two main branches of the northern family of Bowes—Sir George of Streatlam, the senior, and his brother Robert I of Aske—were both returned for borough seats in 1571 and 1572, but when Sir George died in 1580 the vacancy in the Commons was supplied from outside the family. Had Sir George’s successor William (knighted in 1586) wished to become a Member when the next Parliament was summoned in 1584 a seat would doubtless have been found for him, but most probably it would have been a borough seat. Possibly he could have sat for Thirsk. There is no evidence one way or the other, yet sufficient is known about William to warrant the supposition that he would not have found Thirsk or any other borough seat acceptable: William of Streatlam, head of the family, could not sit as a burgess while his junior in the family hierarchy, Robert I of Aske, sat as knight of a shire. This consideration, though important to William, was of no consequence to his younger brother, so it is inferred that the Robert who entered the Commons in 1584 was nephew to Robert I, and that the two Roberts were again Members in 1586, when the return of Robert II could have been effected by Robert I since, as Surtees observed, the owner of Aske Hall, only two miles from Richmond, ‘seems always to have commanded some share in the representation of the borough’.3
Robert Bowes II is not known to have contributed to the proceedings of the House. In public affairs he appears only once, as a member of the commission appointed to look into Sir John Forster’s administration of the middle march. Possibly he was the ‘Robert Bowes, armiger’ mentioned by Sir Edward Hoby in his commonplace book. Such little evidence as there is suggests that his family’s lead-mining interests could have been his chief concern. Sir Robert Cecil’s request that Bishop Matthew of Durham would mediate in the long-standing difference between Bowes and a former Scottish ambassador over a deal in lead and a ‘broken bargain’ enabled the bishop in January 1599 to include the following assessment in his reply: ‘Truly, Sir, ... Mr. Bowes himself is a gentleman of such parts, that if your honour saw fit to use him in the Queen’s service in these parts, I am persuaded you would have cause to thank me for commending him to you’.4
Bowes died in the mines at Keswick. Letters of administration were granted to his half-brother Talbot, 19 Sept. 1600.5