Bowes, Elizabeth (DNB00)

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BOWES, ELIZABETH (1502?–1568), disciple of John Knox, was the daughter of Roger Aske, of Aske, Yorkshire. Her father died when she was a child, and she and her sister Anne were coheiresses of their father and grandfather. Their wardship was sold in 1510 to Sir Ralph Bowes of Dalden, Streatlam, and South Cowton. In 1521 Elizabeth Aske was betrothed to Richard Bowes, youngest son of Sir Ralph, and the king granted to him special livery of half the lands of William Aske, which he was to receive on his marriage. Richard Bowes, like the rest of his family, was engaged in border business, but seems to have lived chiefly at Aske, where his wife bore him five sons and ten daughters. Two of the sons, George (b. 1527) and Robert (b. 1535), are noticed below. In 1548 Richard Bowes was made captain of Norham. His wife and family followed him northwards and lived in Berwick. Mrs. Bowes was deeply religious and had been much affected by the theological movements of the Reformation period. At Berwick she met John Knox, who took up his abode there in 1549. She fell at once under his influence, and Knox gained the affections of her daughter Marjory. Her husband's family pride was hurt by Knox's proposal to marry his daughter, and he refused his consent. Knox, however, who was about the same age as Mrs. Bowes, contracted himself to Marjory, and adopted Mrs. Bowes as a relative. He wrote to Marjory as 'sister,' and to Mrs. Bowes as 'mother.' In July 1553 he married Marjory Bowes in spite of the opposition of her father and the rest of his family. At this time Knox's fortunes were at a low ebb, as Mary had just ascended the throne. His letters to Mrs. Bowes were intercepted by spies, and in January 1554 he judged it prudent to leave England. His letters to Mrs. Bowes are the chief source of information concerning his doings at this time. In June 1556 Mrs. Bowes and her daughter joined Knox at Geneva, where two sons were born to him. It would seem that the breach in the Bowes family owing to Marjory's marriage was never healed, and that Mrs. Bowes found Knox's counsels so necessary to her spiritual comfort that she left her husband and her other children and followed Marjory's fortunes. In 1558 her husband died, and in 1559 Knox left Geneva for Scotland. He was soon followed by his wife, and Mrs. Bowes after a short stay in England made her way to her son-in-law, who wrote for the queen's permission for her journey (Sadler Papers, i. 456, 479, 509). In 1560 Mrs. Knox died, but her mother still stayed near her son-in-law. She left her own family and adhered to Knox. She died in 1568, and immediately after her death Knox thought it desirable to give some account of this strange intimacy. In the Advertisement to his 'Answer to a Letter of a Jesuit named Tyrie' (1572) he published a letter to Mrs. Bowes, 'to declare to the world what was the cause of our great familiarity, which was neither flesh nor blood, but a troubled conscience on her part which never suffered her to rest but when she was in the company of the faithful. Her company to me was comfortable, but yet it was not without some cross; for besides trouble and fasherie of body sustained for her, my mind was seldom quiet for doing somewhat for the comfort of her troubled conscience.'

[Sharp's Memorials of the Rebellion, 371-2; Surtees's Durham, iv. 114; Knox's letters to Mrs. Bowes are largely quoted in M'Crie's Life of John Knox, and are published in full in Knox's Works (Wodrow Soc. 1854), iii. 337.]

M. C.