Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bowes, Robert (1495?-1554)
BOWES, Sir ROBERT (1495?–1554), military commander and lawyer, son of Sir Ralph Bowes and Marjory Conyers of South Cowton, Yorkshire, studied law in his early years, but his ancestral connection with the borders marked him out for employment in border affairs, where he did active service. In 1536 he was in the royal army against the Pilgrimage of Grace, and carried to the king the petition of the rebels. In 1541 he was specially summoned to London to advise the privy council about Scottish business. In 1542 he accompanied the Duke of Norfolk on his plundering raid into Scotland, and was sent with 3,000 men to harry Jedburgh. He was attacked on his way and was made prisoner, but soon released. In 1550 he was made warden of the east and middle marches, and in this office left a valuable record of his administrative capacity. At the request of the warden general, Henry, marquis of Dorset, he drew up 'A Book of the State of the Frontiers and Marches betwixt England and Scotland.' This record is the chief authority for the state of the border country in the sixteenth century. It describes the nature of the land, its military organisation, the condition of the fortresses, the number of the garrisons, and besides gives much information about the character of the borderers. As Bowes was a lawyer as well as a soldier, he added to his survey of the country a legal treatise on the administration of the complicated system of international law by which disputes between the borderers of England and Scotland were settled. His treatise of 'The Forme and Order of a Day of Truce' explains the formalities to be used in the execution of justice in the combined court of the wardens of England and Scotland. We are not surprised that a man of such powers of administration was needed for weighty matters. In June 1551 he was one of the commissioners appointed to make a convention with Scotland. In the following September he was made a member of the privy council, and next year he was appointed master of the rolls. His signature is affixed as one of the witnesses of Edward VI's will, and he was a member of the short-lived council of the Lady Jane Grey. The council soon found its position to be impossible. On 19 July 1553 Bowes signed a letter to Lord Rich on Jane's behalf. On 20 July he signed an order to the Duke of Northumberland bidding him disarm (Queen Jane and Queen Mary, Camd. Soc. 1851, p. 109). On the accession of Queen Mary Bowes was not disgraced. He held office as master of the rolls for two months, and then resigned of his own accord. In 1554 he was ordered by the privy council to repair to Berwick and assist Lord Conyers in organising the defences of the border, and received from the queen a grant of 100l. Soon after his return from this duty he died. He married Alice, daughter of Sir James Metcalfe of Nappa, near Richmond, but left no surviving children.
Bowes's 'Survey of the Border' is printed in Hodgson's 'Northumberland,' ii. pt. v. 171, &c., where, besides the survey of 1551, there is given in the note an earlier one of 1542 made by Bowes and Sir Ralph Elleker. The latter one is more detailed and is more full of interest. It is also printed in 'Reprints of Rare Tracts,' vol. iv. Newcastle, 1849, and in a private issue of the Border Club, 1838. The 'Form of Holding a Day of Truce' is partially printed in the same issue of the Border Club, and extracts are given in Raine's 'North Durham,' xxii. There are three manuscripts, one in the Record Office (State Papers Edward VI, iv. No. 30), and two in the British Museum (Caligula B. viii. f. 106, and Titus F. xiii. f. 160). The last is most perfect.
[Foss's Judges of England, v. 354; Sharp's Memorials of the Rebellion, 370; Surtees's Durham, iv. 112.]