Lowther, Richard (DNB00)

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LOWTHER, Sir RICHARD (1529–1607), lord warden of the west marches, a member of an old Westmoreland family, traced his descent to Sir Hugh Lowther, attorney-general of Edward I in 1292, and justice itinerant on the north side of Trent, who in 1300 and 1305 represented the shire of Westmoreland in parliament. The first Sir Hugh's successor, also Sir Hugh (d. 1371), married the heiress of Lucie, lord Egremont, and obtained license to make a park in his manor of Lowther. The second Sir Hugh's eldest son, Robert (d. 1430), who contributed in 1401 to the building of the choir of Carlisle Cathedral, was father of Sir Hugh, sheriff of Cumberland, who took part in the battle of Agincourt, and whose grandson, also Sir Hugh, married Anne Threlkeld, half-sister of John, ninth baron Clifford. His son John, captain of Carlisle Castle in 1545, and twice sheriff of Cumberland during the reign of Henry VIII, married Lucy, daughter of Sir Christopher Curwen of Workington, through whom the Lowthers owned some kinship to William Camden the antiquary.

Richard, born in 1529, was grandson of the last-mentioned John, and eldest son of Hugh Lowther (d. 1546?), by his wife Dorothy, daughter of Henry, tenth baron Clifford, the ‘Shepherd Earl’ of Wordsworth's ‘Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle.’ He succeeded to the family estates at Lowther and elsewhere in Westmoreland on his grandfather's death in 1552; was created deputy-warden of the west marches early in Elizabeth's reign, and was knighted and appointed high sheriff of Cumberland in 1565. In the course of her desperate flight to the Solway, after her defeat at Langside, in May 1568, Mary Queen of Scots caused a letter to be despatched to Lowther asking whether he could insure her safety. He returned an evasive answer, promising to learn the pleasure of his sovereign, but he added that if in the meanwhile the Queen of Scots were forced to enter England he would protect her. Sir Walter Scott, in ‘The Abbot,’ sends Lowther to Dundrennan, and makes him accompany the queen in her adventurous voyage across the firth; but this is a deviation from historic accuracy. On the evening of 16 May Mary landed in an open fishing-boat at Workington. The news spread rapidly, and on the next evening Lowther, with an escort of neighbouring gentry, conveyed her to Carlisle Castle. There she held for several days in succession a little court, and received, among others, the Earl of Northumberland, who claimed the custody of her person in right of his office as lord warden, and by authority of the council of York. Lowther refused to resign her, and a violent altercation ensued. Lowther, however, had a band of soldiers to back him, and Mary remained in his hands (Strickland, ii. 93; Cotton. MS. Calig. i. f. 76). A few days later he injudiciously permitted the Duke of Norfolk to hold an interview with the queen. It was probably this indulgence which prompted Mary to make in a letter to Elizabeth (dated from Carlisle 28 May 1568) a grateful mention of the courtesy shown her by Lowther (Labanoff, Recueil des Lettres, ii. 83). But Lowther was heavily fined in the Star-chamber for allowing Norfolk and Mary to meet, and before the end of May he was relieved of the charge of the fugitive by Sir Francis Knollys [q. v.] and Lord Scrope. When, however, the Queen of Scots left Carlisle on 13 July for Bolton Castle, Lowther Hall was chosen by Knollys as her first sleeping-place, ‘for that the house is twenty miles in the land from Carlisle, and standeth farther from the rescue of the Scots than any other house we could have chosen,’ and Mary was deeply touched by the affectionate reverence with which she was treated by the deputy and his family. In the following year Lowther took part in the attempt to place Mary at the head of the ‘rising of the North,’ and orders were consequently issued for the apprehension of his younger brother Gerard. The latter escaped, and in 1570 was the ardent advocate of a scheme for the forcible deliverance of Mary from Tutbury Castle, in which he counted upon Sir Richard's assistance. But the project was not approved by the Duke of Norfolk, under whose perilous guidance the brothers appear to have been working in Mary's behalf. On Norfolk's execution in June 1572, Gerard succeeded in extricating himself, very probably through the influence of his wife, Lucy Dudley, widow of Albany Fetherstonhaugh, and second cousin once removed to Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester. This Gerard, who was a bencher of Lincoln's Inn, was sheriff of Cumberland in 1592, and erected in 1585 a house, now the ‘Two Lions Inn,’ at Penrith.

Sir Richard was sheriff of Cumberland for the second time in 1587, and succeeded Scrope as lord warden in 1591 (cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–80, p. 702). He died on 27 Jan. 1607 at Lowther, where he had kept ‘plentiful hospitality for fifty-seven years together,’ and was buried in the parish church, where there is a monument to him with a full-length effigy (for epitaph see Le Neve, Monum. Anglic. i. 16).

Lowther married Frances, daughter of John Middleton of Middleton, Westmoreland, and had a large family. His eldest surviving son, Christopher (d. 1617), attended James I at Newcastle with ‘a gallant companie from the Scottish border,’ and was knighted on 13 April 1603. By his second wife, Eleanor, daughter of William Musgrave of Hayton Castle, Sir Christopher had issue Sir John, M.P. for Westmoreland in four parliaments (1623–30), who was knighted by Charles I in 1627, and appointed to the council of the north in 1629. This Sir John was great-grandfather of Sir John Lowther, first viscount Lonsdale [q. v.], and was also ancestor of the Lowthers of Swillington [see Lowther, William, third Earl of Lonsdale] and of the Lowthers of Whitehaven.

Sir Richard's fourth son, Sir Gerard Lowther (d. 1624), was a judge of the common pleas in Ireland (12 Oct. 1610), and was knighted 3 May 1618. His godson, also Sir Gerard Lowther (1589–1660), apparently natural son of his brother Christopher, matriculated from Queen's College, Oxford, in 1605, was called to the bar from Gray's Inn in 1614, and was admitted to King's Inns, Dublin, in 1619. Appointed a baron of the exchequer in Ireland by Charles I in 1628, he was knighted in 1631 and promoted chief justice of common pleas in 1634, and was, with Lord-chancellor Bolton, impeached in 1640 for conspiring to subvert the laws and parliament of Ireland. The impeachment was abandoned by order of the king. Lowther subsequently went over to the parliament, presided at the trial of Sir Phelim O'Neill in Feb. 1652 (Hickson, Ireland in the Seventeenth Century), and was in 1654 one of three commissioners of the great seal in Ireland. He died shortly before the Restoration, having acquired a ‘large landed property,’ says Smyth (Law Officers of Ireland, p. 292). He was buried at St. Michans, April 1660. Though twice married he left no issue (Foster. Alumni Oxon.; Household Books of Lord William Howard, Surtees Soc., lxviii. 371, 372, 380; O'Flanaghan, Irish Chancellors, pp. 347–8; Mountmorres, Irish Parl. i. 347–54, ii. 43 and 75).

[Collins's Peerage, 1784, Suppl. p. 342; Wootton's Baronetage; Burke's Extinct Baronetage; Sandford and Townsend's Governing Families of England; Lysons's Magna Brit. iv. 64; Visitation of Cumberland (Harl. Soc.), p. 3; Ferguson's Hist. of Cumberland, 1890, pp. 248–9; ‘Gerard Lowther's House at Penrith’ in Cumberland and Westmoreland Antiq. Soc. Trans. iv. 410; Strickland's Mary Queen of Scots; Anderson's Collections, 1728, iv. 3; Labanoff's Lettres de Marie Stuart, ii. 72–84; Froude's Hist. viii. 332–4.]

T. S.