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Sir Jerome Bowes
English Ambassador to Russia
In office
Member of Parliament for Lancaster
In office
Member of Parliament for Reading
In office

Sir Jerome Bowes (died 1616) was an English ambassador to Russia and Member of Parliament in England.

Early life

He was born into a Durham family, the son of John Bowes, and his wife Ann, née Gunville, whose family were from Gorleston, then in Suffolk. His name is included in the list of the gentlemen who followed Edward Clinton, to France, on his expedition to avenge the fall of Calais. It has been inferred from a casual mention of him by John Stowe that he was a client of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester in 1571, but he was banished from court six years later for slanderous speech against him.[1]

Diplomatic mission to Russia

Bowes was restored to favour, and in 1583 was appointed ambassador to Russia. Fedor Pisemsky had travelled to England in 1581, and the diplomatic background included trade matters, and a proposed marriage of Ivan IV of Russia to Lady Mary Hastings, daughter of Francis Hastings, 2nd Earl of Huntingdon. In June 1583 Bowes set sail with Pisemsky for Russia, on what turned out to be a fruitless mission.[2] John Milton, in his Brief History of Moscovia, gives an account of this embassy, taken from Richard Hakluyt. There are some additional anecdotes recorded in Samuel Pepys's Diary, told to him by a group of customs officers in 1662, eighty years after the event, and in Samuel Collins's Present State of Russia (1671).[1]

In Collins' account Ivan IV of Russia is said to have nailed the French ambassador's hat to his head. Bowes at his next audience put on his hat, and the tsar threatened him with the like punishment. Bowes replied that he did not represent the cowardly king of France, but the invincible queen of England, "who does not vail her bonnet nor bare her head to any prince living". The tsar commended his bravery and took him into favour. Bowes is also said to have tamed a wild horse so effectually that the animal fell dead under him. Milton describes the pomp of the reception and how the ambassador refused to submit to etiquette and put the letters into the hands of the chancellor, insisting upon his right to give them to the emperor himself. The tsar, irritated by the assertion of Elizabeth's equality with the French and Spanish kings, lost patience when Bowes, to his question "what of the emperor?" replied that her father, Henry VIII, had the Holy Roman Emperor in his pay. Ivan hinted that Bowes might be thrown out of the window, to which Bowes replied that the queen would know how to revenge any injury done to her ambassador. Ivan's anger gave place to admiration, and he again raised the possibility of a marriage to one of the queen's relatives. But he died soon after, and with his successor, Feodor I, the anti-English Dutch faction came into power.[1]

Alfred Nicolas Rambaud, in his History of Russia, blamed Bowes for clumsiness and lack of tact. The ambassador was imprisoned, threatened, and at last dismissed by Feodor. When ready to embark he sent back the new tsar's letters and "paltry present".[1]

Later years

There is only fragmentary evidence for Bowes' subsequent activities. In a report by the lord chief baron of the exchequer he appears in a discreditable light, as having fraudulently dealt with a will under which he claimed (the record is undated, but assigned to 1587 in the Calendar of State Papers, Domestic). On 5 February 1592 a special licence was granted him to make drinking-glasses in England and Ireland for twelve years;[1] his will indicates that he later renewed the licence.[3] In 1597 the parishioners of St Ann Blackfriars built, at their own cost a warehouse for his use, beneath an extension to their church, on land which they had purchased but on which he held the lease. They also paid him £133.[4] He was elected to parliament in 1601 for Lancaster and 1604 for Reading.[5]

By 1599 he was living at Charing Cross, where, in 1607 his house was robbed in a well-documented case, in which a female servant was murdered.[3][6] Bowes was buried on 28 March 1616 in Hackney Church. A portrait of him, painted in the year of his embassy, is in the Suffolk Collection.[1]


In his retirement from court he translated from the French an Apology for the Christians of France ... of the reformed religion (1579).[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Browne, Richard Charles (1886). "Bowes, Jerome". In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 6. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  2. ^ Isabel De Madariaga, Ivan the Terrible (2006), p. 344 and p. 348.
  3. ^ a b "The passage from Charing Cross to Spring Gardens". Survey of London: volume 16: St Martin-in-the-Fields I: Charing Cross. 1935. pp. 111–113. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  4. ^ Newcourt, Richard (1708). Repetorium Ecclesiasticum Parochiale Londinense. Vol. 1. London. p. 279.
  5. ^ [1], Lancashire and Cheshire Historical and genealogical notes, p. 49, Retrieved 2 Oct 2009.
  6. ^ An account was published as A true report of the horrible Murther which was committed in the house of Sir Ierome Bowes, Knight (1607)


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainBrowne, Richard Charles (1886). "Bowes, Jerome". In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 6. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

External links

  • Hutchinson, John (1902). "Bowes, Sir Jerome" . A catalogue of notable Middle Templars, with brief biographical notices (1 ed.). Canterbury: the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple. pp. 25–26.

6 Annotations

First Reading

Pauline  •  Link

Interesting entwinings
(and the amazing information we have access to in the Internet age)
from the Folger Shakespeare Library
Bacon-Townshend Collection, 1550-1640
Document (letter):

Bowes, Sir Jerome. Agreement between Anthony Stretley (deputy of Lady Jane Bowes) and Farmer (Jerome) Pepys (deputy to the deputy of Sir Jerome Bowes). April 10, 1575.

Pauline  •  Link

Jerome Pepys, 1548-1634
Grandfather of Sam's beloved "cousin" Jane Turner.

Claire Tomalin's bigraphy of Samuel Pepys has a good family tree.

language hat  •  Link

From the Oxford DNB:

In June 1583 Bowes was appointed Elizabeth's ambassador to Ivan IV, tsar of Russia. The apocryphal stories about this mission survived until the end of the seventeenth century and references to them can be found in a number of treatises on Russian history published in London between 1671 and 1699, as well as in Samuel Pepys's diary. In these stories Bowes appears as a valiant subject of the queen who fearlessly defended his sovereign before Ivan the Terrible. His irascibility was admired by the tempestuous Russian tsar who, after many a stormy scene, finally satisfied all the demands presented by the ambassador. Bowes himself had always insisted that the collapse of his mission was brought about by the death of Ivan. This understanding of his mission to Moscow became accepted even at the time although the Muscovy Company, on whose behalf it was undertaken, constantly accused Bowes of mishandling the negotiations. Neither he, nor the company, nor later historians were correct in their interpretation of affairs. Bowes was given the impossible task of procuring the most advantageous trading privileges for the English without giving the tsar anything in return. During the negotiations which lasted from 18 October 1583 until 17 February 1584, Bowes had fourteen audiences with Ivan and his ministers. Termed a plenipotentiary ambassador in the queen's letter, he had no power to conclude anything and was instructed to take away from the tsar even that little which had been given to him during the preceding negotiations with the Russian ambassador in London. He had to bluff his way through the negotiations, which he also sustained by that 'want of temperance' so deplored by the company. On 14 February 1584 he was dismissed by Ivan with these words: 'Since you came to us with nothing, we will send you back with what you brought us.' Bowes was given an official leave on 17 February by the tsar's councillors. Thus his mission was finished a month before Ivan's death on 19 March. Bowes was caught in the turmoil which took place in Moscow after the tsar's death. His relations with Ivan's councillors were extremely strained during the negotiations. Bowes's continuous accusations that they were hampering the talks brought Ivan's wrath on several of them. After the tsar's death, Bowes was placed under house arrest and stood in real fear of his life for some six weeks before he was finally allowed to depart.

(From Nix’s comment on 6 Sep 2005)

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

BOWES, Sir JEROME (d.1616), ambassador; temporarily banished from court for slandering Earl of Leicester, 1577; ambassador to Russia, 1583; dismissed after death of the Czar Ivanvasilovitch; translated from French an 'Apology for Christians of France,' 1579.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.


  • Sep