FOWLER, John (by 1520-?75), of London.
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Family and Education
Groom, privy chamber by 1547-59 or later, keeper, Petworth Park, Suss. 1550.2
Sir Richard Fowler, chancellor of the Exchequer and of the duchy of Lancaster under Edward IV, left estates in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire to his heir and namesake, who after getting into difficulties through unlucky business enterprises sought to retrieve his fortunes by taking as his second wife a lord mayor’s daughter. John Fowler was the eldest of the six children of this marriage.3
It is not known how or when Fowler entered the royal household. Although under age when his father died in 1528 he must have reached his majority before February 1541 when he received the wardship of his half-brother Edward Fowler’s heir Gabriel. In view of what was to follow an early connexion with the Seymour brothers would be illuminating, but no trace of one has been discovered: on the evidence it was only when Fowler was already in attendance on Edward VI that he had dealings with Admiral Seymour. According to one of his later depositions these began soon after the accession but increased after Seymour’s marriage to Catherine Parr. He was the intermediary through whom Seymour set out to ingratiate himself with the King, handling the notes and messages which passed between them and distributing the moneys, to a total of £188, which Seymour provided. That Fowler knew what a dangerous game he was playing is clear from his request to Seymour to burn a letter of June 1548, ‘written in haste at St. James’s’, asking for money for the King, who had himself added a note to it. Although his version of the affair, gradually expanded under questioning, is not above suspicion, Fowler was clearly hand-in-glove with Seymour in this attempt to manipulate the King for private ends.4
Fowler was let off lightly. Sent to the Tower on 19 Jan. 1549 for his part in the ‘lord admiral’s conspiracy’, he seems to have been quickly released, probably because neither the King nor Seymour testified damagingly against him. He retained his place in the privy chamber, although probably not his nearness to the King, and his receipt in April 1550 of the keepership of Petworth park, followed during the next three years by grants of land in Berkshire, Dorset, Kent and Sussex, shows that he survived the passing of power from the Protector Somerset to the Duke of Northumberland. It was, too, under Northumberland that Fowler sat in his first Parliament: he probably owed his return for New Shoreham to the 12th Earl of Arundel, whom he had succeeded as keeper of Petworth.5
Fowler was equally successful in surviving the transition, first from Edward VI to Mary, and then from Mary to Elizabeth. In May 1555 he was granted an annuity of £20 for his service in Edward VI’s privy chamber ‘and to the King and Queen’, and it was from Windsor that in July 1557 he had to conduct two horsemen and three footmen to Dover for the French war. With this continued service to the crown Fowler appears to have combined an attachment to the lord warden of the Cinque Ports, Sir Thomas Cheyne, which Cheyne was to remember by a legacy of £20. It was as the warden’s nominee that Fowler sat in the last two Marian Parliaments as a Member successively for Hythe and Winchelsea. His action in voting against a government bill in 1555 is less surprising in a former intimate of Edward VI’s than in a recent entrant to the ranks of crown annuitants, but it evidently did not cost him the regard of Cheyne or, it appears, his place in the Household. This was to be confirmed under Elizabeth and supplemented in 1565 by a valuable grant of property in Dorset. The patent for his annuity was surrendered on 21 Feb. 1567 but he was still living in March 1574 and an administration of 1575 may relate to him.6