BOWYER, Robert II (d.1622), of London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

s. of William Bowyer II by Anne or Agnes, da. of Sir John Harcourt of Stanton Harcourt, Oxon., wid. of John Knyvet of Ashwellthorpe, Norf. educ. ?Oxf., BA 1579; Clifford’s Inn; M. Temple 1580, called 1589. unm.

Offices Held

Sec. to Lord Buckhurst (Earl of Dorset 1604) by 1599-c.1607; keeper of recs. in the Tower 1604; clerk of the Parliaments from 1610.2


Between 1594 and 1597 Bowyer made several attempts to become clerk of the Parliaments, through the influence of Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, who canvassed Sir Robert Cecil on his behalf. Bowyer himself petitioned the Queen and offered the former clerk ‘something for the transfer’. Thomas Smith, who was also after the post, wrote to Cecil:

I think there is or will be one Bowyer, a suitor for the place by means of my Lord of Buckhurst, who may be well worthy, perhaps, of some other and greater preferment, but I may be bold to say (without any ill affection to the man), that he is not fit for this place, by reason of a great imperfection he hath in his speech.

Smith obtained the post and Bowyer had to remain satisfied with the reversion until it fell in in 1610.3

Meanwhile Bowyer became secretary to Lord Buckhurst, which explains his return to Parliament for Steyning in 1601. On 12 Dec. there was a close division on the bill for more diligent church attendance, resulting in its rejection by one vote. Then, D’Ewes writes,

Mr. Bowyer, secretary to the old lord treasurer Buckhurst, said, Mr. Speaker, I think it not lost, for there hath been foul and great abuse offered in this matter. A gentleman that would willingly go forth according to his conscience was pulled back.

The other side however maintained that one of the noes (Lionel Duckett) had been ‘pulled out’ of the chamber, and at the end of the day, as Cecil put it, ‘lost it is, and farewell it’. The only other mention of Bowyer in the 1601 Parliament was on the penultimate day, when

Mr. Bowyer, secretary to the lord treasurer, sitting in the middle of the House on the left side as you come in, next to Mr. [Edward] Skipwith of Lincoln’s Inn, swooned upon a sudden, and was again recovered within a quarter of an hour. It was said he had a spice of the falling sickness. He was carried forth of the House by the serjeant of the same, and three of his men, into the outer room. It was strange to hear the diversity of opinions touching this accident, some saying it was malum omen, others that it was bonum omen, etc. But as God will, so be it.4

The remainder of Bowyer’s career lies outside the Elizabethan period. Brought into the 1604 Parliament at a by-election 31 Oct. 1605, he left a diary covering his parliamentary and political activities. As Dorset’s secretary and a minor office-holder, he was linked to the ‘Court’ party and was known in Parliament as ‘my Lord Treasurer’s man’. On the other hand he was interested in the history and privileges of the House, and in his will he did his best to ensure the safe custody of ‘the journal books of Parliament remaining in the office of the clerk of the Parliament’. The will was proved by sentence 22 Nov. 1622.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler


This biography is largely based on D. H. Willson, Diary of Robert Bowyer, pp. viii-xii.

  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. W. Berry, Co. Genealogies, Suss. 134-5; Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 62.
  • 3. HMC Hatfield, iv. 467; v 55; vii. 299; CSP Dom. 1595-7, pp. 10, 505, 509.
  • 4. D’Ewes, 683-4, 688.
  • 5. PCC 93 Savile.