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John Bowes-Lyon death notice in the Times, 11 Feb. 1930

John Herbert "Jock" Bowes-Lyon (1 April 1886 – 7 February 1930), was the second son of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and the Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne, the favourite brother [1] of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (the future Queen Elizabeth and later the Queen Mother). He was an uncle to Queen Elizabeth II, although he died when she was a small child.

Personal life

Jock Bowes-Lyon was educated at Oxford University where he played first-class cricket for the university side in three matches in 1906 and 1907, playing as a fast-medium bowler.[2]

On 29 September 1914, John married The Honourable Fenella Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis (19 August 1889 – 19 July 1966), the younger daughter of Charles Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis, 21st Baron Clinton. They had five children, all girls:

  • Patricia Bowes-Lyon (6 July 1916 – 18 June 1917), died in infancy
  • Anne Ferelith Fenella Bowes-Lyon (4 December 1917 – 26 September 1980)
  • Nerissa Jane Irene Bowes-Lyon (18 February 1919 – 22 January 1986)
  • Diana Cinderella Mildred Bowes-Lyon (14 December 1923 – 1986) m. Peter Gordon Colin Somervell. Their daughter Katherine (b. 1961) is a god-daughter of Queen Elizabeth II.[3]
  • Katherine Bowes-Lyon (born 4 July 1926)

Before the outbreak of World War I, John worked as a stockbroker in the City of London for the firm Rowe and Pitman.[1] In 1915, he was posted with the Black Watch and just prior to the Battle of Aubers Ridge that year, he accidentally shot himself in his left forefinger. It was amputated the following day and while receiving treatment in the UK, he admitting having experienced a nervous breakdown in 1912 and also suffered from neurasthenia. Late that year, he was posted to the Ministry of Munitions and then in the Territorial Army in 1916. After the war, he was twice threatened with courts-martial after having failed to show on parade for demobilisation and later returned to his job in the City.

Jock died at the family home of Glamis Castle just after midnight on the morning of 7 February 1930 of pneumonia, aged 44, leaving his widow to care for their four young children alone. (Two of them, Nerissa and Katherine, were severely mentally disabled.[4]) Three days later he was buried at St Paul's Walden Bury.[5]

His widow was a leading guest at the 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. [6]

Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon

Royal Earlswood Hospital c.1854

Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon are two of the daughters of John Herbert Bowes-Lyon and his wife Fenella (née Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis). As John was the brother of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon the Queen Mother, the two daughters are first cousins of Queen Elizabeth II, sharing one pair of grandparents, Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and Nina Bowes-Lyon, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne.[7]

In 1987, it was revealed that Nerissa and Katherine had been placed in Earlswood Hospital for the mentally disabled in 1941. Although Nerissa died in 1986, and Katherine is still alive (as of 2012), both had been listed in Burke's Peerage as being dead since the 1963 edition.[8] Suggestions of a royal cover-up were rejected in the press by Lord Clinton, who thought that his aunt Fenella (the mother of the two daughters) had completed the form for Burke's Peerage incorrectly due to 'vagueness'; however, Burke's Peerage included specific dates of death for both sisters.[9] According to a 2011 television documentary about the sisters, "throughout their time at the hospital, there is no known record that the sisters were ever visited by any member of the Bowes-Lyon or royal families, despite their aunt, the Queen Mother, being a Patron of MENCAP" (the charity for people with a learning disability). Nurses interviewed on the documentary said that, to their knowledge, the family never even sent the sisters a birthday or Christmas gift or card. When Nerissa died in 1986, none of her family attended the funeral. She was buried at Redhill Cemetery.[10] Her grave was only marked with plastic tags and a serial number until her existence was revealed in the media, after which the family added a proper gravestone.[9][11][12][13]

Three other mentally disabled cousins also lived in Earlswood Hospital. Harriet Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis (1887–1958), sister of Nerissa and Katherine's mother Fenella, married Major Henry Nevile Fane, and 3 of their 7 children lived in Earlswood Hospital: Idonea Elizabeth Fane (1912–2002), Rosemary Jean Fane (1914-1972), and Ethelreda Flavia Fane (1922–1996).[14] Prof. David Danks, then director of the Murdoch Institute,[15] thought that a genetic disease may have killed male members of the family in early childhood.[16] In 1996 the surviving cousins were moved to Ketwin House care home in Surrey;[17] when it closed in 2001, they were moved to another care home in Surrey.[10]



  1. 1.0 1.1 Andrew Morton, "Theirs is the kingdom: the wealth of the British royal family", Publisher Summit Books, 1989, page 86)
  2. "Player Profile: John Bowes-Lyon". CricketArchive. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  3. "'Nappy and glorious'". 1 June 2012. 
  4. "Queen Mother's niece by marriage has pauper's funeral". Telegraph, By Chris Hastings, David Bamber and Susan Bisset. 14 Apr 2002
  5. Vickers, Hugo, Elizabeth: The Queen Mother (Arrow Books/Random House, 2006) p.112
  6. Royal Collection: Seating plan for the Ball Supper Room
  7. "Descendancy for BOWES-LYON Claude George, 14th Earl of Strathmore & Kinghorn at Family History UK Trees, retrieved 14 Nov 2011
  8. "Queen's Cousin In Mental Hospital", St. Joseph News-Press, 6 Apr 1987
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Royal Nieces Cover-up Denied By Lord Clinton", The Glasgow Herald, 8 Apr 1987
  10. 10.0 10.1 Kathleen Tessaro, The Debutante, Publisher HarperCollins UK, 2010, ISBN 0-00-736601-9, ISBN 978-0-00-736601-9, 384 pages ("Authors note")
  11. "The Queen's Hidden Cousins", Channel 4, Thursday 17 November
  12. Mary greene, "The Queen's hidden cousin", Daily Mail, 11 Nov 2011, retrieved 14 Nov 2011
  13. "Books: The Debutante", at, retrieved 14 Nov 2011
  14. "Hon. Harriet Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis" at thePeerage website, retrieved 14 Nov 2011
  15. "The History of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute" website, retrieved 14 Nov 2011
  16. "Bowes-lyon Retardation Gene May Have Killed Males‎", The Age, 9 Apr 1987
  17. Chris Hastings, David Bamber and Jessica Berry, "Queen's cousin in 'sub-standard' care home", 13 Aug 2000. Retrieved 14 Nov 2011

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