John Herbert Bowes-Lyon

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), and uncle to Queen Elizabeth II.


Personal life

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

  • Patricia Bowes-Lyon (6 July 1916 – 18 June 1917), died young.
  • 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
  • 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 just 44, leaving his wife to care for their four young children alone. (Two of them, Nerissa and Katherine, were severely mentally disabled.[2] Three days later he was buried at St Paul's Walden Bury.[3]

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 their father John was the brother of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon the Queen Mother, the two daughters are first cousins of Queen Elizabeth II, sharing the same grandfather, Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne.[4]

In 1987, it was revealed in the media 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 2011), both had been listed in Burke's Peerage as being dead since the 1963 edition.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] Her grave was only marked with plastic tags and a serial number until her existence was revealed in the media, after when the family added a proper gravestone.[8][9][6][10]

Three other mentally disabled cousins of the Queen also lived in Earlswood Hospital. Nerissa and Katherine's mother, Fenella, had a sister Harriet Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis (1887-1958) who married Major Henry Nevile Fane, and together had 7 children; three of them who lived in Earlswood Hospital were Idonea Elizabeth Fane (1912-2001), Rosemary Jean Fane (b. 1914) and Ethelreda Flavia Fane (1922-1996).[11] Prof. David Danks, then director of the Murdoch Institute,[12] thought that a genetic disease may have killed male members of the family in early childhood.[13]

In 1996 the surviving cousins were moved to Ketwin House care home in Surrey,[14] and after it was closed in 2001, on to another care home in Surrey.[7]


16. Thomas Lyon-Bowes, 11th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne
8. Thomas George Lyon-Bowes, Lord Glamis
17. Mary Elizabeth Louisa Carpenter
4. Claude Bowes-Lyon, 13th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne
18. Joseph Valentine Grimstead
9. Charlotte Grimstead
19. Charlotte Jane Sarah Walsh
2. Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne
20. George Smith
10. Oswald Smith
21. Frances Mary Mosley
5. Frances Dora Smith
22. Robert Hodgson, Dean of Carlisle
11. Henrietta Hodgson
23. Mary Tucker
1. John Herbert Bowes-Lyon
24. William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland
12. Lord Charles Bentinck
25. Dorothy Cavendish
6. Charles William Frederick Cavendish-Bentinck
26. Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley
13. Anne Wellesley
27. Hyacinthe-Gabrielle Roland
3. Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck
28. Edwyn Andrew Burnaby
14. Edwyn Burnaby
29. Mary Browne
7. Caroline Louisa Burnaby
30. Thomas Salisbury
15. Anne Caroline Salisbury
31. Frances Webb


  1. ^ a b Andrew Morton, "Theirs is the kingdom: the wealth of the British royal family", Publisher Summit Books, 1989, page 86)
  2. ^ "Queen Mother's niece by marriage has pauper's funeral". Telegraph, By Chris Hastings, David Bamber and Susan Bisset. 14 Apr 2002
  3. ^ Vickers, Hugo, Elizabeth: The Queen Mother (Arrow Books/Random House, 2006) p.112
  4. ^ "Descendancy for BOWES-LYON Claude George, 14th Earl of Strathmore & Kinghorn at Family History UK Trees, retrieved 14 Nov 2011
  5. ^ "Queen's Cousin In Mental Hospital", St. Joseph News-Press, Apr 6, 1987
  6. ^ a b "Royal Nieces Cover-up Denied By Lord Clinton", The Glasgow Herald, Apr 8, 1987
  7. ^ a b Kathleen Tessaro, The Debutante, Publisher HarperCollins UK, 2010, ISBN 0007366019, 9780007366019, 384 pages ("Authors note")
  8. ^ "The Queen's Hidden Cousins", Channel 4, Thursday 17 November
  9. ^ Mary greene, "The Queen's hidden cousin", Daily Mail, 11 Nov 2011, retrieved 14 Nov 2011
  10. ^ "Books: The Debutante", at, retrieved 14 Nov 2011
  11. ^ "Hon. Harriet Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis" at thePeerage website, retrieved 14 Nov 2011
  12. ^ "The History of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute" website, retrieved 14 Nov 2011
  13. ^ "Bowes-lyon Retardation Gene May Have Killed Males‎", The Age, Apr 9, 1987
  14. ^ 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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