Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rowan, Charles

ROWAN, Sir CHARLES (1782?–1852), chief commissioner of police, born about 1782, was fifth son of Robert Rowan (1754–1832) of Mullans, co. Antrim, and of North Lodge, Carrickfergus, by Eliza, daughter of Hill Wilson. His brother, Sir William Rowan, and his niece, Frederica Maclean Rowan, are separately noticed. Charles entered the army as an ensign in the 52nd foot in 1797, was appointed its paymaster on 8 Nov. 1798, and a lieutenant on 15 March 1799, serving with that regiment in the expedition to Ferrol in 1800. After becoming captain on 25 June 1803, he saw service in Sicily in 1806–7, and with Sir John Moore's expedition to Sweden in 1808. He joined the army in Portugal two days after the battle of Vimiera, and served from that time with the reserve forces of Sir John Moore, and in the battle of Coruña. In 1809 he was appointed brigade-major to the light brigade taken out by Major-general Robert Craufurd [q. v.] to join the army in Portugal, and he was present with the light division in several affairs near Almeida and at the battle of Busaco. On 9 May 1811 he became major of the 52nd regiment, was appointed assistant adjutant-general to the light division, and was present at the battle of Fuentes d'Onoro, the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo and at Badajoz, where he was wounded in the assault. He was promoted to the brevet rank of lieutenant-colonel on 27 April 1812, and was afterwards present at the battle of Salamanca. He served in the campaign of 1815, and commanded a wing of the 52nd at Waterloo, when he was again wounded. On 4 June 1815 he was appointed a companion of the Bath; he also received a medal with two clasps for Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, and Salamanca; and the silver war medal with three clasps for Coruña, Busaco, and Fuentes d'Onoro. His portrait occurs in the well-known pictures ‘Waterloo Heroes’ and ‘The Waterloo Banquet.’

On the institution of the metropolitan police force in 1829, he was appointed the chief commissioner, an office which he filled with great credit and ability. To his skilful guidance were mainly owing the speedy removal of the initial prejudices against the new police and the lasting success of the measure. On 26 Dec. 1848 he was advanced to be a K.C.B., and retired from the public service in 1850. He died at Norfolk Street, Park Lane, London, on 8 May 1852.

[Gent. Mag. July 1852, p. 91; Burke's Landed Gentry, 1895, ii. 1750; Royal Military Calendar, 1820, iv. 414; Dod's Peerage, 1852, p. 433; Illustr. London News, 22 May 1852, p. 403.]

G. C. B.