Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rowe, Owen

ROWE or ROE, OWEN (1593?–1661), regicide, born probably in 1593, was the son of John Rowe of Bickley, Cheshire, yeoman. He was apprenticed on 11 Aug. 1609 to Edward Pickering, citizen of London and haberdasher (registers of the Haberdashers' Company, quoted in the Herald and Genealogist, ii. 61). In 1617 Rowe, who is described in the license as ‘of All Hallows, Honey Lane, haberdasher,’ married Mary, daughter of John Yeomant, merchant taylor (Chester, London Marriage Licences, p. 1161). His age was given as twenty-four in the license, which is probably more correct than the inquest taken at his death in 1661; the inquest states his age as then seventy-three. Rowe was a strong puritan, and took part in the foundation of the colonies of Massachusetts and the Bermudas. He thought of emigrating himself, and wrote to John Winthrop on 18 Feb. 1635 announcing his coming to New England: ‘I have now put off my trade, and as soon as it shall please God to send in my debts that I may pay what I owe … I am for your part.’ The Boston records of 20 June 1636 order that Mr. Owen Roe, ‘having a house and town lots amongst us, and certain cattle, shall have laid out for him 200 acres of ground at Mount Wollaston’ (Hutchinson Papers, Prince Soc. i. 65; Winthrop, History of New England, ed. 1853, i. 475). In spite of these preparations Rowe remained in England. In 1642 he was captain, and in the following year sergeant-major, of the green regiment of the London trained-bands (Dillon, List of Officers of the London Trained Bands in 1643, 1890, p. 10). On 6 Sept. 1643 the House of Lords passed an ordinance authorising Lieutenant-colonel Owen Roe to contract for arms to the value of 5,000l. for the supply of Essex's army (Lords' Journals, vi. 207, cf. vi. 622). Rowe became colonel about 1646, and was one of the militia committee of London appointed 23 July 1647 (Rushworth, vi. 634). He was a member of the high court of justice which tried Charles I, attended when judgment was given, and signed the death warrant (Nalson, Trial of Charles I, 1684). Rowe also sat in the court which sentenced the Duke of Hamilton to death (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. p. 71). On 9 Sept. 1653 parliament ordered its commissioners in Ireland to set out lands for Rowe to the value of 5,065l. 17s. 6d. in satisfaction of the debt he had contracted for the service of the state (Commons' Journals, vii. 317). It is doubtful, however, whether the order was actually carried out (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1656–7, p. 245; Rawlinson MSS. A. xvi. 115, Bodleian Libr.)

Throughout the protectorate Rowe seems to have taken no part in English politics, but was actively concerned in the management of the Bermuda company. He had been deputy-governor of that company in England, but was put out in 1647, and was succeeded by Colonel R. Sandys (Lefroy, Memorials of the Bermudas, i. 623). On 25 June 1653 the council of state reorganised the company, appointing Rowe and others a commission for its government, but the government in the Bermudas, which represented the old company, refused to acknowledge their authority. He signed letters as deputy-governor in 1655 (ib. ii. 22, 42, 61; Cal. State Papers, Col. 1574–1660, pp. 404, 449). He possessed lands in the islands representing five shares which were granted after his attainder to Henry Killigrew and Robert Dongan (ib. 1675–6, p. 142; Lefroy, ii. 164, 726).

In 1659 Rowe, who was reappointed by the Long parliament colonel of the green regiment of the trained bands, and also one of the London militia commissioners, took the side of the army, and acted with Monck's opponents (Commons' Journals, vii. 747; A true Narrative of the Proceedings in Parliament, &c., from 22 Sept. to 16 Nov. 1659, 4to, pp. 65, 70). Hence at the Restoration he had no extenuating circumstances to plead in his favour. On 9 June 1660 the House of Commons voted that he should be excepted from the Act of Indemnity. On 18 June his surrender was announced to the house. Thanks to this surrender, he was included in the list of those regicides whose execution, in case they were attainted, should be suspended till a special act should pass for that purpose (Commons' Journals, viii. 61, 66, 139). At his trial on 16 Oct. 1660 Rowe pleaded not guilty, but confessed that he had sat in the court which condemned the king, and pleaded his penitence. ‘It was never in my heart to contrive a plot of this nature. How I came there I do not know. I was very unfit for such a business, and I confess I did it ignorantly, not understanding the law. … I was not brought up a scholar, but was a tradesman, and was merely ignorant when I went on in that business. … I do wholly cast myself upon the King's mercy’ (Trial of the Regicides, p. 253). Rowe was convicted; but, as the bill brought in for the execution of the regicides who surrendered themselves never got beyond its second reading, he was allowed to end his days in prison (Commons' Journals, viii. 319). He died in the Tower on 25 Dec. 1661, and was buried on 27 Dec. at Hackney.

Rowe married three times: (1) Mary Yeomant (mentioned above); (2) Dorothy, daughter of—Hodges of Bristow, who died in September 1650; (3) Mary, daughter of Rowland Wiseman of London, and widow of Dr. Crisp (Herald and Genealogist, ii. 61, 156). His son, Samuel Rowe, was a fellow of All Souls' College, Oxford (Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1st ser. p. 1284). Anthony Wood appears to confuse Owen Rowe with his brother Francis (Fasti, ii. 136). Francis Rowe was bound apprentice to Francis Lane, clothworker, of London, on 28 Jan. 1613, became captain in the green regiment of London trained bands, and in 1646 colonel of a regiment employed in Ireland. He served in Cromwell's expedition as scoutmaster-general, and died at Youghal about December 1649. On 22 June 1650 parliament granted his widow a pension of 1l. a week (Commons' Journals, vi. 428; Report on the Duke of Portland's MSS. i. 95; Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. pp. 126, 151, 168, 7th Rep. p. 78). Probably he was the author of the ‘Military Memoirs of Col. John Birch,’ printed by the Camden Society in 1873 (preface, p. v).

Both Francis and Owen Rowe are frequently confused with William Rowe, who also held the post of scoutmaster-general for a time (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1650, p. 238), and was subsequently secretary to the Irish and Scottish committees of the council of state (ib. 1653–4, p. 459). Many letters from him to Cromwell are printed by Nickolls (Original Letters and Papers of State addressed to Oliver Cromwell, 1743, fol.). He married Alice, daughter of Thomas Scott, the regicide (ib. p. 27; Biogr. Brit. p. 3528).

[Noble's Lives of the Regicides, 1798, ii. 150; Herald and Genealogist, ii. 61, 156, 1864; Records of St. Stephen's, Coleman Street, Archæologia, l. 23–5; other authorities mentioned in the article.]

C. H. F.