Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore
Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess Dowager of Strathmore, was buried in the south transept of Westminster Abbey, wearing, it is said, a superb bridal dress. Her gravestone is now rather faint but the inscription was recorded as:
“In memory of the Right Honourable Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore, only child of George Bowes Esq. of Streatlam Castle, and of Gibside, in the county of Durham, who died 28th April 1800, aged 51 years”.
Her father’s first wife, Eleanor (Verney), had been buried in a vault in the Lady Chapel at the Abbey in 1724. Mary Eleanor’s mother was Mary (Gilbert) and she was born on 24 February 1749. As an only child she was a great heiress and in 1767 she married John Lyon, 9th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. They took the surname Bowes in lieu of Lyon by Act of Parliament. They had three sons and two daughters. John died at sea in 1776 while on passage to Lisbon. Their son John succeeded to the Earldom but as he died without issue their youngest son Thomas became the next Earl. Mary Eleanor was the ancestress of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. She married secondly an adventurer called Andrew Robinson Stoney, who changed his name to Bowes. But the marriage was not happy due to his ill treatment of her. She instituted divorce proceedings in 1785 but he then abducted her. However, she was rescued and he was sent to prison. Their only son was William Johnstone Bowes who drowned in 1807 while serving in the Royal Navy.
A copy of the engraving can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004
"The Unhappy Countess" by Ralph Arnold, 1957