Bowyer-Smyth Baronets - History


According to tradition John Smith was a descendant of Sir Roger de Clarendon, a natural son of Edward, the Black Prince. He was granted arms in 1545, and the original family crest of an eagle holding an ostrich feather was used to denote descent from Sir Roger de Clarendon. It was later substituted for a salamander in flames to commemorate the escape of Sir Thomas Smith from 'Bloody Mary's' fires. The original family crest of an eagle holding an ostrich feather is still in use today by the Smijth-Windham, later Windham, branch of the family. He married in 1508 Agnes Charnock and had four sons and four daughters.

The second son, Sir Thomas Smith was born in 1514. He was Secretary of State during the reigns of King Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth I. He was Ambassador to France three times during the reign of Elizabeth I and was created Chancellor of the Order of the Garter. In 1571 he obtained a patent and indenture from Elizabeth I to establish an English colony on the Ards peninsula in Ireland. His illegitimate son was also involved in the establishment of the colony and was later to be killed in a skirmish with the Irish.

Sir Thomas Smiths brother George was a draper in London. Upon the death of Thomas Smith in 1577 he inherited his estates, which he made over to his son in 1581 in return for the settlement of all his debts. His son Sir William Smith, born in 1550, was a Colonel in the Army in Ireland. He returned from Ireland in 1581 and was later sent by King James I to Spain with the Ambassador. He later unsuccessfully petitioned the King for the return of the Ards colony. He married in 1590 Bridget, the daughter of Thomas Fleetwood, Master of the Mint.

His son Thomas Smith was created a baronet 28 November 1661. A supporter of Charles I, he also unsuccessfully petition King Charles II after the restoration for the colony in Ireland.

His son Edward, the second Baronet, was High Sheriff of Essex from 1680 to 1681. He changed the spelling of the family surname to Smyth.

His son, the third Baronet, died in 1774. Three of his sons, the fourth, fifth (who was High Sheriff of Essex from 1760 to 1761) and sixth Baronets, all succeeded in the title.

The latter was succeeded by his son, William, the seventh Baronet. He married Anne, daughter of John Windham-Bowyer and sister and heir of John Windham. Her mother Mary was the daughter and heir of Sir Joseph Ashe, 2nd and last Baronet Ashe, by Catherine, daughter and co-heir of Sir Edmund Bowyer. Sometime between 1779 and 1799 the seventh Baronet changed the spelling of the family surname to Smijth to distinguish descent from Edward, the Black Prince. Two of his sons, the eighth and ninth Baronets, both died childless. On the latter's death in 1838 the title passed to his third brother, Edward, the tenth Baronet. He was Chaplain to King George IV. His mother Anne was heiress of both the Windham and Bowyer families. She devised the Bowyer estates to her son Edward, who assumed by Royal license in 1839 the surname of Bowyer-Smijth. The Windham estates were devised to her fifth son Joseph, who assumed by Royal license in 1823 the surname Smijth-Windham. He had served in the Peninsular War and was a captain in the 10th Hussars and 17th lancers

He was succeeded by his eldest son, William, the eleventh Baronet. He sat as Member of Parliament for South Essex. He married twice and had 15 children by his second marriage.

He was succeeded by his only surviving son from his first marriage, William, the twelfth Baronet. He was in the Diplomatic Service and also served as Sheriff of Essex in 1889. He died childless in 1916, and the baronetcy reverted to the late Baronet's first cousin, Alfred, the thirteenth Baronet. He was the eldest son of Reverend Alfred John Edward Bowyer-Smijth, younger son of the tenth Baronet. In 1916 he resumed the former spelling of the surname Bowyer-Smyth in lieu of Bowyer-Smijth. He died childless in 1927 and was succeeded by his nephew, Philip, the son of Clement Weyland Bowyer-Smijth.

Sir Philip Bowyer-Smyth, the fourteenth Baronet, was born in Sydney, Australia in 1894. He joined the Royal Navy in 1906, five years before the creation of an Australian navy, and served in World War I and World War II. He was the Naval Attache at Rome from 1938 to 1940, and he commanded the Australian warship H.M.A.S Perth from 1940 to 1941. The Australian light cruiser saw action in the Mediterranean at the Battle of Matapan and the evacuation of Greece under Captain Bowyer-Smyth. The Perth was later sunk by Japanese torpedoes during the Battle of Sunda Strait in 1942. He was Director of radio equipment for the Admiralty from 1943 to 1944, and then Commodore of East Africa from 1945 until 1946 when he became Aide-de-Camp to King George VI. He was married in 1922 to Margaret McCall-McCowan of Sydney, Australia, but later divorced and in 1951 married secondly Veronica Bower. The baronetcy is currently held by his son.

Several other members of the family may also be mentioned.

The Venerable Charles Smith (d. 1678), younger son of the first Baronet, was Archdeacon of Colchester.

Sir Ralph Windham (1905–1980), son of Major Ashe Windham, eldest son of Ashe Windham (1839–1909) (who assumed the surname of Windham in lieu of Smijth-Windham by Royal license in 1888), second son of Captain Joseph Smijth-Windham (who assumed the additional surname of Windham by Royal license in 1823), youngest son of the seventh Baronet, was Chief Justice of Tanganyika.

Sir William Windham (1864–1961), third son of the aforementioned Ashe Windham (1839–1909), was Secretary of Native Affairs of the Transvaal and a Member of the Legislative Council of Natal and also worked for the Ministry of Labour.

William Russell Smijth-Windham (1907–1994), son of Arthur Russell Smijth-Windham who died when the ship Persia was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in 1915, son of Major George Smijth-Windham, fourth son of the aforementioned Captain Joseph Smijth-Windham, was a Brigadier in the Royal Signals. William Smijth-Windham participated in the 1933 and 1936 Mount Everest expeditions. He served in World War II in the Middle East and North West Europe. He was Aide-de-Camp to Queen Elizabeth II in 1957.

Sir Walter Windham, son of George Smijth-Windham, and grandson of Joseph Smijth-Windham. He was the Kings Foreign Messenger from 1901 to 1909. He was also the founder of the worlds first official air mail, with the first mail to be flown sent from Allahabad to Naini, India, in February 1911. He organised the first official air mail in Great Britain in September 1911, which was flown from Hendon aerodrome, London, to Windsor Castle. A distance of approximately 20 miles (32 Kilometres).

In May 2008, a mass grave was located at Fromelles, France. This was the site of a World War I battle involving the Australian and British armies against a German army which included a young Adolf Hitler who served at Fromelles with the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry as a message runner. Henry Bowyer-Smijth the grandson of Sir William Bowyer-Smijth, the 11th baronet, was killed at the battle of Fromelles on 19 July 1916 and his body was never recovered. He had previously fought at Gallipoli, Turkey, as part of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). After the evacuation of Gallipoli he was sent to Egypt and later to France with the Australian 60th battalion where he was killed. It is possible that he was buried by the Germans after the battle and is one of the Australian soldiers recently located in the mass grave at Fromelles.

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