William Fowler (1560-1612). Courtesy American Pink.

William Fowler (?1560-1612) was a Scottish poet , writer, courtier, and translator, active from 1581 to 1612.


Fowler was the son of Janet (Fockhart)[1] and William Fowler, a well connected Edinburgh burgess. He graduated from St Leonard's College University of St Andrews, in 1578. By 1581 he was in Paris studying civil law. At this time he published An answer to the calumnious letter and erroneous propositions of an apostat named M. Io. Hammiltoun a pamphlet criticising John Hamilton and other Catholics in Scotland, who he claimed had driven him from that country. In response two Scottish Catholics, Hamilton and Hay, manhandled him and dragged him through the streets to the Collège de Navarre.

Following his return to Scotland, he visited London to retrieve some money owed to his father by Mary, Queen of Scots. Here he frequently visited the house of Michel de Castelnau, Sieur de Mauvissiere, where he met Giordano Bruno, currently staying there. He was soon recruited by Francis Walsingham to act as a spy until 1583, by which time he felt his consorting with French Catholics was compromising his religious integrity. His letters to Walsingham mention his widowed mother's concern at his role in London and her moneylending activities, and information he obtained in January 1583 from the exiled Esmé Stewart, 1st Duke of Lennox.[2]

In 1589 he was accompanied by William Schaw on the diplomatic mission to Denmark to arrange the marriage of James VI to Anne of Denmark. He was a paid negotiator for the city of Edinburgh, charged with raising the profile of the burgh.[3] Subsequently he was appointed private secretary and Master of Requests to Anne of Denmark, when she became James VI's queen. He retained these positions when Anne went to England. He wrote an account of the baptism of Prince Henry in 1594 and taught the queen the art of memory, a subject upon which he also wrote a treatise. In 1609 he received a grant of 2,000 acres (8 km²) in Ulster as reward for his services.

He was part of a literary circle known as the "Castalian Band", which included Alexander Montgomerie, John Stewart of Baldynneis, Alexander Hume, Thomas and Robert Hudson, and James VI himself.

In May 1583, while William was intriguing in London, his sister Susannah Fowler married John Drummond the king's doorkeeper and son of Robert Drummond of Carnock – their son was the poet William Drummond of Hawthornden.


Fowler contributed a prefatory sonnet to James VI's Furies; while James, in return, commended, in verse, Fowler's Triumphs.

Drummond bequeathed a manuscript collection of 72 sonnets, entitled The Tarantula of Love, and a translation (1587) from the Italian of the Triumphs of Petrarke to the library of the University of Edinburgh. Two other volumes of Fowler's manuscript notes, scrolls of poems, etc. are preserved among the Drummond manuscripts, currently in the library of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Fowler's poetry was featured in the 1803 publication by John Leyden of Scottish Descriptive Poems.



  • An Answer to the Calumnious Letter and Erroneous Propositions of an Apostat Named M. Jo. Hammiltoun. Edinburgh: Robert Lekprewick, 1581.
  • Epitaphe vpon the death of Sir John Seton of Barns. Edinburgh: R. Waldegrave, 1594.
  • A True Reportarie ... of the Baptisme of ... Prince Frederik Henry. London: Peter Short, for Widow Buttler, 1594
    • also published as A True Report of ... the Baptisme of ... Henry Fredericke. London: Thomas Creede for Iohn Browne, 1603
    • also published as A true account of ... the Baptism of his Royal Highness, Henry Prince of Scotland.Edinburgh: Philander, 1732.

Collected editionsEdit

  • The Works of William Fowler, Secretary to Queen Anne, Wife of James VI (edited by James Craigie & John Purves). (3 volumes), Edinburgh & London: William Blackwood, for the Scottish Text Society, 1914-40.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[4]

See alsoEdit



  1. MHB Sanderson, Mary Stewart's People, (1987), 91.
  2. Calendar of State Papers, Scotland: volume 6: 1581-83 (1910), 262-3, 265-6.
  3. 'Marriage and the Performance of the Romance Quest: Anne of Denmark and the Stirling Baptismal Ceremonies for Prince Henry'by Claire Mcmanus, A Palace in the Wild: Essays on Vernacular Culture and Humanism in Late-Medieval and Renaissance Scotland, ed. L.A.J.R. Houwen, A.A. MacDonald, S.L. Mapstone Peeters, 177
  4. Search results = au:William Fowler 1612, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. June 21, 2016.

External linksEdit

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