Lady Diamantina Bowen (née di Roma)
1832/1833–1893) was the wife of Sir George Ferguson Bowen
, the first
Contessa Diamantina di Roma was born in 1832 or 1833 on the
Islands off the coast of Greece.
sources attribute her birth to 1832 but others to 1833.
some sources put her birth on the island of Zante (Zakynthos while others say the island of Corfu.
Regardless of the specifics, both islands were part of the United States of the Ionian
, a British Protectorates
Her parents were Conte Giorgio-Candiano Roma
and his wife
Contessa Orsola, née di Balsamo. Diamantina was the tenth of their
eleven children. Her aristocratic family were descended from
the Venetians who had occuped the Ionian Islands for centuries as part of the Republic of
Venice. Her father was the President of the Ionian
Senate (1850-1856), titular head of the Ionian Islands.
He was also appointed a Poet Laureate
by Queen Victoria
With such a family, Diamantina had a privileged well-educated
upbringing and was familiar with the workings of government,
politics and diplomacy.
April 1856 at the Palace of St Michael and St George on Corfu, Diamantina
married Sir George Ferguson
Bowen, who was political secretary of the British
first two children were born in the Ionian Islands.
Their first child, a son, died twelve days
old. Their second child, a daughter, was born on 17 August 1858 and
was called Adelaide Diamantina Bowen, but was known as Nina.
their move to Brisbane, they had
three more children in Brisbane:
daughter, Alfreda Ernestina Albertina Bowen, was born on 10 April
1869 at Government House, Auckland, New
- Zoe Caroline Bowen, born 28 August 1860 at Adelaide House (the
temporary Government House)
Herbert Bowen, born 26 July 1862 at Government
William Howard Bowen, born 9 April 1864 at Government
Diamantina was described as "pretty" but tempered perhaps by the
remark "her beauty being in her expression rather than her
features". She was described as "slender but graceful".
She could play the piano and sing well, even with previously unseen
pieces of music.
Living most of her life in English-speaking countries, Diamantina
spoke English well but with a slight accent. Although she spoke in
English in public, it was claimed she spoke with her husband at
home in Italian
. Diamantina was
frequently described as "softly spoken".
Her husband's career took the family all over the world, as
governor postings were typically for five years. We do not know how
Diamantina felt about this frequent upheaval, but she cried
copiously as the family departed from Brisbane, suggesting that she
had had many close personal connections while there.
Her daughter Nina married Allan Campbell, a Queensland grazier
Eventually the couple retired to London, England in 1883 accompanied by their two unmarried
Diamantina worshipped in the Greek Orthodox church during retirement in
she maintained her connection to her religious roots throughout her
life, despite so many years spent in British colonies.
Diamantina died at Bethnal Green, London, England on 17 November 1893 from acute bronchitis.
buried in Kensal
Green cemetery in London.
George William Howard Bowen married Gertrude Chamberlain (niece of
Joseph Chamberlain, Colonial Secretary) on 16 January 1896 in
Street, London, England.
His sister Alfreda was a bridesmaid.
daughter Alfreda married Robert Lydston Newman in October 1899 at
Church, Hanover Square,
Her brother George gave Alfreda away (her
father having died earlier that year).
sculpture of Diamantina was created by sculptor Phillip Piperides in 1989 for the Greek Community Centre, South
Brisbane, Queensland. In June 2009, it was moved to Old Government
House at Queensland University of
Public Life in Queensland
George, Diamantina and their sixteen-month-old daughter Nina
arrived in Brisbane on Saturday 10 December 1859 on board The
. As they stepped off their vessel at a
landing stage at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens near Gardens Point,
they were welcomed by a huge crowd of over 4000 people waving
flags, both the British Union Jack and
the Greek flag. The arrival of the
first governor and his family had been eagerly expected a few days
earlier, but adverse winds had delayed their trip up from Sydney
and so when the news came late on Friday that their vessel was seen
Bay, the excitement reached enormous heights.
well as residents of Brisbane, many of those present had travelled
from other parts of Queensland to welcome the incoming governor.
There was a 21-gun salute as they landed, there was a triumphal
arch, fireworks and all manner of proclamations, speeches and
celebrations, over a number of days.
first Governor, there was not yet an official residence for the
Governor and so they lived in Adelaide House (now The Deanery of
Cathedral) which was leased for three years.
Diamantina participated in the public life in Queensland in a
number of ways:
- as wife of the Governor
- to the social tone of Brisbane through her sense of style,
education and accomplishments
- to charity through her active patronage
Being still very much a prosperous but pioneer community on her
arrival, Diamantina's dinner parties soon became the highlight of
the social scene and she is credited with raising the tone of
Meanwhile, the official residence (now
Government House) was being constructed and the family moved into
the house in April 1862.
It was an elegant and spacious
building, constructed of sandstone
, in the Classic Revival
style. Its grounds were
surrounded by thirty acres (twelve hectares) of riverbank land,
including the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens which were commenced at the same time under the
supervision of Walter
Diamantina personally supervised the layout of the
gardens of the house, which included lawns, tennis courts as well
as flower and vegetable gardens. On 16 June 1862, the couple hosted
the first ball in the new building, celebrating Queen Victoria
Queensland, Diamantina turned the first sod for Queensland's
first railway-line between Ipswich and Bigge's Camp (later Grandchester) using with a silver spade and a cedar
Diamantina was involved in establishing the first Sunday School for
Diamantina was concerned about social
welfare in Brisbane and was an active patroness of a group of local
ladies who established the Lady Bowen Lying-In Hospital, Brisbane's
first maternity hospital, the fore-runner of the present Royal Brisbane Women's
Named in her honour
Diamantina was very popular in Queensland and many places were
named after her:
town of Roma,
- Diamantina River, Queensland
- Diamantina Shire
Council, a Local Government Area in Queensland
Island near Gladstone, Queensland
- the iron paddle-wheeler Diamantina built for the
Orphanage, established in 1883 in Brisbane
- Diamantina Hospital for
Chronic Diseases, which was established in 1901 on the site of
the Diamantina Orphanage and was later replaced by the Princess
The Diamantina Institute for Cancer, Immunology and Metabolic
Medicine, an Institute of the University
of Queensland, based at the Princess
Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane
- Diamantina Healthcare
Museum, established 2004 in the only remaining building of the
- Lady Bowen Lying-In
Hospital, Brisbane's first maternity hospital, the fore-runner
of the Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital
A statue of Lady Bowen was commissioned for the Greek Community
Centre in South Brisbane in 1989. When Old Government
House was re-opened after restoration by Queensland
University of Technology, the statue was relocated to the southern lawn of
Old Government House (the southern side of the house being the
Much of Diamantina's life was dictated by the career of her husband
Sir George Ferguson Bowen
colonial administrator and a more complete understanding of her
life can be obtained by reading about his life.
- Contessa Diamantina di Roma, Lady
Bowen, by Dr Owen Harris, Chairman, Diamantina Health Care
Museum Association Inc
- Diamantina Bowen, Australian Dictionary of
- Lady Diamantina Bowen, Brisbane
- Picture: Diamantina Roma - First Governor of
Queenslands' wife - A biographical note by the current appointed
Governor of Queensland, Ms Quentin Bryce, AC.
- The Arrival & Reception of His Excellency Sir
G.F. Bowen, First Governor of Queensland,
Moreton Bay Courier, Tuesday 13 December 1859, page 2
- Departure of Governor Sir G.F. Bowen, The Brisbane Courier, Monday 6 January
1868, page 2
- Reception of Sir G.F. Bowen in New Zealand, The Brisbane Courier,
Tuesday 3 March 1868, page 3
- Death of Lady Bowen, The Brisbane Courier,
Monday 20 November 1893, page 5
- The Late Lady Bowen, The Brisbane Courier,
Monday 27 November 1893, page 6