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Sir John Cochrane, (f.1630-1657), was born John Blair, the son of Alexander Blair. The family name was changed after Alexander married Elizabeth, the daughter of William Cochrane of Cochrane. In 1632, Cochrane acted as a diplomat for Charles I on a mission to Denmark-Norway. During the Bishops’ Wars he took command of a Covenanter regiment in Edinburgh. His familiarity with Danish diplomacy led to his selection as an ambassador for the Covenanting Movement. He travelled to Scandinavia and Germany as the ambassador of Scotland in April 1640. In both Denmark and Sweden, he reiterated the Scottish perception of the conflict. Cochrane pleaded with the Swedish Riksråd (State Council) in particular that the polity of Scotland itself was being changed by the king. He insisted that the help sought from Sweden was not money or troops, as Scotland was well supplied with both. Rather he sought only ships, arms and relevant munitions which he promised would be returned to Sweden once the struggle was over. The Swedes were duly persuaded and responded by supplying arms via the Scottish merchant, John Maclean, a burgess of Gothenburg. At the end of August 1640, Sir John Cochrane completed his negotiations in Sweden for fresh supplies of arms, which the Swedes agreed to supply in five of the Crown’s ships. These vessels were then used to transport the munitions and copper to the United Provinces, from where they would be shipped to Scotland.

Cochrane’s diplomacy in Denmark pressed a more peaceful message than that of the Swedish mission. In Copenhagen he asked only for the Danish king’s intervention to maintain peace. In so asking, Cochrane averted outright condemnation of the Covenanters. By asking Christian to act as arbitrator, the Scots had actually ensured that the Danes maintained a neutral stance in the dispute between Charles I and the Scots. In his response to the Scottish Estates, Christian declared that, after long consultations with Cochrane, he could see the Scottish nation’s ‘evident virtues’ and knew they only desired peace. Christian IV interceded by letter and ordered his ambassadors Korfitz Ulfeldt and Greggers Krabbe to intervene between his dear nephew and his Scottish subjects. These ambassadors arrived at Court in September where they had three unsuccessful meetings with the king. 

On the conclusion of the Bishops’ Wars, serious fractures occurred within the Covenanting Movement. Like the Marquis of Montrose, Cochrane believed the Covenanting Parliament had moved well beyond the original goals of the Covenant to which Charles I had already conceded. During his mission to Denmark-Norway and Hamburg in 1640, Sir James King met with Sir John Cochrane and described him to Charles I as ‘a gentellman, a contrayman and auld acquaintance of myne’. The details of his letter are fascinating, coming so soon after Cochrane’s meeting with Christian IV and his impassioned speech to the Swedish Riksråd, and indeed, military involvement at Newcastle. Cochrane was fully aware of the negotiations taking place in Ripon throughout October, and probably also knew that these would lead to an eventual settlement with the king. Sir James King took great pains to vouch for Cochrane to Charles I, describing him as a loyal subject who wished to have a meeting with one of the king’s representatives. Cochrane offered to wait at Queen Elizabeth’s Court in the Hague until 20 December 1640 for a reply from Charles I. 

By October of 1641, any doubts Charles may have had about Cochrane’s sincerity to oppose Argyll and the hard line Covenanters were allayed. After Charles I arrived in Edinburgh, Cochrane approached William Murray, a gentleman of Charles’ Bedchamber, to discuss the possibility of publicly accusing Hamilton and Argyll of hindering the peace. Cochrane met Charles I privately between the 9th and 12th of October 1641 and became embroiled in ‘the Incident’, a blundered attempt to eradicate the power of Hamilton, his brother Lanark and Argyll through their arrest and possible assassination. William Murray acted as one of the main agitators behind ‘the Incident’, another was Alexander Stewart, an officer in Cochrane’s regiment. On the morning of the 11th of October, Alexander Stewart met with Captain William Stewart, a relative of the imprisoned Sir James Stewart, Lord Ochiltree. Alexander revealed the plan to arrest Argyll, Hamilton and Lanark, and that it had the support of the Earls of Home, Roxburgh and Crawford, amongst others. The plot hinged on Murray inviting Argyll and Hamilton to the King’s chambers, where they would be arrested. Crawford proposed that they should be killed on the spot while James Livingstone, Lord Almond, sought their trial and imprisonment. The attempt was unsuccessful, largely due to a tip-off to the intended victims by William Stewart and Lieutenant Colonel Hurry’s information to Alexander Leslie [SSNE 1]. The episode ended with Argyll, Hamilton and Lanark withdrawing from the city and Cochrane’s officers being dismissed. Sir John Cochrane himself was summoned to appear before the Scottish Parliament and imprisoned. However, Hamilton and Argyll, the intended victims of the plot, petitioned for Cochrane’s release which was duly granted in early November. 

The Incident ensured that there would be several vendettas ongoing within the Covenanting movement. On his release from prison, Cochrane had to contend with allegations of the theft and resetting of a Swedish Copper ship which he absolutely denied. Some of his enemies wanted him hanged in effigy in his absence but this was prevented. In response, Cochrane removed himself to the King’s camp at York. Sir John Cochrane returned to Denmark-Norway twice in 1642 with specific requests for weapons, powder and war material. Christian IV pondered Charles’ requests and eventually gave Cochrane promises of powder and weapons but pleaded ignorance of the full extent of the troubles between the Stuart king and his English Parliament. In England, military and political posturing had turned to open warfare between the contesting factions. After some minor skirmishes in September, the first major action of the English Civil War took place at Edgehill on the 23 October 1642. Surmising from the increasing military action that such a fight was imminent, Christian IV sent Korfitz Ulfeldt and Cochrane to London to inform Charles I of the sincerity of Danish offers of help. They brought with them 6,000 suits of armour and ‘a considerable sum in ready money’. They travelled on to London and delivered Christian’s new terms to Charles for helping him in his war. In addition to his earlier requests for the Orkney and Shetland islands, Christian now wanted to ensure that he could also gain possession of Newcastle, in pawn, in return for Danish military aid. As Charles I considered Christian’s offer of help, Cochrane and Ulfeldt visited the English Parliament where they were arrested. While the Danish ambassador was released soon after, Sir John Cochrane remained in captivity. The detention of the two men, the imprisonment of Cochrane and the maltreatment of Ulfeldt remained a point of contention between Christian IV and the English Parliament for some years. On his release, Cochrane was given the command of Towcester by the king. He did not keep it for long since another diplomatic mission was deemed necessary.

Cochrane arrived in Copenhagen in May and remained there for eleven weeks. Cochrane’s instructions were clear. He had to apologise for Charles being unable to intercede in Christian’s conflict with Sweden due to the pressures of his own conflict in England. However, Charles urged Cochrane to point out that in the English Parliament it had been mooted that a naval fleet should be sent to the Danish waters to ‘take away his [Christian IV's] customs of the Sound’. Additionally 2,000 Scottish soldiers and 1,000 Scottish sailors had been recruited to join the Swedes in an attempted occupation of the Sound. Cochrane argued that he had persuaded some of the Scottish officers in the service of Sweden to reconsider their actions against Denmark-Norway as an act of disloyalty to their own king. He further assured Christian that he had had some success in this matter, hinting of future conversions to com, although there appears to be little foundation for this claim.

Sir John Cochrane struck east in search of firmer supplies than those offered by the Danes. He arrived in Danzig where he entered into negotiations for muskets, powder, match and lead with the Duke James of Courland. Cochrane had some success, and on his return to Lübeck he learned that Duke James intended to supply a dozen cannon in addition to the muskets. Queen Henrietta-Maria wrote to Christian IV asking that ships belonging to the Duke of Courland be allowed to pass through the Sound ‘toll free’ since they carried powder and lead acquired by Cochrane and destined for the Marquis of Montrose’s Royalist army in Scotland. That army was defeated at Philiphaugh an the Royalists suffered more defeats in England. None-the-less, Cochrane was engaged in another mission to try to solicit aid for Charles from Denmark-Norway in 1645. Crown Prince Christian (V) wrote to Charles expressing his concern at the news Cochrane brought regarding Charles’ present situation. However, Prince Christian asked Cochrane to inform his cousin that the recent war with Sweden had left Denmark-Norway so militarily and financially ruined that the only thing he could send to Charles was his prayers. Cochrane reacted strongly to this letter. Within a week of the letter being sent to Charles I, Prince Christian sent another letter to Cochrane denying that he had tried to place any distance between himself and his kinsman. The letter to Cochrane included, according to the Prince, proof of his complete sincerity and the affection he bore for Charles I. He further hoped that Cochrane would emphasise the total commitment to Charles’ interest that the Prince had demonstrated in his audience with the Colonel. In 1646 an English ship had been arrested at Bergen and Cochrane got permission from Christian IV to decide what to do with it with the viceroy of Norway.

Cochrane continued his shuttle diplomacy for the duration of the decade. On the death of Christian IV in 1648, he visited the new Danish king, Frederick III. Charles II re-appointed him as ambassador to Denmark-Norway, Poland, Courland and Danzig after the excecution of Charles I. Between June and September 1649, Cochrane remained in Hamburg where he undertook a violent retaliation against the pro-regicide English. Officially he was trying to raise money and settle a dispute which had arisen between loyalist and rebel Stuart subjects in that city. At the same time, however, he had English Republicans beaten up in the streets. He also orchestrated, with Danish support, the kidnapping of some of the supporters of the English merchants who supported the Republicans.

Cochrane found his task in Hamburg hampered by influential members of the English company there and so dispatched Colonel John Henderson, to Frederik III to request the Danish King’s assistance by way of a letter of recommendation from Frederik III to the Hamburg senate. From Hamburg, Cochrane engaged in his fund raising expedition to the Eastern Baltic. He received 3,000 rigsdaler from the Scots in Danzig to provide for his northern embassy. Though also received well in Poland, the king of that country only provided him with a small amount of money. The Scottish community, however, furnished Cochrane with £10,000. In Courland, the Duke provided him with six large ships full of corn a variety of other supplies.

John Maclean, the Gothenburg merchant also took a leading role in Montrose’s preparations probably helped by the fact that his eldest son, Colonel Jacob Maclean, had earlier married Colonel Cochrane’s only daughter Catherine. On the 17th of December 1649, he shipped a cargo of arms to Scotland and arranged for Royalist soldiers to be picked up in Norway. Montroses expedition turned out to be a fiasco. Charles II had entered negotiations with the Scottish Estates at Breda and effectively sacrificed Montrose and his supporters as the price of his Scottish kingdom. The reinforcements Montrose waited for from the continent were withheld and his small army was routed at Carbisdale. The surviving Cavaliers left behind with the second wave did not forgive the Stuart sacrifice of their friends. John Cochrane abandoned the Stuart cause supposedly taking with him as much as £9,200. Accusations that Cochrane add to the idea that Charles II spread such rumours in order to distance himself from the Montrosians after he had completed his negotiations with the Covenanters. After all, if he could wash his hands of Cochrane, he could also deny responsibility for the debts built up in his name. Cochrane knew thereafter that he could not go to Scotland where the Covenanters would kill him. Neither could he go to England where the Parliamentarians would imprison him. Nor could Cochrane ever again trust that Charles II would not throw him to the wolves at a whim as he had done with Montrose. He is most likely to have moved to Sweden and his daughter's home with James Maclean. Cochrane eventually made his peace with the Cromwellian regime and moved to England in 1653. A pass exists from the 27 June 1655 for "Sir John Cockeran and Gawen Kennedy his servant" amongst others, obtained from the English parliament, to allow them to travel to Sweden or Poland. This may be the same Cochrane. He is reported to have still been alive as late as 1657. Sir John Cochrane married Grace Butler, a cousin of the Duke of Ormond, and together they had a daughter Catherine [SSNE 6231] who married Jacob Maclean [SSNE 1631]. In 1650 after Cochrane left the Royalist camp with their funds, Bradshaw said of him 'I believe he hath wit enough to keep the whole money to himself, for if neither the Scots nor the English suffer him to return, that money will be little enough to maintain his Irish lady and her Hangbyes'

Sources: Danish Rigsarkiv, TKUA Scotland AI 4. f.79a. Scottish Estates to Christian IV, 24/14 April 1640; Danish Rigsarkiv, TKUA Scotland AI 4. f.79b. Christian IV to the Scottish Estates, 10 November 1640; Danish Rigsarkiv, TKUA England A II 15. Charles I to Christian IV, credentials for Sir John Cochrane, 10 May 1642 and 19 August 1642; Danish Rigsarkiv, TKUA England A II 15. Proposal of John Cochrane (?) to Christian IV, c. June 1644; Danish Rigsarkiv, TKUA A II 16. Colonel Cochrane to Frederik III, 28 July 1648; SRP, viii, 1640-41, pp.97-99 and 118. July 1640; pp.217 and 243. 18 and 28 August 1640, p.245. 29 August 1640; Swedish Riksarkiv, 'Svenske Sändebuds till Utländske Hof och Deras Sändebud till Sverige, 1841, p.83; L. Bittner and L. Gross, Reportorium der diplomatischen vertreter aller lander, vol. 1, 1648-1715 (Oldenburg and Berlin, 1936), p.189; KCFB, IV, pp.378. Christian IV to Korfitz Ulfeldt and Gregers Krabbe, 9 August 1640; KCFB, VIII, p.219. Christian IV to Korfitz Ulfeldt, 19 October 1642; KCFB, VIII, pp.220-222. Christian IV to Korfitz Ulfeldt, 22 October 1642; CSPD, 1640-1641, p.120. Nicholas to Roe, 30 September 1640; ibid., p.128, Secretary Vane to Windebank, 1 October 1640; TNA, SP75/15 f.475. General James King to Charles 1, 24 October 1640; Sir James Balfour Paul (ed.) Scots Peerage, III, (Edinburgh, 1906), p.343; D. Lang (ed.), The Letters and Journals of Robert Baillie, Principle of the University of Glasgow MDCXXXVII-MDCLXII (2 vols., Edinburgh, 1841), II, p.9; CSPV, 26, p.203. Giovanni Giustinian to Venice, 26 November 1642; CSPV, 26, p.211. Giovanni Giustinian to Venice, 26 November 1642; CSPD, 1644-1645, p.387. Dr. Stephen Goffe to Henry Lord Jermyn, 6/16 April 1645; CSPD, 1640-41, pp.137-139. Secret account by Nicholas of the pretended plot in Edinburgh against the Marquis of Hamilton and the Earl of Argyll, 14 October 1641; CSPD, 1655, p.591. pass for travel to Sweden or Poland; S. Murdoch, Britain, Denmark-Norway and the House of Stuart 1603-1660 (East Linton, 2000), pp.90-160; L. Bittner and L. Gross, Reportorium der diplomatischen vertreter aller lander, vol. 1, 1648-1715 (Oldenburg and Berlin, 1936), p.183; E. Marquard and J.O. Bro-Jørgenson (eds.), Prins Christian (V)’s Brev, II. Kancellibreve i uddrag 1643-1647 med et tillæg af prinsens egenhændige breve 1627-1647 (Copenhagen, 1956), pp.516-517 and 532-533;J.N.M. Maclean, ‘Montrose’s preparations for the invasion of Scotland, and Royalist mission to Sweden; 1649-1651’ in R. Hatton and M. Anderson (eds.), Studies in Diplomatic History (London, 1970), p.14; H.F. Morland-Simpson, (ed.), ‘Civil War Papers 1643-1650’ in Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, I (Edinburgh, 1893), pp.151-180. ‘Sir John Cochrane’s relation of the particulars that have occurred in his negotiations since his coming to Hamburg’. S. Seliga and L. Koczy, Scotland and Poland; a chapter in forgotten history (Glasgow, 1969), p.8; HMC, Fourth Report, I, pp.163-170; HMC, Sixth Report, p.431. Bradshaw to Frost, 3 September 1650; HMC, Sixth Report, p.427. Bradshaw to Ac’ton, 19 June 1650; S. Murdoch, ‘The House of Stuart and the Scottish Professional Soldier 1618-1640: A Conflict of Nationality and Identities’ in B. Taithe and T. Thornton (eds),War: Identities in Conflict 1300-2000 (Gloucestershire, 1998), p.50; S. Murdoch, ‘Scotland, Denmark-Norway and the House of Stuart 1603-1660; A Diplomatic and Military Analysis’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Aberdeen, 1998; S. Murdoch, 'The Search for Northern Allies: Stuart and Cromwellian Propagandists and Protagonists in Scandinavia, 1649-1660' in B. Taithe and T. Thornton (eds), Propaganda: Political Rhetoric and Identity 1300-2000 (Gloucestershire, 1999), pp.79-90; O. G. Lundh, ed. Norske Rigsregistranter, vol.8 (Christiania, 1884), p.434; Hamburg Staatsarchiv, 177/2b 'Diplomatenlisten' I, p.42; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), pp.74, 310.

Bishops Wars; English Civil War

Service record

Arrived 1632-01-01
Departed 1632-12-31, as COLONEL
Capacity DIPLOMAT, purpose DIPLOMACY
Arrived 1640-06-01
Departed 1640-08-31
Arrived 1640-09-01
Departed 1640-10-15
Arrived 1640-10-15
Departed 1640-10-30
Arrived 1640-11-01
Departed 1640-12-20
Arrived 1642-05-10
Departed 1642-06-30
Arrived 1642-08-19
Departed 1642-09-30
Arrived 1642-10-01
Departed 1643-06-30
Arrived 1644-05-01
Departed 1644-08-30
Arrived 1644-09-01
Departed 1645-07-30
Arrived 1645-01-01
Departed 1645-12-31
Arrived 1648-07-01
Departed 1649-08-30
Arrived 1649-06-01
Departed 1649-09-30
Arrived 1649-10-01
Departed 1650-07-31
Arrived 1650-07-01
Departed 1653-12-31
Capacity REFUGEE, purpose MISC
Arrived 1653-01-01
Departed 1657-12-31
Capacity REFUGEE, purpose MISC