ERSKINE, ALEXANDER [SSNE 1508]

Surname
ERSKINE, ESCKHEN, ESKEN, ESSKEN, ERSKEIN, VON ERSKINE, till ERSKEIN-SCHWINGE VID BREMEN SCHOSLICHEN, HOHEN-BARNEKOW OCH ROLOFSHAGEN, DER FUERSICHTIGE
First name
ALEXANDER
Title/rank
BARON
Nationality
SCOT
Region
GRIEFSWALD
Social status
NOBILITY
Education
UNIVERSITY

Text source

Alexander Erskine was born on 31 October 1598 at Greifswald, the son of Walter Erskine of Tillierblet, a Scottish merchant who had emigrated to Pomerania, and his consort Anna Johansdotter Forast (most probably a Scot, daughter of John Forest/Forrat?). He was known by the name Esken.

Erskine studied abroad (Vaterstadt 1612, Wittenburg 1617, Leipzig, Jena, Rostock 1623) and entered the service of the Queen Mother Sophia of Denmark, but left it for health reasons.

Between 1628-1630 he was appointed by king Gustav II Adolf as the Swedish court representative and assistant councillor in Stralsund, and in 1632 he was first appointed military councillor. Erskine was also the Swedish resident in Erfurt and Thuringen during this time as well and played the leading role in negotiations between Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna and the duke Wilhelm of Saxe-Weimar - particularly in convincing the Duke to await Oxenstierna's arrival.

Oxenstierna renewed Gustav II Adolf's earlier appointment in February 1633. That year the Chancellor also entrusted the sending of canon to Magdeburg in January, along with the payment to Major-general John Sbubena for his horses in May to Erskein's offices. Erskein plundered some of the monasteries in Erfurt, which Gustav II Adolf had given up as donations to the town. Together with his wife and his brother he confiscated books, furniture and vessels from the possession of the Carthusian friars and blackmailed money for protection from the Catholic clergy and the other monasteries. In 1634 he was again a military councillor for the main Swedish army in Germany and also Swedish resident in Thuringen. Three years later he was sent to Pomerania to organise the fallen government. In 1642 he was a military councillor for the third time.

Erskine remained in Germany where, in 1644, he joined the German political and literary organisation, Der Fruchtbringenden Gesellschaft under the name of Der Fruersichtige. In July/August 1646 he was quartered in Hildesheim because of his negotiations with delegates of Duke August of Brunswick-Luneburg. During the peace talks in Osnabruck and Munster he was a Swedish minister. That year he was also a 'president' (a legal position) in the Pomeranian Central Court, and returned to Hildesheim in July 1647. In 1648 he was a military 'president' with the army under the command of the Count of Pfalz, Karl Gustav. He was also an envoy to the Westphalian peace treaty congress.

Erskine mentioned to Johann Baltasar Schupp that he used his position as military Commissioner to liberate archive materials from captured cities. Thus in 1648 he attained a considerable library from Prague. Therefter, Erskine took part in negotiations in at the conferences of Prague and Nuremberg.

After the war, Erskine travelled to Sweden where Queen Kristina wished to make him a baron but he rejected this. He was then sent to organise the government in Bremen and Verden in 1652 where he had actually served as a councilor since November 1650. The governor of Bremen Stift at this time was Hans Christopher von Konigsmarck who, with Erskine, formed the reduced Bremen-Verden council in 1652. Erskine built a great castle at Schwinge and finally accepted ennoblement and naturalisation on 30 September 1652, although he continued to reject becoming a baron.

On 22 September the following year he became 'president' in Bremen and Verden. The president was meant to have the first position and session next to the governor in all council and congress public or private! In December 1655 he became a Swedish baron, and also inherited a title in Bremen. There is a letter from him to the Swedish king Karl X Gustav dated Cracow 1655 and another dated Warsaw the following year. He was captured in 1656 having survived the surrender of Warsaw but later died in Zamoisc.

He was buried in St. Peter's Cathedral in Bremen. He was twice married, first to Eufrosyne Sibrandes, who died in 1647, and secondly to Lucia Kristina von Wartensleben. He had three sons (some sources say only two) and four daughters with his second wife. One of his sons, Colonel Alexander von Erskein [SSNE 2162] took the unusual step of writing to Charles 9th Earl of Mar on 19 September 1681 to point out that he was the eldest son of a Scot who had settled in Sweden and who had served in the German and Polish wars, quite an understatement of his father's career. The young von Erskein sent his respects to the Earl whom his family claimed as the head of their kin group and thus reaffirmed the family link to the Scottish Erskines. 

 

Sources:

Swedish Riksarkiv, Carl Gustaf's Arkiv i Stegeborgssamlingen, 44 letters of Alexander Erskein, 1646-1654 plus 24 more to B. Oxenstierna; Rikskansleren Axel Oxenstierna's skrifter och brefvexling, first series, VIII, pp.86-7, 113, 726; B. Schlegel and C. A. Klingspor, Den med sköldebref förlånade men ej å Riddarhuset introducerad Svenska Adelns Ättar-taflor (Stockholm, 1875) p.69; T. Riis, Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot (Odense, 1988), II, p.60; T. Fischer, The Scots in Germany (Edinburgh, 1902), p.201; H. Marryat, One Year in Sweden, including a visit to the isle of Gotland (London, 1862), p.484; C. Conermann, Die Mitglieder Der Fruchtbringenden Gesellschaft 1617-1650 (Weinheim, 1985), III, no.421; D. Croxton and A. Tischer, The Peace of Westphalia: A Historical Dictionary (London, 2002), p.84; Beata-Christine Fielder, Die Verwaltung der Herzogtümer Bremen und Verden in der Schwedenzeit 1652-1712 - Organisation und Wesen der Verwaltung (Stade, 1987), pp.52-53, 58, 88, 90-91, 142, 274, 280, 290, 305, 319; Lebensläufe zwischen Elbe und Weser ein biographisches lexikon (Stade, 2002), pp.96-98. In this source, Beata-Christine Fielder notes the "Erskeinsche Sammlung" in Staatsarchiv Stade as well as the existance of a portrait of Erskine in the same location; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), pp.24, 58, 369. 

 

Thanks to Dr Bernd Warlich for the following references: Caspar Heinrich MARX, Diarium Actorum, fol. 25r, 25v, 26r, 26v, 27r, 28r, 28v, 29r, 29v, 30r, 30v, 31r, 32v, 33r, 33v, 36r, 36v, 37r, 38r, 39r, 39v, 40r, 40v, 41r, 42r, 42v, 43r, 44r, 45r, 45v, 46r, 46v, 47v, 48r, 48v, 49r, 49v, 50v, 51v, 52r, 52v, 53r, 53v, 54r, 55v, 59r, 63v, 70r, 73v, 74r, 74v, 75r, 75v, 77v, 83r, 92r, 93r, 96r (http://www.mdsz.thulb.uni-jena.de; autumn 2008); Volkmar HAPPE, Chronicon Thuringiae. Hans Medick, Norbert Winnige, Andreas Bähr, in Zusammenarbeit mit Joachim Ott, Thomas Rokahr und Bernd Warlich (Ed.). (Jena 2008), fol. I 237r, I 284v, I 319v, II 241r (http://www.mdsz.thulb.uni-jena.de, autumn 2008); Hans KFRAFFT (1584-1665). Eine Erfurter Chronik aus der Zeit des Dreißigjährigen Krieges. Hans Medick in Zusammenarbeit mit Andreas Bähr und Jörg Schmidt (Ed.), fol. 54v (http://www.mdsz.thulb.uni-jena.de; autumn 2008); Michael HEUBEL, Begebenheiten, fol. 82, 112 (http://www.mdsz.thulb.uni-jena.de; autumn 2008); Martin BAUER, Erfurter Personalschriften 1540-1800. Beiträge zur Familien- und Landesgeschichte Mitteldeutschlands (Schriftenreihe der Stiftung Stoye der Arbeitsgemeinschaft für mitteldeutsche Familienforschung e.V., Bd. 30), (Neustadt/Aisch 1998), No. 192, Hans SCHLOTTER/Hans-Werner SCHNEIDER/Heinrich-Jobst UBBELOHDE (Ed.), Acta bellorum Hildesiensium. Tagebuch des Dr. Conrad Jordan von 1614 bis 1659, (Hildesheim 1985), p. 468, 479. Heinz-Joachim SCHULZE, Das Stader Reichsarchiv. Die Erskeinische Aktensammlung im Niedersächsischen Staatsarchiv zu Stade, in: Arbeitsgespräch schwedischer und deutscher Historiker. Kulturelle Beziehungen zwischen Schweden und Deutschland im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert. Hg. von der Stadt Stade (Stade 1990), pp. 86-95; Nadine VOGLER-BOECKER, Ein Rückblick in die Erfurter Bibliotheksgeschichte während des Dreißigjährigen Krieges, in: Kathrin PAASCH (Ed.), Miszellen zur Erfurter Buch- und Bibliotheksgeschichte (Bucha bei Jena 2002), pp. 19-36. 

 

Thomas Kossert also kindly provided some of the above and the following references: Herman BRULIN: Erskeinska samlingen i Staatsarchiv i Hannover, in: Meddelanden fran svenska riksarkivet för ar 1936, pp. 86-109. Heinz-Joachim SCHULZE (Ed.): Findbuch zum Bestand 32. Erskeinsche Aktensammlung/ Stader Reichsarchiv 1431-1655 (Inventare und kleinere Schriften des Staatsarchivs in Stade 2), Göttingen 1982; Heiko DROSTE: Im Dienst der Krone. Schwedische Diplomaten im 17. Jahrhundert (Nordische Studien 2), Münster 2006, pp. 390-391. The confiscated books from Erfurt are mentioned in: Christian CALLMER: Königin Christina, ihre Bibliothek und ihre Handschriften. Beiträge zur europäischen Bibliotheksgeschichte (Acta Bibliothecae Regiae Stockholmiensis 30), Stockholm 1977, pp. 98-99. An etching of Erskeine can be found also in Theatrum Europaeum VI (1663), p. 915: http://digbib.bibliothek.uni-augsburg.de/6/index.html?http://digbib.bibliothek.uni-augsburg.de/6/pages/02_IV_13_2_0026_06_1127.html ; See also the MDSZ database http://www.mdsz.thulb.uni-jena.de/sz/index.php 

 

MUch of his correspondence can be found in: Riksarkivets ämnessamlingar. Personhistoria https://sok.riksarkivet.se/bildvisning/A0069611_00278#?c=&m=&s=&cv=277&xywh=-623%2C563%2C7977%2C4600

 

For the reference to his son writing to Mar see National Archives of Scotland, GD 124/15/171, 19 September 1681. Erskein to Mar in French. 

 

FG Poem (Translated from German by Dr Kathrin Zickermann): The Attichwurzel is cautiously calculated for the poison of a adder bite: therefore I was well and thoughtfully called 'cautiously': Cautiously who considers the things in the world. One has to praise approvingly the one who faithfully knocks down the poison of all falseness and fruitfully cultivates God’s fruit; has an eye on the just in general and who unshakably pursues justice

Service record

SWEDEN, POMERANIA, POMERANIA (Pommern), GREIFSWALD
Arrived 1598-10-31
Departed 1625-12-31
Purpose MISC.
SWEDEN, STRALSUND (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern)
Arrived 1628-07-01, as COUNCILLOR
Departed 1630-12-31, as COUNCILLOR
Capacity COUNCILLOR, purpose MILITARY
DENMARK-NORWAY,
Arrived 1629-01-01
Departed 1629-12-31
Purpose ROYAL SERVANT
SWEDEN, ERFURT AND THURINGEN
Arrived 1632-11-01, as RESIDENT
Departed 1633-12-31, as RESIDENT
Capacity RESIDENT, purpose DIPLOMACY, TRADE
SWEDEN, SWEDISH ARMY
Arrived 1634-01-01, as WAR COUNCILLOR
Departed 1634-12-31, as WAR COUNCILLOR
Capacity COUNCILLOR, purpose MILITARY
SWEDEN, POMERANIA (Pommern)
Arrived 1637-01-01, as AGENT
Departed 1637-12-31, as AGENT
Capacity AGENT, purpose ROYAL SERVICE
SWEDEN, SWEDISH ARMY
Arrived 1642-01-01, as WAR COUNCILLOR
Departed 1642-12-31, as WAR COUNCILLOR
Capacity COUNCILLOR, purpose MILITARY
SWEDEN, OSNABRUCK AND MUNSTER
Arrived 1646-01-01, as MINISTER
Departed 1646-12-31, as MINISTER
Capacity MINISTER, purpose MILITARY
SWEDEN, POMERANIAN COURT (Pommern)
Arrived 1646-01-01, as PRESIDENT
Departed 1646-12-31, as PRESIDENT
Capacity CLERK, purpose ROYAL SERVICE
SWEDEN, SWEDISH ARMY
Arrived 1648-01-01, as WAR PRESIDENT
Departed 1648-12-31, as WAR PRESIDENT
Capacity CLERK, purpose MILITARY
SWEDEN, NUREMBERG
Arrived 1648-01-01, as ENVOY
Departed 1648-12-31, as ENVOY
Capacity ENVOY, purpose ROYAL SERVICE
SWEDEN, BREMEN AND VERDEN
Arrived 1650-11-19, as AGENT
Departed 1652-12-31, as COUNCILLOR
Capacity CLERK AND COUNCILLOR, purpose ROYAL SERVICE, CIVIC
 
Arrived 1653-01-01, as PRESIDENT
Departed 1656-12-31, as PRESIDENT
Capacity CLERK, purpose ROYAL SERVICE
SWEDEN, POLAND
Arrived 1656-01-01, as OFFICER
Departed 1656-07-24, as OFFICER
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY