GORDON, FRANS [SSNE 1520]
- GORDON, GORDONIUS
- First name
- FRANS, FRANCIS, FRANCISCUS
- SIR MERCHANT CONSUL
Francis Gordon matriculated at Rostock University in November 1616 and later acted as both the Stuart and Oldenburg (Danish) envoy and merchant factor to Poland and Danzig between 1625 and the 1644. He also served as the envoy and special ambassador in residence from both Charles I of Britain and Christian IV of Denmark-Norway to the king of Poland, though he was stationed for the most part in Danzig. To facilitate his status, Gordon was made a Privy Councillor of the Stuart Court with an annual salary as factor of £200 sterling. Gordon was also supported by Christian IV of Denmark-Norway who paid him 400 rixdalers to act as Danish factor in the same location. In March 1629 Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna corresponded with Gordon as the "English" agent in Poland, despite the fact that he represented Charles as the King of Great Britain. Gordon met Oxenstierna on 13 April that year and passed on news from the Polish court. Gordon became caught in the middle when Thomas Roe [SSNE 4421] arrived on an official embassy from the Stuart court, as Oxenstierna warned Gordon that Roe should not make the grievous error of presenting himself to the Polish king before he saw King Gustav II Adolf. Despite this warning, Roe did exactly that, leading to great offence being taken by the Swedish king. Gordon appeared to function as the regular message bearer for Roe's correspondence to Oxenstierna during 1629. Certainly in January 1630 Roe appointed Gordon as his deputy. During the springtime Gordon and Theophilus Eaton [SSNE 1344] had meetings with Oxenstierna on behalf of the English staple at Elbing. In May 1630 Oxenstierna referred to Gordon as "Der herr Britannische agent", implying that he understood the difference between purely "English" and "British". Similarly, when he wrote to Gordon in Latin he used the term "legatus Britannicus". However, when Gordon approached Oxenstierna on behalf of the English trading company based at Danzig he was referred to as the "English agent". In April 1631 Gordon again met Oxenstierna, again in the company of Eaton, with regard to the privileges and status of the English trading company based at Elbing.
James Spens [SSNE 1642] believed that, working under the cloak of being a public representative of both monarchs, Francis Gordon had actually been retained to conduct secret negotiations between Charles I and Sigismund III. Spens therefore set about impeding the appointment of Francis Gordon as official Stuart agent to Poland. He confirmed to Oxenstierna that he had recruited 'a prudent and learned gentleman' at the Polish Court who would supply Spens with information relating to Gordon's mission. To alleviate Swedish fears, Spens received Royal orders from Sweden that he should try to have Gordon's mission cancelled to prevent any secret negotiations from taking place. For the same wages as Gordon would be paid by the Danes, 400 rixdaler, Spens' man would be paid by the Swedes to ruin his mission. The man selected for this was none other than another fellow Scotsman, Hugh Mowatt [SSNE 800], the former envoy of James VI & I to the Polish Court in 1616. This appointment saw Mowatt contract himself to the Swedish government to serve as their agent in Poland with the explicit brief of destroying both Gordon's mission and reputation.
As Francis Gordon set out for Poland, he was instructed by Charles I to do so via Sweden. The hapless envoy carried with him a letter of introduction to Gustav II Adolf prepared by Spens as part of a devious plan to entrap himself. The basic plan hinged on Gordon travelling to the Swedish Court where Spens had already encouraged Gustav II Adolf to treat Gordon with great kindness and admiration thus stalling him and allowing Mowatt more time to do proceed with his character assassination in Poland. By winning Gordon over with hospitality, Gustav II Adolf could then test what Spens described as his 'dubious and mercenary' nature by promising him a reward in return for some favour or other to be carried out in Poland. This, Spens believed, would be the moment at which Gordon would reveal his lack of integrity. Indeed, Spens believed this so much so that he added that if he took the bribe, the Swedes should not trust any information they got from him, but Spens would leave that up to the king. The entrapment plan was really quite brilliant, if something of a 'catch 22' for Gordon. Even if he declined the Swedish bribe, Mowatt could still point out to the Poles that Gustav II Adolf entertained Gordon beyond the normal degree required for a merchant factor and thus raise suspicion in their minds. Rightly or wrongly Francis Gordon's career was always in doubt thereafter. Although tasked with several light diplomatic duties by Sir Thomas Roe he eventually had to suffer the indignation of having to return to London in 1637 to faces charges of treason. Clearly some of the mud thrown by out by the Spens network had stuck. Ultimately Gordon won his case, but only at the expense of yet another blow to his reputation. Gordon survived the accusations, and returned to Danzig. Little is known of Gordon's work for Denmark other than that he raised money by letters of exchange 11/5 and 16/5/1634 for Christian IV. Francis Gordon was married to Anna Wegner, Apothecary to the king of Poland. Francis Gordon returned to Scotland in 1642 "after threttie yeers perigrination". The following year he donated "42 fair volumes, most pairt physicall" to the Univeristy of Aberdeen. Some sources suggest he later returned to Poland though this awaits verification.
Sources: Swedish Riksarkiv [hereafter SRA], Anglica V, Spens to Oxenstierna, 25 January 1626; SRA, Anglica V. Spens to Oxenstierna, 25 January 1626; SRA, Anglica V. Spens to Oxenstierna, 8 March 1625/1626; SRA, Anglica V. Spens to Oxenstierna, 12 July 1626; SRA, Anglica V. Spens to Oxenstierna 29 July and 28 August 1626;SRA, Anglica III, JSKM. Spens to Gustav II Adolf, 8 August 1626; SRA, Anglica III, JSKM, f.66. Spens to Gustav II Adolf, 20 September 1626; SRA, Anglica IV, KMRB, ff.38-40. Gustav II Adolf to James Spens, 4 July 1626; PRO, SP/88/4-10, SP/104/170; Turnbull MSS, Misc. [no.99]; C. F. Bricka et al (eds.), Kong Christian den Fjereds Egen Haendige Breve (Copenhagen, 1969), vol. 111; Die Matrikel der Universitat Rostock, (Rostock, 1889); Rikskansleren Axel Oxenstiernas Skrifter och brefvexling, first series, III, p.318; ibid, IV, pp.398, 399-401, 471, 472, 589, 590, 596, 597, 601, 604, 640, 651, 739, 753, 772; ibid, V, pp.53, 76, 331, 332, 333, 340, 380, 453, 462, 463, 695, 718; ibid, VI, pp.272-6, 395, 400-2, 436, 480, 482, 513, 514,520, 521; Fasti Aberdonenses: Selections from the records of the University and King's College of Aberdeen, 1494-1854 (Aberdeen, 1854), p.535; T. Fischer, The Scots in Eastern and Western Prussia (Edinburgh, 1903), p.223; T. Riis, Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot (Odense, 1988), II, p.61; G. M. Bell, A Handlist of British Diplomatic Representatives 1509-1688 (London, 1990); A. Bieganska, The Learned Scots in Poland (From the Mid-Sixteenth to the close of the Eighteenth Century) in 'Canadian Slavonic Review, Vol. XLIII, No. 1, March 2001, p.21; T. Fischer, The Scots in Germany (Edinburgh, 1902), p.313; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), pp.235, 267-279; For Gordon's Testament see National Archives of Scotland, CC8 8 64. Thanks to Peter Bajer for passing on this last reference.
- SCOTLAND, ROSTOCK
- Arrived 1616-11-01
- Departed 1616-12-31
- Capacity STUDENT, purpose ACADEMIC
- STUART KINGDOMS, DANZIG, POLAND
- Arrived 1626-01-25
- Departed 1642-01-31
- Capacity ENVOY, MERCHANT FACTOR, purpose DIPLOMACY, MERCANTILE, COMMERCE
- DENMARK-NORWAY, DANZIG, POLAND
- Arrived 1627-07-11
- Departed 1642-01-31
- Capacity AGENT, MERCHANT FACTOR, purpose DIPLOMACY, MERCANTILE, COMMERCIAL
- SCOTLAND, ABERDEEN
- Arrived 1642-12-31
- Capacity MISC., purpose MISC.
- STUART KINGDOMS, LONDON
- Capacity PRIVY COUNCILLOR, purpose ROYAL SERVICE