ROBERTSON, JAMES [SSNE 1637]

Surname
ROBERTSON, ROBERTSSON, ROBERTZONIUS, ROBBERTSON, ROBBERTSSON, RUDBETZSON, till VON STRUAN
First name
JAMES, JAKOB, JACOB ROBERT
Title/rank
DOCTOR
Nationality
SCOT
Region
STRUAN, PERTH AND KINROSS
Social status
NOBILITY

Text source

Dr James Robertson was born in Scotland in 1566 the son of Patrick Robertson and Elizabeth Ramsay. He became a doctor of both philosophy and medicine. Prior to the Thirty Years’ War, he migrated to Sweden and obtained the post of court physician in 1611. Within a few years, he was promoted and, in 1614, became physician-in-ordinary to King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden. IF his year of birth is correct, Dr James Robertson not only lived an unusually long time and achieved a lot at a very advanced age.

Dr James Robertson accompanied the Swedish king on his campaigns in the Baltic, including the eventual conquest of Riga. In September 1621 the doctor wrote to Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna from the Swedish military camp outside Riga, describing Gustav II Adolf's "generous terms" to the Riga citizens, allowing them to keep their privileges as long as they accepted a Swedish garrison, and noting that the Swedish king was about to make his formal entry into the town, accompanied by his army. In 1622 Dr James Robertson bought a house in Riga, registered on 22 August 1622. Elsewhere it is noted that the doctor had two estates in Riga, possibly royal donations in lieu of payments owed, which the doctor spent much of his life chasing up.

Dr Robertson's Swedish properties.

Apparently Gustav II Adolf donated a 'garden' plot in Gamla Stan, close to Stor Kyrkan, presumably for Dr James Robertson's use to grow medicinal plants. In 1630 Dr James Robertson purchased the western and largest portion of a plot at Köpmangatan 15, where he either had a house built or there was already one standing. Dr James Robertson sold this plot in 1650 to John (Hans) Primrose, who renovated and extended the extant building(s). Further to these properties, Dr James Robertson also received a plot on Norrmalm from Queen Kristina, where he had a house built. This unfortunately fell foul of the regeneration plan for Norrmalm and in 1638 had to be torn down and moved further north, along Drottninggatan. The block where this building used to be is still known as Skotten (the Scotsman), presumably in commemoration of the doctor's building there.

 

Robertson and Markatten Pharmacy:

Dr James Robertson was awarded a royal letter of privilege to open an apothecary at the castle in Stockholm in 1623, making him responsible for hiring a pharmacist. On 30 June Dr James Robertson appeared before the Stockholm magistrates with his royal letter, claiming that he now held the monopoly on apothecaries and the goods required for them, effectively seeking to ban anyone else from having or running an apothecary. By 21 June 1624 the monopoly of the supply of all medicines within the town (some say within the royal palace) were given over to Robertson for a yearly sum of 200 rixdaler. The letter of privilege, dated 13/8/1624 is reprinted below. The following year, however, Dr James Robertson requested that he could set up his own apothecary, to which the king agreed, releasing him from taxation on all medical goods imported into Sweden. This personal privilege of monopoly was extended to allow him to take on partners. The letter of privilege dated 22/6/1625 is also reprinted below.

Intriguingly, around this same period the Swedish queen, Maria Eleonora, had called in a German apothecary, Philip Magnus Schmidt, who in 1625 received a royal privilege to open a pharmacy in Stockholm, known as Lejonet.

Dr James Robertson did open a pharmacy called Markatten, but its precise location at this time is unclear. One source has given modern day Stora Nygatan in Gamla Stan (then Kungsgatan) as a location.  Dr Robertson gave up his involvement with that apothecary in 1628, possibly partly due to financial difficulties engendered by a dispute with Raleigh Sanderson, discussed below. The apothecary continued, initially in the hands of Paridon von Horn, before being initially sold onto Georg Daurer. It then continued trading under different pharmacists, moving to various locations across Stockholm in the ensuing years.

 

Dr James Robertson was in regular contact with Sir General James Spens [SSNE 1642], officer, recruiter, Stuart and Vasa diplomat. In October 1622 the doctor wrote to Chancellor Oxenstierna from Stockholm, including warm greetings from Spens and his wife. The following December, 1623, James Spens wrote to Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna asking him to entrust Doctor Robertson regarding some personal matters, confirming that the two were close confidants; Spens did this again in April 1624. Spens seemed to rely on writing in what he termed his 'own language' (Scots) to Dr Robertson in the knowledge that the Doctor would be able to supply a translation, whether written or orally, to Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna. In January 1625 Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna interceded on his behalf with Peder Anderson, treasury master, and requested that the outstanding sum of 391 daler be paid to the doctor.  This was confirmed again in 1626 when he also received a donation of goods from Gustav II Adolf.

 

The farm on Södermalm.

On 19 April 1624 Per Jönsson, "wårdskrifvare" was sent from the Stockholm magistrates court with Dr James Robertson, armed with a royal letter of donation for the land, to the late Samuel Cockburn's [SSNE 4219] farm on Södermalm to evict the linen-weaver who was currently living there. However, a year later in April 1625 Peter Ugleby (Ogelvie?) came before the Stockholm magistrates on behalf of his mother, the widow of the late Samuel Cockburn, presenting a document proving his right to a farm on Södermalm which Peter Ugleby claimed that Dr James Robertson had falsely obtained the rights to and convinced King Gustav II Adolf to make a royal donation of to the physician. Peter Ugleby claimed that the late Samuel Cockburn had given him the farm directly. The magistrates decided that as this matter concerned a royal letter of donation they were not authorised to resolve the matter and they would refer it to the king, and that Peter Ugleby was required to prove to the king that he had been misled by Dr James Robertson. The issue appears not to have been resolved - understandably, King Gustav II Adolf was almost constantly on campaign from that time until his death in 1632. In October 1633 Dr James Robertson reminded the Stockholm city magistrates' court about a case he had raised regarding the late Samuel Cockburn farm on Södermalm, awarded to him by the late King Gustav II Adolf as a royal donation, in 1625. However, one Matthias Frijfust, tailor, was currently residing at the farm and the doctor was seeking clarification as to the tailor's rights to the property. At the end of November the doctor was still awaiting the magistrates' conclusion. It is uncertain whether this tailor was the same individual as the linen-weaver mention in 1624.

 

The Raleigh Sanderson dispute.

Dr Robertson had a lengthy legal dispute during 1628 with Raleigh Sanderson [SSNE 7777] over a sum of money that also involved Nicolas Bass in Hamburg. In the end the doctor lost the case and was required to compensate Sanderson not only for the goods he had supplied to the doctor's pharmacy but also for all Sanderson's legal costs incurred in the dispute. The doctor laid out the situation from his perspective in a letter to Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna, undated but probably written in early 1626. It seems that the matter hinged on medical goods that Dr James Robertson had requested Sanderson to acquire for him. The latter instead claimed the items could be bought at a better price in Hamburg. At this point, Dr James Robertson had handed over his apothecary to Paridon von Horn as the doctor was accompanying Gustav II Adolf abroad. von Horn apparently went ahead with the purchase from Hamburg, but when they goods arrived they were damaged, sought a reduction in the price which the seller would not give. von Horn then refused to pay for the items, leaving Sanderson in hoc.

In December 1628 Dr Robertson once again appeared before the magistrates' court regarding his purchase of a house through Valentin Nillson, the house in question belonging to Lorens Buchow valued at 3200 daler. The house had apparently been put up as collateral for the welfare of one Erik Ingemundson's children. Michel Buchow (presumably a brother of Lorens?) was unwilling to let the sale go through. In April 1629 the records note that it was Sara, the wife of burgess Lorens Buchow who had sold the house. Her brother, Sveno Henrici, appears to be seeking financial restitution from the doctor. The doctor defends himself before the city council in May that same year, and it seems that both Sara and Zacharias (uncertain wha this relationship is) lay their claims to the house. The case drags on as on 13 May Dr Robertson demands confirmation on his house purchase, stating that without it he will have to either be released from the purchase or withdraw from it. On 6 June the doctor complains that Sara's brother is still preventing him from accessing the house which he legally purchased. 

 

By 1629 Dr James Robertson had established his own business in Pomerania, again in partnership with Jacob du Rees.

 

Dr James Robertson obtained proof of his Scottish noble ancestry from King Charles I dated Edinburgh, 20 July 1630. He was introduced into the Riddarhus in 1634. His children sought admission to the Riddarhus the following year and supplied the same document in copy form, officially witnessed by one A. Gylli. His noble name is usually given as "Robertson á Struan".

In April 1633 James Robertson met Caspar Buessing, sr. and signed his autograph album, describing himself as "Medicus Cubicularius" of the Swedish king (then recently deceased).

Dr James Robertson's name appears on the list of investors to the new Swedish Söderkompaniet (along with fellow Scot, James Forbes).

Following the death of Gustav II Adolf, Dr James Robertson became the personal doctor and 'arkiater' to Queen Kristina, title officially awarded by 1645.

Dr James Robertson was married to Margareta Blom in 1620 (d.16 July 1646) and then, at the age of 84 in 1650 to Anna Seitserf [SSNE 6241] in her first marriage. She was either the daughter of Captain John Seitserf of Scottish descent, and she was just 17. Robertson's daughter Elizabeth [SSNE 6262] married first to a German and then to the Scot John Orchartoun [SSNE 3229]. He also had the children Christina Jacobina [SSNE 3552](d.19 September 1679), Adolf [SSNE 6289] (d.1660) and Maria Eleonora [SSNE 6290] who later married the physician Peter Fuchs von Buhlstein, while the baptismal records for Nikolai Kyrka show Gustav, Margareta and Elisabet being baptised between December 1623 and October 1628. One of his daughters was married to resident Johan Gerhardsson Graan and another daughter to Adolf Fredrik Schletzer. In an undated letter to Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna (probably written late 1649/early 1650) Dr James Robertson mentions that he had lent "his two sons-in-law" 3,000 riksdaler only for the two men to disappear with the money. 

Dr James Robertson died on 3 December 1652. One source notes a letter written by one J. Robertsson, Swedish nobleman, dated Dorpt 26 ? 1656 regarding Adolf Robertson who had wounded his wife and then ended his life rotting alive on a rubbish heap. Robertson's experience fits and illustrates the broader medical world of seventeenth-century Stockholm where most medical practitioners were European migrants. Indeed, his venture has been described as the 'first grand attempt to expand the Stockholm pharmaceutical business' (see Fors in the sources).

 

Sources: Riksarkivets ämnessamlingar. Personhistoria 

https://sok.riksarkivet.se/bildvisning/A0070091_00153#?c=&m=&s=&cv=152&xywh=3138%2C2590%2C2529%2C1386

(mentioned here in correspondence of his son Adolf) https://sok.riksarkivet.se/bildvisning/A0070071_00189#?c=&m=&s=&cv=188&xywh=2245%2C2701%2C3444%2C1986

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*For a fascinating glimpse into Dr Robertson's life: see Gabrielle Hansen's undergraduate 2006 dissertation at Lund University, "Mens mea multis anxietatibus evecta ...", En 1600tals läkares bestyr och besvär, Utgåva av brev från Jakob Robertsson till Axel Oxenstierna. In this work she has transcribed and printed eight Latin letters (dating from 1621 to late 1649/early 1650) written by Dr James Robertson to Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna. See link to the dissertation in Swedish:

Syfte och metod (lu.se)

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* Letter of privilege 1624:

Wij hafwe wår trotjenare och lifmedico D. Jacobo Roberts uti fullmacht och befallning, att antaga en god och förfaren apothecare, som
uti alle saker, som till Wår och Wår elskel. k. Gemåls tjenst hörer, efter hans Commendo sig bruka låter och alltid, när som hälst behof
giörs, dag eller natt, är tillstädes, till hvilken ända Wij för bemälte Wår medico bestå årligen 300 dal., af hvilka han samma apothekare
underhålla skall. Såsom och uti lika måtto bestå Wij honom, efter som wanligit hafwer varit, fritt glas och kohl, så mycket som till förb:te wårt apoteks gagn kan förbrukas. Wij befalle fördenskull wår skattmästare, kammerråd och General Reveveur att de i rattan tid låte honom förb:te
300 daler så väl, som glas och kohl utbekomma

*Letter of privilege 1625:

Hvad Wij nu och wår ellskeliga kära Gemahl för medicamenta till Wårt behof, eller och till andra nådigst willia befala, uthur samma apothek at anamma, derföre willie Wij låtha gifwa honom och hans medh Consorter åhrligen Trehundrade daler. Hwad och Wår Liifmedicus till materialier och medicamenter uthur Wårt Slossapothek till sigh efter wår gunstiga tillåtelse annamat, och han fideliter taxieret och werdera låthit till sechshundrade daler swenscha; dem wele Wij att dhe skolle honom frambdeles afkortes uti hansbestälningh. Alla de medicamenta, som till menniskiones styrkio och sundhet i fremmande landh upköpte och hiit införde warda till samma apoteks behof, skole wara frii för all Tull Wechssel och beswär

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Swedish Riksarkiv, Anglica 5, 13 December 1623, and ibid, 26 April 1624; Stockholm Stadsarkiv, (Storkyrkan) Nikolai församling dopböker, 1623-1717, I, p.342; G. Elgenstierna, Svenska Adelns Ättartavlor, vol 6, p.376; Rikskansleren Axel Oxenstiernas skrifter och brefvexling, first series, III, p.3; Carl Forsstrand, En Stockholmsläkare under forsta hälften av 1600 talet Jakob Robertson livmedikus hos Gustav II Adolf (Stockholm 1925); Stockholmsstads Tänkeböcker 1624-1625, (Uppsala, 1979), p.11, p.261, p.262, p.480; Stockholmsstads Tänkeböcker (SSTB) från år 1592, del xvii 1628 (Stockholm, 1998), p3, 8, 16-17, 22, 26, 89, 102, 163, 164, 237, 243, 244;  and SSTB del xviii 1629, (Stockholm, 2000), p. 50, p.180, p.193, p.197; and SSTB del xxi 1633, (Stockholm, 2006), p.44, p.206, p.234; Sveriges Rikes Ridderskaps och Adels Riksdags Protokoll, andra delen, 1633-1636 (Stockholm, 1856), p. 163, 202, 204; H. Marryat, One Year in Sweden, including a visit to the isle of Gotland (London, 1862), p.495; P. Wieselgren, (ed.), De La Gardiska Archivet, part 10 (Lund, 1838), p.20, p.69; A. Levertin, C.F.V. Schimmelp-Fenning and K.A. Ahlberg (eds), Sveriges Apotekarhistoria (6 vols., Stockholm 1910-1949), I, pp.27-28; Otto E.A. Hjelt, Svenska och Finska Medicinalverkets Historia 1663-1812, 3 vols. (Helsingfors, 1891-1893), vol.3, pp.350, 351 and 370;A. Tidner, Palats och Kåkar, (Stockholm, 1917), p.11; F. Bedoire, Stormaktstidens Norrmalm folk hus och gator, (Stockholm, 2023), p.48; L. Forsberg, Stormaktstidens Stockholm tar gestalt, (Stockholm, 2001), p.105 and p.175; T. Fischer, The Scots in Sweden  (Edinburgh, 1907), p.33; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Asso;ciations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), p.259; A. B. Robertson-Pearce, ‘Doctor James Robertson, 1566-1652: Court Physician to King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden’, The Clan Donnachaidh Annual, [n/a] (1970), pp. 59-61;  H. Fors, ‘Medicine and the Making of a City: Spaces of Pharmacy and Scholarly Medicine in Seventeenth-Century Stockholm’, Isis, 107 (2016), 473-494.

This entry was kindly updated by Dr Thomas Brochard; see Brochard, "Scots and Scandinavia as seen through Alba Amicorum, 1570s-1720s", Northern Studies, vol.52 (2021), p. 122.

Scots language (re Spens letters)

Service record

SWEDEN, ROYAL COURT, STOCKHOLM
Arrived 1614-01-01
Departed 1651-12-31
Capacity MEDICAL DOCTOR, purpose ROYAL SERVANT, MEDICAL, MEDICINE
SWEDEN, RIGA
Arrived 1622-08-22
Departed 1623-11-22
Capacity DOCTOR, purpose MEDICAL
SWEDEN, POMERANIA (Pommern)
Arrived 1626-07-29
Departed 1630-12-31
Capacity DOCTOR, purpose MEDICAL