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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. He bought a house in Riga on 22 August 1622 and opened an apothecary in Stockholm the following year under the trade name of "Markatten" now on Stora Nygatan. Robertson accompanied the king on most of his campaigns and was duly gratified with land and property in return. Beside his Crown properties in and around Stockholm, he enjoyed two manorial estates near Riga. By 21 June 1624 the monopoly of the supply of all medicines within the royal palace were given over to Robertson for a yearly sum of 200 rixdaler. It appears, that as was the case with many of of the Scottish officers in Swedish employment, payment for his services was not always forthcoming. In December 1623 James Spens [SSNE 1642] wrote a letter to Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna asking him to entrust Doctor Robertson regarding some personal matters, implying that Spens and Robertson knew each other rather well; 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 personal privilege of monopoly was extended on 22 June 1625 to allow him to take on partners. This was confirmed again in 1626 when he also received a donation of goods from Gustav II Adolf. Soon after, Robertson's name appears on the list of inverstors to the new Swedish Söderkompaniet (along with fellow Scot, James Forbes). By 1629 Robertson had established his own business in Pomerania in partnership with Jacob du Rees. He obtained proof of his Scottish noble ancestry from King Charles I in July 1630, who furnished a document from Edinburgh. He was introduced into the Riddarhus in 1634.

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).

After the death of Gustav II Adolf, Robertson became the personal doctor and 'arkiater' to Queen Kristina by 1645. He died on 3 December 1652, although 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).

 Robertson was married to Margareta Blom in 1620 (d.16 July 1646) and then, at the age of 84 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], while the baptismal records for Nikolai Kyrka show Gustav, Margareta and Elisabet being baptised between December 1623 and October 1628.


Sources: Riksarkivets ämnessamlingar. Personhistoria

(mentioned here in correspondence of his son Adolf)

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 Stockholmslakare under forsta halften av 1600 talet Jakob Robertson livmedikus hos Gustav II Adolf (Stockholm 1925); 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; T. Fischer, The Scots in Sweden (Edinburgh, 1907), p.33; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations 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.

Service record

Arrived 1614-01-01
Departed 1651-12-31
Arrived 1622-08-22
Departed 1623-11-22
Capacity DOCTOR, purpose MEDICAL
Arrived 1626-07-29
Departed 1630-12-31
Capacity DOCTOR, purpose MEDICAL