First name

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Sir Robert Henderson of Fengask joined Dutch service in 1594 and was one of three brothers to serve there. Robert was the second son of James Henderson of Fordell, and Jean, daughter of William 10th Baron of Tulliebardine. His first brother, Sir John, married into both the Balfour of Burleigh and the Halkett of Pitfiranne families (both of which had strong connections to the Brigade and to the second regiment in particular, see Sir John Halkett [SSNE 7966], for instance). His younger brothers Sir Francis [SSNE 8024] was employed in the Scots Brigade, and Sir Francis succeeded command of Sir Robert's regiment on his death. Sir Robert had another brother, Sir James Henderson, and this may be the same man as Lieutenant-Colonel James Henderson [SSNE 5008]. Sir Robert married Anna Kirkpatrick [SSNE 8023], and her petitions as a widow are recorded in her entry.


Sir Robert was part of the original Scots-Dutch regiment, and was present at the fighting in and around Nieuwpoort in 1600. In late June/early July, Maurice of Nassau laid siege to Nieuwpoort but learned that Archduke Albert was advancing rapidly towards him. Twelve Scottish companies, seven Zeeland companies, four cavalry companies and two guns were sent under Colonel Sir William Edmond [SSNE 8019] and Count Ernest of Nassau to take and hold the bridge of Leffingen. The expedition found the bridge already held by the Archduke's troops, and disaster struck when the Spaniards overwhelmed Edmond and the Count. Both guns were lost, along with 800 men, 600 of whom were Scots. Seven out twelve Scottish captains were killed, and Colonel Edmond, Sergeant-Major Brog [SSNE 7842], as well as captains Caddel [SSNE 8005], Robert Henderson, and Ker were left to pick up the pieces of the regiment. They fled to Fort Albert, which was still held by Dutch forces, but many were killed "up to the very palisades of the fort," (Ferguson, 31). Edmond and his remaining troops returned to Nieuwpoort and were probably participants in the battle itself. After Nieuwpoort, Edmond was sent back to Scotland to "remake his regiment," (Ferguson, 32).

By 1604 Robert's brother Francis was now serving in the Brigade, but in Lord Buccleuch's [SSNE 5010] regiment, formed in 1603. Robert continued serving in Edmond's regiment and between 1601-1604 he commanded 113 men with a salary of £1502. On 20 December 1603 he took oath as the new lieutenant-colonel of Buccleuch's regiment and inspected the regiment in April 1604. His company transferred with him.


Between 1607-1610, Henderson's command fluctuated. What follows is a list of the numbers he commanded and the company's salary.

1607: 150 "spears and muskets," £2014

1608: 124 men, £1702

1609: 100 men, £1417 (£100 salary)

1610: 100 men, £1417

It is curious that Henderson commanded 100 men between 1609-1610. Nearly every captain in the entirety of the Scots-Dutch brigade saw a reduction in their command during the duration of the Twelve Years' Truce (1609-1621) to 70 men, £1059. This indicates that he may have received his promotion to lieutenant-colonel by then. In Maclean's marriage register, Henderson is noted as lieutenant-colonel by 1606 (Maclean, 36). Although in the States of War in 1610 he is still noted as captain, he was certainly lieutenant-colonel by 1609, and was receiving lieutenant-colonel's pay of £100 in that year.


It has been stated that a Colonel Henderson fought for the Elector of Brandenburg in Cecil's Dutch Regiment. However, Cecil's army at that time was actually an independent British force made up of Scottish and English regiments drawn from Dutch service. In 1610, the Duchies of Juliers and Cleves were contested by Leopold of Austria on one side and the Electors Brandenburg and Palatine on the other. An auxilliary force of two English regiments and one Scottish regiment, were sent to aid the protestant contestants for the area. In this expedition, Sir Robert acted as colonel of the nine companies of the Scots-Brigade, with James Caddel [SSNE 8005] serving as lieutenant-colonel and Sir William Balfour acting as sergeant-major. Command of the entire expedition fell to Sir Edward Cecil, First Viscount Wimbeldon.

Henderson distinguished himself during the siege of Juliers. On 15 August, an eyewitness reported that "the enemy threw fireworks into General Cecil's Main Batteries, which burnt long and did much harm before the same could be quenced... but Sir Robert Henderson, Colonel of the Scots had the Guard that night, who shewed great judgement both to quench it and to hinder the enemy from attempting it any more, who shot wild fire and granadoes most part of the night," (Weymouth's account of the Siege of Gulick in Ferguson, p. 222).

COLONELCY, 1612-1621:

Henderson returned to Buccleuch's regiment after the expedition and assumed command of the regiment after Buccleuch's death in 1612, on recommendation by members of the States-General who were afraid that the King of Great Britain "might again set about recommending in [Buccleuch's] place as commander of the regiment some one not having the necessary skill and experience" (Ferguson, 259. See below). Henderson was promoted, and between 1613-1618 Sir Robert's company contained 150 men, £2014. He was receiving a £300 salary, slightly less than the usual colonel's pay. This became a matter of contention, when, in 1613 Henderson petitioned for the higher pay due to a colonel. He was still petitioning by 1617, and the Council of State agreed it was "more in order that he may not be paid less than another of the same standing," (Ferguson, 283). However, the Council agreed they were too hard pressed to increase his pay, and so to be more equitable they agreed upon instead lowering the pay of the other colonels. Henderson petitioned again in 1618 for a raise, citing his 24 years of good service, (See Ferguson, 288-289). In 1621 he and Colonel Sir William Brog also petitioned to increase their companies to 200 men. Henderson became admitted as a burgess and Guilds Brother of Edinburgh on 27 June 1617.

Henderson's succession to Lord Buccleuch seems to have caused a bit of a crisis in the Brigade. Buccleuch's son, the Earl of Buccluech [SSNE 5009], had been promised the command of his father's regiment in 1612 by the States General after the Lord's death, but was instead passed up by the Prince of Orange for the far more experienced Sir Robert Henderson. King James evidently believed the old regiment's colonel, Sir WIlliam Brog, to be "pretty well up in years; and that he should retire from war," so that the Earl could assume the colonelcy and the state be absolved of debts still owed to his late father. The issue continued until at least 1622, when on September 30 Frederick V of the Palatinate wrote to Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia that "Colonel Brog will leave his regiment most reluctantly; but still it needs to be reformed," (Akkerman, 400-401). Brog, of course, did not give up his regiment, and thus the third regiment was born in 1629.


In 1622, Spanish generals Spinola and Velasco seized Steenbergen and went to besiege to Bergen-op-Zoom. Prince Maurice, realizing Spain's intentions, sent Sir Robert Henderson to both reinforce and command the garrison in Bergen-op-Zoom. Henderson was wounded on 16 August. Accounts of this event vary. According to a chronicler at the battle, Henderson led a massive sally of three or four thousand men from the garrison, with the Scots and English in the vanguard, the Dutch in the middle, and the French in the rear. In the battle, which "lasted a night and a whole morning," Henderson was wounded in the thigh. The chronicler's description of his death is so colorful and rich that it is important to note here:

"I will saying nothing, in commendation of Colonel Henderson; his own actions commend him in the highest degree, for he stood all the fight in as great danger as any common soldier, still encouraging, directing, and acting with his Pike in his hand. At length he was shot in the thigh: he received his wound at the front, or, as most say, being over earnest he stepped into his enemy's trenches. So he was nothing but spirit and courage. He shewed it chiefly in his devotion, and in his earnest calling upon God in his sickness, and he was so willing to die that he made but a recreation of it, for after he had received the Sacrament he remembered his friends very cheerfully, and being extremely hot, he asked his physician [for leave] to drink some water; so his Physician, seeing he was but a dead man, let him have his will. He drank five healths; the first was to the King, the second to the Prince [Charles], the third to the Queen of Bohemia, the fourth to the Prince of Orange, and the last to the Earl of Marre. When he had done he desired his brother to thrust him down into his bed, and so took his leave of this miserable life," (Ferguson, 309-310).

This account is largely corroborated by the Venetian Secretary in the Netherlands. However, the Secretary's initial description is of a surprise attack on the English and Scots by Italian troops, rather than a massive sally. On 22 August 1622, he reported:

"On Tuesday night the Italians surprised the quarters of the English and Scot and soon captured two demi lunes, but the defenders rallied and drove them out. A truce was arranged to bury the dead. It is said that the defenders only lost about 100 slain with many wounded, but the Italians had numerous wounded and 5 to 600 slain by the cannon fired from the English quarters. Four English captains were mortally wounded and Colonel Henderson, a Scot, had his thigh broken by a musket ball. He brought here on Friday evening in a very dangerous condition, from constant fever. The States would be sorry to lose him as he is a capable and valiant soldier," (CSPV, Vol. 17, 1621-1623, p. 395).

A week later, the Venetian Secretary reported that "Colonel Charles Morgan, an Englishman, [was] sent by Prince Maurice to take Henderson's place, [as Henderson had] died on Tuesday night after finally arranging his affairs [and] made his will." The Secretary's account includes Henderson's toasts, but some key differences should be noted. In this account it is reported that he toasted the King of Great Britain, the King and Queen of Bohemia, the States, Prince Maurice, Prince Henry and Count Ernest of Nassau. There is no mention of either Prince Charles or the Earl of Mar, but the account states that Henderson asked that his brother would succeed him as colonel of the regiment. This occurred within thirty minutes and Henderson "showed courage." Finally, the Venetian Secretary reported "he recommended his soul to God and they say he displayed great piety in his Calvinist faith." (CSPV, Vol. 17, 1621-1623, p. 400). Henderson died in The Hague on 23 August. (Het Staatsche Leger, Vol. III, p. 96).

Spinola lifted the siege on 2 October, reportedly having lost 10,000 men. Henderson's dying wish was granted: his brother Sir Francis was promoted to colonel of the regiment by September 17th, and Sir David Balfour [SSNE 8033] became the sergeant-major. 

Resolutions of the States-General: 10 January 1612 (Ferguson,pp. 258-259)

Mr. Magnus presiding, intimated that through his Excellency he had received intelligence of the death of Colonel Buccleuch, and being afraid that the King of Great Britain might again set about recommending in his place as commander of the regiment some one not having the necessary skill and experience, that therefore his Excellency would ask their Highnesses to take into consideration whether it might not be advisable (in anticipation of such action), that they at once commission a fit colonel; that his Excellency recommends the lieutenant-colonel of the said regiment, Robert Henderson, whom he knows as a good soldier, and who is well fitted for the position, and that a provisional instrument might be granted him to assume the command of the said regiment and keep it in good military order. All which having been considered and weighed, it was agreed on the said recommendation of his Excellency that an instrument be granted to the said Lieutenant-Colonel Henderson, whereby he shall be commissioned to command the foresaid regiment in the same quality as hitherto he has held, and containing further a promise that should their Highnesses decide to appoint or commission a colonel at some future time over the said regiment, he was preferred before any one else.

N.B. If the Venetian Secretary's account holds true, and Henderson died on the Tuesday previous to his letter of 29 August 1622 (a Monday), the date of his death should be 23 August 1622, and thus he would have been wounded on 16 August. This is corroborated by Het Staatsche Leger (p. 96).

His portrait in the Rijksmuseum:


Image result for robert henderson of tunnygask



Nadine Akkerman (ed.), The Correspondence of Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia (2 Vols, Oxford 2015), Vol. 1, pp. 400-401. No. 282, Frederick [in Sedan] to Elizabeth [in The Hague?], 30 September 1622.

J. Ferguson, Papers Illustrating the History of the Scots Brigade in the service of the United Netherlands,1572-1697 (Edinburgh, 1899), pp. 59, 64, 69, 72, 72-75, 221-224, 226-227, 229, 259, 268, 274, 283, 307, 309-310, 322, 331-332, 335, 342-345, 378, 579 ; D. Dobson 'Scottish Soldiers in Continental Europe' [part one] (St Andrews, 1997); T. Fischer, The Scots in Germany (Edinburgh, 1902).

Dr. Ir. J. MacLean, De Huwelijksintekeningen Van Schotse Militairen in Nederland: 1574-1665 (Zutphen, 1976), p. 36.

Calendar of State Papers, Venetian, 1621-1623, Vol. 17, pp. 395, 400.

F.J.G Ten Raa and F. de Bas, Het Staatsche Leger, 1568-1795, III (Breda, 1915), p. 96.


This entry expanded by Mr Jack Abernethy.

Service record

Arrived 1594-01-01, as CAPTAIN
Departed 1603-12-20, as LIEUTENANT-COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1603-12-20, as LIEUTENANT-COLONEL
Departed 1610-01-01, as LIEUTENANT-COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1610-01-01, as COLONEL
Departed 1610-12-31, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1611-01-01, as LIEUTENANT-COLONEL
Departed 1612-01-10, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1612-01-10, as COLONEL
Departed 1622-08-23, as DECEASED
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY