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James Forbes (c. 1587-1656) had a varied career in Sweden as a burgess of Stockholm, military commander and Swedish nobleman. He was the eldest son of Henry Forbes of Thainstone and Margareta Forbes (SSNE 1704) eldest daughter of William Forbes of Corse and Elizabeth Strachan (aka as Susanna Strachan). James was born in Aberdeen after 1586 and probably arrived in Sweden with his father and brother sometime around 1600. Henry Forbes served in the Swedish army under king Karl IX and was killed in September 1605 at the battle of Kirkholm in Livonia. James remained in Sweden after his father's death and went on become a merchant for both the dowager queen Kristina and her son King Gustav II Adolf. This is most likely the same man as Jakob Forbes, noted as merchant to the dowager Queen Kristina (G II A's mother)in 1620. He apparently had an illegitimate child by a servant girl who was baptised in Nicolai church on 29 June 1620. In August that year the Stockholm consistory records note that Malin Erichsdotter of Norrmalm had a child by him - this may have been the same case, or yet another. By August 1624 James Forbes received all the privileges of a burgess of Stockholm when he became a citizen there. Soon after, Robertson's name appears on the list of inverstors to the new Swedish Söderkompaniet (along with fellow Scot Dr James Robertson). Perhaps surprisingly for a man of 46, Forbes decided to enter military service. The motivation behind the career change remains unclear. Nonetheless he enlisted as a private in the Narkes and Varmlands regiment in 1626 after which he swiftly became promoted to the rank of lieutenant the following year. This rapid rise in rank is suggestive of some earlier military experience although there is as yet no evidence for this. Forbes' progress through the ranks continued and by 1628 he became a captain for a company of Varmlanders before transferring to the Södermanlands regiment between 1628-9. During this exact period, Forbes had occasion to undertake business with the Riksråd, the Swedish state council, in his capacity as a burgess of Stockholm. These civic matters included enquiries regarding shipping and complaints against the overvaluation of Swedish currency showing that he maintained his civic and trading interests. It was during this period that Forbes applied to Charles I for evidence of his noble origins which would allow him to become ennobled in Sweden. A letter from Charles I authenticating the nobility of Jacob and Patrick Forbes de Thainstone dated 1629 still survives in the library in the city of Lund. James' application for ennoblement in Sweden proved successful. In 1630 the Riksråd prepared an open letter on Forbes' behalf and the year 1631 saw him naturalised, ennobled and introduced into the Swedish nobility under the title of Forbes of Lund. He had by this time become a colonel. It is in this capacity that he may have served at Wittstock. A Colonel Forbus was certainly there, and the other likely candidates can be eliminated. Alexander Forbes was serving as a diplomat while Arvid Forbus and several other colonels were in the army of Bernhard of Saxe-Wismar at the time of the battle.

Things progressed at a slower pace for his brother Peter [SSNE 1671] who did not become naturalised as a Swedish nobleman until March 1651.

Despite his elevation in Swedish society, there is some evidence to suggest that James Forbes found himself in conflict with his relative, Colonel Alexander, 11th Lord Forbes[SSNE 1616]. A commission of recommendation for Lord Forbes addressed to Queen Kristina in January 1636 contains reference to a dispute between Alexander and James Forbes already in Swedish service. The details are not given, only that the dispute is a private matter which Lord Forbes hoped the Queen could help resolve. No evidence has been found that there was any other James Forbes of sufficient status to warrant a Royal intervention.Whatever the outcome of the disagreement with Lord Forbes, James Forbes remained active in the Swedish army despite his increasing years. In 1647 he is said to have served as a colonel for one of the few recruited Scottish regiments still in Swedish service. Problematically, Elgenstierna cites Leijonhufvud who dates the regiment to 1674 - long after James was dead. Elgenstierna may, therefore, have found evidence to correct the date (or more likely Leijonhufvud transposed the 47 and 74). The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 reduced the need for military commanders within Sweden. By the time of renewed hostilities against Poland in 1655, Forbes was well beyond his military prime. He died the following year on 17 of June 1656 in Lund after a distinguished civic and military career. A tomb decorated with his coat of arms was erected for his body in Funbo church in Lund. James married Maria Lillieram (aka Chesnecopherus) although the date of their wedding has not been established. Throughout their married life they produced many offspring including their sons Peter, Olof, Jacob and Henrik (twins), Johan and Nils and at least four daughters. These individuals in turn proliferated and the military muster rolls and university matriculation records of Sweden and Finland are replete with the names of the progeny of James Forbes of Thainstone.


Sources: C.O. Nordensvan, (ed.), Värmlands Regementes [Närkes och Värmlands Regementes] Historia: Andra Delen, Personal Historia (Stockholm, 1911), 33; Stockholm Stadsarkiv: Borgare i Stockholm, Register 1601-1650, p.22; Stockholm Stadsarkiv, St Nikolai Kyrkas dopbok från och med 1611-1622, compiled by F. de Brun, p. 51; Stockholm Stadsarkiv, Stockholmsstads Konsistorii Protokoll, 1595-1632, vol.4, pp.22, 27; Swedish Krigsarkiv, Muster Roll, 1626/8,10; 1627/12; 1629/3,8,10,12,13,15; Swedish Riksarkiv, P. Sondén, Militärachefer i svenska arméen och deras skrivelser; G. Elgenstierna, Svenska Adelns Ättartavlor, vol. 2, pp.780-790; Karl Karlson Leijonhufvud, Kungl. Södermanlands Regimentes Historia (3 vols, Uppsala, 1914-1919), III, p. 44; A. and H. Tayler, The House of Forbes (Bruceton Mills, 1987), pp.402 and 470; N.A. Kullberg, et. al., (eds.), Svenska Riksrådets Protokoll, 1621-1658 (vols. 1-18, Stockholm, 1878-1959), vol. I, p.177, 18 July 1629 and II, p.48, 3 December 1630; Rikskansleren Axel Oxenstiernas Skrifter och Brevväxling (15 vols., Stockholm, 1888-1977), vol.15, p.23; Register till Sveriges Ridderskaps och Adels Riksdags-Protokoll (17 vols, Stockholm, 1910), vols., 1630-1654; T. Fischer, The Scots in Sweden (Edinburgh, 1907), pp.128 and 215; A. Grosjean, An Unofficial Alliance, Scotland and Sweden 1569-1654 (Brill, Leiden, 2003), p.143; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), pp.220-222; see also the letters by James Forbes to James Spens in Riksarkivet, Anglica 5. James Spens Bekickninshandlingar, 1612-1619; James Forbes to Axel Oxenstierna in Riksarkivet, Oxenstiernskas samlingen, E601; this letter probably relates to him: 

National Records of Scotland [NRS], RH6/2863, Instrument of Sasine under the hand of Master William Robertsoune, 17 November 1586, see Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum: The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, eds. J. M. Thomson et al., 11 vols. (Edinburgh, 1882-1914), vol. V, no. 1258; NRS, GD52/1622, Charter by Alexander Forbes of Thanistoun [Thainston] to Margaret Forbes, 18 November 1586.

This entry was kindly updated by Dr Thomas Brochard, upon information and references provided by Penelope Shorne.

Service record

Arrived 1600-01-01
Departed 1624-12-31
Arrived 1626-01-01, as PRIVATE
Departed 1657-12-31, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY