First name
Social status

Text source

Little is known of Andrew Keith's early life. He was apparently the illegitimate son of Robert Keith, a "man of the church", Commendator of the Abbey of Deer, who died in Paris in 1551. Andrew Keith's uncle was seemingly William Keith, 4th Earl Marischal.

Andrew Keith first appears to have entered Swedish service in 1568, along with William Colquhoun [SSNE 6046] and his brother Hugh Colquhoun [SSNE 778] and Robert Crichton. These men were all captains, each of a troop of Scottish horse.

The Swedish king, Johan III, had to rely on a foreign merchant, Willem van Wijk, to pay his Scottish troops under Andrew Keith and another officer William Cahoun [SSNE 6046] and by December 1570 wanted them paid up and discharged. Nevertheless, in 1572 Andrew Keith was actively involved in recruiting Scottish soldiers for Swedish service, along with Archibald Ruthven [SSNE] and they apparently succeeded in bringing around 4000 men across. Perhaps this was a larger  number than expected as the troops found no pay on arrival. Ultimately this led to the execution of one of the Scottish officers, Hugh Colquhoun, on a charge of embezzlement, 

However Sweden's continuous battles with her neighbouring countries meant that soldiers and officers were always in demand. Integration appears to have been both a speedy and smooth process as by 1573 Andrew Keith had already often served amongst the Stockholm magistrates, although that year he was himself involved in a case regarding money that was owed him by the late Thomas Cockburn [SSNE 6588]. This case also mentions one Andrew Ormeston.

In 1574 Andrew Keith was appointed commandant of Vadstena castle and was ennobled to the rank of Baron. It was also that year that he married Elisabet Grip, a grand-daughter of Margareta Vasa. They had no children.

The following year Andrew Keith, still noted as knight of Fårsholm, appeared before the Stockholm city magistrates on behalf of the Swedish princess Elisabet in charges she brought against Evert van der Dortt, goldsmith. This concerned some silver and gold, which the princess had delivered to the goldsmith, in order to produce items for her, and now seemed to be missing.

Andrew Keith must have mastered at least a degree of the Swedish and possibly German languages as in 1576 he began to serve as a court commissioner for the Stockholm city magistrates, and certainly appears as such frequently in the records for 1578.

In 1578 Andrew Keith purchased a house in Gamla Stan, namely Baggensgatan 27/Österlånggatan 28. The house still stands (one of the oldest surviving late medieval buildings to have remained in constant use, albeit now divided up into individual flats. There is a carved stone plaque above the main doorway on Baggensgatan bearing the initials of Andrew Keith and his wife Elisabet Grip. In 1580 he apparently he needed renovations or possibly was seeking to build elsewhere as that year he twice paid a builder for services.

That year Andrew Keith was still an officer in the army: the 1580 payroll lists his troop amongst those receiving a salary.

In 1583 Andrew Keith took on new responsibilities, serving as Swedish legate to Queen Elizabeth I of England. It was during this time that Keith proposed that Eric Sparre should gain a letter of patent from James VI of Scotland to confirm his nobility, but the context as to why James VI might be interested remain unclear (See letter below). This was around the time when some believe that Andrew Keith was involved in 'secret' plans to arrange a marriage between James VI and Johan III's daughter, Anna Vasa of Sweden. This came to nought.

In 1583 Andrew Keith summoned an Italian knight, named Alexander Guagnino, to appear before the Stockholm magistrates. Guagnino had sold Keith and Erik Gustafson a ship and then reneged on the deal and Keith and Gustafson were therefore seeking compensation for the money they had spent.


Andrew Keith and the Stuart-Oldenburg marriage:

Another letter from King James VI survives which seems to release Keith from Swedish service, and this is confirmed when he was created Lord Dingwall in 1584 and subsequently served as Stuart ambassador to Denmark-Norway as part of the ongoing marriage negotiations between James VI and Anna of Denmark. He journeyed six times between Scotland and Denmark during this process. In 1589 he also became a member of the court that tried Earl Bothwell for treason. He accompanied James VI on his travel from Norway to Denmark in January 1590, which meant crossing Sweden, the land of his former employer. King Johan III provided a safe-conduct for the Scottish king and his retinue, who were escorted by 400 or 600 Swedish cavalry, Johan III gave the governor of Älvsborg Castle strict instructions not to allow Keith into the castle, implying that relations were perhaps strained between them. 

Intriguingly, on 11 April 1590 one Ulf Persson of Flysshult petitions the Stockholm magistrates to record that Andrew Keith has for several years owed him 600 daler. Persson presented a letter (dated 4 April the same year) from King Johan III which details the situation and states that now Andrew Keith has fled the Swedish kingdom, whilst seeking to sell the stone building he owns (presumably the house in Gamla Stan) and is in negotiations with one Count Axel of Rasborg over the price. King Johan III specifies that Ulf Persson should be compensated for what he is owed from the sale. Further Count Axel and his servants are forbidden from taking any further money from Keith or his servants, unless the Count compensates Ulf Persson directly.

Andrew Keith does seem to have returned to Sweden, but not to Stockholm. Andrew Keith's name is registered as godfather to Gustav Bengtson Oxenstierna in 1591. Keith was known as Lord of Finsta & Forsholm and a knight and member of King Sigismund's court councillors. He received a confirmation of his title as lord in 1591 and in 1593 Andrew Keith was appointed governor of Brokind castle.

Shortly thereafter Andrew Keith acted as an envoy to Denmark from London in August 1592.

In August 1595 a local Stockholm pastor approached the city court to request that locks be placed on Keith's house, again suggesting that noone was actively living in it, as it was being used to hold Catholic masses. It appears that King Sigismund III of Poland (and Sweden from 1592-99) son of the late King Johan III, had acquired Keith's house in Gamla Stan, the old part of Stockholm and turned it into a chapel. It was long known as "Papisthuset" (the Papist house) and still stands today, no.27 on Baggensgatan (no.28 on Österlånggatan), and Keith's and his wife, Elisabeth Grip, arms are above the door on the Baggensgatan side of the building. 

Sigismund's right to the crown was contested by his uncle, Duke Karl of Sodermanland (who later became Karl IX of Sweden), who eventually ousted Sigismund to claim the Swedish throne. Keith remained a follower of Sigismund and thus, along with all of the Polish king's supporters, was banished from Sweden. 

It would appear that Keith attempted to levy recruits in Scotland for use in Sigismund's campaign against Duke Karl in 1597, but lack of finances prevented this levy's completion. Keith is mentioned again in 1597 when he wrote a letter from Elsinore to his wife, and acted as a Swedish envoy to England on Sigismund's behalf. That Keith may have been living in Denmark is suggested by the fact that 'Lord Dingwall' was noted as owing 616 daler to Albert Albertsen, a councillor of Copenhagen.

Andrew Keith's date of death is variously given as sometime between 1597 and 1602. His wife was still alive in 1602 (she is noted as dead in 1624).

Andrew Keith has been confused with his relative, also called Andrew Keith, who served as a Stuart ambassador to the Emperor in 1605 [SSNE 3515], and who laid a claim to his namesake's Swedish estate in 1609. 


Sources: Swedish Riksarkiv, Genealogica 121; Swedish Riksarkiv, Kammararkivet I, Bergsbrukshandlingar före 1620, vol.3; Swedish Riksarkiv, militieräkenskaper 1537-1619; Stockholm Stadsarkiv, Stockholmsstads Konsistorii Protokoll, 1595-1632, vol.1, p.16; G. M. Bell, A Handlist of British Diplomatic Representatives 1509-1688 (London, 1990); C.F. Bricka and J.A. Fredericia, Kong Christian den Fjerdes Egenhaendige Breve, (8 vols., Copenhagen, 1878-1947), passim; Swedish Riksarkiv, 'Svenske Sändebuds till Utländske Hof och Deras Sändebud till Sverige', (1841), p.82; Stockholmsstads tänkeböcker från år 1592, part 1 (Stockholm, 1939), pp98-99, p.330, and part 4 (Stockholm, 1957), p.253; Stockholms stads tänkeböcker 1589-1591 (Stockholm, 1948), pp.158-9; Stockholmsstads tänkeböcker 1568-1575, (Stockholm, 1941), pp. 261, 263, 269, 272, 569-571; Stockholmsstads tänkebocker 1578-1583, (Stockholm, 1945), p.387; J.Berg and B. Lagercrantz, Scots in Sweden, (Stockholm, 1962), pp.18-20; See also T. Fischer, The Scots in Sweden (Edinburgh, 1907), p.55; T. Riis, Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot (Odense, 1988), p.64; Danish Rigsarkiv, TKUA Skotland A I 2, 17/8/1592 and 10/12/1596, A II 4, 24/8/1592; Svenskt Biografiskt Lexicon, vol.6, p.16; G. Arteus, Till Militärstatens Förhistoria: Krig, professionalisering och social förändring under Vasasönernas regering (Stockholm, 1986), p.174; 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.25; 9 December 1597, George Nicolson to Sir Robert Cecil, CSPS, XIII, 132; June 12 1598, Roger Aston to Sir Robert Cecil, ibid, 218; P. Graves, 'The Danish account of the marriage of James VI and Ann of Denmark' in D. Stevenson, Scotland's Last Royal Wedding, (Edinburgh, 1997), pp.98-99; A. Tidner, Under Karl IX:s Regemente, (Stockholm, 1911), p.42; B. Schlegel and C. A. Klingspor, Den med sköldebref förlänade men ej å Riddarhuset introducerad Svenska Adelns Ättar-taflor (Stockholm, 1875) p.143; P. Wieselgren, (ed.), De la Gardiska Archivet, part 5 (Lund, 1834), p.54; is noted as a Scottish merchant resident in Stockholm in 1582; Birgitta Lager, Stockholms befolkning på Johan III:s tid (Stockholm, 1962), p.132; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), pp.98-100, 255; Curt Haij, 'Skottar i Stockholm under 1600-talet', unpublished list of names, Hintze biblioteket, Genealogiska Föreningen, Sundbyberg, Stockholm. Thanks to Ardis Dreisbach for this information; Ragnar Josephson, Borgarhus i Gamla Stockholm (Stockholm, 1916), pp.132-133.


Anna Bieganska has uncovered documents which suggest that Keith was indeed used by Sigismund III as a spy for the Poles during this period, citing AP, Gdansk: MS300, 53/1012: MNBC; MS 1772, fos 474 Passim. 


Thanks to Dr Peter Maxwell Stuart for the translation of the James VI letter of patent below on the insistence that Eric Sparre be ennobled (again):

"We, Thomas Olaus, by the grace of God and the most merciful will of the most serene King, Bishop of Stockholm and the whole Church there, make known and witness to all whom it concerns that I have seen and carefully read the following letter written on genuine parchment, with the King of Scots's seal attached with yellow wax. Impressed on one side is an armed man on horseback, holding a sword in his hand, and written around him the words, 'James VI, King of Scots'. On the other side are the royal arms, and written around them the words, 'Save your people, o Lord'. The letters and words have not been shaved, erased, and spoiled anywhere, but are clear, legible, undamaged, and complete. Word for word they are as follows, and to authenticate this I have signed [the letter] and have taken pains to append my seal.

The letter begins: James, by the grace of God King of Scots, to each and every King, Prince, Duke, Landgrave, Marquess, and Baron, but especially to the most serene Prince, John III, by the same grace King of Sweden, the Goths and Vandals, Great Prince of Finland, Karelia, Ingria, and Selonia, Duke of Ruthven, Estonia, and Livonia, etc., Our most dear brother and kinsman, and separately to all other mortals who have or can have an interest in knowing the following, greeting in Him who is the most sure salvation of all. Most serene, most illustrious, magnificent, illustrious, nobly-born brethren, kinsmen, and friends whom We sincerely love. All princely men are in the habit of noticing those who stand out in the light of praises of their virtue and, because of some noble impulse, show that they are above the common run of people. These men are usually deserving of the ornaments of nobility and of being honoured with titles. The illustrious and nobly-born Master Andrew Keith, Lord Dingwall, Knight Bachelor of Forsholm, has impressed upon Us that this should be done in the case of the nobly-born Master Eric Sparre, a noble Swede, and We have thought so, too. Since he is conspicuous because of the royal Swedish blood with which he was born, and also because of the ornaments of the virtues which genuinely ennoble [someone] and, under the foresaid most serene King of Sweden, Our most dear brother, has acquired notable titles of honour. We have thought him worthy because of his outstanding merit and the duties he is obliged to undertake in that kingdom. In enlarging upon this to Our foresaid brother and kinsman, and all mortals whom it concerns separately, We bear witness how much We commend his virtue in regard to foreigners as well. Add to this the very old intimacy and friendship between Us and Our most serene brother, which has been increased by his remarkable generosity and liberality towards the foresaid Master Andrew Keith, Our native-born subject, and We have thought this not inimical to the observance or rule of friendship to [the King] and a mutual amicable inclination towards his subject. By this letter patent, therefore, We constitute, declare, and honour him as a Freiherr, for the benefit of himself and his legitimate heirs male, and to use, enjoy, and exercise all rights and privileges as a Freiherr in line with the force of the laws and customary practice of his country, wherever he may be. We wish this done, and earnestly ask each and every one of your Serenities, Excellencies, Magnificences, and [gentlefolk?], and especially the Serenity of Our foresaid brother and kinsman, John, King of Sweden, in consideration of his friendship towards Us and his liberal generosity towards Our subject, to regard and acknowledge the foresaid Master Eric Sparre a Freiherr and a worthy participant in all the honours, rights, and privileges of that Order, provided he swear and oath of homage, and saving the feudal law and custom of both Kings and Princes in respect of the kingdoms in which this investiture will take place; and so that these things which, because of Our royal power, We have granted, given, and conferred by this Our letter patent, may be considered the more firm, the more enduring, and the more established, and by the rigour whereby We give, grant, and confer them in perpetuity, for clearer trust in and witness, We have wished Our letter to be fortified with Our greater seal and have signed it with Our hand manual.

Given from Our palace of Holyrood, 1st day of the month, 1583, in the seventeenth year of Our reign.

Place of the capital seal of Stockholm."

Source: Alvin - Friherrebrev gällande Eric Sparre 1583 (


Service record

Arrived 1568-01-01, as CAPT OF HORSE
Departed 1575-12-31, as CAPT OF HORSE
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1574-01-01, as COMMANDANT
Departed 1574-12-31, as COMMANDANT
Arrived 1576-01-01
Departed 1576-12-31
Arrived 1580-01-01
Departed 1580-12-31
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1583-06-19
Departed 1583-12-31
Capacity DIPLOMAT, purpose DIPLOMACY
Arrived 1584-01-01
Departed 1584-12-31
Capacity DIPLOMAT, purpose DIPLOMACY
Arrived 1587-01-01
Departed 1588-12-31
Arrived 1589-01-01
Departed 1589-12-31
Capacity DIPLOMAT, purpose DIPLOMACY
Arrived 1589-08-01
Departed 1589-12-31
Capacity DIPLOMAT, purpose DIPLOMACY
Arrived 1592-08-01
Departed 1592-08-31
Capacity ENVOY, purpose DIPLOMACY
Arrived 1593-01-01, as GOVERNOR
Departed 1593-12-31, as GOVERNOR
Arrived 1597-01-01
Departed 1597-12-31
Capacity ENVOY, purpose DIPLOMACY
Capacity AGENT, SPY, purpose ESPIONAGE