First name
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William Forbes, son of Arthur 9/10th Lord Forbes and his wife Jean, daughter of Lord Alexander Elphinstone, was born in Fiddes in Aberdeenshire on 2 February 1614.

In 1634 William Forbes received a letter inviting him to Germany, probably sent by his brother Baron Alexander Forbes [SSNE 1616] on the latter's second visit. He travelled to Stade from where he marched, in July 1634, with 100 men to Minden and Osnabruck to join his relative, Colonel Matthew Forbes [SSNE 2248], who was Governor there (and arriving on 28 August). Like Alexander, William Forbes' brothers all joined Swedish service including John [SSNE 4332], Arthur [SSNE 2226] and James [SSNE 3881]. They also had an illigitimate half-brother, Major John Forbes [SSNE 2243] in the Swedish army.

William Forbes joined the Swedish army in the regiment of Alexander Leslie [SSNE 2913] and later Johan Skytte [SSNE 6280]. In 1635 he served in George Leslie's [SSNE 2922] regiment. He took part in the conquest of Nienburg and was quartered in Vechta for six months. After the arrival of Alexander Leslie [SSNE 1] he also took part in the raising of the siege of Osnabruck, the taking of Petershagen, Minden and Herford, the raising of the siege of Hanau and the conquest of Amoeneburg. Certainly he was in Johan Banér's army at the conquest of Lüneburg and he fought at the Battle of Wittstock in 1636. In 1637 he was in Banér's camp at Torgau, then in Landsberg O. S. [now Gorzow Slaskie; district of Rosenberg] fighting against Imperial troops in Silesia. His regiment took part in the defense of castle of Wolgast [district of Greifswald], which had been conquered on 30 November/10 December 1637 by the Imperial troops under the command of Matthias Gallas. In 1639 after joining with Field-Marshal Herman Wrangel at Neustadt O. S. [Prudnik, Silesia] he marched to Stettin and then quartered in Bremen. He thereafter took part in the conquest of Gartz a. d. Oder [district of Randow] and marched to Mecklenburg. In his 'memorial' he recorded his part in the conquest of Horneburg, Lauenburg, Schladen and Mansfeld. He fought successfully in the battle at Chemnitz on 4/14 April against the Imperial troops under the command of Field-Marshall Matthias Gallas and the Saxonian commander Rudolf von Morzin. Forbes then took part in the conquest of Pirna and on 19/29 May 1639; at the battle at Melnik under Baner and the battle of Brandeis/Elbe [Bohemia] against Matthias Gallas. He also took part in the capture of Lieutenant-General Lorenz von Hofkirchen and colonel Raimondo Montecuccoli. Forbes was then ordered to Silesia, but he had to go in 1640 with Torsten Stalhåndske to the Swedish Army quartered at Saalfeld. After the departure of the Imperial Army into the Lower Saxonian Circle he first marched to Franconia and again to Lower Saxonia, then to the Upper Palatine and to Regensburg to take part in the siege of that town. Along with Banér he retreated to Halberstadt. In 1641 he fought in the successful battle at Wolfenbüttel on 19/29 June 1641 against the Imperial troops of Arch-duke Leopold Wilhelm and Ottavio Piccolomini. He was quartered in the Duchy of Luneburg and thereafter in Brandenburg, where he now served under Major-General Caspar Cornelius Mortaigne. In 1642 he fought again in Silesia and took part in the battle near Schweidnitz on 21 May against Franz Albrecht of Sachsen-Lauenburg. Forbes was quartered for a year in Olmütz and therefore he didn't take part in the battle of Leipzig on 2 November 1642. According to his own testimony he was promoted in 1643 to the rank of lieutenant-colonel for the Mortaigne regiment and fought in the kingdom of Bohemia and then against the Danes throughout 1643-1644. At the end of 1644 and in the beginning of 1645 he took part in the actions in Saxonia and then again in Bohemia. In the battle of Jankau on 6 March 1645 he was taken prisoner by Imperial troops, but was freed on the same day by his own troops. After that battle he took part in siege of Iglau, Znaim [Bohemia] and Krembs [Lower Austria], where he became commander. He was ordered to return into Torstensson's camp but was shot at Brünn in the left thigh and remained for a long time at Nikolsburg [Mikulov, district of Lundenberg, Bohemia] recovering from his wounds. Thereafter he fought again in Silesia, Bohemia,Thuringia and Lower Saxonia, and took part in the conquest of Höxter, Paderborn, Obermarsberg and Amoneburg. He went to Franconia and Bavaria under the command of Carl Gustav Wrangel and was shot in the right foot at Augsburg. Forbes later took Weilheim by storm and then was quartered in Upper Swabia. In January 1647 he took part in the conquest of Bregenz, Feldkirch and took Heiligenberg, where he was wounded again. After his successful campaigns he marched with the army to Ulm, where the truce between Maximilian I and Sweden was concluded. After Mortaigne joined the army of Hessen-Kassel, Forbes was made colonel of Mortaigne's regiment by Gustav Otto Steenbock (1614-1685). Thereafter William Forbes took part in the successful siege of Schweinfurt (occupied on 25 April 1647), before joining the siege of Eger, where he was shot in the left shoulder. Nonetheless he went on to fight in Bohemia, until the truce between Bavaria and Sweden collapsed. Forbes retreated with the army to Hessisch-Oldendorf and in January 1648 he marched again under Wrangel's command to Bavaria until the peace of Munster and Osnabruck.

In January 1649 William Forbes was quartered in Nurenburg, then ordered to Frankfurt/M to force the Elector of Trier to accept the quartering of Swedish regiments before returning to Nurenburg, to recover from his wounds. It was while there that he became a member of the Fruchtbringenden Gesellschaft, the German political and cultural organisation. In this organisation Forbes took the name "Der Sonderliche".

After nine months William Forbes was ordered by Carl Gustav Wrangel to go to Bremen. That year he was awarded a pension of 1000 riksdaler per annum and took over the fortification of Burg [today a suburb of Bremen] in Bremen-Verden. This fortification was strategically important in the Bremen War of 1654 when Forbes manned it with 500 men. Forbes continued to serve the Swedish army until his regiment was taken over on 16 May 1654.

William Forbes died on 14 June during the defence of Burg from the forces of the City of Bremen. His death is said to have been wept over by two kings! Forbes left a so-called "Memoriale" (written in German Language, Library of the University of Lund, Collection De la Gardie, Släktarkiven, Forbus 1: 2) with reminiscences of his military expeditions in the Holy Roman Empire, apparently written to get due recompense for his military service. 


Sources: Swedish Riksarkiv, P. Sondén, Militärachefer i svenska arméen och deras skrivelser; Swedish Riksarkiv, Carl Gustaf's Arkiv i Stegeborgssamlingen, 11 letters of Colonel Commandant William Forbes, 1649-1654; Swedish Riksarkiv, Skoklostersamlingen E8359, several letters of William Forbes 1644-1651 in Swedish; Swedish Krigsarkiv, Muster Roll, 1635/31,32; 1636/20-23; 1639/15; 1649/15; 1650/12; 1651/14; 1652/6; 1653/6; 1654/6; THE REGIMENT WAS TAKEN OVER BY PAUL WIRTZ; C. Conermann, Die Mitglieder der Fruchtbringenden Gesellschaft 1617-1650 (Weinheim, 1985), III, no.527; A. and H. Tayler, The House of Forbes (revised edition, Bruceton Mills, 1987), pp.168, 184, 201 and 225; P. Wieselgren, (ed.), De La Gardiska Archivet, part 9 (Lund, 1837), pp.60-3; Beata-Christine Fiedler, Die Verwaltung der Herzogtümer Bremen und Verden in der Schwedenzeit 1652-1712 - Organisation und Wesen der Verwaltung (Stade, 1987), pp.236-237; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), pp.369-373; Svenskt Biografiskt Lexikon, vol16. 


See also:Riksarkivets ämnessamlingar. Personhistoria.


Thanks to Dr Bernd Warlich for the following references: Margret TEGEDER/Axel KREIENBRINK, "... der osnabrugischenn handlung und geschicht". Die Chronik des Rudolf von Bellinckhausen 1628-1637, (Osnabrueck 2002), p.325; Johann Philipp ABELINUS/Heinrich ORAEUS/Matthaeus MERIAN, Theatrum Europaeum, vol. III, (Frankfurt/M 1670), p.884 (, Detlev PLEISS, Das Kriegstagebuch des schwedischen Offiziers William Forbes: Von seiner Landung an der Unterelbe im Sommer 1634 bis zu seiner Rückkehr nach Stade im Winter 1649/50, in: Stader Jahrbuch Neue Folge 85, (1995), pp. 135-153.

Service record

Arrived 1635-01-01, as ENSIGN
Departed 1638-12-31, as LIEUTENANT
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1639-01-01, as LIEUTENANT
Departed 1644-12-31, as CAPTAIN
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1645-01-01, as COLONEL + CHIEF
Departed 1654-04-30, as COLONEL + CHIEF
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1649-01-01, as COLONEL
Departed 1654-06-14, as COLONEL