First name
Social status

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Alexander Durham entered Danish service with some associates by 1569. He was appointed as a captain in the navy on 23/8/1573 which was reconfirmed for the duration of his life on 28/1/1575. Durham commanded the Baltic fleet between 1578-86 and the North Sea fleet from 1587-99. His personal Commands included the 'Raphael' (9/4/1590), 'Josaphat' (26/4/1591). Durham was dead by 31/1/1600, having fallen ill on the northern sea-voyage on Christian IV's fleet in 1599 (recorded by Sivert Grubbe). 


Durham married Matte/Mette Urne in 1575 and owned property at Hojsgaard. Indeed, Alexander Durham provides an example typical of the transfer of land in return for service. He received a grant for Saltens ‘len’ on 1 June 1579, but in exchange had to give up the 300 rixdaler he was receiving annually in pension from the chancellery. This was a mutually advantageous arrangement, as it meant he could collect the rent, while the chancellery could both save the pension and leave the administration of the len to Durham. The following year, Durham received royal permission to take 300 ‘voger’, that is 10,800 Danish pounds of fish from the len which he undoubtedly did and sold for a handsome profit. He held on to this len until March 1586 when a reorganisation saw many of Norway’s small len amalgamated into larger units of administration. Salten len, among others became part of the new expanded Trondheim len. As compensation for this, Durham received 200 rixdaler from the treasury, but also the rights to the rents of the united parish of Skibthveit and Spydeberg in Norway. In addition to his entitlement to the rent and taxes of the parish, the inhabitants were also ordered by the king to answer to Durham and his wife, Mette Urne, in all matters, as if he were their lensmand. By 1588, Durham’s status was formalised when he received his official title as lensmand of the parish to which the parish of Vemb Skibrede was also added. Durham and his wife were granted this len free for their lives in exchange for property they owned on the Danish island of Zealand, which they had inherited from the Urne family. This did not mean an end to their property rights in Denmark as the same year Durham received the len of Derup and Flemøse parish on the island of Fyn, for which he paid the Crown 35-36 rixdaler per annum. 


The granting of Skibthveit and Spydeburg to the Durhams highlights the importance of the Scottish nobleman’s Danish spouse. Without being married, Alexander would not have had access to enough property to exchange for a len. It is telling that the land rights were granted to both of them, not just to the man, and indeed, Mette Urne continued to collect the rent from the len until her death in 1612. This was despite the fact that the property was re-granted on Alexander’s death in 1601 to someone else who had to sit back and wait patiently for Mette’s passing before they could hold the len outright. So while this len is usually mentioned in the context of Alexander Durham, we can surmise that the grant was partially provided to secure an income for Mette Urne.The len granted to Duhram in 1588 were either granted for cash or in exchange for property of equal value, and therefore in return for Durham’s own investment in them. Durham’s fourth len, that of Ide and Marker Skibrede, was more like his first in that it was granted to him free for life in 1593 in lieu of his pension which he was due for his services in the navy. (However, note that Jens Nielsson recorded that Durham was very ill by 22 April 1594, and that may have had something to do with his pension status). Durham’s tax contribution for Derup was also cancelled as part of the transfer to him of this len. This grant shows that at some point Durham began to draw a naval pension again, though it is unclear if this was for his continued service for the navy, or as part of the compensation package for the loss of Salten len in 1586. In any case, the similarity of that grant should not go unnoticed as the lensmand status came as a result of services rendered and reflected a form of payment more common for foreigners in Swedish service rather than Danish. This is also the len which affords a kind of glimpse into the everyday duties Durham got involved with beyond collecting revenues. It appears that in 1595 King Christian authorised an open letter for Alexander to be "befalingsmand" for Idde and Marker area. On 5 June 1597, for instance, Durham received orders, as lensmand, from Christian IV to defend Jon Olsson against Jens Jakobsen, burgess of Oslo, but the nature of the case has not been recorded. Clearly, however, he was to act in some form of legal capacity. Another letter from the king nine months later shows that Durham took his time in settling the issue as the case remained unresolved! Admiral Durham is probably the same as A. Durham who wrote Archibald Douglas on 30 October 1588 about returning to Denmark after a journey to France upon Frederick II's death, where he offered to provide Salisbury with information from Denmark. 



 Sivert Grubbe's diary 'Kongens Sjoreise' reprinted in Rune Blix Hagen and Per Einar Sparboe (eds.), Kongens reise til det ytterste nord. Dagbøker fra Christian IVs tokt til Finnmark og Kola i 1599 (Tromsø, 2004), p.69; Historical Manuscripts Commission 9:I-XIX: Letter to Salisbury (Cecil) III, 366; Norske Rigs-Registranter, vol. II, (1863), p.340, 371, 641, 655, 705; vol. III (1865), pp.2-3, 68, 287, 497, 510-511, 528, 571, 595-6; vol. IV, (1870), p.93; N. Nicolaysen (ed.), Norske Magasin, skrifter og optegnelser angaaende Norge og forfattede efter reformationen, vol. II (Christiania, 1868), section 'Jens Nielssons Optegnelser', p.151; A. Thiset and L. Wittrup, eds., Nyt Dansk Adelslexicon. Fortegnelse over Dansk Adel i Fortid og Nutid (Copenhagen: 1904); T. Riis, Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot (Odense, 1988), II, p.87; Meddelelser fra det Norske Rigsarchiv, I, (3 vols., 1870-1933), p.300; Samlinger til det Norske Folks Sprog og Historie, I, (Christiania, 1833), p.238.

Service record

Arrived 1569-01-01, as CAPTAIN
Departed 1573-08-23, as CAPTAIN
Capacity COMMANDER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1573-08-23, as CAPTAIN
Departed 1599-10-01, as ADMIRAL
Capacity ADMIRAL, purpose NAVAL
Arrived 1585-12-10, as GOVERNOR
Departed 1586-03-16, as GOVERNOR
Capacity GOVERNOR, purpose CIVIC
Arrived 1588-10-30
Departed 1588-12-31
Capacity AGENT, purpose DIPLOMACY