First name
Social status

Text source

William Vavasour had been in Swedish service prior to Sweden's entry into the Thirty Years' War. He returned to Britain to recruit soldiers for the regiment of James Ramsay the Fair [SSNE 6657] in James Marquis of Hamilton's [SSNE 1348] army destined to serve along side the Swedes in June 1630. Colonel Robert Monro [SSNE 94] notes him as a lieutenant colonel and later a colonel, in 1638, of infantry during the German campaigns in his "Expedition". Vavasour is mentioned 1634 and 1638 in German sources as an Englishman, though he is also called a Scot by fellow officers. In fact he came from Yorkshire. On the 10 of October 1634 he appeared with his regiment (400 men) in Neuenhaus in the county of Bentheim (Lower Saxony) and demanded 4.000 riksdaler for recruiting. Because of a new quartering of other Swedish troops on the 22 November he eventually received 1,000 riksdaler for leaving Neuenhaus and went to Vechta, occupied at that time by a Swedish garrison. 

At some point he left Swedish service, but by 1636 was writing to Oxenstierna directly and in August 1637 thanked the Chancellor for allowing him a commission (after discussion with Patrick Ruthven) in the next round of recruiting in London.  In 1638 he affirmed that the Benedictine convent of Wietmarschen [also in the county of Bentheim, Lower Saxony] was donated to him by Queen Christina of Sweden. Vavasour was captured in the battle of Vlotho Bridge [Lemgo] on 17 October 1638. This was a combined action by a Stuart-Palatine army partly commanded by Prince Elector Palatine, Karl Ludwig. He was supported by over 3000  cavalry under the command of Lieutenant General James King [SSNE 2814]. Prince Rupert, younger brother of the Count Palatine, rashly charged the enemy and got his force completely cut off. As a result Rupert, William Lord Craven [SSNE 1339] and Vavasour were all captured. Vavasour was later released on condition that he renounced his pretensions to the monastery of Wietmarschen. 

Vavasour returned to Britain during the time of the Civil Wars as a leading Royalist, fighting at Edgehill. He sought refuge in Hamburg in July 1644 with General James King [SSNE 2814] and other survivors of the Royalist army who escaped from Marston Moor. He was certainly back in Britain and appointed governor of Hereford in 1648. This was short lived, and he wrote to Oxenstierna from the Hague in 1648 before he travelled to Oldenburg as a Stuart diplomat in March 1649 while working with the Marquis of Montrose. On the 14 of August 1656 he contacted Colonel Edward Salmon and the Jamaica Committee in order to obtain 1000 of those apprehended and intended to be sent to Jamaica for use in King Karl X's service in Poland. Shortly thereafter, on the 26 of August Vavasour was given the freedom to levy 200 volunteers for Swedish service by beating the drum. He also obtained a license to transport 10 geldings from Dover for the use of the forces he had levied. Vavasour was the colonel and chief of a recruited infantry regiment which he undertook to levy in August 1656, although one source notes that he was also recruiting both English and Scottish troops in March 1657. In October Oliver Cromwell authorised Vavasour to return to Swedish service with 1200 troops, who were recruited at the time of King Karl X's Polish and Danish campaigns. Cromwell twice requested (seemingly unsuccessfully) that the Swedish king should pay Vavasour's arrears. Of Vavasour's 2000 recruits, 400 of them were placed in garrison in Stockholm, showing a certain sense of trust by the Swedish king. If the others were not required in Sweden they were to be sent to Reval for defensive use there. Vavasour was appointed major-general by April 1657 and commanded part of the army at the siege of Copenhagen on 3 January 1658/1659, He was killed during the storming of the town moat along with 110 common soldiers and several other senior officers. Some sources give the date of his death as 11/21 February 1659. His body was found, according to Manley, with his ears cut off by common soldiers who robbed the rich jewels that hung from them.



Swedish Krigsarkiv, Muster Roll, 1656/8; 1657/6; 1658/9; R. Monro, His Expedition with a worthy Scots Regiment called Mac-Keyes (2 vols., London, 1637), II, The List of the Scottish Officers in Chiefe; Swedish Riksarkiv, Anglica 521; SRA, AOSB, E749. William Vavasour to Axel Oxenstierna, 15 February 1636, 9 August 1637, 31 March 1648, 30 December 1643; SRA AOSB Det odelade kansliet Riksregistraturet//196/fol. 110 f.. Letter of Donation for the nunnery at Wietmarchen, 11 April 1638; Swedish Riksarkiv, P. Sonden, Militära chefer i svenska arméen och deras skrivelser; Milton State Papers, pp. 270-271; Calendar of State Papers Domestic [CSPD] 1654, p.311; CSPD 1656-7, p.71, p.86 and p.290; W. Abbott, Oliver Cromwell, vol. iv, p. 237;SRP, vol. xvii, p.142 (4 June 1657); P. Young, Marston Moor 1644: The Campaign and the Battle (Kinneton, 1970), p.176. List of Newcastle's companions arriving in Hamburg 8 July 1644; Acts of the Privy Council of England, vol.46, 1630-1631, edited by P. A. Penfold (London: HMSO, 1964), p.377, 8 June 1631; Sir Roger Manley, The History of the late Warres in Denmark (London, 1670), pp.49-51; L. Bittner and L. Gross, Repertorium der diplomatischen Vertreter aller Länder, vol. 1, 1648-1715 (Oldenburg and Berlin, 1936), p.194; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Dr Bernd Warlich kindly provided additional information from German sources such as Gerd STEINWASCHER (ed.): Krieg Konfessionalisierung ­ Westfälischer Frieden. Das Emsland und die Grafschaft Bentheim in der Zeit des spanisch-niederländischen und des Dreißigjährigen Krieges (Sögel 1998), p. 70; Johann Philipp ABELINUS/Matthaeus MERIAN, Theatrum Europaeum, vol. 8 (Frankfurt/Main 1693), p. 1148 ( Jürgen STROTHMANN (Ed.), Westfalen und Europa im 17. Jahrhundert. Die Chronik des Adolff Wilhelm Moerbecke zu Stevening 1633-1672 (Münster 2000), p. 268.


English Civil War

Service record

Arrived 1631-06-08, as CAPTAIN
Departed 1634-12-31, as LIEUTENANT COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1637-09-08, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1642-10-23, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1648-01-01, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1649-03-05
Capacity DIPLOMAT, purpose DIPLOMACY
Arrived 1656-01-01, as COLONEL
Departed 1659-02-11, as MAJOR GENERAL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY