First name

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Patrick Gordon studied at Rostock University in 1589, enrolling with fellow Scot Alexander Arbuthnot [SSNE 4318]. He is noted as the tutor to the Swedish Count Gustav Eriksson Stenbock [SSNE 6443] and his brother in the 1590s. This was probably after the three brothers left Sweden in 1597 and followed the deposed king, Sigismund Vasa, to Poland-Lithuania. They remained abroad until the early 1600s.


According to one author (David Stevenson) Gordon  "was a younger son of John Gordon of Braco (or Brackay), in Inverurie parish, and his wife, Agnes Strachan." Stevenson notes he probably entered Marischal College, Aberdeen, in 1606 and graduated as master of arts in 1610, though how this fits with his earlier stint in Europe remains unclear. He was certainly in correspondence with Jon Jacobsen Venusinus to whom he wrote a letter in Elsinore on 20 March 1599 about Tycho Brahe and astronomy, as well as a dispute between Brahe and another Scotsman John Craig. Gordon seems to have stayed in Elsinore until at least October 1600 or possibly returned there around that time. 


Thereafter Gordon served the Stuart Court as a factor at Danzig, Poland-Lithuania between 1610-1625. Gordon was often called upon to mediate in international affairs on behalf of King James VI and I. When John Stercovius published a tract expressing derogatory comments about the Scots and Scotland James asked Gordon and another Scot, David Gray, to prosecute him. Stercovius was beheaded in 1611. In 1614 James wanted Gordon and James Spens to negotiate a Swedish-Polish truce for the countries they worked in. The proposed Stettin conference did not materialise but Gordon is acknowledged to have started the process which eventually led to the Stolbova treaty, eventually brokered by Sir John Merrick in February 1617. Around this time Gordon informed James VI and I about the disreputable state that many of the Scottish community living in Poland had fallen into: "discipline being dissolved and the most part of them use such a dissolute form of living that they are odious to the inhabitants, hurtful to themselves and despised by strangers, to (the) great ignominy of the whole nation". In response James authorised Gordon to formulate a statute regarding the nature of behaviour acceptable for the Scottish community, including a ban on merchants travelling with less than £50 worth of goods. Despite this, in July 1617 Gordon returned to Scotland and was summoned before the Privy Council to answer a complaint lodged by the merchant Gilbert Wilson of Peterco. He said that Gordon was not undertaking his duties on behalf of the Scottish community there seriously. Gordon was fined 700 merks toward Wilson.King Sigismund III of Poland also sought Stuart mediation, through Gordon, in the Polish dispute with the Elector of Brandenburg. Gordon's remit also extended to trying to settle a Russian-Polish truce. His endeavours came to naught and the war between those countries continued until the truce of Deulino in 1619, eventually concluded without Stuart intervention. In 1616 Gordon drew up a strict code to try and alleviate the problem. However, this measure failed, compelling the Scottish community in Danzig to seek the intervention of James VI & I to prevent any more of the 'exorbitant numberis of zoung boyis and maidis vnable for any seruice, transported hier zierlie'.Gordon returned to the Stuart Court in 1613, 1614, 1617 and 1619-20. The last year saw Gordon receive an English bond in favour of his status as Stuart agent to the King of Poland. He was jealous of this position and ensured his nephew, Francis Gordon, took over as Polish agent in 1625. A letter from Patrick to King James VI and I dated at Warsaw on 16 January 1621 is printed in A.F. Steuart's book. This letter pertains to a dispute between the King of Poland and the Elector of Brandeburg and of William Duke of Courland. King Sigismund is happy to offer the Elector the investiture of Prussia, but he remains displeased with William, although the prince and Sigismund's sister both remain well-disposed to William.


It is sometimes claimed that this man is synonymous with Patrick Gordon of Ruthven, author of A short abridgement of Britane's distemper. The argument runs that Gordon's epic poems upon the death of Henry Stuart Neptunus Britannicus Corydonis (1614) and another in honour of Robert the Bruce The famous and valiant historie of the renouned and valiant Prince Robert surnamed the Bruce (1615) are written in styles which suggest a connection. However, David Stevenson, following Robert Pitcairn, disputes any connection, rather noting that the diplomatic agent was probably not the author of any of these works.



Die Matrikel der Universitat Rostock (Rostock, 1889); Public Records Office, London, SP/88/3; G. M. Bell, A Handlist of British Diplomatic Representatives 1509-1688 (London, 1990), p.215; Calender of State Papers Venetian, vol. 13, letter no.203; S. Seliga and L. Koczy, Scotland and Poland a chapter of forgotten history (Scotland, 1969), p.7; T. Fischer, The Scots in Germany (Edinburgh, 1902), pp. 33, 255, 313; Records of the Privy Council of Scotland, 1545-1625 (14 vols., Edinburgh, 1877-1898), XI, pp. cxli and 174-178; A. F. Steuart, (ed.), Papers relating to the Scots in Poland, 1576-1793 (Edinburgh, 1915), pp. xv-xix, 37 and 103-107; Swedish Riksarkiv, Anglica 5, James Spens to Axel Oxenstierna, 1 July 1615; National Archives of Scotland, GD33/17/26 English bond in favour of Patrick Gordon to serve in Poland; Swedish Riksarkiv, Anglica 5, James Spens to Axel Oxenstierna, 1 March 1615; 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, pp. 19-21; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), pp.131, 154, 257-258, 267-268; David Stevenson, 'Patrick Gordon of Ruthven in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; England and the North: The Russian Embassy of 1613-1614, eds. M. Jansson and N. Rogozhin (Philadelphia, 1994), pp. 63-5, 70-1, 184, 186, 189-90; P. P. Bajer, Scots in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, 16th-18th Centuries: The Formation and Disappearance of an Ethnic Group (Leiden, 2012), pp. 89-91, 131, 164, 169-70, 217-19; Biblioteka Narodowa, Warsaw, Rps 3501 I, p. 115. With thanks to Dr. Thomas Brochard for these last three references.


We thank Professor Peter Andersen for bringing the Gordon-Brahe correspondence to our attention. See Kjøbenhavns universitets historie fra 1537 til 1621 af Holger Frederik Rørdam (Copenhagen 1876-1884), vol. IV, pp.452-453. It is available online here: https://books.google.fr/books?id=otlTYf2TGKkC&hl=fr&pg=PA452#v=onepage&q&f=false


The dispute between Brahe and Craig is written up in Thomas Riis, Should Auld Acquaintance be Forgot (2 vols., Odense, 1988), I, pp.123-124, 127.

Service record

Departed 1589-12-31
Capacity STUDENT, purpose ACADEMIC
Departed 1599-12-31
Capacity TUTOR, purpose ACADEMIC
Departed 1625-12-31