First name

Text source

Robert Buchan ‘de Portlethin’ was the sone of Mr Gilbert Buchan, a burgess of Aberdeen. Buchan was an entrepreneur with interests as diverse as pearl-fishing, salt production, iron-trading, shipbuilding, the jewellery industry, tapestry, gardening and dealing in sheep. Having traded from Aberdeen with Cromarty, Ross, Leith, London and Bordeaux, Buchan became a full-time pearl-fisher in Scotland. He was effectively driven out of Scotland due to his Royalist sympathies during the Bishops’ Wars of 1639-1640. Thereafter he moved to Sweden, where he could be found mentioned as a pearl-fisher and trader between 1642 and 1644, supported in part by his cousin, Colonel Alexander Gordon [SSNE 2499]. Buchan had been brought over with the express purpose of evaluating Swedish rivers for the presence of fresh water shell-fish capable of producing pearls with the backing of the Swedish chancellor, Axel Oxenstierna. Buchan trained locals in the art and as early as the summer of 1643, he claimed to have identified twenty-five new rivers containing pearl-producing shell-fish across western Sweden. With his newly trained companions, Buchan soon sent Oxenstierna quantities of mother-of-pearl as well as pearls themselves. As he also later observed to Oxenstierna, ‘At your command, I presented the most serene Queen with three circlets of pearls which are of no small importance’. When Buchan returned to Sweden in the 1650s, at the invitation of Oxenstierna, he once more sent jewels to the queen. In one undated letter he notes that he has sent ‘to your Greatness […] three pendent Swedish pearls which are no less valuable than the eastern kind. I have asked most humbly that you be willing to deign to show them to her Majesty with your own hand, so that the beauty and charm of Swedish pearls may become clear to her Majesty’. Buchan’s cousin, Colonel Alexander Gordon, died around 1650. Thereafter, Gordon’s widow and executors, Colonel Hugh Hamilton [SSNE 2582] and Captain Robert Hay [SSNE 2635], became embroiled with the pearl-fisher over the amount of money Buchan should receive from his cousin’s estate. Buchan informed Oxenstierna ‘Your Excellency shall hear from your servant Mr. Hugh Mowatt’s Resident, who wrote his [Gordon’s] obligation to me of 4000 rixdaler, and is witness thereto’. Part of this debt was due to be paid by Colonel Hugh Hamilton, who owed Gordon’s widow 2000 rdl. The other 2000 rdl formed part of a loan made to Gordon’s mother in Scotland. Upon his cousin’s death, Buchan was summoned to Sweden by Mrs Gordon in order to settle matters. There were, however, complications; Gordon had made a will which implied that he had no children. In fact he had three illegitimate children, but only married his consort and thereby legitimised his children after his first wife’s death, thus throwing the legality of his will into question. A further difficulty arose because Buchan claimed to have approached Hamilton for help in his cause, particularly in selling Gordon’s land to raise funds - but after advising him not to sell these, Hamilton had obtained them for himself. During the July session of the Riksråd, the queen decided that Buchan had already received 2000 of the money claimed, but that he was indeed owed another 2000 rdl of which Hay was liable for half. Further, she summoned Hamilton to appear before the Riksråd. This was quite a showdown, with both Buchan and Hamilton present and at one point – when Buchan entered the room – the scribe taking the minutes could only write Hammelton tahlte hånom till på schottische – ‘Hamilton spoke to him in Scots’. We can only speculate how that exchange went. We do know that strong arguments were put forward by Hamilton in refutation of Buchan’s claims, after which the queen sought time to reflect on the evidence with three of her council. The Riksråd reconvened to discuss the matter on 8 August 1653. Finally, after several years waiting in Sweden and numerous sessions of the 1653 Riksråd, Queen Christina decided that Buchan should receive the outstanding 2000 rdl, in full, but without interest accrued. Thereafter Buchan disappears from historical view. What we do know for sure is that by January 1659 Buchan had died and his lands transferred to another family. 


Sources: N.A. Kullberg, et. al., (eds.), Svenska Riksrådets Protokoll(18 vols., Stockholm: 1878-1959), IX, pp.437. Axel Oxenstierna to the Riksråd, 27 October 1642, and XV, pp. 407-8, 417-9, 424-6, 434-5; Swedish Riksarkiv, Biographica Microcard, E01540 3/11; Swedish Riksarkiv, Axel Oxenstiernas Skrifter och Brefvexling , vol. E575; J. Spalding, Memorialls of the Trubles in Scotland and in England, A.D. 1624-A.D.1645 (2 vols., Aberdeen, 1850), I. p.267; Records of the Great Seal of Scotland, 1306-1668 (11 vols., Edinburgh, 1984), VIII, p.244. Record no. 707, 4 February 1625 and IX, p.261. Record no. 725, 3 July 1637; L.B. Taylor (ed.), Aberdeen Shore Work Accounts, 1596-1670 (Aberdeen, 1972), pp.109, 113-114, 124, 127-128, 148-149 and 155; L.B. Taylor, (ed.), Aberdeen Council Letters, 1552-1681 (6 vols., Oxford, 1942-1961), I, p.348. Missive of the Convention, Montrose, 3 July 1632. Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), pp. 172, 175, 181, 214, 230, 239-240, 354. Aberdeen City Archives, protocol book of the burgh of Aberdeen, 1637-1643, CA 2/1/39, fos. 68v-69r. For a complete biography of Buchan's time in Sweden see S. Murdoch, 'The Pearl Fisher: Robert Buchan ‘de Portlethin’ in Sweden, 1642-1653’, Northern Studies, 40 (2007), 51-70.

With thanks to Thomas Brochard for the reference to Buchan's father from Aberdeen City Archive.


Correspondence in relation to Alexander Gordon and Hugo Hamilton can be found here: Riksarkivets ämnessamlingar. Personhistoria https://sok.riksarkivet.se/bildvisning/A0069662_00243#?c=&m=&s=&cv=242&xywh=524%2C560%2C5740%2C3310


Additional letters:

Robert Buchan de Portlethin from Riksarkivet, Stockholm, Oxenstiernskas samlingen E575; Latin Translations are all courtesy of Dr Peter Maxwell-Stuart (St Andrews); Swedish Translations are all courtesy of Ardis Dreisbach-Grosjean (Stockholm).


Most illustrious Prince and, under God, my patron, In accordance with your Excellency’s promise, I have written in the vernacular what I did on my journey, and have had it translated into Swedish. I see things no other way [than] that, with God’s help, the work may speak for itself before long. If it please your Excellency, I am determined to carry [it] out with two or three young men and to teach them how to fish for gemstones and to investigate streams so that they may take note before I return where we can advantageously come back to the matter in hand. Please let me be left equipment for fishing. All this is to be done with the agreement of your most devoted servant, Henry Sinclair, (kinsman to the most illustrious lord John Oxenstjerna and Lawrence Sparre), with whom I shall send the gemstones which have already been found in the streams. I very humbly ask Sinclair to remain here without risk for up to a month, or thereabouts, with your Excellency’s indulgence. Meanwhile, as long as I live, I shall never forget your most ready clemency towards me, nor is there any kind of service I can do for your Excellency in particular, which I am [not] perfectly prepared to do. I entrust the most serene Queen to the most illustrious Regents and to all your people [under] Almighty God. Your Excellency’s most devoted servant, Robert Buchan from Portlethin. How productive it will be for your peasants to have one who is willing to drink his ale without becoming intoxicated – although I say nothing, and have promised [nothing]. I shall do more and you will find that I am a man absolutely sound without words. It is most unsatisfactory that I am obliged to pass the winter here in Gothenburg, and I shall have no time to find out, either by myself or through others, what can be profitable. I shall explain everything via the said Sinclair. Gothenburg, 15 January 1643, Addressed: To the most illustrious magnate and most clement Chancellor of the renowned, sacred Queen, etc., my Maecenas and patron. 


Most illustrious Prince, Although I have received a letter and a commission in respect of twelve fishers for gemstones along with a man who understands these things, if it please your Excellency, I should like to bring with me two or three others, namely, one person who has a very good knowledge of how to [………………] and a very good cook; and, most of all, one of those people who know how to provide themselves with gardens. If your Excellency will have dealings with people such as these, there is no kind of service in which I shall not be prepared to serve you to the best of my ability. I very humbly asked for your [Excellency’s] orders in writing, and I shall not fail to write your Excellency’s titles in Latin. Although Latin may not be a good idea, however you write is fine by us. Your Excellency’s most devoted servant, Buchan of Portlethin . 


Most illustrious Prince, I cannot express myself, especially to your Excellency, my patron under God. Last year, I gave your Excellency, in manuscript: On gemstones, On salt and the good things which result from its manufacture, On genista-shrubs, On dove-cots. I have made a presentation of a toad-stone of great value. From its surface, it shows the four elements, and I have had it fashioned in a different way in a crown which also shows the four elements in a pleasing way in the valuable [parts] of the stone, along with a pearl and a picture. The most illustrious Treasurer instructed me to bring Robert Seton here, Master [of Arts] in minerals in Britain. He has died in your service to my great cost. I [have brought] here, at my own expense, a peasant with the seed of the genista-shrub, and other pieces of equipment. After receiving instructions, we were ready to be of service when the genista-shrub was planted. Now, glory be to God, it is seen [all] over the land in great abundance. I myself have found it between here and the various streams at Gothenburg where the fishers of gemstones are found; and I have marked it out for Henry Sinclair, your servant. I have found [these gemstones], and they are present elsewhere. I have had them [mounted] in my room, your Grace, and have had apparatus made, a noble-spirited work I have had done in my own house at my own expense. There was no goldsmith in the whole city [who was willing] to mount [them] without a thaler for each one. Most humbly I beg your Excellency to procure my departure, otherwise I must tell your Excellency I do not dare express myself, [as] my Latin demonstrates, etc. [There is] no one who knows me who does not know I was the first to bring tapestry-makers of every kind from Antwerp, and from Haarlem weavers, damask cloak-workers from and Tournai. I was the first in Britain to make salt from lumps of earth without [using] charcoal and wood, although my salt-pans are now ruined because of the really bad weather. Let me say briefly that there is no kind of service I can possibly do for your Excellency [which I am not] absolutely prepared to do, according to your written instruction. Your Excellency’s most devoted servant. Meanwhile, I very humbly beg you may be willing to present to the most serene Queen those pearls I found between here and Gothenburg and [which] I have had mounted. We may hope for [even] better. They are worth five hundred thalers and more among the brethren. Buchan of Portlethin. 


Most illustrious Prince and my patron under God, If nothing more is given to me by your Clemency in exchange for the underwritten, I not only say goodbye to your Excellency and all the other most illustrious Regents, but I commend to Almighty God, etc. Last year I gave, in manuscript form, On Gemstones, On the Genista-Shrub, On Salt, and other things. I prepared a toadstone with pearls and a picture. June 1642. With servants and four horses, I carried out a test for twenty days in various streams between here and Gothenburg. I have brought with me the gemstones and shells I found. With certain things I bought from the Countess of Coburg and from others, I have had the best of them mounted and presented [them] to the most serene Queen. The value is at least four hundred thalers. By command [of?] the most illustrious Treasurer, I have brought with me a peasant with the seed of the genista-shrub. I had it planted in Estbak in Sweden for the most illustrious Fältherre, and we have been prepared to take care of others at the house of the Riksamiral [Carl Carlsson Gyllenhielm]. Praise be to God, the genista-shrub is seen above ground beyond [our] expectation. I say nothing about Robert Seton, Master of Arts with respect to minerals. Frankly, it cost me a hundred and forty thalers in that [business], and in riding to Edinburgh seventy miles from my house. He died in your service ten miles from Edinburgh. I am aware how his wife rails against me. I do not see otherwise but [that] I am obliged to spend the winter in Gothenburg. If I can be paid three hundred thalers, etc. Let no one else doubt that, with God’s help, I shall return with a man who understands [the business], and twelve fishers. I am well pleased with the letter I have received and before God, if I was not well aware that the work I have begun had rendered content not only the most serene Queen [and] the most illustrious Regents, but the whole of Sweden, [I hope] they will keep me in mind. Taking all this into account, I ask nothing in connection with this business. With God’s help, our work can be done in one month, which could satisfy me and all my people with regard to payment. But I would not willingly want to conduct experiments for a small payment. If I didn’t know what is to be expected etc. within such a widespread territory. As long as I live, [I shall be] your Excellency’s most humble servant, Robert Buchan of Portlethin.


To the illustrious, magnificent and well-born lords chosen as regents of the Kingdom of Sweden, governors and administrators, etc. [The Riksråd], Most humbly, most submissively, in the most humble way, I cannot let it go unannounced that I, after God's will, have been held up here in Gothenburg, in my enterprises for 9 weeks by an acute grave illness so that I was not able to travel on land nor by sea, I have in the meantime written to my wife to engage for me at the first opportunity some pearl fishers, But since I feared they would not arrive at the right time, and since I seriously intend to carry out faithful service in Sweden's rivers, I humbly beg that Your Grace will help me acquire 4 fellows who will be respectfully selected for all the rivers which are now known to me to travel with me, hopefully with God's help I shall make them competent pearl fishers so that they can teach others, and cautioning them to do nothing unjust in the business as long as I am with them, fearing, with God's help, nothing, but good progress shall be made. I take an honest young person whom I will instruct in all pertinent matters except for selling, so that he can be qualified to serve Your Grace in the future, for the business looks extremely positive, for it shall become an eternal monument and glory of the kingdom of Sweden, therefore I wish in no way to leave this enterprise till the time I have proven that which I am requesting and that I bear a faithful affection for Sweden's crown. I am not well satisfied that some of Your Grace's subjects, and some of my own countrymen have annoyingly despised me and the work I am engaged in, but I will make it to rebound on themselves, for I will apply my industriousness to the good of the Crown. I will prove with my deeds that I serve no other than Her Majesty and Your Grace. The Crown in Scotland and the whole nobility shall give witness that being Commissioner, during the time of 27 years I found 37 rivers which I worked until the last Parliament stood, then each nobleman wanted to have freedom for his own. I humbly beg that a peasant named Håcka(n) Andersson about whom Laxtinn (?) knows his good capabilities, might be sent to me, for I gave the peasant money so that he would be serviceable. When your gracious will shall be presented to me, no mortal danger, rather with God's condemnation, shall deter me for I shall always seek to please Your Grace with all humble readiness to serve. God knows my faithful intention; therefore I hope Your Grace will help me to faithfully carry it out. Humbly I beg Your Grace that the noble Countess [Coburg] may not be allowed to do me injustice. She has sold me planks of 16 ells and oak timber for large ships which she promised me with her oath Her Ladyship had Henry Sinclair write the contract between (us), and as he now recounts, he says that the Countess did not want to let him write that the planks were 16 ells long. This above-mentioned oak timber should have been delivered before Michaelmass as stated in the document and I was obliged to pay the money at the same time. I stayed in Stockholm until the 24th of December and up to the 28th of January the timber had not come satisfactorily to this city and until this hour was never presented to my by any of her ladyship's representatives. Humbly I further apprise Your Grace that the aforementioned timber is lying under the mark of Rodgier van Oken, and his creditors are ready to confiscate it for the debt he owes as soon as they hear that I have either become a debtor / or pay for them. It is to be hoped that Your Grace will graciously consider that I am a stranger and cannot speak for myself, and Hendrick Sinckler has not been here for two weeks and Rodgier has not been home in his house and I have not seen him in a month of days. May the most high God be witness to my innocence and how much it hinders me with my iron that I have in the Portuguese ships (this is probably plural) together with that which is in Stockholm's weigh-house, which I have given (to) Her Majesty's Justice (Richtigheed) which I understand to be arrested (confiscated?) for the timber which was never delivered to me I have spent my time, neglected my (?errene) and used up 600 rdl in cash.. If it pleases Your Grace that I might keep the timber I will obediently requite it. To me no time is imposed (?). I humbly beg Your Grace that the Countess might have her own servants deliver it to myself with freedom from Your Grace that I may transport or sell it or also build small ships of it with the condition that I retain Her Majesty's justice. When my iron has been freed and comes here to Gothenburg it will be sold and the money shall be delivered to the Countess. If there is then in any way (probably means anything lacking) then I will "arestere" myself until the Countess has received satisfaction to the last "Roustucke" Since I am a stranger and Your Grace's humble servant, I humbly beg that no more injustice be done to me nor that this Rodgier fan Ickenn cheat me I beg most humbly no other sentence/judgement but I put the judgement first to God in heaven and thereafter to Your Grace's just assistance between the noble Countess and me and for strangers to have an example of me I am and shall remain the most devoted and ready to serve of Your Excellency's servants, Bachane a Portlethin, Gothenburg, 9th April 1643.


Most illustrious Prince and my patron under God, Nobility, most illustrious Prince, is described as the dignity of a family in which most virtue exists. Therefore, most illustrious Prince, how splendidly the nobility of your house has culminated in you. If the glory of a name is estimated by virtue and sagacity alone, nothing is more noble than your greatness of mind, nothing more illustrious than your renown, nothing more outstanding than the flower of your intelligence. Although you do nothing with glory [as its] reason, it is incredible in everyone’s eyes [how] you overflow with glory, etc. On 15th and 16th April, even though I was still sick, I tested a stream not far from here and found a very large number of shells of gemstones. The gemstones I found are enclosed [with this letter]. I have never found [stones] such as these in April, and their colour is extraordinary. During the ordinary months, as long as I am here, I shall test what can be decided with regard to their difference in colour, especially the time suitable for making observations, although I expect the fishers of gemstones in May, whatever happens. I want four of your men. Please send, as one of their number, Håkan Anderson, who was with Captain [James] Kinnaird the first time. I should be very happy to teach your men. They are quite capable but, for the most part, deceitful. Most illustrious Prince, I am greatly vexed with the Countess of Coburg. I gave [her] a hundred thalers of my own money, and she keeps back her timber. Everyone knows [it] is not worth seven hundred thalers. The most illustrious Count Fleming has put under restraint 149 ship’s pound of the best iron. I paid the customs duty on everything nearly two years ago. It cost me seven thalers for each ship’s pound: one thousand, two hundred thalers in all, apart from interest etc. May God and a just judge prevail and deal with [the business] between the Countess and me! I offered the Customs ten per cent. They want to have no less than if the goods were commercial. This is how I have been treated as a foreigner. Meanwhile, most illustrious Prince, thieves take the timber. Seeing I have no-one under God except your Excellency to explain myself, I beg your Excellency most humbly to set me free from this misfortune. I promise I shall never be a tradesman in respect of the timber, especially with women etc. from whom set me free, o Lord! The customs-officer says he wants to have three hundred thalers and more. Of your munificence and singular kindness, [please write] a line to the customs-officer, that he accept the timber for the customs-duty, most illustrious Prince. Although I have lands and movables as well as bonds, I don’t have money with me to the value of the iron or the timber. They cannot give a reason for discouraging my love for your Excellency and the rest of the most illustrious regents. This is the prayer of your Excellency’s most devoted servant, most ready [to do] any kind of service, Buchan of Portlethin. I very humbly beg your Excellency to excuse me and my Latin, and I await a line from your Clemency. It is as though I were in Siberia. 17 April 1643. 


Most illustrious Prince and my patron under God. Your letter written in Stockholm on 19th May, most illustrious Prince. I have enclosed gemstones from four of your streams. What a joyful thing it is for me [……….] Cannot be expressed in Latin, so I have enclosed in the vernacular what I should like. I beg most humbly that your Excellency’s servant, Master Hugh Mowat, be summoned. I have no doubt he will translate accurately. Meanwhile, as long as I am here I shall not be idle at my own great expense, and there can be no doubt that if this work goes well, I have deserved payment. I call God to be my witness that never did a foreigner come to Sweden more devoted to your Excellency’s service. I have gone, personally, into the streams. It is no trouble to me to teach others if the fishers of gemstones do not arrive from Scotland. The peasants are cunning enough. They simply don’t want to seem [to be] more [than that]. One may hope for better things [to come]. I have taken pains to include sixty fragments, the best, just as God created [them]. I have also taken pains to enclose two extraordinary shells. It will not be long before [?] I shall write to your Excellency from East Gudlin, together with whatever comes to hand. I commend the most serene Queen to [?] the most illustrious regents, and your Excellency to God in my prayers. Dated 18th June 1643. Your Excellency’s most devoted servant, most ready for any kind of service, Buchan of Portlethin. Most illustrious Prince, may your Clemency please excuse my Latin. I have no one to write [it] for me. I confess my ignorance. 


The great labours/responsibilities which daily weigh upon Your Excellency have often prevented me from bothering my generous patron and mighty mecenas with my unimportant writings, though necessity does well require it Now when the time to fish for pearls is best and most appropriate Since my previous missive I have spared no pains and, eternal thanks and praise to God, am the longer the more joyfully operative as His Excellency shall be aware of at my obvious results. Now everyone wants to fish for pearls, even though it is more harmful (note: prob. to be understood economically) than profitable. I say now as previously, under correction, that as long as H(er) R(oyal) M(ajesty) does not make a general prohibition within Sweden's borders to the effect that no one may or dare in person fish for such until the enterprise has been proven to have the right to do so, (so long) shall such absurdity cause great damage in more ways than Y(our) E(xcellency) can imagine. I am awaiting every day my ship with pearl fishers and am wishing it were here Great thunder [storms] have done damage to the pearls and rain hindered me Sailors are now drying the apparatus. If the French Doctor has learned to accomplish that which he can discourse about pearls, Sweden's crown will have great benefit from such. Were he here I should show him mirabilia Dei. If I had authorization and ability I would learn Swedish. Very little assistance has been offered to me in this country, and (it is my) impression that the strangers who here seek the public good are harassed by those parties who seek their own profit through damage to the Crown. Before I abuse Sweden I shall humbly reveal to Your Excellency much which does not merit to be communicated in writing. None has less than [monetary value] than 6(?) öre at least, every day for 3 or 4 hours' work, what that means I place before His Excellency to judge The nearer the border the more beautiful the pearls. H(er) R(oyal) M(ajesty) and the Crown should have preference before all others for such a noble rarity. Nothing shall prevent me, if God allows me health, from completing what I have promised to H.R.M. and Sweden's Crown. quid precatur which is wished (by) the most devoted of Your Excellency's servants. Gothenburg, 31 July 1643 


Swedish (in florid chancelry style) to Queen. Goth, 29 June 1643 Buchan is asking to take Anders Hansson Lamb into his service, to teach him pearl-fishing, etc. At end, Henry Sinclair adds a note in Latin, to the effect that Andreas Lam did not want to take the oath neither before the Laandsheer, nor before the Gothenburg authorities. Therefore he did not dare to give him the ’Commission’. He had had Lamb with him for

at his own expense.


Your Excellency, Andrew Lamb [Lum] was unwilling to give his oath, either to the most noble Landsheer or in the presence of the leading men of Gothenburg, concerning his administration, and because of this I was unwilling to give the commission. He had been with me in three streams, at my expense, and I have given him sums of money. 


Most illustrious Prince and my patron under God I have written frequently and have had no reply at all. No doubt your Greatness is hindered [from replying] at home as elsewhere. I tried once before to communicate with your Excellency in Scots, and included things [in the letter], viz. two pearls, as a sign of my love for the most serene and powerful lady [ ] the Queen, etc., together with eight and very many others. If the noble, learned Lord will clearly [ ], how happy that will make me! I pay my way properly, most illustrious Prince. I beg most humbly, since I don’t know how to express myself in Latin, that whoever has the good nature to read and translate [this] for your Excellency and the rest of the most illustrious regents be called a friend. As long as I live, [I am] your Excellency’s most devoted Buchan of Portlethin. Gothenburg, 19th August 1643.


Sir, I received your letter and my Lord Reay’s with it, for the which I am exceedingly glad. I pray God to prosper all his good intentions. My Lord Chancellor sent your letter to me with his secretary, and desired me to turn it in Latin, which I did faithfully, not changing one word, but sore against my will, if I durst have refused. Your former ministered them matter of laughter, but your last matter of disdain. If you had kept covenant to the regents, and either brought them pearl fishers from Scotland or taught their own peasants to fish, you might have tried the most of the rivers in Sweden and Finland this last summer, whereof the like for fair weather perchance will not happen in seven years. They are not bairns with whom you have to deal. I assure you they have spies upon all your actions, and know them as well as yourself. I told my Lord Chancellor that you had a box full of pearls with blemishes on them, but of incredible bigness, and desired that he would call for the French doctor and try him if he could cure them; and he answered me that you were both alike promising much and performing nothing; and as for you, he said you were doing your own business and not the Crown’s. His words in Latin were these: similes simili gaudet, nam uterque multa promittit sed nihil perficit, et Buchanus vester rem suam agit, non nostrum [‘Like takes pleasure in like, for each of those two promises much but accomplishes nothing, and your Buchan pursues his own business, not ours’. What my Lord Treasurer said of you yesterday, speaking to my Lady Cowbridge [Coburg], you will hear from others. I will write nothing of it, for when I tell you the truth or give you wholesome counsel, you take it as the King of Israel did the prophecies of Micah. Yet thus much I will say, that if you had Latin, your ship-building alone …….. this, and performed what you promised to the regents, you had gotten a reqrd worth the ship and might have [begged?] your ship thereafter. But now you have not only put yourself out of request with them, but have hindered mine and many other honest countrymen’s fortunes by your evil example. This day Alexander Matthew must either pay the Lady Cowbridge [Coburg] the rest of her money with the interest, or go to prison. If they who have brought him [over?] that bargain have a good conscience in doing so to him, they will prosper the better. God is in Heaven, you have used a word in your letter divers times, diligence, which you allege is fair, and you would have sent it up if you had gotten an answer of your last letter, and I would have told the Chancellor thereof; but all my wits could not conceive the meaning of it. If you mean ‘diligence’ as it was taken in Scotland when I lived there, it is an inherent quality in a man’s person, and is not transmissible, nor cannot be sent anywhere; and so because I understood it not, I durst not speak of it. Thus commending you to God, I shall be always your affectionate friend to serve you, Master Hugo Mouat Stockholm, 28th August 1643. On the Envelope; To my worthy and much respected friend, Robert Buchan of Portlethin, presently at Gothenburg.


Most illustrious Prince and my patron under God, There cannot be any doubt, most illustrious Prince, that my three letters, together with the pearls I sent, especially two of the finest, have been presented to your Excellency. I have made trial, not without great pains, of twenty-three streams throughout three provinces. I have got gemstones in great quantity, although not all of them are good. Most illustrious Prince, it is no problem to travel quickly through a district; it is quite different to make diligent inquiries lest it be objected that my fishers have not arrived. I am very happy because I have given your Excellency’s task to peasants, fishers, and soldiers to be taught with careful attention to detail. There are also certain people to whom observers whom I shall appoint have been granted access. How pleasant it was for me to see merchant-goldsmiths coming along with us and [being] generous to other people! While I was lying at Inkipping [Enköping] after twelve days and nights in my clothes, most illustrious Prince, I received the enclosed letter. Woe to me that I should hear such a thing about myself from your Excellency’s sacred mouth! I call God [to be] my witness that it is doubtful (to my grief) if ever I shall ever see my wife and ten children. Moreover, I have been ready to come to Stockholm with the most noble Landsherre, [regional governor?], together with my assiduity in everything. Meanwhile, most illustrious Prince, Alexander Mathieson has put my person under restraint, even though I have given an invoice in connection with 149 ship’s pound of bar-iron, which, with custom’s duty, has cost me 1,200 thalers and more. The ship and planks and everything are also under retraint. I ask everlasting God what is the meaning of such a great harassment of a respectable traveller whose name had never been heard in any district. Most illustrious Prince, it can’t turn out that I must stay here [even] longer. I see the current of envy against me. They want my ship, and they are not willing to sell it. They see I lack money. The sum is not great, viz. 600 thalers. Because of privateers, my wife dares not send anything by sea. You know, I have invested a great deal of money in [this] ship in your Excellency’s service I have no one, under God, except your Excellency. [I beg] your Excellency, let a respectable man in this city lend me a thousand thalers. I shall pledge the ship until I have repaid [him]. I ask most humbly for a line, because winter is nearly here. [I beg] that I may come to Stockholm at the first opportunity, too. With God’s help, I shall make your Excellency and all the other most illustrious regents content. Let my enemies say what they want, I have never had such a number of gemstones at one and the same time day after day, and I have never given such a task in any district. God is my helper, and God Himself with extraordinary skill, after [my] conscientious tribulations and notoriety, brings [me] to pleasure and honours. If this does not happen to all conscientious people in this life, it happens in the next one. One comes to joys through tribulations, to honours through infamy, to the height through the depth. I do not doubt that God Himself will give me favour in your Excellency’s sight etc. Thus prays your Excellency’s most devoted servant, most ready [to do] any kind of service, Buchan of Portlethin. Gothenburg, 26th September [1643]. May it please your Excellency, My wife has sent your most illustrious Countess what I gave Sinclair under my seal [--------] capons, and forty measures [of] white blankets. She has also sent rams and ewes. I dare not send oats which are entirely white.


Most illustrious Prince and my patron under God The current of envy against me, most illustrious Prince, needs to be seen. This is why the carpenters have fitted out a ship which I do not know. They have now abandoned much more which is under restraint, along with the timber and my own person. Most illustrious Prince, never was foreigner treated thus. Of your singular clemency, set me free. Although they have already received 149 ship’s pound of bar-iron – 1,200 thalers, which was the price of the timber, I have offered [them] the timber. They don’t want to have [it]. I have nothing else except the ship. I now offer [it] to your Excellency and the rest of the most illustrious regents [but] not, most illustrious Prince, according to its value. The ship cannot become stronger at such a price, and the master of arts has surpassed himself because of its [-------------] They are called men of honour and intelligence. I repeat, I am more than content to be set free from this distress, viz. Alexander Matthew. They take the opportunity in the name of the Countess of Coburg, even though they have received 453 thalers of bar-iron. I don’t know how to reply for myself. The [ ] already cost two thousand thalers; before God, they are not worth seven hundred. God is the impartial judge between the Countess and me, or I shall pawn the ship for a thousand thalers by paying ten per cent until the pearls have come into your Excellency’s hands. I don’t want to give them willingly for the ship and all the timber. They are not as yet ready. If I receive a line with the next messenger or with a man who can be trusted, I shall send all the white [pearls] which are got by fishing, and those I have bought separately. Most illustrious Prince, let my enemies say what they want. You will find me a completely upright man. Certain people don’t want me to go back – as I put my hope in God – to my lands in Portlethin. They will not detain me and I shall bring more [men] with me, (with your Excellency’s indulgence), and testimony under our great seal, [regarding] what we are and which streams I have found in Scotland, and how I have [----------] myself for twenty-seven years in that commission. Whenever I come, I often wait for a line from your Excellency’s hands. When I can write freely and have the opportunity [to do so], you should not doubt that you will hear from me etc.I and all my people offer prayers. Your Excellency’s most devoted servant, most ready [to do you service]. Gothenburg, 1st October 1643. There are those here who never want the man who understands [the business] to be seen, and do not have [ ]. They have given me very many expressions of hatred, viz. they have sent an executioner. I bear the fishing for pearls patiently. 


Most illustrious and most excellent Sir, etc. With the most humble rashness of your slave, I ask you to forgive [someone] who has dared so often to solicit your Excellency when you are held up by the rather important business of the kingdom; but dreadful necessity compels [me]. As a foreigner here, I lead a grim life among people I don’t know, and I am compelled at great expense to look after myself and my servants. But, trusting in your Excellency’s promises, I would bear everything in patience if I were only kindly allowed to be of service to her most august Majesty and to you, most serene Prince. But, as a result of some people’s hatred, I hear it has happened that my hard work is less acceptable to your Excellency, and that [the rumour] has been spread that I labour more for myself than for you, that I look after my own business, not yours, and that I put more effort into building my ship than into finding the gemstones which are produced in rivers. I am sure your Excellency will be my witness that I have devoted every effort to investigating the rivers whose names, warranted by my own hand, I have sent to you in Stockholm. For the third time now, I have sent Swedish gemstones to your Excellency, and in the last batch of gemstones, two pendants for the Queen’s Majesty. I still have not a few with me, which I shall hand over whenever your Excellency pleases. Furthermore, I was promised that some fishers would [be] summoned here from Scotland, but they were unwilling to entrust themselves to a sea infested with pirates. As soon as I found this out from my wife’s letter, I brought a number of peasants and soldiers of your nation with me on all my travels, because I thought I would oblige the most excellent gentlemen. First of all, I myself entered the river with bare feet and taught them the technique of fishing – something I never did in my own country. One of them is now so experienced that he can teach the others. He alone has found four very rich rivers in Småland. He went back home eight days ago. The more I am promised, the more I shall fulfil. As far as the ship is concerned, this will provide to all those who give it their consideration testimony of my neglect of my own affairs, but not of my diligence. I have brought here with me money, clothing, and an unblemished reputation, and I have used up clothing and cash in your service. I hear my reputation [which is] a hundred times dearer to me than life torn apart by the tongues of several malicious [persons]. But I know your Excellency is too just to condemn an innocent man unheard. If the Most Excellent wants me to come to Stockholm, I have no doubt I can cleanse myself from all stain and produce evidence of my hard work in your Excellency’s presence. Then will appear my integrity which I have shown constantly over a period of twenty-seven years by [my] labours for James I, King of Great Britain, of famous memory, and then to Charles, my most serene lord now reigning. My wife and children in Scotland are complaining not a little about [my] long absence from them, [asking] how they can find relief. I have sent [them] a copy of the commission of the most excellent princes, which was given to me, along with the royal promise of payment; and the sight of this has provided them with some peace of mind. So that your Excellency may clearly see that I shall hide nothing which God and Nature have revealed to me in [my] dealings with gemstones, I have had brought to me from Scotland the dimension of the all the gemstones, [a measurement] confirmed by the testimonies of the four most famous men who have held office for fifty years [offered] to the present King James I, King of Great Britain, and the more virtuous councillors of England. From this document, your Excellency can judge exactly and impartially the value of all the gemstones. Furthermore, so that the most illustrious Lord may know that the infertile shells of pearls should not be treated with scorn, I am sending you samples of them along with this letter, and I shall willingly explain to your Excellency at the first available opportunity which things are useful. I call God to witness that the first and greatest of all my prayers is to be of satisfaction to you. I have no representative or defence advocate who can defend me while I am not here, or speak for a foreigner who is not present. My hard work and labours must speak for me and solicit [your] favour towards my very dear wife and children and more than three hundred souls [who] are looked on with disfavour by your Excellency, my most illustrious and only patron. They all ask and will ask the Almighty in tireless prayers that He bless your Excellency according to His [……. ] and grant you a long and happy life. I don’t want to harass your Excellency at this time with my particular troubles, especially [the one] concerning the agreement I entered into with the Countess of Coburg about timber for building large ships, for which I had to pay 1200 imperials. It is not worth a quarter of that sum. 149 pounds of iron was seized during my absence and sold for a very low price. I am a foreigner and cannot speak for myself. Therefore I have to put up with everything, even though it is very harsh. But my hope, after God only, is placed in your Excellency, and I shall always remain, [Your] most devoted and most bounden slave, Buchan of Portlethin. Dated Gothenburg, 18th November 1643. 


May it please the most excellent lord to see a model or outline of the pearl-shells. Look now!  I present to you something which may be held in contempt by ignoramuses and uncultivated minds. But your Excellency and his most illustrious colleagues who know the hard work of foreigners must not despise it; for here up till now their workmen have started to decorate, not unbecomingly, musical instruments, little optical boxes, and other objects of the same kind. Let me be bold enough to declare that this alone is not unworthy of some payment. I know that posterity will praise your Excellency’s attention in this matter, and in most years not only the abundance of pearls but also their infertile shells will undoubtedly draw foreigners to you, to the benefit of the kingdom. I think more cannot be asked of me. I am prepared, with the gemstones I have, to present myself before [you] and to bring with me all those [gemstones] I have bought with my own money and which have been produced [by my] hard work. If I do not have your Excellency as an advocate, extraordinary necessity will compel me to leave. I say nothing about the tireless prayers of my wife and child, the long delay, the many labours disagreeable to my old age, and the unfair envy of many people. But your Excellency can free me from all these discomforts. I shall always remain your most humble and obedient slave. I have very many shells with me. I have sent the casks with Sinclair, otherwise he was unwilling to bring [the shells?] with him. Buchan of Portlethin. 


Most illustrious Prince and, under God, my patron I ask [you], with the boldness of your most humble slave, to forgive [someone] who has frequently dared to solicit your Excellency who is involved in the rather serious affairs of the kingdom. But harsh necessity compels [me]. For here I lead a wretched life as a stranger among people I do not know, and I am compelled [to do so] at great expense. I can’t stay [here] any longer. I have decided to go back home at the first opportunity however [I can] by sea, by God’s grace, and I ask you most humbly to consider both me and my hard work, and that with your favour, [which is] dearer to me than life you allow me to see my native land. This, most illustrious lord, is the prayer of your Excellency’s most devoted servant and [one] most prepared [to do you every service], Buchan of Portlethin.


To the Queen’s most excellent Majesty of Sweden, etc. etc. etc. and royal regents, etc. etc. May it please your Majesty, two years ago I gave in writing to your Majesty’s royal regents the form, manner, and distinct times of taking and fishing of pearls, with other particulars therein contained. Notwithstanding, I gave and presented to your sacred Majesty a reasonable proof what sorts of pearls your Majesty’s rivers did produce. It pleased the royal regents to give me a commission to make further search in this kingdom of your rivers, and that I should have brought with me some of my pearl-fishers from Scotland to serve your Majesty. I was arrested in the Spring by sickness for a long time and being loath to hazard myself so often by sea, I have made trial of divers rivers in West Gudlin here for the past two months. What the month of April produced and the beginning of May, I sent up to your Majesty’s royal chancellor, and having presented your Majesty’s letter to your Landsheer [landsherre], I have gone upon your Majesty’s pass. I find the most part of rivers abound in shells, very fair in divers places and rivers. Such pearls as I have found I have sent up to your royal chancellor, and some pearl mother shells to be admired; and have enclosed a tun of shells from five several rivers to be sent to Alschover to your Majesty’s agent to be sent to Stockholm. I have sent a tun of shells to Holland, a tun to London, the fourth to Scotland, with a ship by God’s grace shall presently come back to me. I tied myself to no sender but particularly to distinguish the rivers wherein pearls are to be found. A hundred ages to come the Crown of Sweden shall have glory by your own pearls, noblemen, ladies, gentlemen, and all sorts pleasure and commodiously. My humble petition and desire is that all pearls to be taken in time coming may be presented to your sacred Majesty, that your Majesty may be once furnished with your own pearls; and let the finders and fishers thereof be paid for their pains as custom be in other kingdoms. My humble petition to your sacred Majesty that what shall come to my hands and sent up to your royal chancellor, they may be kept by themselves, that some credible piece of work either in a crown or sceptre may lie here at Gothenburg, by reason the pearls are found in Easter and Wester Gudlin and hereabout. Please your Majesty and royal Excellencies, I am stayed from fishing of pearls in some places, especially by Major Isaacson’s house and rivers within 3 miles of Gothenburg. He sent his servant to me, having two of the castle soldiers with me, and inhibited me from further fishing of his rivers within his bounds. The two rivers are very rich. The Queen’s Majesty would take no small pleasure to see her own pearls taken etc. The Major’s lady causes fish the river and ties all pearl rings to her hands. This week I go to Easter Gudlin and shall give testimony of my diligence, God willing, notwithstanding my wife, children, and friends their many letters being astonished at my long stay here. Neither shall the building of my dear ship hinder me from giving proof of my skill till the month of July be done. Before that time, there shall be as many peasants in these two provinces may pass for pearl-fishers through all Sweden, neither shall my hand usage neither in dating nor lying terrify me [?], as God is my witness. I eat the bread of affliction.


Robert Buchan to Queen Christina Please your sacred Majesty, If life and estate should perish, I promise to your Majesty’s royal chancellor let see my skill. Many ages shall find the fruits. Let some honest Scots gentleman be demanded what the pearl fishings of Scotland have produced these 28 years past, and now all free being till the last Parliament annexed to the Crown; Please your Excellencies, There was never sentence given against me to my knowledge at Gothenburg, for the first sight of the acquittal and the presenting of my bond, the noble judges seeing me sure bound to pay the monies, their pleasure was that Roger Fanancairn’s sons and Alexander Matthew should deliver me the timber upon 19th April; and the same day I, conform to their order, delivered an invoice upon 149 ship’s pound of iron, all customs and dues paid except 12 ship’s pound. Whoever has informed your Excellency the noble Countess has done me reason, I have received the number of dozens. But if it be such great ship’s timber as were sent me or I lost, God is witness, and I refer my part to God and to good men’s sight. Alexander Mathieson went to Alschover about his other affairs and did neglect the time of selling my iron. The noble judges of Gothenburg have determined whatever my iron might have been sold for, after his [de]parting, and gave between merchants of sold be allowed to him for the same prices. Of your royal clemency, let me receive no more wrong nor skaith. Would to God the noble Countess had kept both iron and timber! I can sell it at no price, and the building of this ship of mine without some speedy help come from Scotland, I will be found to let her rest. I am and shall remain, Your sacred Majesty’s devoted suitor in all possible duties, Buchan of Portlethin. 


Last year I gave, in manuscript: The Method and Precise Time for Fishing for Gemstones, The Genista-Shrub [broom], Salt made from Salt and from Uncontaminated Natural [Ingredients], Dove-Cotes. I presented the most serene Queen with a toadstone showing in two places the four elements, (of no small importance), together with pearls and a picture. By command [of] the most illustrious Treasurer, I came to an agreement with Robert Seton, Master [of] our minerals, [who] has died in your service. I brought with me a peasant with the seed of the genista-shrub. I made trial in various streams between here and Gothenburg. I found pearls and shells which I have brought with me. I managed all this at my own expense. At your command, I presented the most serene Queen with these three circlets of pearls [which are] of no small importance [Crossed out] Now I have been ordered to bring with me twelve fishers and a trustworthy man. I have had the gemstones I found set by a gentleman in my room, and have had equipment made, at my own expense, 24 [ ] between here and Gothenburg, four horses with slaves. I have received 300 thalers. I don’t know why. I have [………….] 600 from the time I arrived from Gothenburg for expenses. It cannot be. If your Excellency has your gemstones which are not worth more, they are not worth fishing for. One should hope for better. It is an honourable and lucrative job not only to be of service to you, but to be of assistance to other districts, without great expense. There is no kingdom in which they are more plentiful. I am a simple man and, as it were, drunk. The truth approves of my actions. It is known what I want. 


Most illustrious and most excellent Sir, I have already made bold several times to write to your Excellency that I am ready to come to Holm [Stockholm], if it please you, and to bring your gemstones with me, and to render every obedience with a most willing spirit to this most august Crown. But since your Excellency has perhaps been hampered by more serious affairs, it has happened that I have had no reply as yet, and now dangers from soldiers are menacing foreign travellers in no common fashion. Therefore I have decided to entreat your Excellency one more time and humbly ask you to write back to your slave, just this once, whether I should come myself or hand over the gemstones, sealed under my hand, to someone deputising for you. I have with me a Swedish soldier from Småland, whom I have not only taught the technique of fishing but also how to find the rivers which produce the gemstones. He can now teach others. If it please your Excellency, I shall send him to you, for he can now serve the Crown of Sweden well, and has been fed at my own expense up to the present day. As far as I am concerned, I can do better work for her Majesty in this dangerous time, in my own country, rather than live idly elsewhere and put my skills and my time to no good use. I have here a ship made for military service and now nearly finished. If it please the most illustrious lords of the Crown, I would sell it. Let the price be however much respectable men think it is worth. Everything is at hand to finish it. But since the workmen have been conscripted to work for the Crown, I have no one here who can finish it. So far I have sent Admiral Simon Stewart its size and length. I submit to your Excellency myself and my labours in fishing for gemstones, for, after God, my hope is placed in the most illustrious lord. Please don’t let me suffer as [I do from] the tongues of malicious people. Let them cast me from [your] favour. What I have done and time itself will prove that I am honourable and loyal; and if I can serve you, most illustrious princes, in any other matter, I know that there has never been any other Scotsman here of my rank who would serve you more gladly than, most illustrious Sir, your Excellency’s most humble and obedient dependant and slave, Buchan of Portlethin. Dated Gothenburg, last day of January 1644.



Lord who should be honoured with many titles, I have sent a letter to your Greatness with your servant, enclosing three pendent pearls which I very humbly beg you may be willing to deign to show her Majesty with your own hand, so that the beauty and charm of Swedish pearls may become clear to her Majesty. In [the letter], too, is a statement of the adulteress, my opponent, who has been the cause of my lingering here for nearly four years, away from my wife and numerous family, along with the indescribable expense to myself and unbelievable anguish of mind. Most eminent Sir, if you can only restore me to freedom by listening to my most legitimate case, at the cost of one brief moment, in her Majesty’s presence, when so favourable a chance for me to depart for London on one of her Majesty’s ships offers itself, I have no doubt that my prayers, and [the prayers] of those attached to me, will gain a blessing from God on high for your Greatness, and for yours. If I miss this chance whereby I am sure of being taken home, I shall be obliged to spend the winter here with scarcely satisfactory health or decent supply of necessities. Secretary [Johan Olofsson] Stiernhöök will confirm to your Greatness the strain [this causes]. If only you will show me this immense favour at this opportune moment, it will not only offer me compensation for my effort in finding a river in which they can fish for pearls, and for my teaching the farmers according to her Majesty’s command, it will also oblige me, my children, and my other dependants in perpetuity to devote our small efforts to the service of her Majesty, at our own cost, with all the gifts God and nature have bestowed on us. Most illustrious Sir. Your Excellency’s most humble slave, Robert Buchan of Portlethin.


Most Illustrious Prince and my Patron under God Your Excellency has doubtless from my previous humble Insinuated Supplications understood that I have a certain dispute with my deceased cousin's, the late Alexander Gordon's, heirs, concerning a considerable debt claim accruing to two of his remaining obligations which have been attributed to me. Because of the which claim I am now these three and a half years away from house and home and my family in these wayward troubled times, detained by the court. Numerous sentences and judgments, yea the Royal Majesty's grave Executorial letters (I have) had the benefit of, which the ill will and wrong allegations of my opponents have caused to rebound, so that also now recently the aforementioned dispute was placed under Her Royal Majesty's royal court of appeal, where the case has now been resting for more than a year, doubtless owing to the many other public cases, but also that I, poor old man without family, am not and cannot be proficient in the country's language and through it be able to present my extremely needy situation, wherefore I now flee to Your Excellency as the poor strangers' greatest and foremost protector, that Your Excellency will graciously assist my disputed case that is now placed under the Royal Majesty's just feet, toward a positive verdict, God the Most High will surely reward Your Excellency's gracious good deed with all that is good. This my humble prayer I in Your Excellency's and Grace's powerful and gracious Resolution (verb lacking here), I remain Your Excellency's and Grace's Robert Buchan de Portlethin, One of the servants of the King of Great Britain. Most excellent Sir, The showers we have just had were not more pleasing to the half-baked earth than one word from your Excellency’s mouth to her Majesty, [requesting] that she hear my case. As soon as I am pardoned, I shall go to see my wife and family who have been harassed by many afflictions at this disastrous time. [The situation in which I find myself] has produced in them and me no small distress after my absence of three years and four months. The grief of my mind can scarcely be expressed. Nor can I put into words the straits into which my opponents have placed me. I trust Almighty God will render them the thanks they deserve, and I shall not be [un]mindful of your Excellency for the kindness you have shown me. 


[Most Noble] and most excellent Sir, Induced by your Excellency’s kind invitation to investigate the rivers of this kingdom to see if they can be fished, what a fortunate life [I lead] now in this my old age and the dangerous turn of the times. I have done my duty in [making] the final scrutinies of the objects. I have found a very large number of rivers which are most productive of pearls. They are inexhaustible, and their productiveness was made known first of all by me. The citizens of Gothenburg, who have no regard for either the advantage to, or glory of their own country, are daily enriched, [and] share the fruits of my labours, not with the Queen or the princes of the kingdom, but with foreigners and strangers. My commission, dated and confirmed by two kings of Great Britain, (that is, James and Charles of immortal memory), is the most ample witness of my skill and loyalty; and the productiveness of your Sweden in this kind of fishing, and the gemstones I have sent your Excellency for a number of years and which I have, up till now, on a given occasion, presented to her royal Majesty, confirm this enough and more. Therefore I ask your Excellency in whom, after God, is placed all my hope, to discuss my case with the Queen, lest I experience in myself that old proverb, ‘I have lost the oil and the task along with my financial loss’. I do not refuse the work as yet, and since I am not allowed to have time to do such important fishing without a break, let me be given some Swedes who are skilled in the technique of swimming. In one week I shall send them back fully trained; for I would not want my talent to die with me. However, may it please your Excellency to read these two documents of the dead Colonel Alexander Gordon, whereby the Colonel or his executors are obliged to pay me 4,000 imperials in return for the money I paid, according to the wishes of the foresaid Gordon and his solemn promises of restitution, partly in Scotland, partly here in Holmia [Stockholm], in pursuance of the commission entrusted to me by the dead Colonel, as his letters testify. After you have read them and given consideration to the justice of my case, I ask the most illustrious lord to make himself available for me as a kind patron in the court of the most serene Queen, and that Colonel Hamilton and the officer of the watch, Robert Hay, executors to the foresaid dead man, be compelled by royal authority to pay me back without delay from Gordon’s money which has been deposited with the magistrates of Bremen. For with the exception of this one sum, in addition to the destruction of my farmland and the ransacking of my house, the civil war has left me nothing wherewith I can support my family. The truth of this is known to Master Mowat. Therefore I hope that I, a weak old man almost eaten away by sickness of years, despoiled of all his goods in his native land, and whatever valuable timber I had in Gothenburg seized from me by force in my absence [to be used] for the fortification of the city – (your Excellency has never denied resources to the afflicted) – will secure this tiny bit which remains to me. God never leaves such works of Christian charity unrewarded. I ask Him again and again to preserve your Excellency and your whole illustrious family blessed, happy, and safe for a long time, and flourishing abundantly with every good thing. These prayers [I make] every day and will do so forever. Robert Buchan of Portlethin, most humbly cultivating your most illustrious Excellency. 


August 1652 Most illustrious Sir, who should be honoured with many names I have earnestly begged her most serene Majesty, (seeing that winter is already advancing, and I have spent three years and seven months here up till now, not without heartfelt grief, and am now prepared to commit this my body, weak and overwhelmed by old age, to the well-disposed divinity, the ocean-tide of the estuary, far from all fear of gales and pirates), to be willing to deign to look upon me with her usual clemency and eyes of pity, and to do me right in any way at all in your Excellency’s hearing, and to draw a line under the dispute with my opponent, which has gone on for so long. From the enclosed, you will be able to discern who he is and what kind of a representative he has sent here. Excellent Sir, my partner and I have petitioned her Majesty three times to make trial, (at our expense), of making salt from uncontaminated [ingredients] in nature by making salt from salt and, in another fashion, making salt without fire. This is an incredible secret. Almighty God gave it to me by a prompting of Nature. If we had received the charter at the right time, we would have conducted a trial in everything, and one of us [-------] by investigating the rivers in which gemstones are to be found throughout the whole of Finland and North Bottom. I see I am ignored in everything. Unless I am mistaken, most illustrious Sir, my patron under God, you will see that I have been treated better by neighbours etc, most excellent Sir, they have little regard for gemstones found in the kingdom of Sweden. For their particular benefit, by the grace of God you will see the opposite, and [when] they are compared with the enclosed, which I want shown to her Majesty by your Excellency’s hands, there is no great difference either in shape or colour. The letter I sent to Gothenburg via your Excellency’s hands obliges me to be of service to her Majesty. I pay attention to it, along with the commission which has been sealed and signed, and I shall be left with my second son whom I expect at any moment from the kingdom of Poland. Most excellent Sir, the Queen of Bohemia has written two letters to her Majesty and has made supplication for me. She showed the second letter to his Excellency Salvius, of blessed memory, twenty days ago, and gave me her reply, that your Excellency has been appointed to hear my case and deliver sentence. I can’t express my [impatience] and I can’t read my wife’s letter without tears. Your Excellency’s most humble [and] devoted servant, Robert Buchan of Portlethin, one of the King of Great Britain’s servants. [Autumn 1652]. 


Most illustrious Sir, [Since] I have received a letter from Scotland, my native soil, dated 12th March just past, from my closest friends, wherein they declare that unless I have been blessed by Fate I should return home as quickly as I can unless I want all my goods and lands confiscated and awarded to the public purse. At any rate, they think I am being detained here as a person under indictment. I am compelled to be a nuisance once again to your Excellency and to beg you as humbly as I can – seeing that her most serene Majesty promised Secretary Stiernhöök last Monday that my case will soon be heard and dealt with and judgement given – that, when the day set aside for fasting and prayers has been endured, not only may you be willing to deign to be present, but also [that you be willing] to persuade her Majesty to be present likewise, so that she can see my very reasonable case, which has been pending now for fully four years and more, through to its conclusion, a case in which my advocate has been led astray by the many threats and promises of my opponents: and yet he will prove the individual points of my evidence exactly; and it will certainly be clear to her Majesty how stupidly, how ungratefully that three-times adulteress has behaved towards me, the nearest male relative of Colonel Gordon, after he died and I was summoned hither, and how dishonourably she has treated me, [namely], that after she had been cleansed of beggary and set up in very great style by my kinswoman, she and her instructor, Colonel Hamilton, made this business one I cannot get out of. If your Excellency disentangles me from these snares in which I am now entangled, it will be a piece of work pleasing to God and worthy of people’s praise, and I promise that as long as I live [I shall pray] to Almighty God for your Excellency’s safety. You Excellency’s most humble slave, Robert Buchan of Portlethin. 


Lord who should be honoured by many titles, Four years have already elapsed since I proceeded with my perfectly just case against the adulterous widow of the late military colonel, Alexander Gordon, and the tutors [acting as] his executors, as will be clear to her Majesty and the judges of appeal from the bonds and other deeds; yet nothing has resulted from it up till now, to my great harm and people’s astonishment, beyond sentences from which there is no appeal. But now, since my people’s feeling, their futile bond, and the isolation of my family in this turbulent age harshly demand my presence, I am compelled to fly to my one and only refuge, (that is, your Excellency, the usual human consolation for all foreigners in distress) and, as humbly as I possibly can, beg you to be willing to deign to commend my case to her Majesty, [a case] which is not completely unknown [to her]. I do not doubt that when her most serene Majesty has been advised by your Excellency and has become familiar with my case and thoroughly informed about it, and passed fair and equitable judgement [upon it], she will send me home singing her praises and for ever soliciting almighty God for her safety and wealth. I have sent a letter to your Greatness via your servant called Eric. In it [are enclosed] three pendent Swedish pearls which are no less valuable than the eastern [kind]. I have asked most humbly that [you] be willing to deign to show them to her Majesty with your own hand, so that the beauty and charm of Swedish pearls may become clear to her Majesty. I do not doubt, most serene Sir, that my prayers and those of my people will obtain from almighty God a blessing for your Greatness and for your people, and that that same God may render due punishment to those twisters who ------- the impartiality and mercy of a prince, which have been solicited by distressed foreigners. To the most illustrious lord, your Excellency’s most humble slave, Robert Buchan of Portlethin, one of the King of Great Britain’s servants. 


Noble lord and mighty promoter, as my patron under God, I humbly pray Your Excellency to tell your servant, Mr Hugh Mowat, what the reason is why I have tarried so long in this kingdom, wherefore all those who know me wonder greatly. And I can never justify it before God that I have been so long away from my dear spouse and children, servants and other dependents in these difficult times. But it eats away at my Credit and demands of me that I pay for that which I have already paid which, if it could be proved, I would rather die and take my life. Most noble lord, if my just case is pleasing to Your Excellency, as I hope, Your Excellency will soon learn, since it is now in Her Majesty's and the Councillors' hands and decision, which no ornament of men nor gifts nor solicitations can stop the Court's proceeding, to the great satisfaction of poor foreigners. Your Excellency has done many deeds of charity in your lifetime, which gives praise to God, every man knows, but never up to this time has there been done a greater deed of mercy than to help me, poor stranger, and my desolate heart from my gruesome enemy and persecutor Colonel Hamilton, who toward everyone is nothing else, for all this goes not against him, but my action is only against this widow who has had three illegitimate children on behalf of my Cousin, Alexander Gordon, who has shared so with me the highest and closest friend he has in life, and I have not spared my life to increase all his goods, and hoped that I and my children would be his heirs, by word and in writing, as Your Excellency shall hear from your servant Mr. Hugh Mowatt's Resident, who wrote his obligation to me of 4000 rixdaler, and is witness thereto, or from Her Majesty's Secretary, Johan Olofsson Stiernhöök, who has all the documents in his hands of Her Majesty's own information, or also my lawyer, Johannes Danielson, etc: my hope is that such good Christian works will not go unrepaid by God etc. Your Excellency's humble servant, Robert Buchanus de Portlethin. Vnus seruitoris Regis Magnæ Britanniæ.

Bishops War

Service record

Departed 1644-12-31