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Sir John Henderson (f.1625-1658), was a Roman Catholic, and possibly began his military service in the army of Denmark-Norway between 1625-1629. If so this must have been as an enlisted soldier since he is not recorded in any of the muster rolls consulted for this biography as an officer. By 1632 he was serving in the Swedish army as a lieutenant-colonel under the Marquis of Hamilton (one source notes him as a colonel already in 1628). In 1632 he served under the command of William IV of Saxe-Weimar. On the 21 of February he took part at the conquest of Goettingen (Lower Saxony), since the 27 of January he was commander of Goettingen. In March he was promoted to colonel of a Dragoon-Regiment by William IV. On the 3 of March he was sent to the landgrave William V of Hesse-Cassel in order to force the exchange of the garrison of Goettingen by troops of William V. Henderson then was garrisoned at Duderstadt (Lower Saxony) On the 1 April his troops marched into the county of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen (Thuringia), where 4 companies of dragoons were to be maintainened for some months and said to have ruined this county. In the beginning of July, William IV assembled the regiments of colonel Berghöfer, Steinbach and some other officers and Henderson was ordered to command these troops, merely foot-soldiers, and bring them to Naumburg. In the battle of Lützen Henderson led only 4 companies (180 men, 54 died). Because of the lack of horses his dragoons had to fight as musketeers. His troops are reported to have destroyed 11 pieces of artillery and burnt several gun-carriages by the author of the Swedish Intelligencer. It is unknown how, why or when he switched sides, although it is certain that he did. Between 1633-38, Henderson served as colonel of an Imperial dragoon regiment then based in Bohemia. In his first year there, Henderson signed the Pilsen agreement in support of General Wallenstein (12 January 1634), but not the second agreement of the 20 of February. As a result, he received a command from Wallenstein to guard the town of Tabor. However, on the Emperors' orders, he went to Vienna instead. On 6 March 1634, just two weeks after Wallenstein's assassination, he was given 5 companies of Count Ilow's dragoons. In the turmoil of the Swedish assault at Landshut, he was shot in battle and fell into the hands of Swedes, being captured on 24 July 1634. The wounded Henderson was brought to Augsburg. With a promise to deliver some secret information to Axel Oxenstierna and Duke Bernard of Saxe-Weimar Henderson was released two months later, shortly before the battle of Nördlingen in which Henderson's dragoon regiment fought. Soon after, Henderson undertook some minor diplomatic missions. He was sent to Augsburg in November 1634 by Ferdinand II, on a mission with letters from the King of Hungary (the later Ferdinand III), to hold discussions with the Duke Bernard of Saxe-Weimar. The object of the mission was to bring the Duke back over to the Imperial side and he was selected because he knew the duke. Henderson offered Bernard 20,000 riksdaler per annum and the command of about 20,000-25,000 men as he wrote to Piccolomini on this day. Moreover Bernard should get the duchy of Franconia, if he paid 20000 riksdaler per annum to the bishop of Wuerzburg and Bamberg Franz von Hatzfeldt. Gallas should be Bernard’s companion in the following campaign. Bernard refused this offer because he hoped of better conditions from France. There is a strong chance that on this occasion he may have also met his brother-in-law, Patrick Ruthven, the future Earl of Brentford, then in Swedish service. In any case, Henderson wrote from Gross-Heubach to General Piccolomini on 13 January 1635 regarding his negotiations there, although little is known of their outcome. Thereafter, Henderson took part in the disastrous campaign of Gallas to Lorraine against Bernard of Saxe-Weimar. On 31 of January 1635 Gallas ­ and he explicitly mentioned Henderson, and his relation ­ cleared him of the ruin of the Imperial army under his command. Henderson returned to his regiment and was once again taken prisoner by the Swedes, possibly at Regensburg. He spent some months as a hostage. On his release, Henderson helped in the attack on the town of Rathenow in May 1636 but the Imperialists were defeated. His regiment spent most of 1636-1637 in Pomerania, and in February 1638, he fought at the Battle of Rheinfelden, where the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, was victorious and General Savelli and a number of other Imperialists were taken prisoner [NB Bernd Warlich questions John's participation and wonders if the reference does not relate to his cousin Thomas Henderson]. Henderson thereafter left Imperial service to serve the House of Stuart, acting as the Royalist governor of Dumbarton Castle during the Bishops' Wars in Scotland. By the early 1640's he had become a major Stuart diplomat in northern Europe making many journeys to Denmark-Norway in particular. During the English Civil War, Colonel John Henderson held another Stuart commission and took part in the wars for the three Stuart kingdoms as governor of Newark and as a field commander. He was defeated by forces of the English Parliament under Sir Thomas Fairfax at Winceby on 11-21 October 1643, but escaped to continue his diplomacy abroad. On his mission from the Danish king to the English Parliament, Henderson was imprisoned. He was eventually released, though the Committee of Both Kingdoms cautioned Christian IV for employing diplomats that had raised arms against them. This deterred neither Henderson nor Christian IV. Charles I sent Henderson back to Denmark in 1645 and the Scot was back in Britain on a mission from Denmark in September the same year, in an attempt to hinder any form of alliance between the Parliament and Sweden, although little is known of his remaining actions in England.In 1649, Henderson returned to the Holy Roman Empire to raise money and support for Charles II and was sent by Colonel John Cochrane to Frederik III of Denmark-Norway before returning briefly to Britain. He also visited Hannover as representative to the Dukes of Brunswick-Luneburg-Calenberg and Brunswick-Luneberg-Celle along with Colonel William Johnston [SSNE 3949]. These missions were part of the supply preparations required for the ill-fated Montrosian campaign of 1650. With the failure of that scheme, Henderson essentially pursued a private career in military service. In June 1651, the Imperial War Chancellery had cause to contact the Imperial Vice Chancellor on his account. That same month, Emperor Ferdinand III also wrote to Charles II, stating that he had 'given such proof of his Imperial munificence to Colonel Henderson as the difficulties of his great expenses permit'. Henderson moved on to Paris around that time. Moreover, the Emperor's recommendations failed to impress Charles II. On 18 October 1652, Edward Hyde wrote to the Stuart agent John Taylor ,to tell him that the King was dissatisfied with Henderson for 'suggesting public employments for his friends and mentioning them as being persons of trust to the Emperor'. The King obviously did not think him equal to the tasks which Taylor had assigned to him. Henderson left Paris for Hamburg at the end of the year dissatisfied, since Charles II had neither provided a recommendation for him to the Emperor, or paid him the money he believed he was owed. At this point, Lord Rochester summoned Henderson and sent him into Austria. This move surprised Hyde who wrote to Rochester to complain 'he will do him [Charles II] no right wherever he goes'. Perhaps this was due to the fact that Henderson had so many contacts elsewhere, especially among the former Royalist community in Sweden who Charles II had let down so badly during the Montrosian Campaign of 1640-50. In May 1653, Sir Edward Hyde wrote that he was surprised that Henderson retained sufficient influence with the Swedish Court so 'as to procure a large sum of money for his own use'. Yet given his family connections there, such support is not really surprising.Henderson still sought to re-establish his influence with the exiled Royalist regime. He was reported to have followed Rochester to the Imperial Diet at Ratisbon, but did not meet with any success there. Hyde claimed that Henderson had failed in financial matters with deputies from Bremen due to drunkenness. Yet within weeks he reported that Henderson had met Wentworth at Copenhagen and that Bampfield and Henderson 'held excellent councils' together at Hamburg. Indeed by July, his opinion of Henderson appears to have reversed. Hyde wrote to a 'Mr. Bellings', on the subject of reports which hinted that the Royalists were destined for defeat'. Hyde suggested therefore that Henderson should be employed in receiving some monies and 'returning it by bills of exchange upon his correspondents in Hamburgh or buying arms/ammunition in which he hath good skill'. Yet the Royalists were right to have their doubts about Henderson. Henderson had already written to the Protector from Hamburg having brokered a bargain to supply arms and ammunition to Scotland. He mentioned to Cromwell that 'at Ratisbone I did break a bargain betwixt the Lord Willmot, ambassador, and one major-general Suigle, of armes, ammunition, victual, artillerie to the rate of 70,000 dollars to be presently sent to Scotland'. Whether the Royalists discovered Henderson's correspondence or not is unclear. He returned to work in Imperial service once more but remained there for only one more year. On 10 Jan 1655, Edward Rolt wrote to Secretary Thurloe, stating that Major General Henderson had recently left the Emperor's court and was offering his services to Charles II again. Rolt noted that if this offer was refused, Henderson intended to go to Sweden 'having refused a proper employment from the Emperor'. Henderson wrote to Hyde from Cologne only weeks later to confirm that he had quit his Imperial post. He also claimed to have lost his father and two brothers in Imperial service. They had done so, he wrote, in order to serve the interests of the House of Stuart. As a result, Henderson now recognised, he had consigned himself, his wife and eleven children, to a life of poverty, and of tireless work which had never been acknowledged by the King or his father, Charles I. Nevertheless, he still offered to serve Charles II on an expedition to Scotland. This request was denied. Despite this, he went to London and was given permission by Cromwell's regime to raise levies, presumably for Swedish service. Throughout this unusual course of action he still claimed to want to serve the King and denied to Thurloe from Hamburg that he was simply after more money. The Royalists were unconvinced and so Henderson took service in the Polish army, commanding a regiment of infantry. Although this force were defeated at Wirschau in 1656, this did not prevent his receiving a recommendation from the king of Poland in 1657. That year he also entered Danish-Norwegian service. He commanded the Fyn infantry until he capitulated on 30 January 1658 at his men's desire and surrendered the garrison of Hindsgavl. At his court martial, Henderson was pardoned in March due to British Diplomatic intervention. It is not clear if this pressure came from the exiled Stuart Court or from the Cromwellian government for whom he had served as an agent under the name of Peter von Berg. Thereafter Henderson disappears from public life. Henderson's sister Jane [SSNE 6244] married Patrick Ruthven (later Earl of Brentford), colonel in the Swedish army and Royalist commander in the Stuart army 1638-1651 [SSNE 53].


This biography has been authored by STEVE MURDOCH and DAVID WORTHINGTON



R. Monro, His Expedition with the worthy Scots regiment called Mackeyes (2 vols., London, 1632), II, List of the Scottish Officers in Chief; The Swedish Intelligencer: The Third Part (London, 1633), pp.151, 169; Swedish Riksarkiv, P. Sondén, Militärachefer i svenska arméen och deras skrivelser; L. Bittner and L. Gross, Reportorium der diplomatischen vertreter aller lander, vol. 1, 1648-1715 (Oldenburg and Berlin, 1936), pp.181, 183-184; Haus-Hof-und Staats Archiv and Kriegsarchiv in Vienna, 'HHStA, Kriegsakten, Vienna, k.184, f.47/48'); Robert Monro, Monro, His Expedition with the Worthy Scots Regiment Called MacKeyes (London, 1637);O. Ogle et al., Calendar of the Clarendon State Papers preserved in the Bodleian Library, 5 Vols. (Oxford, 1872-1970), II, pp. 81, 220-1, 1085-9, 1126, 1314, 1323; III: 37;CSPD, 1644-1645, pp.392-393, Proceedings of the Committee of Both Kingdoms, 8 April 1645;Thomas Birch (ed.), A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe esq. Vols I-VII (London, 1742), IV, 242, 24, 407, 467;Danish Rigsarkiv, TKUA England A II 15. Charles I to Christian IV, credentials for Henderson, 6 September 1642 and 28 November 1644, Instructions to Henderson from Christian IV; TKUA England A I, Charles I to Christian IV instructions for Cochrane, May 1644 and letter from the English parliament to Christian IV, 25 June 1645;C.F Bricka and J.A. Fredericia (eds.), Kong Christian den Fjerdes Egenhaendige Breve (8 vols., Copenhagen, 1878-1947), VIII, p.352; Bodleian Library Rawlinson MSS John Thurloe, A recommendation from King Christian IV for John Henderson as Danish ambassador to Scotland, written to Patrick Ruthven, Earl of Forth; J.C.W. Hirsch and K. Hirsch (eds.), 'Fortegnelse over Dansk og Norske officerer med flere fra 1648 til 1814 (12 vols. compiled 1888-1907), V, vol.1; CSPV, 27, 1643-1647, p.34 and 28, 1647-1652, p.119, Niccolo Sagredo to Venice, 25 September 1649; Calendar of Clarendon State Papers preserved in the Bodleian Library (5 vols., Oxford 1869-1969), vol. II, no. 209. Sir Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon to Mr Billings. Paris 30 May 1653; T. Riis, Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot (Odense, 1988), II, p.146; DBL, VI, pp.344-5; G.E. Cockayne, The Complete Peerage, (London, 1912), II, p.299;J.E. Heß, Biographien und Autographien zu Schillers Wallenstein, (Jena, 1859), pp.142-148, 392-397, 399-419;S. Murdoch, Britain, Denmark-Norway and the House of Stuart, 1603-1660 (East Linton, 2003);S. Murdoch, 'The Search for Northern Allies: Stuart and Cromwellian Propagandists and Protagonists in Scandinavia, 1649-1660' in B. Taithe and T. Thornton (eds), Propaganda: Political Rhetoric and Identity 1300-2000 (Gloucestershire, 1999), pp.79-90;Schmidhofer, Ernst 'Das irische, schottische und englische element in kaiserlichen heer,' University of Vienna Thesis, (Vienna, 1971);Scott, Eva, The King in Exile: The Wanderings of Charles II from June 1646 to July 1654 (London, 1905);Šula, Jaroslav 'Hospodarská korespondence Václava Králíka, komendátora novomestského panství, s Walterem hrabetem z Leslie v letech 1635-1643' in Stopami Dejin Náchodska, 4, (Náchod, 1998), pp.177-210;Wrede, Alphons Freiherr von Geschichte der k. und k. Wehrmacht, 5 Vols. (Wien, 1898-1905), III, no.2 p.621;A. Baker, A Battlefield Atlas of the English Civil War (London, 1986), pp.42-43;S. Tunberg, et al. Den Svenska Utrikes Forvaltningens Historia (Uppsala, 1935), p.77; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), pp.100, 102.


The following additional German sources were provided by Dr Bernd Warlich: Wolfgang HUSCHKE, Herzog Wilhelm von Weimar als Statthalter Gustav Adolfs in Thüringen und schwedischer Generalleutnant 1631-1635(Jena, 1636), pp.32-34, 60; Werner EBERMAIER: Landshut im Dreißigjährigen Krieg. Das Schicksal der Stadt und ihrer Bewohner im historischen Zusammenhang (Landshut, 2001), p.90; Bernhard RÖSE, Bernhard der Große von Sachsen-Weimar (Weimar, 1829), vol. II, p. 444; Documenta Bohemica Bellum Tricennale Illustrantia (Praha, 1993), VI, p.79, no.163; In the archives of the Imperial field-marshal Melchior von Hatzfeldt there is a letter of Henderson from Nürnberg 1649, concerning the financial support of Charles II by Habsburg. See Günther ENGEL-BERT/Hubert SALM, eds., Das Kriegsarchiv des kaiserlichen Feldmarschalls Melchior von Hatzfeldt, 1593-1658 (Düsseldorf, 1993), no. 465; See also the MDSZ database http://www.mdsz.thulb.uni-jena.de/sz/index.php

English Civil War; British Civil Wars

Service record

Arrived 1630-01-01, as LT. COLONEL
Departed 1632-12-31, as LT. COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1633-01-01, as COLONEL
Departed 1638-12-31, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1634-11-01, as COLONEL
Departed 1635-05-30, as COLONEL
Capacity ENVOY, purpose DIPLOMACY
Arrived 1642-09-06, as COLONEL
Departed 1643-01-30, as COLONEL
Arrived 1643-10-11, as COLONEL
Departed 1643-12-08, as COLONEL
Arrived 1644-04-01, as COLONEL
Departed 1644-11-27, as COLONEL
Arrived 1644-11-27, as COLONEL
Departed 1644-12-31, as COLONEL
Arrived 1645-07-01, as COLONEL
Departed 1645-09-09, as COLONEL
Arrived 1645-09-10, as COLONEL
Departed 1645-12-31, as COLONEL
Arrived 1649-04-28
Departed 1649-05-12
Arrived 1649-07-01, as COLONEL
Departed 1649-09-24, as COLONEL
Arrived 1649-09-25, as COLONEL
Departed 1649-12-31, as COLONEL
Arrived 1656-01-01, as COLONEL
Departed 1657-08-31, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1657-09-01, as GENERAL
Departed 1658-03-31, as GENERAL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY