First name

Text source

Archibald Ruthven of Forteviot was the fourth son of Patrick, 3rd lord Ruthven, and his wife Janet Douglas. His brother William became Lord Treasurer of Scotland in 1571 and later Earl of Gowrie.

Archibald Ruthven was recommended to King Johan III of Sweden by Regent Mar and travelled across to stay with Andrew Keith [SSNE 1534], commandant (governor) at Vadstena Castle where Johan III was staying in late 1572. The Swedish king commissioned Ruthven to return with 2000 Scots for Swedish service. With some encouragement from Keith, already in Johan III's service, a much greater number of soldiers, perhaps 4000, were brought over via Älvsborg in June 1573. This led to problems with pay, and accusations that the officers had embezzled money for themselves. In the end, another Scot in Swedish service, Hugh Colquhoun [SSNE 778] became the sacrificial lamb and was executed in Stockholm. This placated the Scottish soldiers who finally set sail for their intended use, in Swedish campaigns against 'Russian' forces in the Baltic (Estonia and Livonia).

Archibald Ruthven appeared to avoid being tarnished by the scandal and saw active service in Livonia in 1574 at the 'Russian' held fortress of Wesenberg. Trouble arose when the Scots and Germans in Swedish service began to fight and during some scuffle Archibald Ruthven was wounded. Some Scots defected to the enemy side, several hundreds were apparently killed and the whole situation led to a trial in Stockholm. Archibald Ruthven and Gilbert Balfour[SSNE 1703] were then accused of conspiring to murder King Johan III (who had usurped his own brother to gain the Swedish crown...). There is an element of cross-over with the Hugh Colquhoun case as he is alleged to have accused Ruthven and Balfour of this conspiracy, perhaps in an attempt to save his own life. The conspiracy also involved Frenchman Charles De Mornay, another foreign officer in Swedish service, who had seemingly twice sought to have Johan III killed in order to reinstate Erik XIV. De Mornay was executed in September 1574, the same period when Hugh Colquhoun was beheaded. News of these events reached Scotland, leading the Earl of Morton - in James VI's name - to send an envoy named Patrick Whitlace to Sweden, arriving in October 1574. Another official letter was sent in June 1575. Archibald Ruthven was imprisoned at Västerås Castle, and despite numerous petitions for his release, he eventually died a pauper in that town in February 1578. The Swedish king had sent him 30 riksdaler on 1 March 1577, but Ruthven was still forced to pawn his clothes towards the end of his life. His erstwhile 'partner in crime', Balfour had been executed in August 1576 following a failed escape attempt.

Archival sources include a note, probably in Ruthven's hand survives from 1573 begging Johan III for more provisions as the ones sent had been exhausted. Other letters survive showing Ruthven's defence against the accusations against him as well as a refutation of the same.

Sources: Swedish Riksarkiv, Strödda Historiska Handlingar, vol. 13 B. Letters 1573; National Archives of Scotland, RH2/2/15 transcript(uncollated) of the Hopetoun MS in the British Museum, p.260, articles disproving the allegations of King John of Sweden to the Regent of Scotland against Sir Archibald Ruthven of Forteviot; G. Arteus, Till Militärstatens Förhistoria: Krig, professionalisering och social förändring under Vasasönernas regering (Stockholm, 1986), p.161; J. Berg and B. Lagercrantz, Scots in Sweden (Stockholm, 1962), pp.14-17; T. Fischer, The Scots in Sweden (Edinburgh, 1907), pp.54-60.

Service record

Departed 1578-02-27, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY