First name

Text source

The Scotsman John Fairbairne (alias Johan/Jean Bairnsfather) had been sent to London from Danzig by the Swedish government in 1623 with instructions to infiltrate Sir Robert Stewart's[SSNE 529] pro-Polish circle which were attempting to build an anti-Swedish army in Britain. With Sir James Spens [SSNE 1642] acting as his handler in Britain, Fairbairne quickly gained Stewart's confidence and learned the most intimate details of his plans. This was despite the fact that Stewart knew Fairbairne had previously worked for the Swedes. In fact, this seems to have been seen as an advantage since his knowledge could be used to the advantage of the Poles! With no reason to doubt his countryman's motives, Stewart offered Fairbairne the position of Quartermaster General of his army which was to consist of 8,000 men recruited in Britain backed by a fleet of 20 ships. From his vantage point as a senior staff officer in the Stewart expedition, Fairbairne was able to send the most detailed information back to Sweden. Gustav II Adolf learned from him that after the invasion of Älvsborg, Stewart intended to quadruple the size of his army and, with the help of disaffected members of the Swedish nobility and Papal backing, seize the whole of Sweden and place it under Sigismund III's control within three months. In order to cover his tracks, Fairbairne established several routes for his information to reach Sweden. As early as 10 October 1623, he had entered a contract with Jerome Hostier of Amsterdam to receive his post for a period of six months. He also ensured another route was available when he requested Anders Svensson in Denmark to guarantee that his future correspondence could also be routed through the conduit of Lehonard von Sorgen, the Swedish agent in Hamburg. Similar to many of the officers in military employment, Fairbairne found that Swedish coffers were slow to provided expenses and was eager to receive funding. Unfortunately for Fairbairne, within a few months he was exposed as an agent when he was caught sending letters directly to the Swedish envoy to Danzig, Count Ludovig Rasche. This blow led to financial troubles for him in London which in turn caused Spens to write to Gustav II Adolf asking for money to bail him out and noting that he had, in any case, completed his agreed period of service to the Swedish crown. During that time, Fairbairne had been responsible for luring three important Scottish nobles and one Englishman away from Robert Stewart and into Swedish service.

Swedish Riksarkiv, Rigsregistraturet vol. 147, 1624, Tysk och Latin, f.67f. Gustav II Adolf to James Spens, 15 March 1624; Swedish Riksarkiv, Anglica 514, Korrespondenten Jean Fairbairne. Fairbairne to Gustav II Adolf, 2 November 1623; Swedish Riksarkiv, Anglica 514, Korrespondenten Jean Fairbairne. Two documents of contract between Fairbairne and Hostier dated 10 October 1623; Swedish Riksarkiv, Anglica 514, Korrespondenten Jean Fairbairne 1623. Fairbairne to Gustav II Adolf, 2 November 1623; L. Tandrup (ed.), Svensk agent ved Sundet; Toldkommissær og agent i Helsingør. Anders Svenssons depecher till Gustav II Adolf og Axel Oxenstierna 1621-1625, (Aarhus, 1971), p.376. fn.1., pp.375-376. Svensson to Gustav II Adolf, 14 December 1623; Tandrup, Svensk agent ved Sundet, pp.491 and 511. Svensson to Gustav II Adolf, 24 August 1624 and Svensson to Oxenstierna, 11 November 1624. Swedish Riksarkiv, Anglica V, Spens to Oxenstierna, 26/16 February 1624 and 26 April 1624; Swedish Riksarkiv, Anglica 514, Korrespondenten Jean Fairbairne. Fairbairne to Gustav II Adolf, undated request for expenses and alternative employment; Swedish Riksarkiv, Anglica V. Spens to Oxenstierna, 8 April 1624; Swedish Riksarkiv, Anglica III, JSKM, f.48. Spens to Gustav II Adolf, 26 April 1624; Swedish Riksarkiv, Anglica III, JSKM, f.50. Spens to Gustav II Adolf, 28 April 1624; S. Tunberg, et al. Den Svenska Utrikes Förvaltningens Historia, (Uppsala, 1935), p.75. Ardis Dreisbach Grosjean kindly translated many of the letters noted above; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), pp.264-266, 276-277.

Service record

Arrived 1622-01-01
Departed 1623-12-31, as QUARTERMASTER GENERAL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1623-01-01
Departed 1623-05-31
Capacity AGENT, SPY, purpose DIPLOMACY