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James Forbes (c. 1587-1656) had a varied career in Sweden as a burgess of Stockholm, military commander and Swedish nobleman. He was the eldest son of Henry Forbes of Thainstone and Margareta Forbes (SSNE 1704) eldest daughter of William Forbes of Corse and Elizabeth Strachan (aka as Susanna Strachan). James was born in Aberdeen after 1586.

James Forbes probably arrived in Sweden with his father and brother sometime around 1600. Henry Forbes served in the Swedish army under king Karl IX and was killed in September 1605 at the battle of Kirkholm in Livonia. James remained in Sweden after his father's death and went on become a merchant for both the dowager queen Kristina and her son King Gustav II Adolf. This is most likely the same man as Jakob Forbes, noted as merchant to the dowager Queen Kristina (G II A's mother)in 1620. He apparently had an illegitimate child by a servant girl who was baptised in Nicolai church on 29 June 1620. In August that year the Stockholm consistory records note that Malin Erichsdotter of Norrmalm had a child by him - this may have been the same case, or yet another.

In June 1624 James Forbes approached the Stockholm magistrates seeking to become a burgess of the town. He was initally told to hold fire and to fulfil all the legal requirements, like any other burgess. (Perhaps he was hoping that having served the Swedish Crown he might have had special access to burgess rights?). On 30 August 1624 James Forbes took his burgess oath, with fellow Scottish burgesses James Gardner [SSNE 4922] and George Gardner [SSNE 7352] standing as his guarantors. 

In October 1625 James Forbes acquired a house on Skottegränden in Gamla Stan, purchasing it from Lyder Bokellman for 750 daler.

James Forbus is accused by Claes Sichmann from Lubeck, in March 1626, of owing Hanns Träll (John Trail?), in Åbo, a sum of 694 daler. James Forbes had evidence that he had paid 230 dalers of the debt already, through a bill of exchange with Albert Guthrie. In the meantime, Trail apparently owed James Forbes 200 Lubeck coins. In April the same year James Forbes presents a signed document from old Erich Olofsson to the value of 100 daler, with 13 daler interest, with Erich's house as surety. The town of Stockholm was demanding 25 daler, Jacob Borkman 21 daler, Grönb 6 daler.Erich's house is then pawned to the town, James Forbes and Borkman, until Erich can pay his debts.

The magistrates announced, on 27 June, 1626, that as King Gustav II Adolf had gone overseas to fight the enemy it was necessary to find provisions to feed the Swedish army with. Specific men were selected for each quarter of town to arrange with others to deliver provisions to the appointed place. For 'eastern' Gamla Stan these men were: Tomas Engelsman Parker, Albert Ridh, James Forbes, and three others (Salomon Dragun, Salomon Standorp and Ewertt Chirstofferson). In a vaguely similar sphere, James Forbes and 'old' George Gardner [SSNE 7352] along with Hans Nilson were appointed to deal with the delivery of 1600 barrels of grain for the children's home.

In November 1626 James Forbes stands as guarantor, along with Abraham Cabelio the younger, for a Dutch skipper named Adrian Claesson who takes his oath as burgess and declares his intention to settle in Stockholm.

In December 1628 James Forbes' (different individual?) name appears, along with James Maclean [SSNE 5433], James Feif [SSNE 4779] and George Gardner [SSNE 7352] and Robert Rhind [SSNE 6686] on a list of the town's burgesses selected to appear before the King, Gustav II Adolf, at a meeting he had ordained for 12 January 1629.This was presumably to discuss the setting up of a new shipping company Skeppskompaniet which was to comprise 4 ships, supplied and furnished by the directors appointed by the king, for both mercantile and defensive purposes. In January 1629 a list of directors from the king shows James Forbes, along with James Maclean, James Feif, George and James Gardner. Soon after, fellow Scot Dr James Robertson's [SSNE 1637] name appears on the list of investors for the new Swedish Söderkompaniet (another name for the enterprise).

In 1629 James Forbes' wife is named as Maria Nilsdotter. That year James Forbes made quite an extensive property purchase comprising: 2 stone houses in Gamla Stan, one on Köpmangatan, the other on Kindhästgatan, and the garden that lay between them. Further, he also acquired some booths with surrounding grounds on Södermalm, as well as 3 old timber-framed booths on Mats Pedersonsgränd "on the north side" (does this mean Norrmalm?). Additionally, "that share" which he may be due of Olof Mårtensson's house and stables and plot on Södermalm, next to the late Olof Andersson's bathing yard, for 1000 riksdaler cash, and Swedish coin 1358 3/4 daler, noted as received by Lucas Wasteson.

In late April 1630 James Forbes appeared before the Stockholm magistrates and relinquished his burgess rights in Stockholm and substituted another in his place. This was confirmed by the town magistrates on 8 May that year.

Perhaps surprisingly for a man of 46, Forbes decided to enter military service. The motivation behind the career change remains unclear. Nonetheless he enlisted as a private in the Narkes and Varmlands regiment in 1626 after which he swiftly became promoted to the rank of lieutenant the following year. This rapid rise in rank is suggestive of some earlier military experience although there is as yet no evidence for this. Forbes' progress through the ranks continued and by 1628 he became a captain for a company of the Värmland regiment before transferring to the Södermanlands regiment between 1628-9. During this exact period, Forbes had occasion to undertake business with the Riksråd, the Swedish state council, in his capacity as a burgess of Stockholm. These civic matters included enquiries regarding shipping and complaints against the overvaluation of Swedish currency showing that he maintained his civic and trading interests.

It was during this period that Forbes applied to Charles I for evidence of his noble origins which would allow him to become ennobled in Sweden. A letter from Charles I authenticating the nobility of Jacob and Patrick Forbes de Thainstone dated 2 July 1629 still survives in the library in the city of Lund. James' application for ennoblement in Sweden proved successful. In 1630 the Riksråd prepared an open letter on Forbes' behalf and the year 1631 saw him naturalised, ennobled and introduced into the Swedish nobility under the title of Forbes of Lund. He had by this time become a colonel. It is in this capacity that he may have served at Wittstock. A Colonel Forbus was certainly there, and the other likely candidates can be eliminated. Alexander Forbes was serving as a diplomat while Arvid Forbus and several other colonels were in the army of Bernhard of Saxe-Wismar at the time of the battle. Intriguingly, on 22 February 1633 James Forbes attended a meeting of the Swedish estate of the nobility to present proof of his noble origins as someone (unstated) had claimed he had purchased his noble status, and the proof was a letter in Latin from Charles 1 along with a Swedish translation of the same.

Things progressed at a slower pace for his brother Peter [SSNE 1671] who did not become naturalised as a Swedish nobleman until March 1651.

Despite his elevation in Swedish society, there is some evidence to suggest that James Forbes found himself in conflict with his relative, Colonel Alexander, 11th Lord Forbes[SSNE 1616]. A commission of recommendation for Lord Forbes addressed to Queen Kristina in January 1636 contains reference to a dispute between Alexander and James Forbes already in Swedish service. The details are not given, only that the dispute is a private matter which Lord Forbes hoped the Queen could help resolve. No evidence has been found that there was any other James Forbes of sufficient status to warrant a Royal intervention. Whatever the outcome of the disagreement with Lord Forbes, James Forbes remained active in the Swedish army despite his increasing years.

In 1646 James Forbes name appears on a list of individuals required to mend holes in walls. James Forbes' address is given as "by Järntorget" in Gamla Stan. That same year, in December, Mårten Olofsson, leased a stone building on Nygränden in Gamla Stan, described as having belonged to James Forbes.

In 1647 James Forbes is said to have served as a colonel for one of the few recruited Scottish regiments still in Swedish service. Problematically, Elgenstierna cites Leijonhufvud who dates the regiment to 1674 - long after James was dead. Elgenstierna may, therefore, have found evidence to correct the date (or more likely Leijonhufvud transposed the 47 and 74).

The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 reduced the need for military commanders within Sweden. By the time of renewed hostilities against Poland in 1655, Forbes was well beyond his military prime. In 1655 James Forbes sold a house at 34 Österlånggatan to James Feif [SSNE 4779] for over 3,500 riksdaler.

James Forbes died the following year on 17 of June 1656 in Lund after a distinguished civic and military career. A tomb decorated with his coat of arms was erected for his body in Funbo church in Lund. James married Maria Lillieram (aka Chesnecopherus) although the date of their wedding has not been established. Throughout their married life they produced many offspring including their sons Peter, Olof, Jacob and Henrik (twins), Johan and Nils and at least four daughters. These individuals in turn proliferated and the military muster rolls and university matriculation records of Sweden and Finland are replete with the names of the progeny of James Forbes of Thainstone.


Sources: C.O. Nordensvan, (ed.), Värmlands Regementes [Närkes och Värmlands Regementes] Historia: Andra Delen, Personal Historia (Stockholm, 1911), 33; Stockholm Stadsarkiv: Borgare i Stockholm, Register 1601-1650, p.22; Stockholm Stadsarkiv, St Nikolai Kyrkas dopbok från och med 1611-1622, compiled by F. de Brun, p. 51; Stockholm Stadsarkiv, Stockholmsstads Konsistorii Protokoll, 1595-1632, vol.4, pp.22, 27; Swedish Krigsarkiv, Muster Roll, 1626/8,10; 1627/12; 1629/3,8,10,12,13,15; Swedish Riksarkiv, P. Sondén, Militärachefer i svenska arméen och deras skrivelser; Sveriges Rikes Ridderskaps och Adels Riksdags Protokoll, andra delen, 1633-1636, (Stockholm, 1856), p.17; G. Elgenstierna, Svenska Adelns Ättartavlor, vol. 2, pp.780-790; Karl Karlson Leijonhufvud, Kungl. Södermanlands Regimentes Historia (3 vols, Uppsala, 1914-1919), III, p. 44; A. and H. Tayler, The House of Forbes (Bruceton Mills, 1987), pp.402 and 470; N.A. Kullberg, et. al., (eds.), Svenska Riksrådets Protokoll, 1621-1658 (vols. 1-18, Stockholm, 1878-1959), vol. I, p.177, 18 July 1629 and II, p.48, 3 December 1630; Rikskansleren Axel Oxenstiernas Skrifter och Brevväxling (15 vols., Stockholm, 1888-1977), vol.15, p.23; Sveriges Rikes Ridderskaps och Adels Riksdags Protokoll, andra delen 1633-1636, (Stockholm, 1856), p.48, see also Register till Sveriges Ridderskaps och Adels Riksdags-Protokoll (17 vols, Stockholm, 1910), vols., 1630-1654; Stockholmstads tänke böcker 1624-1625 (Uppsala, 1979), p.84, p.141, p.401, p.522; Stockholmsstads tänke böcker 1626, (Stockholm, 1990), p.34, 100, 154, 155, 179, 218, 230, 253, 293, 312; Stockholmsstads tänke böcker 1628, (Stockholm, 1998), p.308; Stockholmsstads tänke böcker 1629, (Stockholm, 2000), p.91, 136; Stockholmsstads tänke böcker 1630, (Stockholm, 2002), p.27, 136; F.U. Wrangel, Stockholmiana I-IV, (Stockholm, 1912), p.380,p.390; F. de Brun, ‘Vinstugor och värdshus i Stockholm i början av 1600-talet’, in Samfundet St Eriks Årsbok 1922, (Stockholm, 1922), p.40; T. Fischer, The Scots in Sweden (Edinburgh, 1907), pp.128 and 215; A. Grosjean, An Unofficial Alliance, Scotland and Sweden 1569-1654 (Brill, Leiden, 2003), p.143; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), pp.220-222; see also the letters by James Forbes to James Spens in Riksarkivet, Anglica 5. James Spens Bekickninshandlingar, 1612-1619; James Forbes to Axel Oxenstierna in Riksarkivet, Oxenstiernskas samlingen, E601; this letter probably relates to him: 

National Records of Scotland [NRS], RH6/2863, Instrument of Sasine under the hand of Master William Robertsoune, 17 November 1586, see Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum: The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, eds. J. M. Thomson et al., 11 vols. (Edinburgh, 1882-1914), vol. V, no. 1258; NRS, GD52/1622, Charter by Alexander Forbes of Thanistoun [Thainston] to Margaret Forbes, 18 November 1586.

This entry was kindly updated by Dr Thomas Brochard, upon information and references provided by Penelope Shorne.


Service record

Arrived 1600-01-01
Departed 1624-12-31
Arrived 1626-01-01, as PRIVATE
Departed 1657-12-31, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY