First name

Text source

Robert Monro was born circa 1590 in Scotland. Monro was educated at St Andrews University and possibly Edinburgh University in 1609-10. He furthered his education on the continent travelling to France (Paris and Poitiers in particular) in 1615 in the company of John Hepburn [SSNE 2660] later also an important colonel in both Swedish and French service. His chief and cousin Robert Monro of Foulis [SSNE 179] granted him the lands of Contullich (in Easter Ross) in feu where he built a house. In 1625 Monro served an "apprenticeship" in France in the King's Regiment of Guards under Captain Thomas Mackenzie[SSNE 135]. The following year Monro obtained a commission as a lieutenant to raise forces under Colonel Donald Mackay [SSNE 93] who were to serve in the Danish-Norwegian army as King Christian IV had declared war on the Holy Roman Empire. He would serve alongside the aforementioned Mackenzie and Monro [SSNE 179], and his elder brother John Monro of Obsdale [SSNE 178], and many other Scots. He was appointed sergeant major over the regiment 1627 and took over the command of Learmonth's company after the latter's death on 2/10/1627. Monro led the vanguard at Eckernförde in April 1628 and was wounded in action at Stralsund 1628. Monro was appointed lieutenant colonel in autumn 1628. When Christian IV came to peace with the Emperor Monro and many serving Scots transferred into Swedish service as King Gustav II Adolf carried on the campaign against the Empire. Monro was a lieutenant colonel in Mackay's infantry from 1629-31. During this time his men served Sweden at Rügenwalde (modern Darowo) which he captured after his men had been shipwrecked on the island and surprised the garrison. In September 1630 Monro wrote Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna regarding the state of three companies of his squadron based at Rügenwalde and requesting ammunition and the chance to send reinforcements. During this time another Scot, Colonel John Hepburn [SSNE 2660] was the governor at Rügenwalde. The following year Monro became colonel of a recruited Scottish battalion. In 1632 he became colonel for Mackay's regiment and commanded them in the actions against Pappenheim in 1632, forming a wing of the army along with Colonel Alexander Forbes and Colonel Robert Leslie. In 1633, Monro returned to Britain for recruitment purposes and to settle the affairs of his family after the death of his brother John Monro of Obsdale [SSNE 178]. This was facilitated by the one-year protection granted by the Crown from his creditors in April 1634. When the Swedish forces suffered a serious defeat at Nordlingen in 1634 Monro was still in Britain on recruitment. As most of his regiment was lost and affected by the human sufferings caused by war he then, with King Charles I's authorisation in May 1634, established a hospital for veterans of military campaigns. Much of the finance for this hospital came from veterans of Swedish service. Monro also was awarded the monopoly of weapons manufacture for use by soldiers serving abroad. With the rout of the Swedish army at Nördlingen on 5/6 September 1634, Munro differed his return to the continent and instead became a member of the Privy Chamber. Robert Munro eventually returned to Germany, presumably in late 1634-early 1635. There is a printed letter from Monro to Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun (Sutherland) written at Hamburg and dated 31 October 1635 giving a report of the war in Germany. Monro is apparently in correspondence with Sir Robert Gordon, mentioning receiving other letters from him. This account particularly concerns a victory against the Duke of Saxony. Intriguingly Colonel Monro mentions that he has dissuaded his own nephew, Sir George Monro of Culrain [SSNE 3119], from taking up a military career, and instead to focus on gaining a degree in law at Leiden. In April 1636, it was reported that Munro had been commissioned by the Swedish Crown to raise recruits in Scotland for the army under General Alexander Leslie [SSNE 1]. In 1637 Monro sought Charles' permission to raise an 800 strong regiment for Sweden, although in October that year he sent a document to Chancellor Oxenstierna attested by the council of Aberdeen that 2 companies raised by John Kerre (possibly [SSNE 2779]) and John Skeinne [SSNE 3525] had perished at sea within sight of Aberdeen. From 1638-9 he was the colonel of his own regiment. Also during this period Monro published his memoirs, or "Monro his Expedition, with the worthy Scots regiment called Mac-Key's Regiment", first published in London in 1637, reportedly with an initial print of 1,500 copies. Yet, sales were disappointing at first. Not only did the sales provide much needed income for Monro but the work is most remarkable in probably being the first written and published history of a regiment. 


Monro during the Civil Wars

During 1638 serious differences arose between King Charles I's intended religious reforms for Scotland and the wishes of much of the Scottish nation, which preferred to retain its presbyterian practices. The difficulties developed into a state of war being declared by the Covenanters against Charles and his Royalist forces in what became known as the First Bishops' War (1639). In 1639 Monro served as the colonel of a 2000 strong regiment in the service of the Covenanters. Monro captured Edinburgh Castle during 1639 and marched south to Dumfries, but the treat of Berwick in June brought an end to military action. However, in 1640 the Second Bishops' War arose and Monro continued as colonel of a regiment. This regiment was sent to Aberdeen to combat the Royalist forces there, and then marched south to Berwick. Once again a peace was achieved at Ripon and although the Covenanters' army disbanded in August 1641, Monro's army was maintained. War broke out in Ireland a short while later and Monro was placed as second-in-command to Alexander Leslie [SSNE 1]. In April 1642 Monro was appointed commander of the Scottish forces in Ulster. He defeated Sir Phelim O'Neill in Down, then stormed and sacked Newry. Monro's forces held County Antrim until 1646, when he was defeated at the Battle of Benburb in June. 


Monro in support of King Charles I

After this point Monro's allegiance transferred to the Royalists and he joined the Engagers in 1648 in support of King Charles I. On 16 September 1648 Monro was captured by the English Parliamentary forces at Carrickfergus, and he subsequently spent five years imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was released in August 1653 (some sources say 1654) and provided with £10 to return to Ulster. He settled on his wife’s family estate near Comber in Co. Down where he died probably in 1675. During his first stay in Ireland (1642-8), Monro married, as his second wife, Lady Jean Alexander (daughter of the First Earl of Stirling and widow of the Second Viscount Montgomery of Ards) who died 1670.

The Swedish Intelligencer: The First Part (London, 1632), pp.61-65; The Swedish Intelligencer: The Fourth Part (London, 1633), p.142; Swedish Krigsarkiv, Muster Roll, 1629/14,16,18; 1630/26,27; 1631/22; 1632/28,31,32.; 1638/24-27; 1639/13-16; National Archives of Scotland, RH1/2/854 23 September 1630 and 857; Dictionary of National Biography; E. Furgol. A Regimental History of the Covenanting Armies (Edinburgh, 1990); T. Fischer, The Scots in Germany (Edinburgh, 1902).; G. Lind, Danish Data Archive 1573. T. Riis, Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot (Odense, 1988), II, p.127; J. Mackay, 'Mackay's Regiment' in Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, VIII, 1879, p.185; R. Monro, His Expedition with a worthy Scots Regiment called Mac-Keyes (London, 1637), passim; M. Bennett, Historical Dictionary of the British and Irish Civil Wars 1637-1660 (Fitzroy Dearborn, 2000) p.155; W.S. Brockington ed., Monro, His Expedition with the worthy Scots Regiment called Mac-keys, (Praeger, 1999); Sir William Fraser, The Sutherland Book, vol.2 pp. 158-160; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), pp.52, 57, 77, 120, 236, 350; Anja RIECK, Frankfurt am Main unter schwedischer Besatzung 1631-1635 (Reichsstadt-Repraesentationsort-Bündnisfestung. Frankfurt/M. 2005), pp. 29, 45, 58, 74, 76, 127, 296; See also the MDSZ database ; Thanks to Dr Bernd Warlich for these last references; The Earl of Stirling’s Register of Royal Letters, Relative to the Affairs of Scotland and Nova Scotia from 1615 to 1635, ed. C. Rogers, 2 vols. (Edinburgh, 1885), II, pp. 732 (as colonel Robert Munro of Contulich), 736; The Munro Tree: A Genealogy and Chronology of the Munros of Foulis and Other Families of the Clan, ed. R. W. Munro (Edinburgh, 1978), R/21; R. Gordon, A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland (Edinburgh, 1813), pp. 402, 450, 473; Historical Manuscripts Commission, Eleventh Report, Appendix, Part VI (London, 1887), p. 93, no. 78; Old Ross-shire and Scotland As Seen in the Tain and Balnagown Documents, ed. W. MacGill, 2 vols. (Inverness, 1909-11), I, no. 831; W. S. Brockington, ‘Robert Monro: Professional Soldier, Military Historian and Scotsman’, in S. Murdoch (ed.), Scotland and the Thirty Years’ War, 1618-1648 (Leiden, 2001), pp. 219-20; Steve Murdoch and Alexia Grosjean, Alexander Leslie and the Scottish Generals of the Thirty Years' War, 1618-1648 (London, 2014).

This reference has been updated by Dr Thomas Brochard

Bishops Wars; English Civil War; British Civil Wars

Service record

Arrived 1625-01-01, as OFFICER
Departed 1626-02-28, as CAPTAIN
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1626-03-01, as NCO
Departed 1629-08-13, as LT. COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1629-08-15, as LT. COLONEL
Departed 1632-12-31, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1633-01-01, as COLONEL
Departed 1639-06-01, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1634-01-01
Departed 1634-12-31
Capacity RECRUITER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1642-01-01, as COLONEL
Departed 1648-12-31, as MAJOR GENERAL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY