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Papers Relating to the Scots in Poland (1576 - 1798)
General Introduction by A. Francis Steuart - Part II


After all these weary tracasseries of the cramers, it is refreshing, if only by way of contrast, to come to the military Scot in Poland, who was, if not more noble by birth than many of the merchants, yet considerably more interesting. Dr. Fischer tells us much less about them. He gives, however, the sad case of Colonel Alexander Ruthven, whose widow, Margaret Munro, in 1605, petitioned the town of Dantzig for help for herself and her poor children, inasmuch as her husband had lost his life in the service of King Sigismund III., whose Chancellor and Field-Marshal, John Zamoyski (Zamoscius) had promised, ‘when he was about to meet his death at the siege of Volmer,’ to see them provided for. George Bruce, George Smyth, George Hepburn, all Scots in Poland, appear in the documents. [Fischer, Scots in Eastern and Western Prussia.]

In 1615, Patrick Gordon, tutor to the Swede Count Gustaf Stenbock, returned from Poland to Sweden, and reported that wicked, abominable people had been writing more libels there, printed cum privilegio regali, not, moreover, only against the Protestant Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia, but against all the House of Stuart. Trouble was evidently brewing against Sweden or Britain, and we find that some time afterwards, in 1623, it burst.

In that year King Gustavus Adolphus wrote (on the 23rd September) an indignant letter in excellent latinity to King James I and VI , informing him there was a Scottish renegade in his service who had gone over to the King of Poland and had made a bargain to bring eight thousand Scots into that of the Polish King for the invasion of Sweden and the ruin of the reformed faith. This Scot was Lord Robert Stuart of Middleton, ‘Son of the Earl of Orkney, [Bastard brother to Queen Mary and uncle to King James VI.]and once secretary to the Vice-Chancellor of Poland,’ and with him was another, Sir John Vizard, a ‘gilded Knight’ The Swedish envoy, the Scot, James Spens of Wormistoun, younger (whose father James Spens had served the Swedish crown so faithfully, and won such encomiums), received a ‘counterblast’ from King James (4th March 1624) in the form of a counter-warrant [Register Privy Council of Scotland, vol. xiii. pp. lvii, 364-365.] to levy twelve hundred Scots for service in Sweden. It is said Spens moved every stone, and (perhaps for his Scottish audience) hinted that money was not forthcoming from Poland, which news was most comforting to his British and Swedish masters, ‘and of the 9000 Scots raised for the King of Denmark in 1627, many, dazzled by the brilliance of Your [Swedish] Majesty’s renown, prefer serving under Your victorious banner, with all the chances of war, to good pay in Denmark.’ [Horace Marryat, One Year in Sweden, vol. ii. pp. 466-467. London, 1862.]

That there was (in spite of this) much favour to the Scots is shown to us by the fact that in one case the King of Poland granted in 1618 to Robert Cunningham the property (the fourth part of the property of a stranger invariably was confiscated to the Crown) of John Tullidaff (Tullidelph). Whether he was in the army is not stated. [Fischer, East and West Prussia] That other Scotsmen were in the Polish army is demonstrated by (in 1619) a grant by the King of Poland to Peter Learmonth, ‘nobilis,’ to whom the Crown renounced a heritage fallen to it by the jus caducum. The deed says, ‘He showed himself a brave and active soldier, not only against the Duke of Sudermania, but also during the whole of the Russian war when we were besieging Smolensk.’ [Ibid. p. 131. It is there suggested that he may have been ancestor of the Russian poet Lermontoff, whose ancestors came to Russia from Poland, by way of Tula.] We know later that he became chief captain over three companies of German soldiers, nine hundred in all, and that King Sigismund III. gave a letter [Penes Patrick Keith-Murray, Esq. A translation of the letter is printed in the Scottish Historical Review, vol. iii (1906), pp. 524-552.] of recommendation and a free pass to him and to his captain William Keitz (Keith), [Perhaps this was the William Kyth who died in 1636 on his way to Jaroslave. If so, he had a brother, Jacob Keith. –The Scots in East and West Prussia. The head of the Keith family, William, 5th Earl Marischal (died 28th October 1635), member of the Scottish Privy Council under King Charles I., it is said, fitted out a fleet which he sent to King Vladislas of Poland.] dated at Warsaw, 17th January 1621. There was also Thomas Fergusson, ‘egregius,’ who had served with Jacob Wilson and Captain Kirkpatrick as a sergeant against the Russians. To him King Vladislas IV. granted permission in 1624 to return to his native country, characterising his service as brave and honourable. [Fischer, East and West Prussia, iv. p. 129.] Colonel James Murray was also a Scottish officer of the Poles. In 1627 he commissioned one Jacob Rowan (the persecuted Ruthvens sometimes took that name) at Dantzig to collect his pension, [Reg. Privy Council (2nd Series) pp. 480, 481. ] and we find him still in Poland in 1632 petitioning for a belated birth-brieve. We also discover the names of Captain Reay and of Major-General Count von Johnston, a colonel of a regiment of cuirassiers. We have a curious instance also, in February 1639, of the cosmopolitanism of the Scot when, in the Roll of the Vassals called by the Earl of Mar in his actions, we notice one in Denmark cheek by jowl with ‘. . . Fentoun in Swaden, and . . . Norie in Pole.’ [Hist. MSS. Commission Report, ‘The Earl of Mar and Kelley’s MSS.,’ p. 9.]

In 1656 we find that some Scottish Highlanders, dissatisfied with Cromwell’s government, went to Poland in the service of the King of Sweden. Mr. James Fraser’s account of this levy is as follows: [Chronicle of the Frasers, the ‘Wardlaw MS.,’ p. 417. Edited by Wm. Mackay. Scottish History Society, 1905.]‘This yeare the Lord Cranston haveing gotten a Cornels Commission levyes a new regiment of voluntiers for the King of Poles [really Sweden’s] service, and it tristed well for his incurragement and advantage; for the royalists chused rather to goe abroad, though in a very meane condition, than live at home under a yoke of slavery. The Collonel sent one Captain Montgomery north in June, and had very good luck, listing many for the service; and himselfe followed after in August, and, reseeding at Invernes, sallied out to visit the Master of Lovat, and in 3 dayes got 43 of the Frasers to take on. Among the rest Captain James Fraser, my Lord Lovats son, engages, and without degradation Cranston gives him a Captains commission. Hugh Fraser, young Clunvacky, takes on as lieutenant. William Fraser [Brother of the author, Mr. James Fraser.]sone to Mr. William Fraser of Phoppachy, an ensign; James Fraser, sone to Foyer, a corporall. The Lord Lovats son, Captain James, had 22 young gentlemen with the rest, who ingaged be themselves out of Stratharick, Abertarph, Aird, and Strathglass, that I heard the Collonel say he was vain of them for gallantry. I saw them march out of Invernes, and most of the English regiment lookeing on with no small commendation as well as emulation of their bravery.’ This levy would, as it was really Swedish, of course concern us little, were it not for the fact that some of the officers remained in Poland after leaving their regiment. The same writer tells us their tale. [Chronicle of the Frasers, ‘Wardlaw MS.,’ p. 424. Edited by Wm. Mackay. Scottish History Society, 1905.]‘That same summer (1659) Captain James Fraser, my Lord Lovat’s sone, who had gone abroad with the Lord Cranston, 1656, died up at Torn in Pomer, and three more of his name with him; and onely Lieutenant Hugh Fraser, Clunvacky, returnd home alive.’ And later, [Ibid. p. 491.]in 1670: ‘This October came to the country my brother germain, William Fraser. He went abroad with Captain James Fraser, my Lord Lovat sone, anno 1656, in the qualety of an Ensign in the Lord Cranstons regiment, for the service of Carolus Gustavus, King of Sweden; and after the peace he went up to Pole with other Scotshmen, and settled at Torn, where he married, as a marchant . .’ This is interesting because, as Dr. Fischer has pointed out, Scottish merchants of pure Celtic origin are comparatively rare. ‘He had given trust and long delay to the Aberdeens men, and was necessitat to take the occasion of a ship and come to Scotland to crave his own. He and yong Clunvaky, Hugh, are the only surviving two of the gallant crew who ventered over seas with their cheefes sone, Captain James, and he is glad of this happy occasion . . continued here among his friends all the winter, and returned back in the spring, never to see his native country again. Two of his foster brothers ventered with him, Farqhar and Rory, very pretty boyes.’

Another levy brought (unwillingly enough) into the Polish service, General Patrick Gordon of Auchleuchries, who later gained great fame in Russia as ‘Patrick Ivanovitch,’ the friend and collaborator of Peter the Great. He entered the Swedish army in 1655, seduced thereto at Hamburg by a Ruit-master Gardin, of his own nation; was captured after the siege of Cracow next year by the Poles. He was compelled to take service in their army, in a company of dragoons under Constantine Lubomirsky, Starosta of Sandets, being released for the purpose, through the intervention of his countryman, ‘P. Innes, Provincial of the Franciscans.’ It was not the first time that Patrick Gordon had been in Poland, however, as we learn from his Diary, [Passages from the Diary of General Patrick Gordon of Auchleuchries, A.D. 1635-A.D. 1699. (Spalding Club), 1859.] which is delightful in itself, and invaluable to all students of Russian and Polish history.

The son of the laird of Auchleuchries in Aberdeen, and his wife, Mary Ogilvy, he was born in 1635, and educated at the school of Ellon and other local schools till 1651, when, he says, ‘staying at home, did wait upon my father.’ Anxious to make his fortune as ‘the younger son of a younger brother of a younger house,’ he determined to go abroad to seek his fortune with--although a Catholic—no particular choice of country ‘seing I had no knowne friend in any foreigne place.’ He shipped to Dantzig, found Scottish friends there, and then thought of the Jesuit college of Bromberg, ‘yet could not my humor endure such a still and strict way of liveing.’ Slipping away, he had many adventures of the poor traveller in Prussia until, in 1653, ‘falling into acquaintance with one John Dick; who was prentice to a merchant called Robert Sleich, I was perswaded by him to travell further up into Polland, and, because I was much inclined to be a souldier, he told me that Duke Ian Radzewill had a lyfe company, all or most Scottismen, where wee would without doubt be accommodated.’ His journal in Poland chiefly shows the ubiquity of the Scots. The first night (1654) in a village they ‘lodged by a Skotsman who lived there.’ They went on to Warsaw and lodged ‘in the suburb Lesczinsky, so called from a pallace-like house hard by, built by noblemen of the family of Leczinskyes. The seym or parliament was sitting at this time in Varsaw,’ but ‘Duke Radzivell was not there.’ His ‘comerad’ was of use, as he ‘had been two or three years in the countrey, could speak Polls and Dutch, had some skill in merchandising, and so, for getting a livelyhood had many wayes the advantage of me.’ Nor was his companion alone in this. ‘Here were many merchants of our countreymen, into whose acquaintance I was ashamed to intrude myself, and they showed but very little countenance to me, haveing heard of my intention to turne souldier, and fearing lest I should be burthensome or troublesome to them.’ So, anxious to get back to Scotland, he pushed on (with but eight or nine forms left) to a big city and soon ‘had a sight of the fair citty of Posna.’ (Posen). .. ‘Of all the cities of Polland. . . the most pleasant, being very well situated, haveing a wholesome aire, and a most fertile countrey round about it . . . But that which surpasseth all, is the civility of the inhabitants, which is occasioned by its vicinity to Germany, and the frequent resorting of strangers to the two annual faires, and every day allmost; the Polls also, in emulation of the strangers dwelling amongst them, strive to transcend one another in civility.’ Here he met more compatriots. ‘The gentleman who brought me along, had his house or lodging’ (this is very significant of the confusion of the Poles of Jews and Scots, to the detriment of the latter) ‘in the Jewes Street, where I dined with him; and after dinner he took me along to a Skotsman, called James Lindesay, [A family of Lindsay, apparently descendants of the family of Fesdo, had their noblesse recognised by the National Diet of 1764 under the name of Lindesin –Lives of the Lindsays, vol. ii. P. 281n.]to whom I had a recommendatory letter. At first, he was imperiously inquisitive of my parents, education, travells, and intentions. I answered to all his demands, with an observant ingenuity. One passage I cannot forgett, which was this. When, upon his enquiry, I had told him what my parents names were, he said in a disdainful manner: Gordon and Ogilvie! These are two great clannes, sure you must be a gentleman! To which, albeit I knew it to be spoken in derision, I answered nothing, but that I was not the worse for that. However afterwards he was kind enough to me,’ as were Robert Farquhar, James White, James Watson, and other Scots. They recommended Gordon, a passionate Royalist, to accompany a young nobleman Opalinsky, who was ‘going to visit foreign countreys,’ furnishing him liberally with money, and he travelled with him until (being warmed with wine) he entered the Swedish army.

After his capture by the Poles in 1656, his adhesion to their service did not last very long. When captured again by the Swedes he pleaded that he had been forced into the Polish ranks, and his statement was accepted. [We see a case of ‘treason’ by a Scot going over from the Polish to the Swedish side later in this book. Since this was written I have discovered a Scottish officer in the army of John Sobieski, George Guthry. He was a colonel in the Polish service, and there still exists in his family a silver cup out of which King John drank just before he saved Vienna. This George Guthrie, who organised at his own expense a regiment of Hussars, part of the victorious host at Vienna in 1683, is described as a descendant of Guthrie of Guthrie in Scotland, and was, for causes examined in 1672, granted a Diploma of Polish Nobility by King John Sobieski. His descendant Baron de Guttry lived at Pariz, near Posen, in 1914, and it is to his eldest son that I am indebted for the family history.] With them, driving cattle and getting booty employed him well, until, in 1657, he was again taken prisoner by the troops of Poland. One of these who pressed him unsuccessfully to quit the allegiance of Sweden for Poland was Patrick Gordon [The reader will find much information about ‘Steelhand’ and many of the many Gordons in the Polish service in Mr. J.M. Bulloch’s invaluable House of Gordon (New Spalding Club), vol. iii. Lieutenant Adam Gordon and Ensign John Kennedy, both dying in the Polish service, gave Patrick Gordon some trouble in recovering their properties.] of the Steel Hand, an excommuniated Royalist who had taken flight from Scotland into the service of the King of Poland, and was now a captain in the Polish cavalry. On 22nd November 1658, after many vicissitudes such as capture by the Imperial forces, he again fell into the hands of the Poles, and the latter, wishing his service, now refused to release him, holding him as a valuable asset. Probably as a Catholic he was quite glad to serve under their banner, but he was politic enough to show reluctance. John Sobieski offered him the command of a dragoon company on his own estates, but he declined the offer of one whom he described as ‘a hard bargainer but courteous.’ One wonders what a Royalist like Patrick Gordon would have done had he known that John Sobieski’s grand-daughter, Clementina Sobieska, was to marry the Chevalier de St. George, the son of his revered sovereign, more revered because deposed, James II. and VII.

In his next campaign, in 1659, he, now quartermaster, met two more compatriots, James Burnett of Leys, [Grandson of Sir Thomas Burnett of Leys, first baronet. He borrowed money from Gordon in 1667.—The Family of Burnett of Leys (New Spalding Club), p.66.] in the train of the ‘Waywode of Kiew,’ and Dr. William Davidson, then physician to Field-Marshal Lubomirski, but afterwards, for he made Poland his home, premier physician to King John Casimir of Poland.

We see Gordon’s good sense. When he was offered a company of a regiment of dragoons, his first care was for the health of his men, and he repaired to Posen to consult a Jew doctor reputed wise in treatment of the plague. We are also told he avoided marching his troops to one town whose prince protected foreigners and whose ‘provost’ was a Scot; but he afterwards repented this generosity. In June 1660 Gordon took part in the Polish victory over the Russians at Czudno(Chudnovo). Yet we find that, in 1661, after coquetting with the service of the Emperor, [In the proposed levy of eight hundred horse he mentions Lieutenant-Colonel John Watson, Major Davidson. His sureties were Steelhand, James Birney, George Gordon, and James Wenton, all merchants in Zamosk.] he determined to enter that of the Tsar of Russia, Aleksei Mikhaelovitch, and went with Paul Menzies (of the Pitfoddels family, a Catholic, in the Polish service), Colonel Crawford (in the Russian service, but a Polish prisoner of Lord Henry Gordon, who ‘not only maintained him at a plentifull table at Varso, but dismissed him ransome free, and gave him a pass as a Captaine of horse’), when he left for Moscow. Gordon’s success there can be read in other books, [Cf. Scottish Influences in Russian History, by A. Francis Steuart. Glasgow, 1913.]for it was continuous and certain, and he died at Moscow full of honours on the 29th November 1699.

On his journey to Moscow, Gordon mentions that at Znin they ‘were merry with Captaine Portes and Ensigne Martine,’ Scots, no doubt; and it is interesting to note that he describes another halting-place, Kiadany, in this way: ‘This towne belongeth to the family of the Radzivills, [The Radzivill family were for long the chief supporters of the Calvinists in Poland. (See Miss Baskerville’s Introduction also.) They were patrons of John Johnston, who dedicated his book, Thaumatographia Naturalis (Amsterdam 1665), to Prince Janus and his son Prince Boguslas Radzivill.]where is the public exercise of the Protestant religion, and because of that many Scotsmen were liveing, by one whereof wee lodged,’ and there, or near there, he met one ‘Major Karstares.’

The Lord Henry Gordon mentioned above deserves a word, and his twin-sister a few words more. Lord Henry Gordon [Miss Baskerville has another note on the Gordon family on pp. 104-105.] was the youngest son of George, second Marquis of Huntly. Though ‘hare-brained,’ we are told he was ‘very courageous,’ a good attribute. He is said to have come to Poland after his sister’s marriage and, any way, became a Polish noble in 1658. He got from King Charles II. a life annuity of six thousand merks Scots from the Huntly estates in 1667. He died in Scotland at Strathbogie.

His twin-sister, Lady Catherine Gordon, had a very different career. A Catholic, she was carried to France, and was, as her high birth entitled her, attached to the Court. When Cardinal Mazarin, in order to remove her influence from French politics, married the Princess Marie Louise de Gonzaga-Nevers to King Vladislas of Poland in 1645, Lady Catherine was one of her ‘train,’ as was the child Marie de la Grange d’Arquien, who became later the wife of King John Sobieski. Lady Catherine Gordon married in Poland the poet-noble, Andrew John, Count Morsztyn, the ‘exiled’ Grand Treasurer of Poland (who ‘haveing more regard to his own private interest than the public benefitt, sent all the riches of the thesaurary into France, quhairunto he retired himself, anno 1683, to prevent the Diet’s calling him to account’). His wife, ‘an active woman,’ had very considerable political influence, and ‘much credite’ during the reigns of the last of the Vasa kings and during the promotion of John Sobieski, [See K. Waliczewskis ‘Marysienka.’ She had a birth-brieve under the Great Seal of Scotland, 21st August 1687.] and also influenced the election of the Prince de Conti. She had a son, the Comte de Chateau Villain, killed at Namur, who married the daughter of the Duc de Chevreuse, by whom he had two daughters; and (at least) two daughters. The one married the Polish Grand-Chamberlain, Count Bielinski, the other, Isabelle de Morszlyn, [She had also a birth-brieve granted by the Privy Council of Scotland, 6th March 1700—Hist. MSS. Commission Report, the ‘Duke of Roxbugh’s Papers,’ p. 82. The portraits of these ladies, which I had hoped to reproduce as illustrations to this volume, from the originals in the Czartoriski Collection, have, unfortunately, owing to the war, never reached me.] married Casimir Czartoriski, Palatine of Wilna. Her son was ancestor of the later Czartoriskis, while her daughter, Constance Czartoriska, married (14th September 1720) Stanilas Poniatowski, and was mother of the last King of Poland. Nor was this great alliance forgotten by her relations in Britain. They remembered it, and were proud of it. We find that Grande Dame, Lady Mary Coke (née Campbell), a daughter of the powerful Highland Chief, John, Duke of Argyll, writing in 1768: ‘The Polish Prince (Czartoriski) you mention is our cousin. His Grand Mother or great Grand-Mother, was a daughter of the Marquis of Argyll’s. The King of Poland is the same relation to Us.’ [The Journal of Lady Mary Coke, vol. ii. P. 361.]


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