Scots in Sweden, by Jonas Berg
and Bo Lagercrantz
The first occasion on which
we learn of Scottish troops in Sweden is in 1502, but they were in Danish
service. A large contingent arrived that year in Copenhagen and were later
employed in the fighting against Sweden. In 1520 a number of Scots took
part in Christian IIs expedition against Sweden and in the capture of
Detail of Hogenberg's engraving of Stockholm
around 1580. Seen from north.
In the following year
Gustaf Vasa, assisted by Lubeck, liberated Sweden from the Danish King,
known in Sweden as Christian the Tyrant. King Gustaf generally turned to
Germany whenever he needed to enlist troops, but occasional Scottish units
may have been included. In 1556 there were negotiations between Gustavus
Vasa and one Johannes Edmonstone on the raizing of troops in Scotland, but
they do not seem to have come to anything.
Under Gustaf Vasas three
sons the situation changed. The father had with great vigour tried to
transform mediaeval Sweden into a modern state, but to keep it rather
isolated from the rest of Europe. The sons, each of whom ruled Sweden in
turn, devoted great attention to foreign policy. In the spirit of the
time, political marriages were sought as one of the most important means
of furthering that policy.
For almost five years from
1557 the eldest son Eric courted Elizabeth. Three times he sent
ambassadors to her court, on one occasion his brother, Duke John. He was
about to set sail for England in person in 1560 when Gustaf Vasa died.
From 1561 King Eric XIV courted also Mary Queen of Scots, whose suitors
later included his brother Magnus. Although none of these attempts led to
any result, nevertheless they had their importance, in that the envoys
sent out also tried to enlist troops and to promote trade.
The castle of Wesenberg in Livonia
1563 Eric XIV wrote to an agent in Scotland and requested the enlistment
of 2000 men. In this year the Scandinavian Seven Years War broke out
between Sweden and Denmark. No mention is found of any Scottish infantry
on Swedens side during this war, and it is uncertain whether the Kings
letter had any result. On the other hand, a troop of Scottish cavalry
appears as early as in 1565, and five years later there were at least
three troops, under Willem Cahun, Robert Crichton and Andrew Keith. In
1568 Eric XIV was deposed and imprisoned, and the throne occupied by his
brother John III. After bringing the war to an end in 1570, John was
concerned to discharge his foreign cavalry, which by then numbered seven
troops (3 Scottish, 1 English and 3 German) but in the case of the
Scottish troops at least this seems to have been a long drawn-out
Meanwhile, relations with
Russia became strained, and in 1573 foot soldiers were enlisted in
Scotland on a large scale. In June of that year there arrived a large
contingent, perhaps as many as 4000 men. This troop, which was under the
command of Colonel Archibald Ruthven, marched through Sweden to be shipped
out to the fighting in Esthonia and Livonia. The Scottish cavalry from the
Seven Years War seem then still to have been in Swedish service.
In 1579 we learn of Jakob
Neaf as a Captain of Horse, but it is not known if his men were from
Scotland. In the same year the name of Henrik Leyell also begins to appear
as Captain of Horse, and ten years later, at all events, his troop
consisted of Scots.
In 1591, when the situation
at the Russian border hardened, there were two troops of Scottish cavalry
in the Swedish army, Henrik Leyells and a new troop under the command of
Willem Ruthven. The latters patent for the enlistment of horsemen is
still preserved, and it is clear from this that he had the right to enlist
Scottish horsemen wherever he could find them, although it is hardly
probable that he did in fact enlist his men in Scotland. In 1593 a further
troop of cavalry was enlisted by Abraham Young. Henrik Leyells troop was
still in service in 1597.
John III died in 1592 and
was succeeded by his son Sigismund, but as the latter was King of Poland
and a Catholic, Sweden came to be ruled by John IIIs brother Duke
Charles, who became king at the turn of the century as Charles IX.
Professional soldiers were needed for the War of Succession that then
broke out between Sweden and Poland. Charles IX wrote numerous letters to
different people in Scotland in an attempt to get men enlisted, but
apparently without result until 1607.
Archibald Ruthven was son
of Patrick Ruthven, 3rd Lord Ruthven, and Janet Douglas, daughter of the
Earl of Angus. His father had instigated the murder of Cardinal Riccio in
1566 and died in exile in the same year. Archibald was the fourth son, the
eldest died and another was murdered in 1571. His brother William Ruthven,
4th Lord Ruthven, had also taken part in the murder of Riccio, but
returned to Scotland. He was Lord Treasurer from 1571. In 1581 he was
created Earl of Gowrie. The statement, sometimes to be found, that he
visited Sweden is probably false.
Archibald signed himself
"of Forteviot and Master of Ruthven". In 1572 he was recommended to John
III by the Regent, Mar. In the autumn of 1572 he stayed at Johns court in
Vadstena for five weeks with an escort of eleven men and three extra
horses. He was commissioned on this occasion to go over to Scotland to
enlist 2000 men. He travelled via Denmark where he met Dancay in March.
The latter wrote (2nd June) to Catherine of Medici: "In Denmark all is
calm, not so in Sweden. Those who come from that country have strange
tales to tell. About four months ago there came a Scottish nobleman,
Master Rewen, brother to My Lord Rewen, passing through Denmark on his
journey from Sweden to Scotland to enlist soldiers for the King of Sweden.
I have now heard from those coming from Scotland that he has enlisted a
number of men which he hopes soon to take over to Sweden." At the written
request of, among others, the Kings Court Commissioner, Anders Keith,
enlistment was made on a larger scale than had originally been planned,
and the total number enlisted was in the end probably around 4000 men.
The troops enlisted were of
the Reformed Church and many of them had just taken part in the siege of
Edinburgh Castle. Archibald Ruthven himself took part in this siege which
led to the capture of the castle on 28th May. According to a letter from
the Earl of Morton to John III, dated June 19th, he was then still in
Scotland but arrived in Elfsborg in Sweden already on the 18th and was
immediately ordered to proceed to the King.
Later on in the summer
Archibald Ruthven arrived in Stockholm with his force, and a number of
complications immediately arose. The direct cause of the trouble appears
to have been that the pay of the Scottish troop was missing. The Scottish
officers were accused of having embezzled the same, and in a tight corner
they made the accusation a question of honour. They held a countryman,
Hugh Cahun, who had been five years in the service of John III,
responsible for the accusation, and refused to sail to the fighting in
Livonia until he had been executed. The King gave way, and Hugh Cahuns
head fell in the Great Square in Stockholm. The Scots then set sail. This
situation reflects the terror felt by the Swedish authorities for the
numerous foreign soldiery. John IIIs bad conscience was eased by a
generous pension to Cahuns widow.
In the late winter of 1574
the main Swedish force was camped outside the Russian fortress of
Wesenberg in Livonia. Pontus de la Gardie was in command and tried three
times to storm the town, suffering great losses. The besieging force
included Swedish and Scottish foot soldiers and Swedish and German
cavalry. There was much ill-feeling between the Scottish infantry and the
German cavalry and on the 15th March fighting broke out between them.
German cavalry attacked Scottish soldiers and Colonel Ruthven, who tried
with De la Gardie and other officers to intervene, was badly wounded. One
of the troops of Scottish cavalry (Wilhelm Moncrieffs) joined in on the
side of their countrymen and several hundreds (some sources give 1500)
were killed. A number of Scots fled to the besieged Russians in Wesenberg.
At the trial that was held in Stockholm the Scots probably unjustly
were given the chief blame for what had happened. The Scottish force had
been broken. Ruthven, who had been wounded, and Gilbert Balfour were sent
in irons to Stockholm. There, cut off from the remainder of their forces,
they were accused of having played a leading role in Charles de Mornays
conspiracy to replace Eric XIV on the throne. For six years Eric XIV had
been kept imprisoned by his brother and successor, and the risk of his
being liberated by his followers had been a continual and predominant
problem for John III. Twice during the previous autumn, apparently,
Archibald Ruthven and Gilbert Balfour experienced in such matters since
the murder of Lord Darnley had plotted the murder of the King, under the
supervision of Charles de Mornay. On the first occasion certain Scottish
captains were to rush to the Kings bedchamber and the minutes of the
trial inform us that he was saved only by chance. On the second occasion
it was planned that the murder should take place in grand style at the
farewell banquet that was held at Stockholm Castle, after payment had
finally been made and the departure of the Scottish force to Livonia
agreed. A Scottish sword dance was a natural feature of the festivities
and gave the conspirators their chance to bare weapons. The murder was to
be the climax of the dance but de Mornays nerve failed him at the
decisive moment and he never gave the agreed sign.
Sword dance. "Historia de gentibus
septentrionalibus" by Olaus Magnus 1555.
It is impossible to
distinguish facts from false accusation in this story. What is certain is
that Charles de Mornay was led to the block in Stockholm in September
1574. "Today" he is reputed to have said, "dies Carolus, by whose good
service King John is alive." It is also a fact that Archibald Ruthven died
imprisoned in Vasteras Castle, in February 1578, after a number of
petitions from prominent countrymen in Scotland had been ignored. Gilbert
Balfour was condemned to death in the autumn of 1574 but long succeeded in
avoiding execution by claiming knowledge of the legendary treasure of Eric
XIV. After belief in this story had waned, following repeated
interrogations, Balfour gained a further respite by an offer of 800 golden
nobles. The King raised the demand to around 1000, and when the prisoner
was unable to raise this amount, the axe fell in August 1576.
Jacob Neafs origins are
obscure, but he was a Scot and appears in Sweden for the first time in
1571, when he was page to John III. Two years later he was a private
soldier (possibly Ensign) in Andrew Keiths troop. Sometime before 1575 he
married the daughter of a well-to-do Stockholm merchant. In 1579 he was
Captain of Horse, and from 1583 Governor of Västmanland and Dalecarlia. In
the middle of the 1580s he received as a gift Marby, on Oknön in Lake
Mälar, and this he made his family seat. He was a Roman Catholic, and a
warm adherent of King Sigismund, which made him highly impopular with the
Dalecarlians. In 1596 an attempt was made on his life in Dalecarlia, and
in 1598 when he attempted to proclaim the banishment of Duke Charles, he
was imprisoned, manhandled and killed.
He had a son, Johan Neaf,
who was murdered in Stockholm, 1607, on his return from Poland and King
Sigismund. One of Jacob Neafs daughters married Johan Skytte, Gustavus
Adolphus tutor, who in 1634 placed a stone on his father-in-laws tomb in
Stora Tuna Church.
The stone was adorned with
eight somewhat imaginative coats-of-arms, and an inscription that roughly
translated would run: "Jacob Neaf, a noble Scot/ Of Noble line and birth/
In Dalecarlia lived, where twas his lot/ To govern, while on earth./ On
Oknö lay his tempral home/ A gift from the King of Sweden./ Hereunder
rests he now his bones/ And waits a Heavenly Eden." The shields are
thought to be those of: Neff, Baron of Methie/ Lord de Gray/ Leslie, Earl
of Tothes/ Lindsay, Earl of Crawford/ Wishart, Baron of Pitarro/ D.
Lindsay/ Lord Ogilvie/ Ramsay, Lord of Auchterhouse.
Andreas Keith, Lord
Dingwall, Baron of Forsholm and Finsta
It is not known when or
where Andrew Keith was born. He was the illegitimate son of a man of the
church, Robert Keith. The mothers name is unknown but his father, who was
Commendator of the Abbey of Deer, died in Paris in 1551, and lies buried
in front of St. Ninians altar in the Carmelite Church in the Place
Maubert. Andrew Keith was of high birth, his uncle being William Keith, 4th
Earl Marshal. Andrew Keith entered Swedish service in 1568 and from
1568-73 was captain of a troop of Scottish horse. In 1574 he became
Commandant of Vadstena Castle and was created Baron. In 1576 he became
In the early 1570s,
probably in 1573, he married a Swedish lady of high birth, Elisabeth
Birgersdotter Grip. She was related to John III (her grandmother was
Gustav Vasas sister) and the King seems to have paid for the wedding. In
1578 Keith bought a house in Stockholm, and in 1580 we learn on two
occasions of a builder in his employ, so that we can assume that it was on
this occasion that he built the house that still exists in Baggensgatan.
It has a stone plaque with the arms of Keith and his wife, their names and
AUXILIUM NOSTRUM A DOMINO.
In 1583 Keith was Swedish
legate to Queen Elizabeth of England. A letter from James VI of Scotland
to John III is still preserved, in which Keith seems to have been released
from his service to Sweden. He was created Lord Dingwall in 1584, and was
appointed as one of the ambassadors who were to arrange the marriage that
took place in 1590 between James VI and Princess Anne of Denmark. For this
purpose Andrew Keith journeyed six times between Scotland and Denmark and
for his services he received a life annuity of £1000 from 1588/89 and, in
1591, a confirmation of his title of Lord, and soon afterwards he seems to
have left Scotland for good. In 1589 he was a member of the court that
tried the Earl of Bothwell for treason, but by as early as 1592/93 Sir
William Keith of Delny held the deeds of all the possessions he had in
Britain. The title, however, did not follow with the estate, and Sir
William never signed himself Lord Dingwall.
Keith had the whole time
maintained his links with Sweden and the House of Vasa. In 1587 he had
been appointed Court Counsellor by Sigismund, John IIIs son, who was
elected King of Poland that same year, and in the following year he had
paid a short visit to Sweden. During the 1590s Andrew Keith seems to have
been a warm supporter of King Sigismund, and he was exiled from Sweden by
Duke Charles, who was then in power. The last we hear of Andrew Keith is
that in 1597 he wrote his wife a letter from Elsinor. In all probability
he died before 1600 as his wife then signed herself "of Finsta", the
Swedish estate he had used in his signature during the 1590s. He had no
children, but in 1609 a claim was put forward in Stockholm to his estate
by a Scottish envoy who also bore the name Andrew Keith.
The first Stuarts in Sweden
were two sons to Johannes Stuart of Ochiltree, who accompanied Mary Queen
of Scots to France in 1558, and who served as Colonel under Francis II of
France until the latters death in 1560, when he returned to Scotland. His
wifes maiden name was Forbus. His son, Hans Stuart, was in 1565 captured
by the Danes on a voyage from Edinburgh to Danzig and taken to Varberg
where he was held prisoner, it being suspected that he intended to enter
Swedish service. But when the Swedes stormed Varberg in August of the same
year he was robbed of all his possessions and taken in chains to Upsala.
Only at the request of the Scottish officers he was finally set free. He
was raised to the Swedish nobility in 1579, after showing evidence of his
birth. From 1582 he held the estate of Hedenlunda, which remained the main
seat of the family for two hundred years. In 1585 he received letters from
James VI granting him the right to bear "the arms of his blue field." In
1604 he was Gentleman of the Bedchamber at the court of Charles IX, and
later Colonel of a regiment that he had enlisted in Scotland. In 1609 he
was Inspector-general of all foreign troops, and in 1611 he was sent as
Swedish envoy to Russia. He was married to Brita Soop. He died in 1618 and
his wife in 1622. The two lie buried under a lovely stone in Vadsbro
Church. He had a brother, Anders Stuart, who was an officer. The family
still survives in Sweden.
Hans Stuarts grandson,
Carl Magnus Stuart, was the countrys foremost fortifications officer at
the turn of the 17th-18th centuries, and was military tutor and
adviser to the young Charles XII.
The Colquhoun Family
The Scottish family of
Colquhoun have been in Sweden for 400 years. In the middle of the 1560s
two brothers, William and Hugh Colquhoun, came to Sweden as officers with
a Scottish troop of horse that had been enlisted for the bloody war
between Sweden and Denmark, which then surged back and forth in south
Sweden. Their father was apparently Sir Alexander Colquhoun of Luss and
Colquhoun and the mother a Buchanan. From the time they arrived in Sweden
they were called Cahun.
Willem used a signet with
the same Cross of St. Andrew as the Scottish family bore in its arms. He
commanded a troop of Scottish horse at the battle of Axtorna in 1565.
We learn nothing of his fate after 1574. He possibly accompanied the
large Scottish force that was sent out to the fighting in Russia. The
archives provide more details on his brother Hugh, who was one of the
first foreign officers to defect from Eric XIV in 1567 and to join Erics
brother Duke John, later John III. When the Scottish infantry under
Archibald Ruthven arrived in Stockholm in 1574, he was accused of
slandering its officers and, on the demand of his countrymen, was
executed. John III made generous provision, however, for his family. The
present Swedish family of Gahn stems from his son Peter Cahun, who became
part-owner of the Falun copper mine.
One of his descendants was
raised to the nobility in 1689 under the name of Canonhielm. Later on,
General Pontus Gahn, when he became aware of his noble Scottish origin,
took the name of Gahn of Colquhoun when he was raised to the nobility in
A roll of men in Willem
Cahuns troop is extant from 1569. It was 100 men strong, and the other
officers were Hugh Cahun, David Cor, Thomas Bachnari, Willem Moncrieff and
Robert Crichton. The other ranks include such names as Arbaterr, Campbell,
Douglas, Hamilton, Maxwell, Muir, Ogilvie, Ramsay, Ross and Stewardt.
Henrik Leyell and Willem Wallace were later to command their own troops.
During the 16th century,
and later, the Swedish Crown opposed all commerce other than by the
burghers of the cities. In 1572 a general mandate was published from John
IIIs chancellery concerning "foreign cavalrymen, Germans, Scots and
others", which had begun to travel around the country, selling
merchandise. They were now offered special benefits if they would settle
in the cities and become real burghers. The names of many of these
"country merchants" are Scottish, particularly in Smâland and
Vastergotland. Many of them concealed their identity under such names as
Jacob skotte (James the Scot), but others are easier to identify.
One Hans Moncur, for example had served in 1569 in Willem Cahuns troop of
horse and appears in 1587 as a country merchant in Västmanland. Another
man, who paid tax 1587-90 as a country merchant in the parish of Luleâ, by
the nothern tip of the Baltic, may also have belonged to this troop. The
merchant we know most about is one Hans Waterstone. Waterstone was
prosecuted in Vadstena in 1579 for illegal commerce, and claimed on that
occasion to be a burgher of Linkoping. The following year saw him before a
court in Soderkoping. In 1582 he was a merchant (possibly also a burgher)
in Stockholm, and in 1587 he was charged once more with illegal commerce
in Vadstena, and he seems on this occasion to have been in partnership
with Hans Moncur. In the 1590s he was an officer, serving in Livonia. In
1608 we hear of an estate forfeited by him in Vadstena.
It is also clear that many
of the Scots who had come to Sweden to serve with the cavalry later
settled down as burghers in the small towns. We meet, for example, such
names as Willem Hamilton (Karlstad 1598), Willem Munkrij or Magkryff (Marstrand
1588 and 1599) probably the Captain of Horse at Wesenberg in 1573 who
was charged for going to the assistance of the Scottish foot soldiers
and Thomas Ugleby Ogilvie (Nykoping 1600). From the middle of the 16th
century merchants of Scottish origin also began to infiltrate the larger
cities, particularly Stockholm, Kalmar and Ny-Lodose (the predecessor of
Gothenburg). They came to begin with from Danzig and Elbing, the bases for
trade already established south of the Baltic, but later years saw also a
direct immigration from Scottish ports. These Scots were relatively few in
number, but through their resources of capital they played an important
role in the Swedish export and import trade towards the end of the
century. The burghers of Ny-Lodose included in the 1590s such men as
magistrate Jacob Gatt, Jacob Leslie, Jacob Reidh and Petter Forbos. Living
in Stockholm in the 1580s were merchants Anders Lamiton, Erland Mackner
and Lucas Lami, and craftsman Gilbert Silber. The most prominent Scot
living in the city at that time was Blasius Dundee.
Blasius Dundee is the most
outstanding of the Scottish burghers in Stockholm. He was of bourgeois
origin, and was born before 1550.
The use of Swedish wooden mazers - "kasor",
"Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus"
by Olaus Magnus 1555.
We first learn of him in
Sweden in 1576. In the following year he delivered supplies and acted as a
banker for the campaigns of John III. He was paid in kind, with products
that he exported on his own ships. A burgher of Stockholm from 1583,he was always one of those who paid the highest taxes. He owned
several houses in Stockholm. 1586-96he was one of the City Elders.
In 1595 he extended large cash loans to the Swedish Crown, which were not
finally repaid until 1616. In 1594 he was one of the burghers who
represented the city at the burial of John III and the coronation of
Sigismund in Upsala. In 1599 he was accused of having conspired with
Sigismund, but refuted the charge.
Blasius Dundee was married
three times. His first wife was one Katarina Andersdotter. The fragment of
tombstone that is preserved with the date 1586 is considered to be hers.
His second wife, Malin
Willemsdotter, was probably of Scottish birth. In 1599 he accused her of
adultery with several men, including a Scottish clerk of Muster Roll named
Willem Brun. The trial, which ended in a settlement, gives us a glimpse of
the life of the Scots in Stockholm. We learn that Malin had embroidered a
handkerchief for a Polish officer, and that she had accepted his portrait.
Willem Brun and another Scot, Thomas Clement, had given Blasius a glass
window with their names on it. When Malin saw this, she removed the pane
with Thomas name and put in one with her own. Finally, we learn that in
her sewing basket there lay copies of a couple of ballades.
His third wife, Anne
Werner, bore him three children. When he died in 1621, he must have
attained a considerable age.
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