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The Scottish Nation

FORTH, Earl of, a title in the Scottish peerage (now extinct) conferred in 1642, on Patrick Ruthven, son of William Ruthven of Ballindean, who was a son of William Ruthven, third son of William first Lord Ruthven, of the Gowrie family (see GOWRIE, earl of). This Patrick Ruthven was an officer in the Swedish service, in which he attained the rank of lieutenant-general, having distinguished himself in the German wars under Gustavus Adolphus. In 1632, on the surrender of Uhn, formerly a free imperial city, on the left bank of the Danube, he was appointed governor of that important place, being then near sixty years of age, and by his vigilance he suppressed two conspiracies in their infancy. He stood high in the favour of Gustavus, not only on account of his courage in the field, but, as related in Harte’s Life of that monarch, (vol. ii. p. 116), for a very different quality; from his ability to swallow ‘strong potations’ without his understanding being clouded, he rendered himself useful in extracting secrets from ministers and other of the adverse party when entertaining them at table. He gallantly defended Ulm, which had been selected for the royal magazine, as well as for a place of retreat in case of accidents, and in consideration of his merit and long services Gustavus gave him a grant of the earldom of Kirchberg, with about eighteen hundred pounds a-year. [Monro’s Expedition, vol. ii. p. 120.] On the breaking out of the civil wars at home, many of the veterans of Gustavus’ wars returned to Scotland to take part on the one side or the other. Ruthven gave his support to the king, who in 1639 created him a peer, by the title of Lord Ruthven of Ettrick. The same year he appointed him governor of the castle of Edinburgh, which he held out for his majesty, refusing to deliver it up to the parliament without the king’s special order. He was, however, compelled to surrender it, 19th September 1640, obtaining honourable conditions. He had been forfeited by parliament in June of that year, but by the interest of General Leslie, his forfeiture was rescinded in November 1641. He was created earl of Forth by letters patent, dated at York, 27th March 1642, with limitation to the heirs male of his body. Having repaired to the king at Shrewsbury, he was appointed field-marshal of his majesty’s forces, and was at the battle of Edgehill, 23d October that year. At that battle, the earl of Lindsay, general of the king’s army, being killed, the chief command devolved on the earl of Forth. According to Lord Clarendon, whose character of him appears somewhat coloured by prejudice, he was, at this time, “much decayed in his parts, and with the long-continued custom of immoderate drinking, dozed in his understanding, which had never been quick and vigorous, he having always been illiterate to the greatest degree. He was now become very deaf, yet often pretended to have heard what he did not then contradict, and thought fit afterwards to disclaim. He was a man of few words and of great compliance, and usually delivered that as his opinion which he foresaw would be grateful to the king. He could better judge by his eye than his ear, and in the field well knew what was to be done.” [Clarendon’s History, vol. ii. page 481.] He was at this time nearly seventy years of age. In the Ashmole Collection is a spirited letter from the earl, written before he was raised to the peerage, to the earl of Northumberland, who had traduced the reputation of a young gentlewoman whom Ruthven esteemed, and libelled the whole Scottish nation in some poetical invective. It concludes with this remark, “Remember, that though nobility maketh difference of persons, yet injury acknowledgeth none.” (See Harte’s Life of Gustavus where a portion of it is quoted, vol. ii. p. 116, note.) It is certain that under the command of the earl of Forth the military efficiency of the royal army was never more conspicuous. He defeated the parliamentary forces at Brentford, 15th November 1642, and in honour of that victory was created earl of Brentford, 27th May 1644. On the 26th July of the latter year, the Scots parliament passed a decreet of forfeiture against him. At the second battle of Newbury, 27th November following, his lordship was wounded in the head and carried to Donnington castle. Col. Hurry was sent by the parliament to persuade him to surrender the castle, which the earl indignantly refused to do. Notwithstanding his age, he continued active in the king’s service till the end of the war in England, and was one of those excepted from pardon by the articles of Westminster 11th July, 1646, which the king refused to ratify. The Scots parliament, on 20th March 1647, passed an act restoring him against his forfeiture; and it was again rescinded after his death by the parliament of 1661. His lordship died at an advanced age, at Dundee, in January 1651. He had married a lady of the name of Barnard, and had three daughters, but having no male issue, his titles became extinct at his death.

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