Ruthven, Patrick (1573?-1651) (DNB00)

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RUTHVEN, PATRICK, Earl of Forth and Brentford (1573?–1651), second son of William Ruthven of Ballindean, Perthshire (great-grandson of William, first lord Ruthven), and Katherine Stewart, daughter of John, lord Stewart of Invermeath, was born about 1573. His name appears in the lists of Swedish captains about 1606–9. He was appointed captain in a regiment of Scots in Sweden, enrolled in 1612; and in 1615, while still captain, he was directed by Gustavus Adolphus to levy one thousand foreign soldiers and conduct them to Narva. In 1616 he was appointed to the command of an East Gothland troop of three hundred men; and having, notwithstanding the proscription of the Ruthven family on account of the Gowrie conspiracy, obtained in June 1618 from James I of England a certificate of gentle descent, he was appointed by Gustavus to the command of a Smaland company of five hundred foot, and shortly afterwards was promoted colonel of a regiment. From this time he distinguished himself in many important engagements, especially at the battle of Dirschau, on 8 Aug. 1627; and on 23 Sept. he received, along with several others, the honour of knighthood from Gustavus Adolphus, in presence of the whole army. He is said to have won the special favour of Gustavus Adolphus mainly by the important services he rendered him through his extraordinary power of withstanding the effects of intoxicating liquor. ‘When the king wanted,’ says Harte, ‘to regale ministers and officers of the adverse party, in order to extract secrets from them in their more cheerful hours, he made Ruthven field-marshal of the bottle and glasses, as he could drink immeasurably and preserve his understanding to the last’ (Harte, Life of Gustavus Adolphus, i. 177). He was present at the capture of Strasburg in 1628, and the battle of Leipzig, 2 Sept. 1631. On the surrender of Ulm, in February 1632, he was appointed commander of the Swedish garrison left to hold it, and shortly afterwards he received the grafschaft or earldom of Kirchberg, near Ulm, worth about 1,800l. a year. In May he was raised to the rank of major-general, and left in Swabia in joint command, with Duke Bernard of Weimar, of eight thousand men. In October he was sent as sergeant-major-general to the Palatine Christian of Birckenfelt, and was present at the capture of Landsberg. In December he was appointed to the joint command, with Colonel Sparruyter, of the forces under General Banier, then incapacitated. He proceeded to England in March 1634 for the purpose of raising new levies (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1633–4, pp. 496, 518); and having, after his return, been appointed lieutenant-general to Banier in Thuringia, and also to the command of a regiment of cavalry, he distinguished himself in several important engagements.

Ruthven, having finally quitted the Swedish service in 1638, was about the close of that year appointed muster master-general of the forces in Scotland. He was also one of the commissioners appointed in 1638 to require subscription to the king's covenant (Gordon, Scots Affairs, i. 109). Although his appointment as muster master-general implied the command of Edinburgh Castle, he was prevented by the covenanters from entering it, and finally retired to Newcastle, where he obtained a letter of thanks from the king, dated York, 6 April 1639. He was also created Lord Ruthven of Ettrick. After the treaty of the king with the Scots at Berwick, he was placed in command of the castle by his old Swedish companion-in-arms, the Marquis of Hamilton (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1639, p. 349), and entered it with three hundred men and a large quantity of ammunition without any opposition from the estates (Balfour, Annals, ii. 373). On 11 Nov. 1639 he received special instructions from the king to hold it (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1639–40, p. 86), and on 10 Feb. the covenanters, under protest, allowed reinforcements and a supply of ammunition to enter it (Gordon, Scots Affairs, iii. 100–2). Ultimately, realising the danger which threatened from Ruthven's occupation of the castle, the citizens began to take measures nominally to defend the town against attack, but in reality to reduce the castle by blockade; and in June 1640 Montrose, then acting with the covenanters, was sent under a flag of truce to demand its surrender (Spalding, ii. 279). This Ruthven refused, and on the 10th an act of forfaultry was passed against him by the Scottish parliament. To the demand for its surrender he replied that ‘if they aimed to take it by force, they should never have it so long as he had life; and if they should beat down the walls, he should fight it out upon the bare rock’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1640, p. 361). A furious attack was made against it on 12 June, and, although it failed, the garrison ultimately surrendered after more than two hundred had died from accident or sickness. The garrison were permitted to march out with colours flying and drums beating. They ‘showed much resolution, but marched with feeble bodies,’ and ‘were guarded to Leith by six hundred men, otherwise those of the good town had torn them to pieces’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1641–2, p. 136). Ruthven himself, who was ‘spoiled with the scurvy, his legs swelled, and many of his teeth fallen out’ (Balfour, ii. 403), after journeying to Berwick by coach, ultimately went south, to London.

Ruthven remained in London until 1641, when he returned to Edinburgh with a warrant from the king for a loan to him of the house of the dean of Edinburgh and an annual pension of 300l. until a grant of 5,000l. promised to him should be paid. On 12 Oct. he presented a petition for the repeal of the sentence of forfaultry (Balfour, iii. 102), which was granted on 9 Nov. (ib. p. 143). Shortly after being created Earl of Forth on 27 March 1642, he went to Germany on his private affairs; but returning to England in the autumn, bringing with him some officers for the king's service (Spalding Memorials, ii. 198), he joined the king at Shrewsbury in October, and on the 22nd was created ‘marshal-general.’ From Shrewsbury he accompanied the king in his march towards London; and having greatly distinguished himself in the engagement at Edgehill on the 23rd, where he commanded the left wing, he was appointed by the king general-in-chief of the army in succession to the Earl of Lindsey, slain in the battle. From this time the king depended chiefly on his advice in the arrangement of the campaigns; and, if he somewhat lacked energy and promptitude on the battlefield, his plans indicated considerable strategic skill. On the day after Edgehill he earnestly urged the king to permit him to make a forced march on London with the horse and three thousand foot, assuring him that he would be able to reach it before the Earl of Essex, a proposal which, had it been accepted, would in all likelihood have been successful. As it was, Ruthven commanded at the successful capture of Brentford, after a sharp engagement, on 12 Nov. 1642.

On 26 April 1643 Ruthven was present with the king when a vain attempt was made to raise the siege of Reading; he was shot in the head on 7 August during the operations against Gloucester; and he was wounded at the battle of Newbury on 20 Sept. On 7 March 1644 he was sent to join Lord Hopton at Winchester and assist him with his advice; but after the battle of Brandon Heath, on the 29th, he returned again to the king at Oxford. On 27 May he was created by the king Earl of Brentford. On 25 July he was, however, declared a traitor by the Scottish parliament, and on the 26th his estates were forfeited and his arms riven at the cross of Edinburgh (Balfour, Annals, iii. 235–7).

On 26 June 1644 Ruthven accompanied the king from Oxford to Worcester, and after the victory of Cropredy Bridge, on the 29th, proceeded with him to the west, and successfully blockaded the army of Essex at Lostwithiel, compelling it to surrender on 2 Sept. He was wounded in the head at the second battle of Newbury on 27 Oct., and while lying exhausted at Donnington Castle, Colonel Urry came to him during the night and sought to persuade him to join the parliamentary party; but his overtures were rejected with scorn. By this time the influence of Ruthven in the king's counsels was on the wane, and in the beginning of November he was superseded as commander-in-chief by Rupert, the chief reason being probably that, on account of his growing infirmities, his strategic skill was more than counterbalanced by his lack of alertness and initiative power. ‘Although he had been without a doubt a very good officer and had great experience,’ says Clarendon, ‘and was still a man of unquestionable courage and integrity, yet he was now much decayed in his parts, and, with the long-continued custom of immoderate drinking, dozed in his understanding, which had been never quick and vigorous, he having been always illiterate to the greatest degree that can be imagined. He was now become very deaf, yet often pretended not 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’ (History of the Rebellion, viii. 30). But, although superseded, Ruthven continued to retain the king's favour. He was appointed chamberlain to the Prince of Wales, and by a grant dated Oxford, 26 March 1645, his paternal coat-of-arms was augmented with bearings borrowed from the royal arms of England and of Scotland. He remained with the Prince of Wales in the west from March 1645 to March 1646, and afterwards accompanied him to Jersey and France.

Notwithstanding his advanced age, Ruthven continued to the last to take an active interest in the royal cause. In February 1649 he set out from the king to Queen Christina of Sweden to entreat her to extend her aid to the exiled king. He left Sweden in the beginning of June, returning first to Breda, and afterwards going to St. Germains with arms and ammunition obtained chiefly by pledging his estate in Sweden. In September he removed to The Hague, and, notwithstanding the objections of the Scottish commissioners, accompanied Charles II to Scotland. On 4 June 1650 an act was passed excluding him and other royalists ‘beyond seas’ from entering Scotland, and on 27 June an act was passed against his remaining in the kingdom (Acta Parl. Scot. vi. 530, 537), whereupon he retired to Perth. At the parliament held at Perth in December—when a coalition of covenanters and royalists against Cromwell was deemed advisable—an act was passed in his favour (ib. vi. 551). He died at Dundee on 2 Feb. following, and was buried in Grange Durham's aisle in the parish church of Monifieth (Balfour, Annals, iv. 256). By his first wife, a sister of Colonel John Henderson, who held the command of Dumbarton Castle in 1640, he had one son and three daughters: Alexander, lord Ettrick, who predeceased him; Elspeth, married first to William Lundie of Lundie, and afterwards to George Pringle; Jean or Janet, married to Lord Forester; and Christian, married first to Sir Thomas Kerr of Fairmallie, Selkirkshire, and afterwards to Sir Thomas Ogilvie. By his second wife, Clara, daughter of John Berner of Saskendorff, Mecklenburg, he left no issue.

A large number of letters from Ruthven to Axel Oxenstierna—1624 to 1649—are among the ‘Oxenstierna Papers’ in the Royal Archives at Stockholm. There are oil portraits at Skokloste Castle and in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

[In the Rev. W. D. Macray's valuable Introduction to the Ruthven Correspondence (Roxburghe Club), the ascertained facts concerning Ruthven are combined into a connected narrative for the first time. See also Gordon's Scots Affairs and Spalding's Memorialls (Spalding Soc.); Robert Baillie's Letters and Journals (Bannatyne Club); Sir James Balfour's Annals; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. during Charles I and the Commonwealth; Acta Parl. Scot. vol. vi.; Clarendon's History of the Rebellion; Harte's Life of Gustavus Adolphus; Warburton's Life of Prince Rupert; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), i. 605; information from the Rev. W. D. Macray.]

T. F. H.